Artists on Coping : Gregory Coates

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.


Physical distance can translate into uncontested time—studio shot “Center left, Center right” acrylic, feathers 48×360” 2018

Despite gaining recognition as an abstract expressionist for his bold sculptures, installations, and assemblages, Gregory Coates primarily defines himself as a painter. Coates exploratory studio practice and compositional experiments with found objects have established him as a prolific artist with a compelling and extensive catalog. He studied at Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and has been exhibited at museums and galleries around the world including, the Smithsonian Institute of American Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, The Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, Galerie Denkraum in Vienna, Austria, and Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto, Japan among others. Recent publications include an opening paragraph of “Abstract Truths” by Angela N. Carroll for Sugercane Magazine, Art Pulse, and White Hot Magazine. He is exhibiting with N’Namdi Contemporary, Miami.

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Some of my friends are Dead, rubber, felt, acrylic, 96×96, 2018 , courtesy Mark Borghi Fine Art

AS: How are you coping?

GC: I am doing ok. So far so good. My wife and I have been social distancing from others before it became mandatory for Pennsylvanians. A full time artist’s life is a solitary process to begin with. However, I am adjusting to the facts and doing my part to prevent the transmission of Covid19. Here in Allentown PA, the population is less dense and thankfully people that you might encounter on your dog walk know to keep the distance. We have some anxieties about the future, the economy, and how it will affect the art industry and our livelihood in particular.

This Heron let me take his picture on our walk earlier today

AS: Has your routine changed?

GC: Less errand running, more home delivery. Have to practice restrain with supplies (in other words: have to make sure we can stretch our funds as far as possible), patience with deliveries (if you can get it). I have the luxury of not having to commute to my studio, so I can produce work without problems. However I did find there was too much clutter that was getting on my nerves, so we fixed that by building more storage. There were two spring shows on the schedule, Borghi, Bridgehampton, NY and N’Namdi Contemporary, Miami. I will probably ship work to Miami if I can—everything is in flux.

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To be shipped to N’Namid Contemporary, Miami , Big Brown Peace, Deck Brush, 76x252x3, 2019

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

GC: Well, as artists we don’t exactly have a safety net, or can control much about what happens to us, how our work is perceived, how much money we’re gonna earn. So we learn how to roll with the punches. There is no time to feel sorry for oneself or feel defeatist. I have overcome spine surgery (without Obama care), 911 while having a studio a mile away from ground zero, that led to being gentrified to PA, where I am glad to be now. The universe works in mysterious ways, I am inclined to trust it and do what I can while I can. We will learn and adapt.


Additional storage! Long overdue projects are finally getting done. my wife kiki: lead builder
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Exclamation Series, 2018

AS: What matters most right now?

GC: For me personally, keep the virus away from me and my loved ones, my 83 year old mother in DC, my son and his family in London, and of course flatten that curve as long as it takes. We are all is this together, locally, nationally, globally.

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

GC: That is one of those things I don’t really allow myself to think about too much. Because we don’t know how things are gonna look when we get through this, and when this will be, and how we will be, and “normal” might no longer be obtainable. The short road for now: stay healthy, stay safe, do the best you can, eat, sleep, get some stuff done in the studio. And stay positive.

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Morgen kommt ein neuer Himmel (Tomorrow brings a new sky), feathers, acrylic on luan, 72 inches diameter, 2016, courtesy N’Namdi Contemporary

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: