Monday, July 21, 2014

ArtExpo SD: An Arty Alternative to Comic-Con

Badges for Comic-Con 2014 have sold out. You can, of course, purchase badges from a broker. "For a price, Ugarte, for a price." However, there is a great art-packed alternative, walking distance from the big show, and it's FREE. Art Expo SD at the Wonder Bread Factory, will feature 150 artists exhibiting across two giant warehouse floors. The event was created by the students of the New School of Architecture + Design. My old friends at Cartwheel Art are curating a section of the show that will include my other friends, Intellectual Property Prints. Ryan McIntosh is one of my favorite living (and thinking) artists, and he will be holding down the fort for I.P.P. Musician/artist Rafael Reyes will be there signing copies of his book "Living Dangerously". Oh yeah, and I'll be there too. Below is a sneak peek at some of the incredible prints that Intellectual Property will have on hand. it's going to be a great event! Did I mention that it's FREE!

Art Expo SD runs July 24 through July 26
121 14th Street
San Diego, California 92101

Ryan McIntosh

Darcy Yates

Eric Joyner

Gregory Siff

Jason Shawn Alexander

JAW Cooper

Ryan McIntosh

Ryan McIntosh

Ryan McIntosh

Ryan McIntosh

Daniel Rolnik

Gary Baseman

Student designed flyer

Monday, July 14, 2014

Alex Schaefer Feels Weird (part one)

A few months ago, Matjames Metson and I were talking about Alex Schaefer. I had been thinking about doing an interview with Alex, and I was postulating that a hundred years from now (if the air is still breathable), and people study the Ponzi schemes, the toxic mortgages, and the Global Financial Crisis which took place at the dawn of the 21st Century, that Alex will stand as the artistic documentarian of our avarice. Matjames listened to what I was saying, sighed, and said, "Well, I hope so." The doubt in his voice was understandable. These are cynical times and the public's consumption for art tends to be high in calories and seriously lacking in any nutritional value. Everybody knows the game is rigged, and they'd rather not think about it.

Shortly after that conversation, I ran into Alex at a show. He told me that he felt weird. He said he was done with the burning bank series. He said he felt weird about the gallery system, weird about painting, weird about the art world, weird about the world in general. Just weird. I told him that was a conversation I wanted to have, that THAT was the interview I wanted to do. So we juggled calendars and set a date. I parked in the lot next to the "Gronk building" on Spring Street where Alex has his studio (and where the attendant fleeced me for fifteen bucks). Almost as soon as I walked into the studio Alex started talking in rapid fire bursts of frantic energy. This wasn't going to be like any interview I've ever done. It wasn't going to be like an interview at all. I was just going to listen to Alex unabashedly dissect the seedy underbelly of the art world. I rushed to turn on my recorder, to catch him mid-screed. see that in the gallery scene, or an artist trying to establish themselves, with a logo, and a thing. I just repel against that. That's why I quit video games. I did video games and made a killing for ten years. I was like, bulging my eyes out with the amount of money I was making, as an artist for fucks sake. But I just couldn't stay in it...and the irony is, everybody that stayed in it, these are people I even went to art school with, they're CEOs now. They're big money, but they look at me and they're jealous. And I look at them, and I'm jealous. They look at me like, 'Dude, you're free man!' You're overhead is digestible, you're hustling, you're making art, you're in the art world...blah, blah, blah. Then to me, I just look at my life as just a shambles most of the time. I'm just jerking around from here to there, and have no clue. I look at them, and they've got a house, kids, normal. That's how I grew up. I grew up really normal. I think that's why it's hard for me to not be - to be abnormal. I was into metal. I thought punk sucked, or it was scary and I didn't get it. For whatever reason, I don't know how I wound up an artist. I mean, I feel like I'm still learning to rebel. But I've had a lot of misconceptions about the art world, just being cast aside, through just sheer reality. The dream, and it's the same impulse, of...we want to have it made. Everybody wants to have it made. You want to be a millionaire. You want to win the lottery. You want to have it made in the shade, so you can just live like an American Express commercial for the rest of your life. So, some of these fantasies are like, if I get an article written about me in this magazine or that, then that's what it's going to take...or if I get into this gallery or this scene, that's what it's going to take. I've seen these things happen, and it's not it. They're with you for a while, or --- the thing I always have to add as a caveat too, is you are the common denominator in every bad experience and relationship that you have in your life too. So, if you're like, 'God, my relationships all suck.' Well, you sucked along with it. So, what are you bringing to it that's sucking. What am I bringing to it that's sucking. When I got out of video games, I spent about seven years just completely disengaged from the art world. I had enough money, and I was starting to teach, which supplemented my income, and I would get an occasional sale or something would happen. But I just spent a shit ton of time doing crazy weird work, but not engaging with the art scene. See, that's where I lacked. I had no presence in the art scene at all. Then I had this huge publicity thing happen with the bank paintings. It was just a weird thing. It was a flash, but there wasn't any kindling around, that I had cultivated through a network, and that's my own fault. I don't believe that it's "over" now. You know, 'Oh it's OVER!' I remember a teacher telling me this happens a lot of places in her life. Where every now and then, you're going to do a drawing or a painting that's like really great...she's talking to an art student. So like, it's really good, it's gonna blow your mind, and all your friends are going to go, 'Holy crap!', and you won't be able to do it again for months, or years. But that incredible painting, that you were able to just somehow pull off, that was beyond your ability, will become your new normal eventually...and you'll continue to have those experiences if you continue to push yourself. So, having this crazy sale on Ebay, or whatever - to me, I look at that as, well, that's the future regular price for what I'm doing, and even today, it's totally conceivable. I mean I know people that sell well, doing schmaltzy ass landscapes and nudes  for 25, 50, 200 thousand...big massive history paintings, cowboys and Indians, Chinese guys making railroads, shit like the Autry Museum, those are hammering for a lot of dough. That's a whole other level, the auction world. I'm just starting to fiddle with that. That's something where you've got to have a lot of fucking skin in the game before you get into that. You've got to have cohorts, and co-conspirators that are part of your thing. In the beginning, it's not a bad thing to tell collectors, to give them a really good deal, tell them 'You're now in Art Club, and the first rule of Art Club is you don't talk about prices...and if anybody brings up the subject matter, you make them feel as rude as if they asked a lady how old she was.' You just defer the topic completely. Then you have a conspirator. It's too soon to talk about how cheap you got a Keith, or an Alex. 'Fuck you! Fuck you!' Another problem is these collectors don't know shit. They have the same attitude as the artists, that the gallery is going to make me. I'm going to get made, like the mob or something. The collectors think the same thing. That they're going to buy this work really expensive at this she-she gallery and they're going to do everything to make it go up in value, but where's the Gertrude Steins', and the Sarah Steins' stepping up? And the Barnes', who'd have lectures at their homes and talk about art and shit like that? Collectors can fuck with you, in a good or a bad way, but most of them just are clueless. You get in a good collection, you're on their wall, they talk about you. A bad collection, and I've been collected by someone like this, where everything just went straight to storage. they loved every piece that I did, and it's just been locked away like the Ark of the Covenant. I remember really wanting to get one of those in a show, and it hadn't seen the light of day in eight years, since I painted it. I finally convinced him to show it, and getting to the painting was like the beginning of Get Smart. It was this wine and storage space in Santa Monica, security gate at the parking, security gate to get in the lobby, I.D. check and a key to get in the room, then your own thing has a key, and it's all fans and perfect temperature. Every painting was hermetically sealed, in a little box, with a little document on the outside, a Polaroid of the piece, and all the information, what was paid for it, when it was bought, blah, blah, blah. what the fuck are you doing dude?

But Alex it's not art anymore, it's money! Savings accruing interest.
Well, I guess?! The guys got offices in Beverly Hills, and New York. He's got a condo on the east coast, where his ex-wife lives with the kids, and he's got a place in Santa Monica. It's an Art Deco, beautiful place. He's got wall space. Fucking A! It's weird. It's all part of the 'fun'. But see, eventually someone will crack that open and that's the cool thing about's there, and hopefully my material processes are good enough that they haven't cracked too much, you know. I know that if they're sealed up, they're not gonna get sun bleached.
There's a degree to which you just have to let the paintings go, and do what they will.
Dude! You know this show that I'm selling all these pieces at  Blackstone this month? Literaly, I was just going to take all those pieces, and rent a haul trailer, do a big loop around California and just leave the paintings. Just leave them. Leave them in alleys, parking lots, just leave a little note on it. I don't have room for this. I'm an artist. Hey, have a free painting. You want it? I was just over it. But then a friend of mine convinced me to try to sell them. It's not my normal thing to try to just sell, sell. sell.
Some of them you were giving away, right?
The drawings, yeah. That was the High Roller bonus, you get a beautiful drawing. But yeah, I can see why artists burn pieces. you get to a certain point where you're like, ugh! There's a famous quote by someone that said, 'Show me an artist who doesn't sell, and I'll show you a man with a storage problem.' Then I get hope too, because like, Manet's 'Olympia' hung on the wall of his studio for twelve, fourteen years, unsold...and Manet did everything every hustling artist tries to do. They rented their own gallery space to try to flog their own stuff. They timed it so their exhibition was at the exact same time as the Salon was having it's show. So, that was like Art Basel now, and there were little satellite fairs that were all around the big shoop-da-doo! It wasn't any different. So, Manet, renting a storage space and throwing all his paintings up on the wall, that's like everyone at Art Basel Miami renting a U-haul and putting lights in it, trying to sell their own work. There's nothing new under the sun, as long as art has been like a commodity. As opposed to, well, you was different for certain artists, where you were made.
If you had a Medici behind you.
Or, if you were Leonardo, it was like working for the Defense Department. You worked for the king, so you got an apartment, you got all your food taken care of, travel, art supplies. He didn't pay for anything. He just got to sit around and make art, draw and THINK. Although the majority of Leonardo Da Vinci's work was like military stuff, armaments, towers. But he was taken care of. It was different. 
I was worried that I was gonna get here and you wouldn't feel weird anymore.
Ha...You know, it's just the realization that getting into the gallery doesn't mean your 'made'. I had a lot of fucking sparks and selling that just happened to me...because I did something, then it got a story and everyone picked up on it, then it was a news thing, and those works were easy to sell. It's harder to sell nudes and landscapes, and I'm really glad that I'm doing it at Blackstone. Part of it for me, is to say to collectors that I know everyone wants a fucking wheat field. But would you NOT buy a Van Gogh because it was just a painting of people walking down an alley, or going to church or whatever. People don't understand. Oh, it's a wheat field! It's a flaming bank, ack! If you believe that the painting is going to go up, everything I do is gonna go up, along with that painting. So, the gallery sold the pieces as long as it was easy to sell. The last communication I had, I'm not naming names, but people can do research and probably figure it out, they said, 'Alex, do you have anymore burning bank paintings?' I said I had one more and that I wasn't going to do any fucking more. It's over. That could have been my pet rock, or whatever, but fuck that! I'm not into it. So I said, 'Yeah, I have one left and it's the last one.' They said they want to buy it for $3,000. I thought, just, fuck! I just sold a kick-ass landscape to some collector in Hong Kong, off the internet for a thousand. Now they want to sell the burning bank painting, it's the last one, it's got provenance, and I'm going to get fifteen hundred bucks out of a cut? And I have the piece. It's mine, it's in MY hands. No paperwork ever comes between artists and the galleries, you know? They keep it fast and loose as possible. So I said, "Here's what you do, tell the guy who wants it, it's $5,000 or I'm going to burn it. Fuck you! It's my painting." Then he came back and he said, "Okay, I'll give you $2,500 of the cut." So that means you'll still get half of what you want, which is $5,000. So that immediately kind of made me feel like I was getting dicked around with. That's a huge jump in a 50/50 split, you know? That's suddenly turning into ten grand. I said, "No. You should get more than that. Tell the guy, five thousand or I'm going to burn it."
At this point, I asked Alex if I could see the painting in question, the last burning bank. He got up and started pouring through stacks of paintings. He couldn't find it. He started to panic. For the next hour we searched the studio to no avail. Alex was really upset and he asked me to leave. I found out when I got home that the painting had been taken for ransom by a secret and mysterious gallery order.

I'll post part two of this interview in a couple weeks, if the situation resolves itself.

In the meantime, you can see other work by Alex Schaefer at:

Blackstone Gallery

Summer Flies at Flower Pepper Gallery
now through August 1st

Masters Of Illusion at bG Gallery (Bergamot)
July 19 - August 20

Ultimate Beach at bG Gallery (Ocean Ave.)
July 26 -August 9

He is also frequently found taking part in the crazy circus that is The Hive Gallery.

Fair warning to the prudes, some of the photos below may offend your delicate sensibilities.

"Alex Schaefer-style" painter paints coming soon to Urban Outfitters?

Alex confronting the storage problem.

Lucky Strikes

Alex and his one quart Pyrex coffee "mug".

The color values of money.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Sneak Peek: Summer Flies at Flower Pepper Gallery

Summer Flies opens tomorrow night at Flower Pepper Gallery.  The show was curated by Walt Hall, and features a stellar line-up that includes Douglas Alvarez, Alex Schaefer, and Mike Street. Below you'll find a little sneak peek of what's in store.

Flower Pepper Gallery
121 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103

Summer Flies opening reception June 28th, 6:30 pm
Runs through August 1st, 2014

Sunny by Douglas Alvarez

Lampyrids Dance by Jaclyn Alderate

At The Lake by Kelly Thompson

Along A Wire by Lacey Bryant

Evening Cooling by Lacey Bryant

A Parade For Summer by Walt Hall

Ice Cream On Sundays by Walt Hall

Summer Flies by Walt Hall

Up High Above The Summer Canyons by Walt Hall

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Scratching The Surface with Nicole Bruckman

Long before MSNBC re-purposed the words into a vacant slogan, I had been calling a certain gallery occurrence the 'lean in'. Every artist knows about the 'lean in'. It's that elusive moment when a gallery patron (or gasp, art critic) is so taken with a work of art that they lean in to read the tiny title card. Artists live and die by the 'lean in'. Gallerists watch for it. It can mean sales. It can mean future shows. It can lead to name recognition.

My first encounter with the work of Nicole Bruckman wasn't exactly a 'lean in'. It was more like I had been lassoed and pulled across the room. It was a painting called "Hollybird" (seen above), a vertical portrait of a young woman holding a glass box with what I first thought was a dead fish. Upon closer inspection, you can see it's a bird. It's status is vague. Is the creature sleeping, injured or deceased? The box is coffin-like, but the lid is open. The woman appears to be biting her lip, but betraying little else as far as clues are concerned. Her eyes are wide and fearless. No sign of tears. She stands before a scratchy, brushed gold field that holds echoes of Klimt. It's a really strong piece, loaded with mystery. There's an informal balance to the composition that I would later find in many of Nicole's paintings. Informal balance is a tricky business, but when done right, there is magic in the negative spaces. Nicole does it right. I was a fan immediately.

Since then, I've seen Nicole's animal rich fables exhibited at a number of venues. They always stand out. They always pull you across the room. There's a lushness to her fields of grass that just floors me. She manages a storybook charm in all work. Detailed, without being too fussy. Surreal, without being alienating. Even her most melancholy pieces exude a certain optimism. They still manage to feel familial. You never feel detached from the work as a viewer. You're inside it. She's speaking directly to you, 'I made this painting for you.' That's not an easy thing to pull off.

I've had the opportunity to work with Nicole in her role as art director for Flower Pepper Gallery. I've hung out with her while she painted a mural. She is, much like her art, warm, embracing and amiable. When you first meet her, she makes you feel like you've been friends forever. I've never asked her about "Hollybird". Oftentimes I much prefer the questions art raises to the answers. But I've wanted to do this interview since I first saw that painting. We barely scratched the surface here, so I hope it's the just first of many.

So, I know you studied art in Ohio. Were you born there?
Yeah, I'm from Mentor, which is a suburb of Cleveland, and then I went to school at Columbus College of Art & Design, which is right across the street from O.S.U. But it's like a small art school. Then I moved to London for about a year.
That was right after college?
Right after college. Like, right away. I worked at a pub there for six months, then  backpacked/traveled for six months after that. Then I moved back to Cleveland and did some freelance for Cleveland Magazine, and the Free Times, which is kind of like the LA Weekly. I did some illustration, and I waitressed, saved money and moved to Los Angeles a year later.
Where you making any art in London?
No (laughs). I should have been, but no. I was just basically traveling and partying. I did go to a bunch of art stuff, and even did interviews, but it was like 'Well, your visas up, so...'
Knowing how connected you and your art is to animals, I was wondering if you ever considered being a veterinarian, or did you always want to be an artist?
No, actually the animal thing is kind of new. When I was in fifth grade...I always kind of knew I was good at drawing, but I was also really bad at everything else, like athletic stuff. I was good at fashion. I was good at art. I tried music but I wasn't good at it. But I liked artistic stuff, and I was always that kind of way. When I was in fifth grade, my teacher told my mom that she should really put me in art class. So, I started taking after-school classes at this little studio. Basically she ripped out pages and you copied them, like calendars and stuff, and she helped you with different techniques, pen & ink, pastels, etc. I really liked it and I made some friends. I went to Catholic school until sixth or seventh grade, but they didn't have a lot of programs. The public school though was the largest public school in the whole state, and they had really good funding.They had a really good arts program. Like they had printmaking, jewelry making, photography. They had all kinds of stuff. So, I went into the arts program there, and my friends from the art class were there, you know? So, I just stuck with it.
 Then you decided to focus on art in college?
Yeah, I knew I was going to apply to go into art, but I didn't know if it was going to be art school, or like a college that had art. So, I still had to take all the annoying French classes and math classes, even though I wasn't going to end up needing them. I really wanted to go to the School of Visual Arts in New York, but my parents didn't want me going too far from home. So, I went to CCAD, and they gave me a big scholarship, and I had a good friend who was going there as well. They had a really good illustration program.
Then you moved to L.A. about two years after CCAD?
When I moved out here, I actually moved to Huntington Beach, because my friend from high school was there, and I knew that  Anthony Ausgang was kind of from that area. You know, when I was in school, Mark Ryden was huge. It was like Juxtapoz, Ryden, Joe Sorren, those guys...and my teacher, Chris Payne, took us to the Society of Illustrators conventions. Those guys were never there but we talked to everybody about them, and that was the era when illustration was becoming fine art, and La Luz was just huge. So I thought, yeah, I'll move out here. That'll be really cool. But I didn't realize how far Huntington Beach was from L.A. and I found out how terrible it was. Just the worst. There's no art, nothing. So, I moved to Los Angeles and started waitressing at The Standard...where I met my husband...and I made a lot of cool friends there. Everybody who worked there was like artistic and amazing. The people who came in were terrible, but the people I worked with were really awesome. We all stayed really close. I started showing with Cannibal Flower right away. Then I did The Hive, and it kind of went from there.
So Cannibal Flower was your first gallery show?
Yeah, Cannibal Flower was the first. I was doing commercial stuff in Ohio, illustration. Then when I got out here, I did a bunch of restaurant projects. Because I was working at restaurants, they hired me to do logos, and some big paintings for their wall. But even that is all commercial stuff, you know? But I really wanted to start showing. I wanted to be in La Luz, and I liked Thinkspace. So, I met with L.Croskey , and he was just so helpful! Like, I don't know if I ever would have started showing if I hadn't met with him. I wanted to, but I didn't know how to go about it, or what to focus on. L.C. was just really, really helpful. Because I was really nervous, and he's very nurturing. He's really calm. He can get harder on you later, but in the beginning he just gets you excited about showing. He tells you what you do that's different from someone else, and what you should focus on. This is what's good, so work with this. He put me in a show right away, so I had to make something. I was just used to making stuff for projects, like for spec. I had to come up with something last minute. I was really scared at first, but once I started showing with him it just became a lot easier. Cannibal Flower had shows every month. Then I did The Hive, and I had something at C.A.V.E. once.
Well, I first saw your work  at WWA Gallery.
Well, that's really interesting. I was working at New Stone Age...they're kind of like Gold Bug but not as dark...artsy jewelry and stuff. One of the girls I was working with, her sister was an artist, and she was an actress. We became really good friends, and she was friends with Gaston, who owns Meltdown Comics. She had done stuff there before, and we started curating shows there. She knew people too, like Tim Biskup, and would put them in the shows. WWA had just started, and they came to all our shows. Then they put me in shows, and we put Rob in shows. He had just started to paint. Then Stephanie and I did a show at Cella together---and Marcos Saldana and I curated The Hounds of Love show there last year.
And now you have shown at La Luz!
I have shown at La Luz! I did one of their group shows, the Kitsch'n Sync, and I did the coaster show last year. I did the Kiss dogs!
When you were growing up, did you go see a lot of art as a kid?
You know there wasn't a lot of galleries, or anything like that where I grew up. But Cleveland has a really good art museum. My mom used to take us there all the time. She didn't work, so we would go there all the time with her and my grandma. I loved Renoir! That was my favorite. I was obsessed with his stuff. I was really into the impressionist stuff.
What else were you drawn to?
At one point, I thought I wanted to be a ballerina. We used to go to ballets all the time. but I was not good at it, and had no patience with it. Then it quickly became that I liked the ballet because of the aesthetic of it. I wanted to do the sets and that part of it. I was always into fairy tales too. So, I really wanted to make the books come to life, you know? At first I wanted to move to New York and paint backdrops for Broadway or something. Then I found out that's not as glamorous as you think. It's not really about painting, and you don't make any money. 
 What's the best thing you learned in art school?
Chris Payne's seminar was really amazing for me. At first, I really wanted to do children's books. But the amount of work, to do every page as a the amount of money they made? Chris did start doing some children's books, but mostly like covers. Anyway, he taught us so much. He did all different things. He taught us to use tracing paper, which is really fun. It's cheap for one thing, but also you can do your sketch, and then you can go over it and correct your own sketch, instead of erasing and erasing. So, for concepts, that was really helpful. He would bring in, like, John Wayne movies, and he'd say 'Check out this lighting. This is what you should be looking at.' He was the biggest thing for me then. The color concept class too. Color is really important to me, so I was really into that.
And now you're the art director of Flower Pepper Gallery.
Yeah, so I had curated the shows at Meltdown and a couple at Cella. Also, Flower Pepper had a bunch of products in there that we used to sell at New Stone Age. So, I was familiar with the products. They had the show Painted Sound going on, and Nom Kinnear King was in it and I had done lots of shows with her. So, I was like 'Oh! This is in Pasadena. This is close to my house. I'm going to have to go check this place out.' Then I found out they were hiring---and they kind of tested me out by letting me curate a show, which sort of led to me getting that position.
Let's talk about influences. You had mentioned Renoir, who else has made a big impact on you?
When I was in college, it was, for sure, Mark Ryden and Joe Sorren. They were huge. That was like everything. Camille Rose Garcia. I love Walton Ford, his technique is incredible, but I love the stories behind his animals. There will be a starling eating a piece of chocolate because starlings moved here, or were transplanted here but shouldn't exist here, just like they shouldn't be eating chocolate. Very nature involved, intricate story lines in beautiful old fashioned compositions. So, I really like his stuff. I always liked Lucian Freud paintings. There's a wide swath there.
What do you find the most challenging thing to paint? 
Trees. I love them, but the bark is tricky, and leaves are very time consuming. It is hard to know how much detail to include and when to stop.
Lastly, I'm kind of in awe of how you render leaves of grass. What's the trick to painting grass?
First I paint the sky to cover the whole panel. Then I mix a few different greenish colors, adding some of the sky color closest to the horizon to make it seem in the distance, and I basically paint every blade of grass adding more dark and more light to certain areas for depth. Fairly simple, just kind of time consuming.

You can currently see Nicole's work in the Pandamonium show (which she curated) at:
Flower Pepper Gallery
121 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103
Next Saturday (6/21/2014), you and your kids can make some art with Nicole, myself, and other artists at Flower Pepper from 1pm -4pm (see flyers below)

You can see Nicole's "King Atticus" mural at:
Gabba Gallery
3126 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA. 90057

Coming up in August, Nicole will have work in the "Baby Animals" show at:
bG Gallery

...and much more after that! I'll keep you posted.


Back To Neverland

The Pit Bull and the Pea

Winky & Blinky

Idol Time In The Moonlight

Hello Kitty

Kiss Dogs

White Rabbit

Sketchbook stuff

Tracing concepts

The arsenal