Sam Falls: Family Portrait


Sam Falls quit his day job about a year ago. Since then, he’s been able to make art—photos manipulated with paint, dyed fabric and homemade paper—full-time, having had a string of successful solo shows in Sweden, LA, and at his New York gallery, Higher Pictures. Between exhibitions this summer, he’ll be creating portraits for a series of seven-inch releases from young music acts Oldd News, Big French and Dads. Oldd News, aka Jamie Kanzler, is a 21-year-old musician who Falls calls his brother. They’re not actually related, but they grew up together in Vermont and continue to share an active artistic exchange, one that Falls feels keeps him honest. “It’s exciting for me to go back to that moment of initiation,” he says because, at the end of the day, “my art sells for more money than I would ever pay for it.”

Jamie Kanzler will perform as Oldd News July 9th at Productive Steps, a show curated by Falls. He’ll also play at the July 17th opening of Death Valley, a two-person show for Falls and Nick Van Woert at Cleopatras in Brooklyn.

Falls talks about his collaborative relationship with Kanzler, below:

Who is Jamie Kanzler?
He’s not my real brother. His dad took me under his wing, and I don’t have a dad really, so we became brothers. We lived in a really small town, and I’d have dinner at his house like three days a week. We started hanging out more when he was 13, 14 because we could drink together or smoke cigarettes. Then we kind of bonded through playing music. Later he went away to a boarding school and he kind of like, blossomed. He would come visit me in New York when he first started college at Sarah Lawrence, and we would have these weekend-long recording sessions. He’s going to work in the city this summer, and was like, “I want to find an internship, can I work for you?”

I make these videos of Jamie and his friend called holding patterns where I visit them every year and film them for a few days and edit them. I’ve been playing the videos at the end of my openings. They’re seven- to fifteen-minutes long, and it’s really like a portrait in motion of these kids, then they’ll play their music afterwards. I started filming him kind of for fun, but it turned into this project where I released the films with books of poetry.

Music is something that I do as an amateur and he does professionally, whereas he does art more amateurly. I’ve stopped playing more music as I’ve had to start working more on my art. There was a period where I thought I could do it all, and they were all equally significant. But I went to graduate school for art, and art is what I do.

My brother and I are coming out with a book this summer called There Aren’t Any More Poets, Stupid. There Aren’t Any More Stupid Poets. It’s his poetry and my pictures. I’m also working on another book that I’m having a couple people write poetry for. That book is a bigger production. Jamie’s writing one poem. But a way to bring the project totally back to a relevant place is to have his poetry in it. It’s cool because it’s the first time it’s really professional on both ends. I’ll go to a meeting with a designer, a publisher and it feels like business, and then I’ll hang out with him and look at his poems and what he’s been writing and talk about my pictures, and it feels more like play. It’s important to keep that a part of it. Jamie never gives me negative criticism, and he’s super psyched on all of the stuff I do, but he’s speaking from a different place. Rather than looking at my work like, This is about abstraction and photography and painting and sculpture—that kind of jargon—it’s like, Whoa, this shit is gritty. It’s not like, Let’s talk about the politics of these images. He can feel why they’re important, but the language we’re using isn’t academic.

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