Skip to main content

This is your Donation message.

Ethan Greenbaum

Published May 3, 2016


Courtesy of

EthanGreenbaumPortraitEthan Greenbaum is a New York based artist. His work has been discussed in The New York Times, Modern Painters, Artforum, BOMB Magazine, ArtReview and Interview Magazine, among others.

Greenbaum is the recipient of Dieu Donne’s Workspace Residency, LMCC’s Workspace Program, The Robert Blackburn SIP Fellowship, The Socrates EAF Fellowship, The Edward Albee Foundation Residency and The Barry Schactman Painting Prize. He received an MFA in Painting from Yale School of Art.

Forthcoming projects include FACE TO FACE, A selection of international emerging artists from the Ernesto Esposito Collection, Palazzo Fruscione, Salerno and exhibitions at Stems Gallery, Brussels and Galerie Pact, Paris.

Q + A

What have you been doing since graduating from FSU?

2015KANSAS_FlatsOne thing that was significant was going to grad school. After Florida State, I went to Yale, which is a really different environment. It’s North Eastern, a different cultural orientation, and much more competitive. It was also a really important challenge at that time in my life. I had to find a way to work through it. It expanded my sense of what was possible.

After graduating, I started a project with a few friends, that in hindsight has meant a lot. We made a website called “The Highlights.” The site commissioned artists to do text based work that was not genre based or about journalism. This was made shortly after we were all out of grad school and feeling shut out of the New York art world. It was a way to be in contact with artists that we admired and to do something creative and collaborative that wasn’t about bringing somebody by your studio. We did many projects with emerging and established artists. They were not necessarily text-based artists, and what they did was wide-ranging and exciting. It was another education and led to relationships that I still have.

The other things I did, especially early on, were money-solving problems. In addition to selling art, which has happened with regularity in the last few years, I’ve worked for other artists (including Peter Halley, David Reed, Sharon Louden, Spencer Finch and James Hyde) and taught as a professor. Teaching can be great but it’s really rare. Tenure track teaching positions are hard to come by, and I suspect that statistically you have a better chance of getting into a gallery than a tenured teaching job in the New York area. (Someone should do a study.) Another thing I did was build out and rent studios. I borrowed money and took a long-term lease on a large section of an industrial building. I built it out with a partner and we rented studios, which subsidized my own space.

And then of course I’ve been showing my work. Most of these things came through a mix of luck and personal connections, which goes back to community. Mutually helpful relationships are rare and crucial. Coming to any large city, you are encountering a world that is already up and running without you, so you have to have something to share.

What did you learn at FSU to get you there?

2015HalseyInstall01_web_800There was a lot of material experimentation; I was doing a lot of things in different media and playing around with installation. I also organized a few group shows and worked on collaborative projects that informed what I did afterwards.

This sense of experimentation was really strong when I was there. We were in the warehouses in Railroad Square and it was anarchy, which was the best part about it. I spent all my time there and it was a kind of low stakes fun in terms of trying ideas with our work. Those are the things I remember having the most impact. The material experimentation but more broadly this idea that art making happens as part of a bigger set of relationships.

What advice would you give to art students?

What you absorb as a student becomes something you end up processing for a long time afterwards-consciously or not. For your experiences to impact you in any meaningful way, I think you need to be vulnerable to them. Nietzsche says we only remember what hurts. It’s a double-edged sword, especially for younger people, because you’re already pretty vulnerable. I think often students respond to this by becoming defensive—which limits your ability to learn. As much as possible I think you need to absorb and stay fluid—see a lot, read a lot, allow yourself to be affected by the experiences you have and the people you meet. Like or not, your education is a form of legacy.