Eric Rieger, a contemporary artist who goes by the name HOTTEA, says that he can sum up his practice in one sentence: “My work deals with color, numbers, and human experiences.” While this description is simple and straightforward, his intricate yarn installations are anything but. Featuring countless strands of colorful fibers, these pieces are sure to dazzle. However, to HOTTEA, it is the meaning behind the medium that ties his practice together.
“My artwork started with the foundation of using yarn,” he confided to My Modern Met. “Since my first experiments I have built upon this foundation and now create installations that adapt to their spaces.” HOTTEA notes that these “first experiences” were facilitated by his grandmother, as she taught him to knit when he was only four or five years old. While this memory existed in his subconscious for years, he did not consider using thread until he grew tired of graffiti, a genre he pursued prior to installation art.
While working with spray paint quenched his creative thirst, he soon realized that he did not enjoy the secretive side of graffiti. So, he decided to give it up and, instead, pursue a far more personal endeavor. “After I stopped using spray paint illegally, I felt a void in my life artistically,” he said. “I knew I wanted this new project to be different than my past life as a graffiti writer. I didn’t want to do my art at night as a secret from my family. I wanted my artwork to be about my family and to be very open about it. Being a graffiti writer, you cannot reveal your identity—not only did I want to reveal my identity with this new project but I wanted to be vulnerable about who I am.”
As an installation artist, HOTTEA has created a wealth of striking site-specific works. While these pieces range in design and type of collaboration (his work has been commissioned by both New York Fashion Week and “Sesame Street“), each one is inspired by the artist’s own memories—and his ability to finally share them with others. “There are so many parallels in life that a lot of people can understand where I am coming from,” he told us. “When I do a project about losing a loved one or suffering through an abusive relationship, there is someone out there that can relate to what I am addressing. As a graffiti writer the only people that could relate were other graffiti writers. I feel what I am doing now has the ability to reach a much larger audience and I am very aware of that.”
In order to cast this net as widely as possible, he relies on color, “one of the few universal languages that can be understood by anyone regardless of their nationality or upbringing.” In addition to his signature rainbow palette, this interest in tone has also materialized as installations both monochromatic and metallic.
So, what’s next for HOTTEA? In December, his work will be featured in the atrium of SCOPE Miami Beach. While his plans for the art fair are still under wraps, one thing is clear: his yarn art is bound to strike a chord. “Yarn evokes so many memories and feelings that are positive,” he says. “It is hard to think of yarn and recall of a bad memory. Yarn keeps us warm in the winter, it calms our soul on a long train ride, and it often reminds us of our grandmothers.”