Heath West

Go West
Words by Lori Zimmer
Portrait by Mary Nguyen

Heath West is one of those creative types that is the master of more than one domain. The architect and artist seems to live a double life, balancing the unforgiving precision of the architecture world with the limitless beauty of the chaotic art world. On one hand, West is a gifted architect, trained with master’s in Science of Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University, and on the other, a gifted artist pushing conceptions of fine art with his “non-paintings.” Although these two disciplines may seem opposing, West has become a master of fusion to create a body of work that challenges spatial relationships, while enticing with vivid color. His latest exhibition, Transparency/Reflection, opens on January 15th at the Castor Gallery on the Lower East Side.

While most artists were working on their portfolios in hopes of a big show, West was studying architectural design and city planning, first at the University of Houston and later at Columbia University. But West’s love of art and art history never dissipated, and he would treat studying art as a break from architecture. With the decision to simultaneously pursue both West embraced the control and the chaos, giving us a body of beautiful abstractions.

His studio is decked out with elements from both of his lives. Rolls of mylar, printed fabric and industrial plastics in every color add splash while all the needs for construction borrow from his architectural supplies. Plush textures, colors and patterns are brought together in West’s pieces, with each element held together with his hand made (and often color-stained) framework. With the layering of these fabrics, metals and plastic textiles, each of West’s “non-paintings” weave together light, space and material, allowing the viewer to read each piece differently as they move around the picture plane.

On a purely aesthetic level, West’s imagery pleases, with bold intersections, sumptuous surfaces and tactile temptations. But dig deeper, and they are steeped with both philosophical and spatial principles. His latest body of work for Transparency/Reflection was inspired by our modern obsession with screens. iPhones, computers, tablets, kiosks and television screens are ever present in our daily lives, defining what we see, hear and sometimes think. West’s pieces for the exhibition function in the same way, acting as a conduit to transmit ideas, visuals, and philosophies.

West’s colorful works are a feast for both the art and design lover, bringing together a flashy mix of colors and textures that give more to contemplate than meets the eye.