VOLUME 2 NUMBER 9
CONCEALED ORIGIN INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE / IMAGES COURTESY CONCEALED ORIGIN
Mona Smith of Concealed Origin is someone who has been on our radar for a long time here at ANPQ. She’s an extremely talented artist and designer and actually wrote a really great piece for us years ago about the Black Panther artist Emory Douglass. Mona is still doing great things…now turning her attention to publishing with her new zine company Concealed Origin. While the first releases are all her own work, she’ll soon turn her sights to publishing works by other like-minded creators. As you’ll see from our interview with her, she’s quite the militant…staying true to her ideals while publishing amazing stuff. ANP: Can you tell us briefly what your zines are about? MS: Sure, they run the gamut from sharing my personal story to art I’ve made expressing how I view my city and the world. I’m very anti-media control/anti-corporation as both equate the concept of “sheeple” to me, so I often express my frustration with this. But everything I make is deeply personal, it’s not really about making sure my aesthetics are perfect, though I do care very much about style, it’s more about pulling out what comes straight from my heart, whether that be social commentary or issues from my own life. ANP: How did you get into making them? MS: The first time I ever made a zine was when I was super young during the original Riot Grrrl era called Kill Supermodels. It was all about how the standard of beauty for women has become increasingly impossible to reach and how this is mostly the doing of corporations, which are run mainly by men, in order to get women to shell out more and more money in order to attain that impossible standard. 5’10” and 110 lbs. Size 0 and huge boobs. I mean, it’s unacceptable for women to even have pubic hair these days! It’s horrid. Now we’re expected to have these ridiculous little shapes instead? It truly is asinine and how standards are so much higher for women than men. MIND CONTROL! ANP: What made you start making them again? MS: Well, I needed a more socially acceptable way to communicate myself to the world. To explain, I am an incredibly shy person and it’s extremely difficult for me to communicate in person unless I know someone well. I have spent the majority of my life trying to communicate by writing letters and emails to people as the phone is very difficult for me, as well. My brain basically freezes when I meet people and am expected to have words for them. Sometimes I can force myself to find those words, but often times I cannot. However, when I write, the floodgates open and all the unused words come rushing out in droves. That is not me saying that I write well—that is just me saying that I write because I have to. For me, it’s survival. Thus my letters and emails tend to be of grand lengths. You should see the way some recipients have looked at me after receiving my correspondence—like I’ve just committed some kind of vile offense by trying to reach out that way! It can freak people out and I totally get it… long letters are just not a socially acceptable way to communicate anymore, though it was once the norm. Also, I cannot cry—ever. You have no idea how suspicious people can be of particularly women, who do not emote externally. I never cried when my dad died, so does that mean I didn’t love him? That I don’t have feelings or that I’m not a human being? To assume so would be offensive. Not everyone is built the same. But because all the natural ways of how I do things seem to be considered the “wrong” ways by society, I’ve had to learn to channel all of that into something that is less wrong. Hence making the zines. ANP: So what do they mean for you now that you’ve rediscovered this outlet? MS: They have become everything to me. Beyond communication, I made one called Trash Soundz which is basically me crying, it’s me bleeding because I needed that catharsis. I made one about my dad because writing about him seems to be the only way I know to grieve him. And I’m human thus still long to connect to others hence why I’m so incredibly appreciative of anyone who takes the time to actually read and pay attention to what I’m trying to say to them. I want to open dialogs. I’ve always had a very strong sense of who I am as a person but what does that matter when you have no effective way to express or communicate this? I was a walking ghost before I started making zines again. ANP: What are your influences? MS: Well, I’m really interested in art that stands for something/clear communication. As I was researching Emory Douglas when I wrote about him for ANP, I was really impressed by the fact that he always strived to make his art as clear-cut as possible in order to use it as a tool for educating people on the causes and effects of oppression and how to fight against it. Also Cuba—during the cold war there was a proxy war by magazine happening between most countries, the U.S. included. Cuba by far had the most progressive propaganda magazine named Tricontinental that was put out for the sole purpose of promoting third world liberation in other countries. But it looked more like the coolest underground zine or art magazine you would ever see, even now, and less like something government sanctioned. Cuba was the most transparent about using their media for propaganda and the artwork was second to none in terms of graphics, wit and education. That was great art with a purpose. They were way ahead of their time on the art front during the ‘60s & ‘70s. Emory Douglas was the only American artist they ever employed, as well. ANP: Anything more current? MS: Mike Mills, Henry Rollins, Ian Svenonius, Joan Didion and Glenn O’Brien’s T.V Party Manifesto, which I think everyone should read. To me, these are all people who are particularly good at creating a certain mood and/or call to action—the spirit of which I try to inject into my own work, though everything I make is still very much my own. Also my dad, who was a brilliant man never afraid to challenge the status quo and who was/is my greatest role model. ANP: And you recently started your own publishing company? MS: Yesss! It’s called Concealed Origin, and my logo is a black folder—which I chose because I’m incredibly drawn to its symbolism. I just started a Concealed Origin online shop, too, where I have my zines and where I will add other products such as the women’s t-shirt I just made. ANP: That’s great! I’ve seen your shirt, and I can see it becoming kind of an iconic tee for all the cool girls! MS: Well, I do appreciate that very much! I would love that because I think it represents a very positive message of femininity indivisible with strength. That’s my whole M.O. www.concealedorigin.com
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TOP ACID In recent years, Orange County, California has become more and more known for its vibrant music scene. Bubbling up from the underground we’ve seen bands, labels and venues bursting onto the scene with a voracious fervor. Top Acid, a vintage clothing store and music venue in downtown Santa Ana is one of those new scenes that are part of this. We asked founder Chris Gonzalez to tell us a bit about what they’re up to. I N T E R V I E W B Y C L A R K R AY B U R N IMAGES COURTESY TOP ACID
ANP: Who are the personalities behind Top Acid, and besides running the shop and venue, what do you guys do? Chris Gonzalez: Well, Top Acid has always basically been just a one-man operation. Originally, my best friend Joellen managed the actual vintage store but since she’s now working full time for the company Nasty Gal, the vintage store is on a bit of a hiatus. Besides the store/ venue, I’m a pretty simple guy. I love cheap beer, riding choppers and my two kids/pups (Toothless & Tobias). ANP: What inspired you to open the shop? Also, why did you decide to include a venue? CG: The shop actually came very naturally for Joellen and me. We both were (and still are) completely obsessed with vintage clothing and fashion in general. With her business savvy and my previous connections with vintage sellers, it was an easy start. The venue was never really something that I intentionally wanted to do. I started hosting shows for the city of Santa Ana’s monthly art walk and it really became the thing I looked forward to every month. Gradually my focus and attention turned from selling vintage clothes to putting on shows with bands that at the time nobody was really booking. ANP: Why did you call the place Top Acid? CG: Most people assume that Top Acid is some sort of drug reference but the true meaning is actually a lot more random. Top Acid is a reference to a specific trick/grind that is done on rollerblades. I grew up rollerblading, and as most people who skateboard or BMX can relate, you learn a lot about yourself, and it really shapes the person you later become as an adult. The thing that immediately struck me about rollerblading was how uncool it was perceived by others. The name is honestly really just an homage to being uncool, not worrying about others’ acceptance, and truly doing something because you love it. Business-wise, it has directly affected the way I run Top Acid. Not to talk shit on your typical team sports like baseball, basketball or football, but I think there’s a lot more to learn at a young age when your success directly relies on your personal persistence, commitment, and drive. If you don’t land a trick you can’t blame anyone else
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but yourself. There’s no cop out or the ability to blame others for your failure. When I was still skating my motto was always “If you’re not bleeding you’re not trying hard enough,” and I’ve adopted that same motto for Top Acid, except now I’ve replaced blood with being stressed out!! ANP: What do you think is unique about the Santa Ana scene compared to Los Angeles? CG: I love the LA scene and they obviously have the best scene in SoCal, but I think it’s just become so oversaturated that people have become really jaded. It’s hard to get excited about a single show when there’s one exactly like it every day of the week at one of the many cool music venues. Unfortunately, we don’t have that luxury in Santa Ana and I think it really makes everyone here grateful and appreciative when a good band is playing a local show. Top Acid and Santa Ana’s music scene has become almost like folklore now. Everyone goes nuts at our shows and the energy is always so amazing! It could be a crowd of 2,000 people or 20 people and the show will still be regarded as some sort of legendary night. It makes me so happy and really drives me when a band tells me that the best show they’ve ever played was in Santa Ana at a Top Acid event. ANP: What are some of your favorite moments or experiences that have happened to you guys since you opened the venue? CG: Honestly, my favorite part has been the relationships I’ve built. I’ve made so many great friends and have met some truly amazing people through Top Acid. I wouldn’t trade those relationships for anything in the world. ANP: What are your future plans for Top Acid? CG: Ideally, I’d love to one day grow the brand big enough where we could host one massive music festival each year in Orange County. I really look up to people like Sean Carlson who are able to do these amazing festivals like FYF but still have overall control of the artists they work with. Logically, though, it makes sense for our immediate next step to have Top Acid become a full-blown music label and release new music from all the great local musicians in Orange County. www.topacid.com
To those of you who have been reading this magazine for a while you might remember an article we wrote in one of our first issues on the Los Angeles motorcycle shop, Choke. Well time has moved on, and while Choke has now gone out of business, the space has been re-invented in a similar spirit as the menswear store Virgil Normal. The shop is the brainchild of Shirley Kurata and Charlie Staunton, both of whom were members of the Latebirds moped gang that used to hang out at Choke, but there fashion pedigrees go much deeper than that. Shirley is an established stylist and Charlie an innovative designer/graphic artist. The combination of wares assembled in the shop are testament to a truly unique retail vision, coupled with sporadic art exhibitions by some of Los Angelesâ€™ newest young artists, the shop is a true original. We can only imagine that the model will be most likely be imitated, but never with the panache these two bring to the table. In this ever more homogenized world we live in, itâ€™s great to see a place like Virgil Normal on the scene. It offers faith that the shopping experience can be much more than a commercial endeavor, and rather come to life as a truly creative experience.
VIRGIL NORMAL INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE / IMAGES COURTESY VIRGIL NORMAL
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ANP: Of all the businesses to go into what inspired you to open a clothing shop? Has it always been a dream? Virgil Normal: Opening a clothing store was a natural fit considering our backgrounds. Shirley Kurata studied fashion at Paris’ Studio Bercot and is a very active stylist, and I Charlie Staunton being a designer in the apparel industry gave us the experience and friendships to make this a rather smooth transition. We were able to tap a few close shoulders and stock our store with goods that are proven and well respected. We have had the idea of opening a store for a while now but finding a location that we felt a connection to the neighborhood and a proper fit for our sensibilities proved challenging. Being fans of Choke the previous moped shop inhabiting this space, created a familiarity with the East Hollywood neighborhood Virgil Village and with great neighbors like Vinny’s Barbershop and Sqirl cafe down the street, there really wasn’t another neighborhood that we connected with as much. ANP: Your inventory is quite unique and eclectic. How do you choose what goes into the shop? VN: Fortunately we have many talented friends. Shirley has been a fan of Annie Larson of All Knitwear for years so we knew we would have to have her hand made sweaters in our shop. Also Bridge & Burn of Portland is one of our closest friends, so again it was a no brainer. In addition, to clothing labels we are fortunate to know talented ceramicists like Mark Churchill and Meredith Metcalf who were generous enough to lend their talents to our shop. And then there are fun items like Adam Siegel’s custom airbrushed surfboards, and slip on vans. Adam isn’t in the business at all just one of Los Angeles’ original graffiti artists and punk rockers. In addition to featuring our friends work Shirley has cultivated many relations like the one with LA Eyeworks thru her styling, they were excited to be a part of a Shirley venture and have gone out of their way to support us. ANP: You guys took over what used to be Choke Motorcycle Shop, but are obviously doing something very different. However we noticed that you still identify with Choke in some ways. Is there a reason for this? What elements of Choke have spilled over to Virgil Normal? VN: We loved Choke for so many reasons. The building and neighborhood is decorated with murals by Alexis Ross. The patina that Choke left behind after nine years of oil and light industrial metal work, concrete floors with layers of paint in different states of decay. This building is like a fine pair of jeans with great wear. We made efforts to clean up the space without sterilizing it. We salvaged the sign paintings left behind and the original Cafe Legs. We hope to continue using Cafe Legs in a manner that lives up to its standards. We have had art installations, brewed some coffee and soon to feature the sign painting of Ben Klevay in there. ANP: It seems that beyond being a boutique, Virgil Normal functions as a gallery/event space. What kinds of events have you held there and how do you go about choosing what types of things happen there? VN: We started off with a dance to celebrate our grand opening. Dj’s Wooden Wisdom provided the music and Silver Lake Wine was generous enough to supply us with wine and bartenders. We’ve had art shows where we collaborated with Honey Power an all girl music and co-op event. They curated the show and showed their own work as well. The theme was musicians who make art - King Tuff, Sam Phillips, Big Luke Thomas, Amy Allen of the Feels made paintings as well as played hot live music. The artist Brandon Andrews had a show of thermo-chromatic art as well as neon pieces marking the landscapes of LA. Mark Churchill brought his ceramics wheel and some clay down from Ojai and threw for an afternoon. Mark gave tips and demonstrated his skills stunt throwing a 5’ tall pot. In December we had a large group show titled Speaking in Semaphore. We cut up a vintage parachute into 2’ x 1’ flags and invited 50 exotic artists to create on them. Mediums spanned from confetti, embroidery, painting and felting. In addition to the flag art show we had the Sweet Bump It play a set of their powerful music. We have some exciting shows coming for 2016. ANP: Is there an overriding Virgil Normal ethos? VN: To support and create Los Angeles Culture. Virgil Normal 4157 Normal Ave Los Angeles, CA 90029 virgilnormal.com
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DENNIS COLORS. H O P P E R THE POLAROIDS
TEXT BY AARON ROSE / IMAGES COURTESY DAMIANI Dennis Hopper: Colors. The Polaroids (Damiani 2017) is a new book of recently discovered polaroid images that demands attention. Hopper explained that when he was directing Colors, the inspiration for these photographs came because Los Angeles is, in his words, an “unvisual” city. His eyes were drawn to the gang graffiti scrawled on walls. “These are little scratches, little epitaphs, of the people on the street,” Hopper said. These markings exist as a secret language that is almost invisible to anyone outside of the gang cultures, yet it’s not surprising that an artist with such a keen visual sense as Hopper’s would have recognized them instantly. To someone with a painter’s eye these markings are of course compositionally striking. However, the visual language is really only the surface gesture of what is perhaps one of Los Angeles’ oldest native art forms. The majority of images Dennis Hopper documented in this series of Polaroids show a lettering style that was created primarily by the gangs of Los Angeles. What is perhaps most intriguing is that Hopper managed to look a step further. While the visual and historical gravitas of the street writing should have been enough. Hopper also took notice of a strange visual phenomenon that co-existed within these marks as complete and separate dialogue. This time the conversation that was taking place was between the gangs and city workers whose job was to clean this graffiti up. Working in tandem over each other, the roller marks of the “buff crews” became abstract visual motifs in themselves. They may have been created without conscious artistic intentions, but one cannot ignore the similarities in composition to the works of abstract masters such as Mark Rothko, Kazimir Malevich and even Robert Rauschenberg. Dennis Hopper was extremely well versed in art history and he must have seen these similarities instantly. Through the tiny viewfinder of his Polaroid camera, he must have considered these markings a way of challenging the observer to look at buffing as art in itself, as documentations of a time. First, in the
moment that the graffiti behind the current layer existed, and the now, in which the opaque paint takes over, only to be written over once again. It’s akin to a battle between different graffiti crews at a different level, a three-way call-and-response, and ultimately, a stimulus for a conversation on not just public and semi public space, but also perhaps questioning the very nature of what it means to be an artist. In glancing through the pages of this book, another parallel comes to mind. Speaking to some completely separate motivations for what drew Dennis Hopper to this subject matter. It’s a well-documented fact that these photographs were taken while either researching or shooting his film Colors. So it can be assumed that part of the reasons these images exist had to do with the essential work of a film director who is in the process of delving deep into a culture that he was working to reimagine on film. However there is a secondary possible motivation that has only come to light for me while writing this piece. If one were to examine the nature of this gang graffiti from a psychological perspective you could almost always see a pattern of creation, then destruction, then reinvention and new creation again. It always exists as an endless loop that, while to some people might be exquisitely frustrating, to the purveyors of the craft it is part and parcel of the lifestyle. One not cast their eyes too far afield from this practice to see distinct parallels to Hopper’s career. As an actor, an artist, a collector, a film director, and a brute social force, if there’s one thing you can say solidly about Dennis Hopper’s life is that he was constantly in the process of re-invention. His multiple careers could be considered almost like gangster tags on the walls of creative history. Before his death, his career continued to play out in this fashion countless times over and over, cross-outs and buffs, much like the images documented in this book. As evidenced in his life, Dennis Hopper sought out ugliness, only to find, beneath the scratches and the scrawls, the true exquisiteness that defines the human experience.
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SLASH MAGAZINE PART I: AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN IDEA: A TWO-PART INTERVIEW WITH SLASH CO-FOUNDERS STEVE SAMIOF & MELANIE NISSEN BY BRIAN ROETTINGER & J.C. GABEL ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY MELANIE NISSEN
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Slash magazine, which documented the first wave of LA punk better than any other publication of its time is a sought after collectors item. The magazine is loved not just because of its obscurity, but it’s unique approach to art, layout and design. On the eve of the publication of a new book, Slash: A Punk Magazine from Los Angeles 1977-80, edited by Brian Roettinger & J.C. Gabel (Hat & Beard) we are proud to publish excerpts from what promises to be a critical piece of Los Angeles Punk ephemera. The first wave of L.A. punk, as the story goes, is remembered for its innovative spirit and intimate nature, but is a mere footnote in the annals of punk rock history. The connective tissue linking L.A.’s first wave to what later became known as hardcore is captured on film in the cult documentary The Decline of Western Civilization, directed by filmmaker Penelope Spheeris. The film was shot between the years 1979–80, and was released in July of 1981. The undeniable poet of L.A’s first punk scene, was French-native Claude Bessy, better known as “Kickboy Face.” He was the mouthpiece for Slash magazine, which launched in 1977, and was co-founded by Bessy’s friends Steve Samiof and Melanie Nissen. Philomena “Philly” Winstanley, a Brit and Bessy’s soul mate, would round out the first original core staff of the Slash magazine. Many of the personalities you’ll go on to read about in this book would join the unusual quartet to become a close-knit group of contributors (using both their real names and sardonic pseudonyms); many of whom would later produce legendary work in other artistic realms. Toward the end of 1980 Slash magazine, under the new ownership of Bob Biggs, was just beginning to morph into the record label that would help to define underground music in the 1980s and 1990s, before being sold to Warner Bros. around the turn of the millennium. It is impossible to forget, however, that Slash began as a magazine first, and one that came to define Los Angeles’ punk scene better than any other publication. We are privileged to publish the first part of an excerpt from an interview with Slash co-founders Steve Samiof and Melanie Nissen, as well as excerpted photographs that were not included in the final book.
You and Melanie were about a decade older than a lot of the kids who were a part of the first wave of punk in Los Angeles. Tell us about the origins of Slash and how the first issue came together? Steve Samiof: Great way to start an interview. Yeah, we were older, but no less involved or committed, in fact probably more so. More importantly, somebody needed to be able to buy the liquor. I was 27 when we published the first issue. Melanie and I had been in a relationship for about a year or so. She was living in Los Feliz with her daughter Nicole, and I had just rented a raw storefront in mid-town L.A., after living for a decade in Santa Monica/Venice. I converted it into living space as best as my skills allowed. Melanie Nissen: I don’t think age was such an issue back then. It was a mixed crowd; the music brought everyone together. People were curious about all of it. Besides that, Steve and I were young. You lived and worked at the storefront? SS: Yes. I had my $100-a-month, big white space with an open shower and sleeping loft open to the sky. This became the original Slash clubhouse. So I was living in my studio and Melanie was living in Los Feliz. We actually met before the studio, but the studio is where Slash kind of gelled. MN: Steve’s studio felt very creative; there were always friends and artists wandering in and out at all hours, lots of space for art and people. I photographed Devo there for the first time. I remember one day, right in the middle of a Slash meeting at the studio, I looked up and there was Chevy Chase staring at us all and saying hello. He had just wandered in. The Slash studio was a very different way of life for me. Steve was a lot more social and outgoing than I was. For me, it felt like anything was possible. At that point my daughter Nicole and I were renting this sweet little house in Los Feliz. It was a pretty hard transition for all, especially for Nicole. I was a single mother and worked full time. I was always trying to keep everything together: Nicole, my job, my relationship with Steve and Slash. It was also a very exciting time. Steve and I would go back and forth from house to studio. Even before Slash, we were always doing something creative together; everything was about art, and we both loved it. Were you a romantic couple then? SS: Yes, it was a relationship that burned hot. It had a lot to do with Slash becoming more than a concept. We had met, initially, at a party in Hancock Park. At the time, I was working a night job at a newspaper in Watts that published two newspapers a week. Just me and another guy; we’d knock out two issues a week working nights, taking Dexedrine under the harsh fluorescents. It wasn’t Art Center, but I did learn how to paste up and produce a publication. It gave me the idea to publish a photo/design journal. Melanie, meanwhile, is a brilliant photographer. I took pictures as well, and it seemed like something to do. It’s all a little hazy, but around that time there were news items in the mainstream press about The [Sex] Pistols, which led me to pick up on the “Filth and the Fury” British tabloid action at the newsstand, along with NME and Melody Maker. So with nothing but the desire and the wherewithal to do it, working with obscure bits of info, the as yet unnamed photo journal (opposite) Claude “Kickboy Face” Bessy, 1978. (above) Slash co-founders: Melanie Nissen & Steve Samiof, 1977
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(opposite) Pleasant Gehman, 1977. (clockwise from top left) Joey Ramone (Ramones) at the Tropicana Motel, 1977. Darby Crash (The Germs), 1978. Hollywood punks, 1977.
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now had a raison d’être: Le Punk. I got really interested in The Pistols. I was never really into the Stooges. I really liked The Ramones and I think The Ramones were the first punk band I remember recognizing as “punk” after reading about them, and then buying some of their records. I started looking around L.A. and realized there was a microcosm of a punk scene going on there. Surprisingly, I hadn’t seen any shows at that point in L.A. I think maybe The Weirdos had played one show, which had been prefaced by The Dogs, and The Motels—all these kind of straight ahead rock bands, but the punk thing really hadn’t happened in L.A. ... yet. The original idea was this: We were going to do a photo-illustrated, tabloid format, but it wasn’t going to be heavy on the editorial. Maybe it was going to be a one-off thing. I think that was my original idea. I found out working at my job how cheap it was to publish a newsprint magazine. You could do 5,000 copies of a 24-page magazine for $600 or something. Really reasonable. That was the original idea. MN: When I met Steve, I lived in Hermosa Beach, and was managing a bookstore in Palos Verdes. I was a complete book nerd, and had been in that business about 13 years. It was considered a prestigious job but for shit money. There was a party in Hancock Park, where we met. It was a fluke I was even there, I had tagged along with friends and didn’t know a soul. Walking through the party, Steve and I spotted each other, and it was just like one of those good/bad juicy movies. We exchanged numbers. It was powerful and I was shook up afterwards. Maybe it was fate for Slash, who knows? I’m a little fuzzy here about sequence after that. I remember I left the book business, and got hired at ABC Records on Beverly Boulevard as a photo editor in the art department. That was my first job in a creative atmosphere, and I knew immediately what I wanted to do in life. I bugged and begged all the designers there to teach me paste up and design. They were very patient and generous with me. I designed my first album there, which was for a Les McCann record. I had already been a huge fan. Then I photographed the country artist Tommy Overstreet, and wound up shooting him at Steve’s studio, outside in the cactus garden. It was a pretty loose art department then, lots of lunchtime drinking downstairs in the little Russian restaurant. I had always wanted to be an artist, just never thought I could make a living at it. Meanwhile, Steve and I were dutifully working on Slash. As far as documenting the punk scene as it was happening, I think Steve had read an article in the L.A. Times about the music scene that had started in London, and was just beginning to get talked about in L.A. He went and got all the English music magazines, and we started buying the singles. Then, one morning he said to me, “Let’s do a punk rock magazine.” And so that began all the conversations about what it would be and what it would look like. I don’t think we knew what it was really going to be, but it was brewing.
How long of an incubation period was there from concept—light bulb over your head, let’s do a punk magazine—to getting the first issue printed? SS: Maybe three months. Things moved fast. I’d known Claude Bessy through friends and we both liked reggae. I knew he had put out a Xeroxed fanzine called Angelino Dread. Once the idea of the magazine started gelling I thought it should have some editorial and that maybe Claude would be able to do it. So I called Claude over, and he was really into it. Claude was working at a restaurant on the Santa Monica Pier and not much else. So he was interested. We started getting together every day at my studio and we talked about and listened to every import 45 we could get our hands on. I’m not too clear if we went to live shows, I’m pretty sure we did, but nothing memorable until The Damned show at the Starwood. That gig is when the stars aligned. There were actually even a few punks at the show. Through The Damned we met The Screamers at the Wilton Hilton, and we had our first issue. That’s about it. Melanie got to publish her photos; Claude found his true voice; Philomena did some editing; and I got to design a magazine. Everything fell into place. I remember the day we needed the name/logo. We thought about referencing the Situationists, naming the mag “Under the Cobblestones” or something equally pretentious. “Shite” and “take a piss” were suggested, and then someone said that in British slang, to piss was to slash. So that was it. I picked up a bottle of Pelikan ink and using the stopper as a pen, wrote the logo on a brown shopping bag, then held it up and it dripped. Done. Thirty minutes tops. MN: Steve was/is a very smart and creative person. Very quickly, it all started to come together. I loved The Screamers and The Weirdos, the Germs and The Bags—they were the first L.A. bands I knew of, and will always have the deepest a affection for. Can you imagine how great they all were to photograph and get to know? You felt this whole new music scene start to bubble underground, and it seemed like there were new bands every week. L.A. was so full of this energy. There was so much going on, it was hard to keep up. The first issue was super important to us, because we didn’t really know if we would have another shot. The Damned were the first English punk band to play in L.A. at the Starwood. They were great. I remember us going backstage to see them. I took photos of them in a narrow hallway with really bad lighting, and didn’t think much of it. When I saw the developed lm I thought maybe I had a good shot of him, but because of the lighting, everything was at and too grey. So I turned it into line art, dropping all the greys, and wound up with a perfect vampire, which he was. Steve and I both knew immediately that the photo and logo were going to be the first Slash cover. I love the logo Steve designed. The minute he put that dripping red type on that photo, it was over. I always wished we would have used it exclusively; it was the best one and had such great recognition, it was Slash. That said, it is hard not to experiment when you have so much freedom. Did you fund the magazine yourself— you and your friends? SS: Yes. We supported the magazine. Hell, even Claude put some money in when we needed it, just to get it finished. We didn’t make any money from the first few issues. It was like a school play. We just started doing it. I knew the mechanics of how to put a magazine out, but how it came together was just like, “Hey, I know so and so,” and people would come to us. MN: Slash had nothing to do with money, except that we needed some to print it. I think the only thing I got was money for photo paper, so I could make prints. I can’t believe the magazine was only 50 cents. It seems so optimistic. You decided to be inclusive with Slash as a publication, yet in a way you were making the scene up as you went along. SS: You have to realize the punk scene was minuscule. I mean I think every punk in L.A. was at my studio for The Screamers’ debut. It was maybe 100 people. That was pretty much the punk scene in 1977. There were a lot of curious seekers, but really there weren’t that many punks. It’s really quite amazing what resulted from that one obscure event... You mentioned Claude’s reggae magazine. I think a lot of people— especially a generation or two younger than us—forget how much of a connection there was between punk, reggae and dub. The Clash, of course, drew a straight line to Trenchtown with some of their covers at the time. All those subcultures were like a forceful response to the over-produced arena rock and singer-songwriter culture of the time. SS: We hesitated so long before including reggae with punk. We wanted to be purists. We were purists. Emotionally we were so invested in the magazine. We were incorruptible. We were true believers. It’s really hard to explain it. We had a two- day discussion about putting Elvis Costello’s album in the magazine. I really liked Elvis Costello and Claude said, “No, man, it’s not hardcore enough.” Even though we both listened to reggae and both loved it, we had to gradually integrate it into the magazine. It wasn’t from the beginning. Reggae was the thing that Claude and I originally had in common—that, and getting high. Since I first saw The Harder They Come at the Fox Venice in ’72, I’ve been hooked on reggae. I can’t draw a direct line from reggae to punk, but there is a similarity in their honesty and defiance. In England, ska and reggae had a presence that, aside from Marley, didn’t exist in the U.S. I think at Slash we used the Clash’s cover of “Pressure Drop” as an excuse to further our secret reggae agenda.
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(opposite) Slash, Volume One, No. 5, October 1977. (above, clockwise from top left) Paste-up for Slash One Year Anniversary Issue, 1978. Slash, Volume Two, No. 7, August 1979. Tomata du Plenty (The Screamers), 77/78. Side alley outside The Masque, 1977. Devo at the first Slash offices, 1977. A pre Go-Goâ€™s Belinda Carlisle in an original Germs T-shirt, 1977.
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(clockwise from above) L to R: Baba Chenelle, Javier Escovedo, Hector Penalosa, Robert Lopez, (The Zeros), 1977. BBQ Party at The Wilton Hilton, 77/78. John Denney (The Weirdos), 1977.
MN: I liked reggae, but I think Claude and Steve were more into it than I was, and I agreed with Claude about Elvis Costello. You mentioned The Stooges. There are other proto-punk bands, like Velvet Underground, MC5, etc, that people associate with punk. You’ve said that you weren’t necessarily into those bands. They’re not what led you to punk. It was other things, like reggae and glam. Was it really The Sex Pistols that opened your eyes to punk? SS: I had never heard of The Sex Pistols until I read some of the tawdry details about them in the tabloids, stuff like, “Band Spits on Fans,” that could have been in the National Enquirer. It just got me interested. I was very into the Velvet Underground. I love them. I was just not an Iggy fan. Reggae I liked since, I guess, “Catch a Fire,” that was ’72 or something. I was really into it. Bob Marley, in the early 1970s, went on his West Coast concert tour, and I saw him like three or four times. It was so great. But anyway, I wasn’t into those proto-punk bands. No. MN: It’s so ironic that I wound up working with John Lydon later when he was at Virgin Records as Public Image Ltd, and, yes he was an asshole, but I still liked his music. For us, at least in the later wave of punk rock that we grew up with throughout the 1990s, punk was a state of mind more than anything. You didn’t have to dress punk necessarily to be punk. Looking at photos of you and Melanie alongside some of the random kids hanging out at your apartment or at shows, you aren’t dressed the part at all. Did it have to do with your age?
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SS: By this time of my life, I’d been through quite a few costume changes. I guess I was pretty comfortable with my style. In any case my role was more about documenting and encouraging than joining. Not that I didn’t spend a fair amount of my time in the mosh pit. We were going to live shows or parties almost every night. I guess we were just accepted as the artsy-fartsy couple. I was entering my final youth movement: Punk. It took a while for the transition, and I was constantly judged by those younger than me. But I assure you, there are photos of me somewhere with hair streaked pink, just crazy color atop my clean, shaven face, pegged pants, a heavily badged lapel and a pair of royal blue brothel creepers. MN: Along with Malcolm McLaren, you can’t forget how influential Vivian Westwood was. Besides being a new music scene, punk was also a big new fashion scene. I was so attracted to the music and fashion. Give me safety pins, day glow, and ripped clothing any day. To this day, there is so much punk in fashion. It never really went away. I find that my photos, and design, are so influenced by it still. It became my taste. If I take a photo of a flower, I want it to be a punk rock flower, not retro but mixed with modern. I like to mess up art. I think it comes from having no formal training and not knowing any better, but it has given me a lot of freedom to do the wrong thing. I think I try to look for an edge in everything, especially the beautiful. To read Part II of this interview buy the book!!!
One of the great joys of being a journalist is the roundabout ways in which ideas for articles sometimes just fall into your lap. I won’t go into the whole story of how we met Mike and Natalie Kim here, but let’s just say that, through a series of strange and random accidents (and one boozy night) this piece really created itself. If you look back at past issues of ANP Quarterly, you’ll notice that we have done quite a few features on family stories. Whether it was Kate and Laura Mulleavy from the fashion label Rodarte speaking to us about their proto-hippie upbringings in Northern California, or artist Peter Shire’s childhood growing up in an American Communist household, there has always been something about creative family dynamics that has interested us. Brother and sister duo Mike and Natalie Krim should be considered part of this legacy. Mike Krim is a New York-based photographer, ex-graffiti writer and publisher of the edgy zine conglomerate Paperwork. His unique publications explore sex and vandalism and many times ride the line between what’s legal and acceptable in 21st Century society. Natalie Kim is an artist whose small intimate drawings and collages are soft and naive, but also lead us to a place where forbidden desires are allowed to run wild, yet packaged in the sweetness of a teenage girl’s fantasy. While both artists call New York and California home, they spent their formative years in the West San Fernando Valley. It’s a place that is not known for bringing up artists, not to mention a location that one would never consider to produce the kinds of creations both these young creators are producing. The raw psycho-sexual energy that permeates both of their works sits in strong juxtaposition to the Cheesecake Factory chain restaurants of their youth. Adding to the story, their mother, Tricie Krim, is an established fashion illustrator herself and their grandfather, Allen Burg, was shooting the biggest Hollywood stars as a glamour photographer. Burg ran a photo studio on La Cienega Blvd in Los Angeles (on the same block as the infamous Ferus Gallery) from the 1940s – 1960s. Family stories are always interesting to read, but when we can link them to the creative spirit something happens that is perhaps even more special. We conducted this interview in Ventura, California. After spending a day with Mike, Natalie and Tricie at an early morning flea market, we sat down at a local fish market on Ventura Harbor. Mike and Natalie were back in California because their father had just passed away. It was a time of mourning for the family, but at the same time a certain raw honesty was there which I think comes though in this piece.
INTERVIEW AND PORTRAIT BY AARON ROSE I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y T H E A R T I S T S A N D T H E K R I M F A M I LY
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ANP: Did we ever talk about the original idea for Andy Warhol’s Interview? His philosophy towards interviews was that he never edited anything. If the interview were at a restaurant, he would leave in when the waiter came to take an order or whatever. His journalism was like his films. No edits. Natalie Krim: Wow, that’ so great! ANP: But we won’t do that for this (laughter). Can you guys talk about significant memories of your childhood? Maybe how those experiences have influenced your creative practices? NK: My mom was always creating and we had a back room that was always an art room. It was filled with rubber stamps and books and National Geographic’s. When I was little I was so attached to her that I would just sit in there. I would look through all her books or I would scribble or draw and she would give me journals or schoolbooks to draw in…so that was really just my beginning of drawing. I don’t know, maybe she was just trying to keep me busy… ANP: What kind of work was your mom doing at the time? NK: At that time she was making these floral pins and these Victorian military broaches. She was doing a lot of flower stuff. But one wall of her studio was all rubber stamps. Mike Krim: It was a lot of fun for us to go in there and pull things. We’d just go through everything and make our own stuff. NK: But I also remember that she had this orange filing cabinet from the ‘70s and that was the most exciting thing for me because I could go through and see her fashion illustrations. It was stuff from the 1960s to the 1980s. The early ones were all with neon paint and super mod. Actually when I first started drawing my work looked really similar to my mom’s drawings. ANP: Are any of those drawings still around? NK: Oh yeah! We’ll give you some for this article. MK: My mom would also dress us up crazy all the time. I think I only dressed as a cowboy until I was like 11. But she would mix it…like half surf/skate and then cowboy. So I had a Davy Crockett hat with Vision skate shoes. ANP: That sounds very “now.” MK: Yeah, might be my next look. NK: She used to do my hair in a 1920’s bob and like a perfect little dress. So as a kid I always looked very ‘20s, which is funny because I love the ‘20s now! Yeah, we were like characters. ANP: Where was this all happening? Where did you live? MK: This was in Agoura, California. ANP: That’s crazy! That’s total rural suburbia! Like the end of the West Valley! MK: Yeah, but it’s 818 so you could still claim L.A. NK: Even every wall of our house was painted a really obscure color. My dad hated it I think. Sometimes I was embarrassed to have friends over. MK: Yeah, and we had this green carpet that the dogs peed on and it bleached parts of the carpet yellow. I always thought that was really funny! That’s like one of my most vivid memories of that house. ANP: How long did you live in Agoura? NK: Until I was in middle school. Then we moved to Westlake. MK: At that point I was a bit older and I moved to Venice. I lived down there for a while and then I moved back to go to school in Ojai. NK: When I got to high school, or right after, I moved to New York and I lived there for 11 years. ANP: So you went from the West Valley to New York? NK: Yeah. I just always felt off in California. I want to New York with one of my girlfriends in 7th grade, she was modeling out there and had a little apartment and I remember seeing all the taxis and thinking, “This is where I want to be!” In my head that’s where I was going…and that’s where I ended up! ANP: So that visit just kind of solidified it for you? NK: Well when I was in high school my aunt called me and asked if I wanted to move out there. I feel like it was a couple of days later that I just got on a plane and I went. She was just like, “Come be out here!” She had gone to New York when she was my age. I think she was trying to teach me something. ANP: So were you still in high school or just out? NK: I was just out of high school. ANP: Mike, when did you go out there? MK: I went like five years after Natalie. I was still in school here, but I was goofing around too much. I ended up in Hollywood and then too much crazy stuff was going on… ANP: Like what? MK: There were crazy graffiti wars going on. The police were cracking down on everyone. From like 22 to 25 I was pretty much in jail most of the time. NK: Yeah, and he would always call me. I would be like his one call from jail. MK: But I was never in there for just a day! It was always like three or four months! It was like I was surprised if I wasn’t in jail. NK: Also, there was always a time of the year when he would get into trouble. ANP: What do you mean? MK: It’s still the same to this day! It’s always Memorial Day weekend. The last two Memorial Days I’ve been in jail in New York. It’s always the same thing… ANP: What is up with that? NK: He doesn’t learn his lessons. Memorial Day is bad luck for us. ANP: For you too? NK: Umm. When I was little I used to get hurt a lot on that weekend. Bike accidents, it always been something. MK: Yeah, the year before last I got in a fight with the security guard at Whole Foods. I thought he was racially profiling me… ANP: As what? You’re white and have red hair! MK: He said something to me… ANP: Red Lives Matter? MK: I don’t know, the guy was from Uganda and he got into it with me about something and we just like popped off in Whole Foods. The cops were actually really cool. They just took me to the station and I was in there with Lil’ Kim’s boyfriend who had just crashed her car while she was getting ready to give birth. So TMZ was there so they had to hold us the whole time… but the cops were really cool. They were letting us smoke in the cells and stuff. They were being very cautious of how they treated everyone. I was out pretty quick, but I had a really big shoot that day. I was so late, and I was calling the model from my cell, but I still got it done. ANP: The consummate professional…. NK: Jeeze Louise. He thinks it’s funny but it’s not for everyone else.
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(from top) Allen Burg, Photographer, illustration, fashion. Hollywood, California. Circa 1950s Natalie Krim, Untitled, ink on paper, 2016 Tricie Krim, Storyboard for TomBoy of California, Circa 1975. Photo Allen Burg Mike Krim, Pull Up, Compton California, 2016 Mike & Natalie Krim, 1988
ANP: So have you been drawing since you were really young or did you pick it up later? NK: I was always scribbling. Nothing serious, but then when I was 25 I really started doing it. That’s when I realized that it really was a way of expressing myself. I had a really bad breakup and then just started drawing these girls I my room. It made me so happy! I would just laugh! I mean, I didn’t even want to go outside. I would just draw and laugh and listen to the Supremes. I was totally in my own zone. I showed them to Mike and was like, “These are really good! You should do a little zine or something.” So that was the start of it. We made this zine together and I started selling them in Brooklyn. So that’s really when I started to take it seriously. MK: That’s when we first started making zines that were more unique. Like, Natalie’s was a coloring book so it came with a set of crayons and there was a matchbook with her drawings on it with a condom inside. We had another zine that came with Polaroids or sticker packs and that’s really where Paperwork started. ANP: Had you already been publishing zines at that point? MK: I had made graffiti one, but one day we were at Printed Matter and they were like, “Oh we’re having a book fair” and we just signed up. It was right when people were starting to get on instagram and we were starting to get a little hype there already. We were definitely at the forefront of what was going on with that. I would look at what people were doing on there in the zine world and just say think we’re going to do it better. ANP: You understood making books as a medium. MK: Yeah, like I wasn’t going to make little scrapbooks or some dumb Lindsay Lohan zine. I mean, that’s cool or whatever, but I really wanted to focus on our photos, our drawings, you know, our life. We had access to crazy girls and street people so we really focused on that. Now, I’m looking for different stuff but at that point it made sense. I still like doing my own stuff, but I’m also interested in meeting other people that are doing similar things. That keeps me motivated to do everything. ANP: Natalie, you mentioned that you grew up around your mom’s drawings and that you started taking your own work seriously after that breakup.
Do you think that maybe you considered drawing safe place based on your upbringing? NK: Well yes, that’s how I learned how to express myself or how to deal with my emotions. But it’s just how I was taught. It wasn’t verbal or anything. I mean, maybe there are healthier ways of communicating? But it’s funny because I deal with all my relationships through drawing. I can always see whatever I’m going through in my work. ANP: So they’re autobiographical? MK: Oh yeah! If you know a little of her background story you can see each different boyfriend in there. It’s really obvious… ANP: Poor guys! NK: I know! I’ve even had one of my ex’s current girlfriends comment on one of my drawings and say, “Oh this looks familiar!”. She even picked up on it. So it’s kind of like a diary. ANP: In examples of both of your works, even thought they’re rendered in different mediums, everything seems to be quite sexually charged. I’m wondering where that comes from and what you’re trying to say? NK: For me it started when I started looking at the history of lingerie. When I was 15 my mom gave me a bunch of 1920s lingerie and I just loved it. My first job was at a lingerie store, and I’ve always been obsessed with it. So through that channel I just started learning about fetish and all these different avenues. So that’s where it comes from for me. I’m not sure where it comes from with Mike… MK: I think a lot of it comes from the fact that I have red hair. When I was younger I would get lots of redhead jokes, so at some point to get all these people back, I was like, “I’m gonna have the hottest girlfriend.” ANP: So you got girlfriends as a deflector shield? MK: But then through my “street” activities I ended up taking a lot of party photos and so many girls will just come out of their face for a photo. At first they were just party images, but then they just got riskier and riskier. But then I would show them the photos and they would actually look good! ANP: Were you trained in photography? MK: I don’t have any training at all. The camera that I have probably does a lot cooler stuff than I even know how to do. That said, my mom’s dad, Alan Burg, was a famous
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(below, left to right) Natalie Krim, Untitled, 2016, ink on vintage porn paper Natalie Krim, Blackbird, 2014, ink on paper (opposite, clockwise from top) Natalie Krim, Pink 1, 2016, ink and acrylic on paper Natalie Krim, Places Visited, 2015, ink on paper Natalie Krim, Learn You Matter, 2015, ink on paper
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(opposite) Selected Publications from Paperwork, NYC: Fetishisms Vol. 2 by Jonathan Leder & Amyhood, PTSD by Julia Fox, Bitch Magnets by Kilroy Savage, Dog Food by Mike Krim, Working for the Man by Yana Toyber (above) Mike Krim, Dead Body, Los Angeles, CA, 2002
Hollywood photographer. He had a studio on La Cienega, so my mom grew up in a photography environment. ANP: Was it paparazzi or more glamour photography? MK: Glamour. So there were always film cameras around the house. NK: Yeah, and my mom, every single moment when we were growing up she had to take a picture of us. She documented everything! But from what I’ve heard, my grandfather did that too…and Mike does that as well. MK: When we were kids we’d always look through all of our grandfather’s photos. When I look at them all together as a collection I really started seeing what you could do. I realized that there was more to it than just throwing the negatives in a shoebox. Those photographs would inspire me to travel, to do all these cool things. Even when I was tagging I always had a camera, but it was really just to document things. Even when I was a kid I would ask my dad if he could drive us downtown so we could take photos of graffiti. NK: Or like The Pit in Venice. You would go there to do that a lot when we were little. Mike was like 13 and I guess I was 10. But I don’t think that place is there anymore. MK: No. It’s gone. But chasing the photos was a big thing for me, even when I was really young. We’d hear that someone painted something and we go down to get the photo before it got buffed. We’d hang out on the train tracks all the time too…so hanging out in obscure places has always been a big thing… ANP: Were you writing then too or were you primarily documenting? MK: I was definitely writing. There was actually a big photography incident here in Ventura where I was taking pictures of the trains and I got charged with conspiracy to commit vandalism. ANP: Wait, you were just taking photos? MK: Yeah, nobody was writing graffiti. We were just down there chilling. But when I moved to New York I really got serious with the photos. I had seen some Hamburger Eyes zines that my roommate had and I was like, “OK, I gotta nail this down.” ANP: And you shoot pretty much exclusively film? MK: Yeah…and all my negatives are just like piled in shoeboxes. I keep my Polaroids in archival folders, but yeah it’s a mess. For a lot of my early photos I only have the print. The negatives are gone. When I was in high school I shot a photo of a dead body in the river and that one I scanned like 100 different ways. ANP: Did you guys find the body? MK: Yeah, when I was like 16 some of my teachers didn’t even want me and my friends in the class, so we’d just get sent to the principal’s office. They’d bring down the work and we would just sit in there all day.
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NK: I was the opposite by the way… MK: Yeah, but after a while we just stopped going to school. My friend was doing an internship downtown so we’d just go with him. We’d go downtown at like 6 in the morning to beat traffic, so we’d run around in the river until 9:00. One day we jumped over a fence and saw this gangster dead in the water. There are photos of him that are up close, but the one that I think is more iconic was after we hopped back over and the cops rolled up. ANP: So what’s next for you guys? NK: Well, I’m really interested in neon right now. I’m obsessed with the old Las Vegas strip club signs, so I’d be interested to see my girls on that scale in that medium. I’ll always still be drawing, but I’m curious about neon right now. I love the faded colors of the signs at the neon graveyard in Vegas. I wanna dive into that. ANP: Your drawings will actually apply themselves very well to that medium. NK: Yeah. I think they’ll be really interesting. MK: With Paperwork we’re going to start publishing bore proper books in addition to zines. There’s some cool stuff coming out with that. We have a show coming up in Brooklyn based on our zine Bitch Magnet, where we’re going to recreate a ‘90s strip club. We’re really excited about that. Then I have my personal photo work, which is a longer lasting project, but always moving. ANP: So just to bring this all back to the beginning. Aside from all of your creative endeavors you’ve both pursued individually, what would you has has been the greatest factor of influence coming from your unique upbringing? NK: I think the fact that my mom was always supportive of anything that we wanted to create or anything that we wanted to do gave me the freedom to try new things or put myself out there in a way that maybe I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Having that “ok” was a big influence for me. Even though I know that sometimes things that I make shock her, she’s always been so supportive. MK: Yeah, I totally agree. My mom might not agree with everything I make, but she’s always said, “It’s your art. Do whatever you want.” Obviously some of it comes down to making choices. Maybe I’ve made some wrong choices along the way, but it got me to where I am today. I regret some of the past, but I don’t regret it in a way that I don’t appreciate the gifts that it’s given me in terms of feeling comfortable enough to do whatever I want. NK: She also really taught us how to see things and just appreciate every little detail. Things don’t have to be associated with monetary value, you just need to look at everything and train your eye.
Every so often an idea comes around that just seems so obvious that you can’t believe it hasn’t happened before. The Posters is a perfect case in point. Founded in Los Angeles by Athena Curry and Adrian Rosenfeld, The Posters is a company that creates limited edition posters by contemporary artists at a very affordable price. Everything is sold online and, in our opinion, their taste is impeccable. Plus, a portion of all the proceeds from the sales goes to help arts education for kids. We recently met with Athena to discuss the project and to speak about how they fit into the always changing art landscape.
THE POSTERS INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE / PORTRAIT BY TOBIN YELLAND IMAGES COURTESY THE ARTISTS AND THE POSTERS ANP: What was the impetus for the idea of starting a company like The Posters? Athena Curry: I moved from New York to Los Angeles, and right before I moved I had been working at Roosevelt Hospital. I was teaching art to people who were living with chronic illness. So I’d go to the oncology unit and people were getting blood transfusions and chemo and I’d walk in and say, “Hey! I’ve got this art cart. Let’s paint! Let’s make jewelry! What do you want to do?” I would always try to give them a lot of choices. It was great! I saw people walk in on their first day that were angry, for good reason, but after we started working on things they would come in and give me a highfive and say, “Athena! What are we making today?” The entire environment changed. Suddenly, in this place where they’re told what time to eat, what medicines they have to take, they’re sticking needles in their chests, all of a sudden they had something that was theirs. They took ownership of that and it changed everything! The conversations changed. Instead of talking about their sickness, they became curious about art. ANP: It gave them agency. AC: Yes! So I would usually spend an hour with each person, but I was constantly thinking about other ways to bring art to people in a bigger way. Instead of just an hour at a time, how do you get art into the world? I can see that it makes people happy. I’ve seen how it can change an environment. So when I moved to L.A., a mutual friend introduced me to my partner Adrian Rosenfeld. He was kind of thinking about the same things. He wanted to get art into people’s homes, and specifically posters. When I was in New York I was working with Wes Lang and we had done some posters and I could see that the want was there. There are just so many people who can’t afford a painting or drawing and this is something that they could own. So that’s how it all started. It just kid of went from there. We asked ourselves, “What can this be?” ANP: How did the idea for some of the proceeds go to benefit art education? AC: We were talking to Inner City Arts and we chose them as a charity basically because they have such
a great reputation. They’ve been around for a very long time. They started in 1989. They’ve already worked with over 150,000 kids. Their campus is so inspiring and so beautiful. When you go there the kids are having so much fun while they’re learning! I believe that’s what keeps kids in school. You know an art class will get their butts in the seats. That can lead to graduation and hopefully then college. Whether or not they become an artist is not really the point. It’s about creative thinking and critical thinking. ANP: Do you think this decision was inspired by your work in the hospital? AC: Yes! Adrian also really wanted this project to give back in some way. He really led us towards art education. That said, I was on board right away. It just makes a lot of sense. In our first year we funded over five hundred hours of art classes. That’s a lot of kids!! That feels really good. The thing that makes me really excited to go to work is definitely working with the artists, but I really believe in what we’re doing! I love the fact that we’re funding art education for kids because I was one of those kids! When I see them I get a little emotional! It makes me really excited and happy for them. They’re going to carry this along with them no matter what they do. ANP: Do you go in and work in the schools as well, or are you primarily there to fund the programs? AC: They have a really incredible set program. They have working artists as teachers who are really good at what they do. So, we go in and volunteer, and that’s open to anybody, but they have a really strong program. Their ceramics class is so professional and they have a black box theatre. I think Dreamworks donated a whole bunch of animation tools, so the kids are really working with professionals. They speak a lot about critical thinking and having a point of view. The students are really encouraged to ask questions and have a voice. ANP: What age groups are they focusing on? AC: It’s mostly elementary and middle school kids, but they do have high school programs. ANP: I know this is a horrible question, but
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how does your curatorial process work? Are you open to submissions or are your choices mainly through a network? AC: We are open to submissions and we receive quite a lot. We get way too many to write back to everybody though. That said, we’re always looking for new artists. The first artist I reached out to was Nate Lowman because he’s a dear friend and also it was a new project and I was kind of nervous. I really wanted his advice as to what he thought about it. I wanted input. Right away he was like, “Sign me up!” Once Nate thought it was great I felt more confident asking artists I didn’t know. But really all of our choices are made by choosing who ever I’m excited about. There are so many more established artists I would love to work with and hopefully we will, but I also really want to develop new artists. When talking to some of the less established artists they tell me that because of their work with The Posters that other people are approaching them about projects. Some of these artists don’t have galleries so it’s good for them! ANP: It’s also great for young collectors!! AC: It’s great for young collectors!! I’m a young collector! I have so many of our posters framed in my house! They’re beautiful! They are really great quality too. They’re offset lithograph, which for this type of business is rare. Everybody else does digital printing. They do inkjet printing which they call “Giclee” printing, which sounds fancy but it doesn’t mean anything! ANP: They call it that so they can up the price, but you could really do those prints on a home printer! AC: I know!! I’ve seen people selling those for like $1000!! It’s so intense. Meanwhile, we’re selling offset lithographs for 55 dollars. But that’s my price range!! I do think that when people buy something for $500-$1,000 there’s an expectation that it’s going to be worth a lot of money one day. I mean, whether people are admitting to it or not, the art market is in a bubble and not every artist is going to be successful. ANP: There are going to be a lot of disappointed collectors. I feel bad for them…
(opposite) Corita Kent, Luke 2.14, 51, 2015. (above, clockwise from top left) Marc Hundley, Oh I Don’t Know, 2014. Jim Drain, Donk, 2015. Chad Pittman, Rotten Apples, 2016. Bella Foster, Exploring The Island, 2015.
AC: Yeah. I do too. You know just buy something you like. Just love it! Get something you want to look at every day for the rest of your life you know? But with The Posters, even if you don’t like it in a few years, it’s only 55 dollars. You can switch them out. But when you’re buying art, the first thing should be that you love it. ANP: That’s how all the greatest collections have been built! What are your dreams for where The Posters can grow? AC: Actually, I would love for them to go into hospitals! After working in the hospital and seeing the art in there it’s for the most part not so nice. A
lot of it is faded and it’s been there for a really long time. I would love to see our posters in the lobbies or in the rooms. It would be cool to figure out some way that people can donate posters to hospitals. Hospitals are scary places. It would be so nice to liven them up with some color and something fun! Also, we’re doing a pop-up in the MoCA bookstore in Los Angeles this September. We’re going to be doing signings and a collaboration with Print All Over Me, they’re this cool company that offer silhouettes of clothes and artists can design them and put them on the website. We have five or six artists that are going to work with us on that. That’s going to be
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really cool. We also have a bunch of new prints in the works with David Benjamin Sherry, Amanda Ross-Ho and Dan Colen. Oh! and Scott Campbell! We’re talking to Scott about doing a series of unique posters. We’d still have the poster at the original price, but then there would be a small limited edition that are hand-touched by the artist. I think we’re ready to grow. Up to this point, we do all the printing and shipping ourselves, so we just really needed sometime to get that worked out and organized. The future is all really exciting for us! theposters.com
JESPER HAYNES INTERVIEW & PORTRAIT BY JOSHUA WILDMAN IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST American/Swedish photographer Jesper Haynes is one of those talents we just love to write about. His gritty photographs of urban life are full of a raw energy that comes few and far between in this photography-barraged culture we exist in. Haynes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1962 and spent his childhood in Stockholm. When he was a teenager he met Andy Warhol who encouraged him to come to New York and he’s been there in some way shape or form ever since. Life for a teenager in late-1970s New York was a crazy scene. Haynes began an apprenticeship under the great photographer Ralph Gibson, developing prints in Gibson’s darkroom. At one time he lived in Larry Clark’s one-room apartment with no windows and spent pretty much every night out dancing at clubs like Area, which was perhaps the most infamous and notorious club in New York City’s history. Though it’s now many years later, through all of this, Jesper Haynes has continued to shoot photographs. Long before Instagram, his shots were always intimate and usually of the people he surrounded himself with. Within his repertoire we of course see photographs of famous artists and luminaries from various times, including Warhol, Keith Haring, Allen Ginsberg, Willem Dafoe and more, but we also discover very telling and more personal images. These beautifully composed snapshots, always black & white, featuring his
friends, their friends, roommates, lovers, people left over from parties and others that nobody knows how they got there, create the basis for an incredibly strong body of work. The cast of characters in Jesper Haynes images are at many times spaced out, living life on the edge, refusing to accept the mundane or the status quo. Now, these aforementioned images and many others like them have formed the basis for Haynes’ photographic repertoire. One early series shot over a 20-year period is titled St. Marks 1986-2006. For the photographs, he religiously documented the life in his apartment on St. Marks Place, in New York City. Each and every image from St. Marks is infused with a rare creative energy at once raw, sexy, joyful, silly and highly personal. The works give a rare, unique and wonderful insight into the face of a rapidly changing city. Another book of his titled, Shibuya Scramble features a series of black & white street photographs of women pedestrians walking the famous crosswalk in Shibuya, Tokyo. However for these images, he has cropped his subjects from the waist down. We see no faces. Only legs and shoes. The list of wonderful projects goes on and on. Included here is a small sample of images from a massive photographic diary spanning four decades. We asked New York photographer Joshua Wildman to sit down with Jesper and get some more of the story.
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(previous) Keith Haring hanging out at club MK’s, New York, 1989. “He would throw parties there and at other clubs downtown, inviting thousands of people and pay for it all.” (left) Andy Warhol, Stockholm, 1978. “I somehow managed to meet up with him in a private gallery when I was 16 years old. He was very shy but loosened up when I showed him my portfolio and his book that he signed for me.”
Joshua Wildman: So, you met Andy Warhol? Jesper Haynes: Yes! I was a sixteen year-old Warhol fanatic living in Sweden. I met Andy in the spring of ’78 in Stockholm. JW: How did that happen? JH: I heard from someone that he was going to do an interview for Swedish TV out of this private gallery. So I looked up the address and went there, hoping that maybe I could sneak in…and I did. I just walked in the door with the TV crew. But then everyone was setting up so many times it was just me and Warhol alone. It was almost awkward and we had to talk to each other because it would have been weird not to. We ended up talking for like a good hour. He was definitely excited to have this young Swedish boy around. It was great! We talked about photography and stuff and I showed him my work. Back then it was all black and white and he said, “Oh no! You should do all color! Color is where it’s at!” But he also said that when I come to New York I should look him up at The Factory. He offered to hook me up with work. JW: Wow! JH: Yeah, so it was a real incentive for me. I always wanted to go to New York, because I had seen Taxi Driver, but in the summer of ’78 I finally came here. Through a mutual friend I ended up meeting Ralph Gibson and ended up working with him. That scene was really fun because amazing photographers would just drop by. Josef Koudelka would come around with a big bottle of Polish vodka and a slide tray. He knew that Ralph had a projector so he would just sit there and do shots and watch his pictures! Helmut Newton would also come around. Him and Ralph were very close. It was around that time that I ended up staying in Larry Clark’s apartment. He had this tiny studio apartment right near Hudson and Canal. I don’t know what I paid; he might have let me stay for free. He had a really weird bed. Like what do you call it when it’s upstairs… JW: A loft bed? JH: Yes. A loft bed and it was supported by piles and piles of JUGGS magazines! There were literally stacks and stacks of giant breasts. Then this great nightclub AREA was just around the corner, which I would go to every night. So it was really convenient to have that triangle between Ralph’s studio, Larry’s place and then AREA. JW: So did you start shooting parties and clubs around that time? JH: Yeah, I always brought my camera everywhere, but it wasn’t like I went out at night to do that. I never wanted to shoot famous people and I almost shied away
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from that. My friend was really close friends with Keith Haring and I think I snuck one picture. There could have been so many opportunities… JW: I’m kind of like that too. I don’t care about that stuff. I just like the life. But I do have regrets of not taking photos of people who were around that are now dead. JH: Sure, but also I never wanted to be that guy who comes up and says, “Can I take your picture?” I mean, I want to hang out but I didn’t want to be that asshole. JW: That’s why you get to keep hanging out! JH: I’ve always been more into shooting close friends. I’ve always just shot whatever was going on around me. It was never like I went out to shoot something specific. Things were just happening. It’s different, as you know, today because every single person has a camera on them. Then it was kind of rare that someone would bring a camera out at night. But that’s what I was interested in. I liked going to nightclubs and getting fucked up and meeting people. It’s funny though, because it’s only in retrospect that I realized that it was kind of a unique time. JW: It’s funny because I moved out here in the 1990s from Colorado and people always say to me, “Oh man! You were here in the ‘90s?” I mean, it was ok I guess. When you’re living in it you don’t realize. JH: Yeah, but I mean the ‘80s was a great time and I can’t change that, but if you’re 20 years old now and coming to New York it’s going to be just as great. Just because you’re 20! It’s exciting! You find some warehouse parties in Bushwick and there’s a party going on that lasts until noon the next day. It’s the same thing. It’s funny because people talk about how high rents killed New York. It didn’t kill New York! It killed Manhattan for sure, but if you’re young you can live with four people in a room. You don’t care. So you can’t really say that New York is dead. If you want to do something here you can. It’s just about how bad you want it. JW: Did you hang out with lots of photographers when you first got to New York? JH: Not really. Aside from working, I mean, there were a lot of photographers around. You’d run into them. JW: I’m kind of the same. I know a ton of photographers but we don’t really hang out. I’d rather hang out with other types of people. JH: Do you feel like there are more photographers now than there used to be?
JW: Well it’s easier to be a photographer now. You’re not developing and printing and all that stuff. Before you really had to want to do it. JH: The learning curve is so different now as well! I’ve had times when I got back a roll of film and I fucked up every frame and I was like, “What the fuck do I do?” But you learn! And you know now there’s the Bushwick Community Darkroom which I really enjoy. JW: I went to the old one and it didn’t seem ready. JH: Yeah, they moved. They have private darkrooms now as well as the bigger ones. It’s pretty great actually! They can do 20” x 24” fiber prints, like for all the stuff I shot in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and they even have the press to dry the prints. Yeah, it’s a pretty decent deal. If you go a lot you can get like a yearly member thing. You get a key and you can do whatever. You know, photography is funny. It’s definitely coming back. It’s like vinyl or something. I actually think the i-Phone sparked this! Suddenly there’s like this renewed interest in photography. I mean, it’s mostly through instagram, but in some ways photography is so much more interesting now than it was twenty years ago. In the beginning of digital photography I was like, “We’re fucked.” I mean I thought I couldn’t make money any more as a photographer because everyone was a photographer. It was screwed up. But then I realized that now, wait a minute, there are so many more people who want to see photography and want to learn photography. JW: People are more educated towards photography now. The average public can really tell the difference between a good picture and a bad picture. JH: I think so too. So, a few years ago, I kind of made a conscious switch from more commercial photography back to what I originally started out doing which was more fine art and my own work and making books. Early on I started collecting Araki’s work, but then I realized I couldn’t collect this guy! He’s got too many things coming out! JW: Daido Moriyama is the same. He’s got like 8,000 books. JH: Yeah, but Araki was a great inspiration. It was like, “Let’s do it! Get it out. On to the next!” Don’t look back basically. JW: People think things are so precious. JH: Exactly. I think we all have a tendency to do that. But I was like, “Fuck it!” I have a printer in Bangkok; they’re a great printing company. It’s not like I can send them PDF’s and get the book back that I want. I have to go there, but I’ve done a bunch of books with them now and it’s really getting there. They know me now. But even though it’s pretty inexpensive to print, shipping is always more expensive than the actual printing. I put my books in a container on a boat and it takes like three months to get here. A box of my books got stuck in Bahrain in some U.S. military post and I was like, “What?” So anyway I have great hopes for photography. I don’t think photography is dead. I think it’s the opposite actually. I even think there’s opportunity to make money as a photographer now. Which is funny because I came up in the 1980s and there were such big budgets! But Anyway, at that time I was just an assistant, which is sort of like bartending. You know, you get your cash at the end of the day. JW: Yeah, it’s a weird world. JH: I think that’s what inspired me to start travelling to Bangkok. I think the first time I went there was in 1988.
(top to bottom) Gig, a book about Bangkok’s indie music scene 2013-2013. HAYNESVILLE#1, the first in a series of zines called Haynesville, it’s a free flowing book/zine—there are four more issues. New York Darkroom, about Jesper’s life in downtown New York City in the ‘80s. Made with two cover options since he couldn’t decide which one he liked better. St. Marks 1986-2006, the first book he published, an autobiography with all the images shot inside his East Village apartment. HAYNESVILLE#3, a memoir about meeting his wife. (opposite) Scarlett Johansson, New York, 2004. “It was at a garden party/fashion show in Soho and one of the few times that I asked someone famous if I could take their portrait, an Italian hairdresser I had just worked with introduced us.”
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I had a similar feeling there that I had when I first arrived in New York. I was overwhelmed by how seedy and disgusting and smelly and dirty it all was. It was lurid and fucked up and corrupt. Those are the same things that attracted me to New York! But yeah, Bangkok became my second home. It provided a good counterbalance. As New York was becoming less progressive, Bangkok has developed an amazing music scene, a Punk scene, it’s great! JW: They still have a pretty interesting music scene over there right? JH: I mean it’s sweet. It’s small and everyone kind of knows each other. Which is great considering the city is like twelve million people. Also, it’s far enough from America that it’s not totally American-ized. JW: When you got to Bangkok was it hard figuring out how to get film, and like, how to do your work there? JH: No. Not at all actually! The cool thing there is that it’s super modern and it’s super old at the same time. It makes it really fun! There are all these little side streets where the grandparents are hanging out and there’s no cars because the streets are too narrow and you feel like time stood still. The light at nighttime is beautiful! It’s like Wong Kar-Wai! All those exteriors, it looks like Hong Kong used to be in the 1960s. It still looks like that today! I hate to tell people how amazing it is because I don’t want everyone to come. But people are coming, and there are all these new galleries, which is great! It could be worse. It’s not Starbucks. It’s galleries…actually very progressive galleries. JW: My mom went to Bangkok last year and it was too intense for her. JH: Yeah, for many people it is. Their first impression is very bad. I get that, but where it gets difficult for me is that they now have a military dictatorship that took over the country like a year and a half ago. So I have this weird feeling of like, “Am I supporting this?” JW: Do the cops harass you when you’re shooting there? JH: No. Not really. JW: Were you ever arrested in New York? JH: No. I mean, I’ve done lewd shoots in the street but I guess I was just lucky I guess? I’ve never had any problems with the police. But I also work really, really fast. When I’m shooting, people are always
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New York Darkroom exhibition at Kata Gallery, Tokyo, 2012. The photos are from New York 80’s downtown art and club scene, a DJ was playing in the middle of the exhibition. (opposite, top to bottom) St. Marks 1986-2006 exhibition at Nospace Gallery, Bangkok, 2010. Photos from Jesper’s apartment on St. Marks spanning a 20-year period. The floor was covered with contact sheets. A blown up contact sheet installation at Kata Gallery, Tokyo.
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(opposite) Images from the book, Shibuya Scramble published 2014. All images shot in the famous crossing in Shibuya, Tokyo. 2012-2014.
like, “What the hell happened!?” I don’t like to attract attention and I don’t like to work with teams. A small group of people is good. I don’t need a lot of equipment either. It’s like one camera. Go close and go fast! That’s all I’m looking for. So I don’t really do so many risky things. JW: So, going back. Did you go to the Factory? JH: Yeah, I went there. I didn’t hang out. It was interesting. But there was so much going on in New York then. I mean, I had just gotten here. The Factory was one thing, but then there was also Studio 54, and I mean I was sixteen! That was way more fun than The Factory! Again, in retrospect it would have been smarter for me to have been hanging out at The Factory but, you know, I was so young! JW: It’s always so much better to be out somewhere fun than to be sitting somewhere feeling intimidated or weird or something… JH: Yeah exactly. All these old men that were trying to get into your pants. JW: Do you go back to Sweden often? JH: Yes. I try to go there once a year. I have a show coming up in Stockholm actually. In the last four years I’ve had a lot of shows, all over the place and I really like it, but whenever I’m having a show in Sweden I get really nervous. I always feel like they’re going to be more critical of my work on my home turf. It’s funny because outside of Sweden I don’t care. I don’t feel that pressure, but it’s different with Stockholm. You know? I know that the kids I went to school with are going to come and they’re all going to be ready to tear me apart. But I love doing exhibitions. I had my first exhibition in Stockholm when I was still a teenager. You know you have those guest books in galleries where people write their names? Most of my friends from that time write really nice things, but then there was this one guy. He was a famous Swedish poet and he wrote really nasty things about that show! You know all the other comments I didn’t really care about, but that one has stuck with me. I didn’t have another show for years because of that comment. JW: But you’re older now… JH: Yes. And as you get older you realize that it’s more important just to do it. You can’t please everyone, and it’s actually not a bad thing to be controversial. JW: When did you first start showing in New York? JH: Well I’ve always done smaller things here. I had a show back in the day at Limelight, which was a club. I think the first proper show I did in New York was the St. Marks show. I had done the show in Europe and Tokyo already so I was very confident. So by the time I had it at home, and it was so much about New York, and St. Marks Place and my apartment there, I just knew exactly what I was doing. I was really lucky because I really wanted to kind of “wow” New York, and having done it a few times before helped me to really fine-tune it. It’s funny
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because of the relationship between books and shows. After the shows were done I had all this material for the books. So I almost always do the show first and then the book. JW: So that’s how you got into making books? JH: Yeah, the first book was the St. Marks book and at the time I printed 500 copies and I thought that was crazy! I never thought I would sell 500 books. Everything was hand-delivered, I didn’t have a distributor so I would bring it to all the stores. Over time it just grew. Now I have all my books at places like MoMA PS1 and Dashwood Books, and so many other stores. It’s great! Maybe it sounds cliché, but I’ve just been doing what I love. I don’t think that much about making money. Even if you don’t ever get acknowledged, at least you’re doing something you love. You can’t lose with that recipe. JW: Would you consider yourself a camera nerd? JH: A little bit. Up until digital I only shot with the Nikon FM2. I shot with that camera for years!! Also I’d only shoot tri-x film. But now with digital it’s a whole different ballgame. The cameras really have gotten better. JW: I really avoided digital for the longest time. I thought it was terrible. It took me a while to realize how much it had changed. JH: I just saw a show in Bangkok by a Thai photographer. The images were these beautiful landscapes. I was telling my friend about how those images had to have been shot on film. I was sure it was a Rolliflex or a Hasselblad or something. Then we met the photographer and he had shot everything on a 5D! I was amazed. The tonality was so beautiful. But I don’t know, I still shoot film. JW: I still really like the process of shooting film. It feels right. JH: Yeah, I get that. I still trust negatives more. This month I’ve been in the process of scanning a lot of my old contact sheets. Almost everything from the late-1970s up to now. It’s been an amazing process to look at all those again. The process of developing film is so great. JW: I still find it really exciting. JH: What do you shoot with when you shoot film? JW: I use a Mamiya 7 and a Leica M4. I always use tri-x as well. JH: Ralph Gibson gave me a M2 and then he took it back. JW: Oh man! JH: He was funny like that.
AMANDA CHARCHIAN INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE PORTRAIT BY EMMA ELIZABETH TILLMAN IMAGES COURTESY THE ARTIST
The artist-muse relationship is a well-known trope that has been around for centuries. These relationships are often times romantic and always dramatic. Sometimes, however, the muses have more to offer than inspiration, as is the case when it comes to the work of Los Angeles-based photographer Amanda Charchian. Her most recent body of work, compiled into a new book Pheromone Hotbox brings together work shot by the artist between 2012 and 2015. Working around the idea of the “Pheromone Hotbox” that occurs when a woman photographs another woman. In her words, “The understood biological purpose of pheromones is creation. In addition to reproduction in the organs, creation manifests itself for the female artist as an expanded conduit for communication of pheromones between spiritual and material realms. Exuding from the female psyche, these images become an imprint from this hotbox of uninhibited vision. The tension created by sending these pheromones into a biologically confounded process is specific to photographing another woman intimately.” For this series, Charchian photographed her female artists, nude, in dramatic locations across the globe, including in Iceland, France, Costa Rica, Morocco, Israel and Cuba. Simultaneously dreamy and erotically charged, Charchian’s photographs capture the intensity and intimacy of the interaction between artist and model. The muse myth re-interpreted as a circular movement, with equal exchange back and forth. We sat down with her to speak more about this wonderful group of images. RVCA /A NP QUA RT E RLY / 36
(previous spread, right) Allegra Houghton, Antelope Canyon, Arizona (left) India Menuez, Woodstock, New York
ANP: What was it that first sparked your interest in photography? Amanda Charchian: I’ve been taking pictures on disposable cameras since I was 13 years old. I was always photographing my friends. I was pretty intensely documenting everybody and what they were doing, what they were wearing or what they were making. I grew up on the west side, near the Palisades and I went to an alternative arts school and everyone was already developing into themselves. I realized only a few weeks ago that I made this new book of 29 artists, but I’ve been doing that for a long time. One of my old friends wrote the intro for the book, but a lot of those people are still painters, still musicians, still in fashion after all these years. I learned early on that I was interested in that mysterious thing that artists have that other people don’t. ANP: Was there a decisive moment where you made the choice to really pursue photography as a professional? AC: Not really! I went to Otis and was completely focused on painting and sculpture for the longest time. All my teachers were from Cal Arts and ‘70s minimalism and that was what they were drilling into my mind… ANP: They still are…poor kids. AC: I know!! But yeah, so I was always trying to strip away everything. So when I got out of school I just started traveling and learning how to live really, but I was still documenting everything all the time. I’ve made a lot of personal books that I would make for my friends, or my boyfriends or my family of those images. Then I applied the discipline that I had for that specifically into a project that became this newest body of work. In March 2012, (artists) Ana Kras and Ingrid Sophie Schram came to my house and told me they had booked us tickets to Costa Rica. It was for the following week, and even though it was late notice, of course I went. At this point I still wasn’t thinking of myself as a photographer, but I brought 20 rolls of 35mm film with me… ANP: So was that the first of this series? AC: Yeah. So we’re on this trip and they’re just like having a good time, but I was just obsessively photographing them. Not only because they’re beautiful but they had this kind of magic. So I shot 18 rolls of film trying to figure out what that magic was, but then I realized that the more I took myself out of the picture and just started seeing things differently…like separating myself from the experience we were having and just observing… something was happening. ANP: Which is interesting. It’s like you were taking yourself out of the documentary realm and thinking more about picture composition…considering them works. AC: Exactly. I realized that the more I did that the more these other stories created themselves. For example one day we fell asleep on the beach and I had a dream about wild white horses running around. I told Ana and Ingrid about it and the next day and I fell asleep there again. Next thing I know they’re waking me up and there are these wild white horses on the beach! A few years later I started to accept that that’s not normal and so being on these trips and allowing those kinds of situations to occur made them happen more. Also in school I was taught that art had to be really hard. It had to be something that you had to rigorously plan in advance. That was very depressing to me and I realized that I was not into that at all. I wanted to have fun, and it seemed like the artists that I liked the most were really just having a good time. Your work doesn’t have to be so investigative that it becomes a chore. ANP: Somewhere in the late-‘60s the critics and the artists became the same. AC: Yeah. But that’s why I’ve always related to surrealists. It seems like they were always playing. So anyway, I started taking those pictures in Costa Rica and they opened a door for me as to what could be possible. I didn’t really look at it as art either. It was just the experience that I was having. But then over the next three years I understood that I had unique access to female artists that would go have these adventures with me. In that they’ve shown me a part of themselves that they wont show anyone else. ANP: Since the majority of your subjects in this series are also artists, how much of the photographic process is collaborative? Do you direct like you’re running the show or is there a discussion back and forth? AC: It’s all-collaborative! For example there’s a photo in my book that’s really interesting because my subject, Allegra Houghton, was a really young. She was just out of high school when we took that picture. We were on a trip to Antelope Canyon, and the only way to get into these places you have to go with a group. So we’re climbing over things and we could hear the group trailing behind us and she was like, “Can we shoot some nudes?” So we had about three minutes, she took off all her clothes and I shot maybe 15 pictures
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and it was all her idea! So that’s totally collaborative! I never tell anyone what expression to have, but I edit all the images, so I have the final say. But they approve every picture regardless. In many ways the collaboration has to do with their confidence or insecurity rather than their gesture. That was something that was really interesting to learn about. ANP: So in that wild shot of Allegra with those canyons surrounding her you didn’t task her to make that pose? AC: No! I was actually really far away. I was really just trying not to draw any attention to us. There was a patch of light that was coming through on the ground and I did ask her to sit in that spot, but nobody has ever seen that picture. ANP: You’re work is so firmly rooted in these hyper-natural locations. I’m curious if you see any kind of environmental message in your work? AC: Oh yeah! Part of me wanted to make this body of work because I feel like maybe in 50 years our planet might not be in this kind of condition. Of course I want there to be an environmental message, but it’s not overt. I also think that my images fit that classic saying, “You don’t take anything but the picture.” That’s part of my impetus, but I don’t necessarily have any specific message about body image, or nipples, in the same way I don’t have a direct message about conservation. I don’t think I need to be overt about that. ANP: I’m curious about your choice of female subjects. It seems like you only shoot women. Is there a reason for that? AC: Well this project was certainly about women. The Pheromone Hotbox for me is about that energy. Pheromones are signals that are sent to somebody else, but then they change once that attraction signal has been received. I see pheromones as something that starts as a sexual energy that is then turned into a creative energy. But it can only happen if you’re not trying to have sex with someone. It is sexual though, and I believe that for women, a lot of their creative energy and sexual energy are linked. I guess I just wanted to study what it was like to work with a woman who you have attractive energy towards, but it’s creative attraction. There’s a trust there that turns into mischievousness sometimes because it’s like a girlhood…wanting to be bad together.
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(following spread, left to right) Höllgrotten Cave, Baar, Switzerland Playa Chiquita, Costa Rica (below) Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur, California (opposite) Sarah Staudinger, Los Angeles, California
(left to right) Nora Morales, Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico Ana Kras, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica
ANP: So do you think that idea of being bad plays into it? AC: Oh yeah! It’s that adrenaline that helps to create the images. Each of these shoots are like five minutes. It’s like getting into a heightened state. I also feel like because they’re female subjects they’re more comfortable with nudity, and showing me a part of themselves that they’ve never shown in that same way. Yet, I feel that because I’m a woman it’s me empowering them instead of taking something. Besides, I really have no desire to ask men to do the same thing. ANP: Is there a process that you go through in creating each photograph? AC: Yes. There are three constructs for each image. The first is that they have to be a female contemporary artist. The second is that we go to a natural landscape together that neither of us is from. The third is that we don’t have a plan, and that we shoot nudes. Sometimes I would also be nude and they would be taking pictures of me. Sometimes it was important that they be making something too. It seemed right in that moment. There are some images of me that weren’t used. But basically I would go with the same camera every time and the same film. Everything was developed and scanned at the same place. So yeah there’s a process. ANP: Where did the idea to use Lola Rose Thompson’s poetry in the book come from? AC: Lola and I have always had a collaborative relationship. We had always wanted to add some kind of surrealist text, and there were some ideas floating around using parts of the surrealist manifesto, etc. but Lola and I had this band for a while called Pussy Muscle and she was rapping surrealist poetry. So she writes these really funny spells, so I asked her to write some for the book. It was very instinctual. ANP: It seems so much of your process is instinctual. AC: For me, a lot of these pictures are just being about, “Wow! Life is pretty cool.” I don’t know if they inspire people or if they’re even important for the world, but I’ve come to the conclusion that art doesn’t have to be this hypercritical discourse. The way that I approached these pictures is really just about composition, shape and color…really classic formal things. ANP: What are you working on next? AC: Now I just want to get more into abstraction. So I’ve been making a lot of geometric oil pastel works and I’m just going to keep doing those for a while. I’m really interested in doing something that literally nothing to do with photography. These drawings feel more final for some reason.
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NATHANIEL MARY QUINN INTERVIEW AND PORTRAIT BY AARON ROSE IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND M+B, LOS ANGELES
Artist Nathaniel Mary Quinn creates intimate, mixed-media drawings and paintings of collaged and fragmented figures. His is a unique story as he has been working as an artist for decades, however it was only recently that he has begun to receive the acclaim he so richly deserves. His works are a pastiche of family photographs, magazine images and advertisements, rendered exquisitely in a style that’s completely his own. Quinn’s work draws from his experience growing up in an impoverished Chicago community. After losing his entire family as a teenager, he set off on his own in search of the artistic life he so greatly desired. Now, many years later, and based in Brooklyn, Quinn has shown internationally and his work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and more. We recently sat down with him the day after the opening of his exhibition Highlights at M+B, Los Angeles. We spoke about art, life and the importance of blind faith when it comes to the act of creation.
Elaina, 2016, black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick on vellum.
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Aaron Rose: The first thing that strikes people about your work is your original technique. The works look collaged, but when you get closer you understand that it’s all painted. Nathaniel Mary Quinn: I use a lot of different materials in my work. People think that my work is traditional collage but it’s not…I draw and paint everything! AR: Do you create a reference study as a collage at the beginning? NMQ: I never make preliminary sketches for anything. It all comes from my head. I do hang up reference photographs around the paper, like of some eyes or a photograph of a nose or the hair or decorative patterns. I might not even use this stuff, but it’s part of my vision. Then, I just take a thick brush, I mix the gouache, and then I just throw it on the paper. It dries in five or ten minutes. I use big strokes. Nothing too tight. They’re very broad strokes, like two or three strokes of the brush. Usually I do this just to establish a contour, and it’s all going to change anyway. AR: But the final pieces seem so refined… NMQ: Yeah, but everything starts out real loose. I call it the “blind faith” approach. Faith means something that one hopes for and the evidence of things not seen. So you hope to see tomorrow, but you don’t have any evidence that you will see it. You don’t have it! Yet you believe that you will see tomorrow. But there’s no evidence! You’re just hoping to see tomorrow. Like if you make a plan for something, your
plans are nothing but futile attempts to control the unknown. But experiences that you cannot fathom are guaranteed, but the human psyche is not vast enough to understand the innumerable options that are available to you. Our minds just aren’t sophisticated enough. You can never see them until you get there. But here’s the beauty in this. When you run into those kinds of problems it gives you the ability to bring to the surface a creative solution. That’s why I don’t use preliminary sketches. That’s just like a coloring book. You inhibit your growth that way. When you don’t have any pre-preparation, that forces you to be in a place of being! You’re in the NOW in the present moment. Sketches are when an artist is copying the past. When you don’t plan you can enjoy the moment. So when I apply that first layer of gouache on the paper I’m learning how I’m going to get around this. It’s blind faith. AR: So those first few brush strokes form a sort of loose roadmap for the rest of the piece? NMQ: Exactly! For example, let’s say I’m going to work on the eye. I cut out construction paper and cut out a shape. I don’t even care what it looks like or what shape it is. Then I tape that up on the paper. I do this a few times until I get some kind of other shape. Maybe it’s a triangle. Then, in that shape I’ll draw the eye with black charcoal. When I’m done with the eye I take more construction paper and I hide it. I don’t want to see it anymore! I wont see it again for the rest of the piece. Then I cut out more paper and do the same thing again for the mouth. I don’t know how it’s gonna land. What
Rosey, 2016, black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick on vellum.
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that does is it inhibits my brains ability to interpret objects in the outside world because the brain has a tendency to capture symmetry. The brain loves symmetry! AR: But you’re not allowing the brain that luxury. NMQ: That’s right. I have no choice but to give all of my weight to faith. Then I just hope for the best. At the end I take all the construction paper off and it’s like opening a present! That’s when I can really see where I stand. For the record, it never lands just right. But I’m not talking about symmetry here. Symmetrical portraits are so monotonous to me. Very dull. So when the paper comes off I can see all the elements. The eyes, the nose, the mouth, the hair, so then I go back in and revisit certain parts. So at first the work feels very staccato, but in the end I want it to be harmonious where the formal qualities are working in tandem. It’s like jazz. It’s not typical symmetry…it’s more about harmony. I focus on the timing and the texture of the piece. I’m trying to find harmony in chaos. But to do that literally takes hours and hours of work. AR: Can you talk about your studio practice? NMQ: Well, discipline is important. Ingredients are important and making progress is key. It’s not just about work. It’s about concerted work. The kind of work where you are consciously aware of what you’re doing. Otherwise you become like a dog from a Pavlovian experiment. Otherwise you’re just on auto-pilot. AR: So what’s your painting schedule like?
NMQ: I tend to work from 10:30am to midnight every day. Some days I might work a bit less but sometimes I work until three in the morning. I try to finish an objective every day. Every day I need to get something done on a particular piece. Like let’s say one day I want to finish the eyes and the nose. If I finish those by midnight, then I’m good, but it might take me into the morning. But I don’t leave the studio until it’s done. Also, the section can’t just be done. It needs to be done exceptionally well. That’s very challenging to do. AR: When you were speaking about finding harmony in chaos it made me think about what I know about your upbringing. It seems like you’ve led a pretty chaotic life. NMQ: I grew up in a violent, gang-ridden community on the south side of Chicago. I lived in a tenement housing complex called the Robert Taylor Homes. There was a lot of drug trafficking and lack of resources. AR: We’re you involved in that? NMQ: No. I mean I was never blessed into a gang. I was never an official gang member, but all of my buddies were gangsters. We grew up together and over the years I watched them become drug dealers and gang members. So I would hang out with them, they were my buddies, so I was like an un-official gang member. Sometimes I would do little things with them, but not the way they did. You know I ran the streets with them and did silly stuff. For example, a bus would pull up in front of our project building and we would
Lamont, 2016, black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel on vellum.
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Van Williams, 2016, black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel on vellum.
get on and snatch random people off the bus. They were just random people and we would beat them up. We’d take their clothes and shoes and let them go. That’s not normal kids stuff, but that was normal and acceptable to us. Here’s the thing though. I was lucky enough to get out of there and go to a private boarding high school. It was my escape from poverty and it was there that I was introduced to an entirely different type of life. The norm there was wealthy so many of my peers were from families that were very rich. AR: How did you end up going from the projects in the south side of Chicago to this private boarding school? NMQ: There was a woman named Miss Hunter who was at that time the assistant principal of the grammar school that I attended in the projects. Her son was a student at a school called Culver Academy. One day she said to me, “Hey, you have great grades, you’re a strong student, you should think about applying to Culver Academy.” So I said sure! I couldn’t believe it! I didn’t even know what a boarding school was. But she saw something in me. I always did well in school because I worked hard. I love to read and I love learning new information. So she drove me and my mom to the school and we visited and I met the dean of the school. Then finally we went into this room and I took the exam that would determine my fate. Sure enough, two weeks later I received a letter of acceptance for a four year, tuition free, academic scholarship. But then a month after I started this school, my mom passed away. AR: Oh no. NMQ: It was very painful, but I still had my four brothers and my dad and so I went back to school and continued on
until Thanksgiving break rolled around. I took a bus from the school, which was in Indiana back to home to have thanksgiving with my family and upon my arrival the door of my family apartment was ajar. I pushed it open and before me were a few articles of clothing spread across the floor. The kitchen was empty. In the refrigerator were a few loaves of bread and a two-liter bottle of RC Cola. No family, and I haven’t seen them since. I was fifteen years old. AR: Have you ever tried to find them? NMQ: Oh yeah, I called talk shows like Montel Williams and they said I need a social security number and I didn’t have one so that was it! I made a pivotal decision in my life right then. I could either stay in those projects and die young, or go back to school and see where it takes me. It brings the whole thing back to blind faith again! AR: Were you already an artist before you went to that school? NMQ: I always wanted to be an artist man. That was my dream! One of my brothers told me a story that when my mother wasn’t able to pay the light bill we would light candles and to pass the time my brother and I would draw Bruce Lee in the Chicago phone book. We would compete against each other. I also used to draw all over the walls of the apartment. My parents thought I was just scribbling, then one day I made a scribble on the wall and my brother looked at it and said, “Wait a minute! Nate can really draw!” After that my mom let me draw on the walls every day. So the walls of my apartment in the projects became my first easel. My illiterate mother, who never set foot in a school, had the wherewithall to encourage what was apparently clear. I was genetically predisposed to making shapes that make sense. My mother
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Slim, 2014,â€¨black charcoal, oil-pastel, oil-paint, paint-stick, gouache on Lenox Paper.
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Pig, 2014,â€¨black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick on vellum.
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did that for me. I was able to navigate the gang culture of Chicago because of my art! All the gangsters liked me because I could draw. I would draw them pictures and I’d be good. It kind of saved me a few times. AR: Well you have a talent that not everybody has. NMQ: Of course, drawing in particular is a very specialized skill set. You know a good drawing when you see it. It’s like if you have a singer who can sing because they practice every day, but then you’ve also got those singers who are just talented. You can really hear the difference. So, yeah I would make little comic books from time to time and give little drawings to my homies. You know, my whole life I wanted to be an artist. AR: Was there every a point when you made a decision to pursue it professionally? NMQ: No, it was just always in me. I don’t remember a time when I had to make a decision. There was just never even a question. When I was in the sixth grade I used to have art clubs. Kids used to battle me! They used to challenge me to draw. I would always beat them too! There was this one kid who said he could draw better then me. I said to him, “I tell you what…I’ll give you 30 minutes to draw that picture and I’ll give myself 15 minutes to draw the same thing. Mine’s still gonna be better than yours!” I was right! ANP: So the other kids would judge? NMQ: Yeah, our peers would judge us. But all of the losers from these battles would then join my art club and learn from me. I would teach them how to draw. You know, like how to draw hands and muscles. Little boys always want to know how to draw muscles.
ANP: How did you develop the style you’re working in now? NMQ: I came out of grad school in 2002 from NYU. I graduated with honors. I moved back to Chicago after that and was working as a teacher. Then I saved my money and moved back to New York in 2003. I was living in Brooklyn and the whole point of moving back was to become an artist. I was a teacher for 10 years. I worked with at-risk youth. These were young, black and Latino youth in an interface with the criminal justice system. These kids were facing jail time and the judge would give them a second chance. The judge would mandate them to a program and that’s when I would come into the picture. I would teach the kids to believe in themselves and express their feelings. I would help them to admit to being hurt instead of trying to solve problems with violence. I’m from a similar community so I was able to understand it. But everyday after work I would go home and make art. I did this everyday for ten years straight. I would sell a few pieces here and there. You know, for like $500 bucks or maybe $1000. But that wasn’t enough money for me to quit my job. So now it’s 2013, and I was tutoring this kid. His mother was an art collector. I would go their home and give this kid one-on-one tutoring. His mother and I began to talk about art and I invited her to my studio to see my work. So she came and she loved it, so she says, “Let’s do an artist salon in my place.” I already had four paintings, which were straight on figures, but I wanted to make a fifth work. I didn’t have much time to do a whole new painting, so I decided to do a drawing. But I seriously only had like four hours to do this! ANP: Oh no!
Little Sister, 2016, black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick on vellum.
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NMQ: I just said fuck it! My old practice dictated that I find photographs and understand the psychological underpinnings of the photograph. I had to understand how the images correlate with one another, how these photographs theoretically fit together and then how that adds to the social construct of the society in which we live. It was really deep, heavy excessive thinking. But I didn’t have time for that so I just picked some images that I liked and reduced everything as much as I could. So instead of just drawing a face, I would just draw an eye. I would make a shape and draw the eye in a shape. I had never done this before, and it was only in response to the limitations of time! When I finished that piece, after ten years of making the same kind of work, something new had happened. ANP: It’s funny how breakthroughs come when you least expect them. NMQ: Yeah! Plus, I had already come to the decision that I wanted to do something new with my art. I got bored of my art practice. My previous work was all about race relations and racial politics, black identity, but I got to a point where I wasn’t interested in that anymore. But at that point I felt like I needed to do that kind of work because I’m black. But that’s wrong! That’s not right! ANP: Well you’re a human being first. NMQ: Yeah! And I’m an artist! I should be able to make what I want to make! I shouldn’t have to feel like it’s my duty to make that kind of work. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got racist cops and racist bank people and this that and the other. But racist actions are actions that eminate from places of illusions. They’re not real. There’s nothing empirical to support the correlation of your white skin and how smart you are. That’s complete bullshit! Secondly, if
you are racist, something is wrong with you! You have a mental sickness. Racist people are like pedophiles to me. Go get some help! If I walk down the street and I see a man take off in flight, then that is a different species of human. Outside of that we’re all the same. If we can free our minds that way, then we can be a better society. ANP: So this was the main focus of your work for a long time… NMQ: For ten years! Then one day I just said to myself, “I can’t make this kind of work anymore.” Also, around that time I had been going to therapy to help me deal with the loss of my family. Through that I began to develop the courage to investigate ways to speak freely about me. Not in a narcissistic way, more asking questions like, “What makes my heart beat? What do I really care about?” I came up with simple answers. I do miss my mom. I care about that. I do miss my family. My brothers were drug addicts. I wish they were not. I do fantasize about what it would have been like…that’s very moving and important to me. Then I just started to let go. My mind was free. I wasn’t over-thinking anything. For my whole life I was a victim of abandonment and separation. When your mind-set is that of a victim, you behave like a victim! Therapy helped me become aware of those thinking patterns. One day I had the realization that I wasn’t abandoned. I was delivered from what could have been my destruction! That was it. That flipped my whole shit around. I completely shifted. ANP: So this was happening right around the time when you were changing your paintings? NMQ: Yes! Right around when the artist salon was happening. That’s what produced that 5th piece. So, now you have all the backstory. I made that drawing in five
Sister Odell, 2014, black charcoal, oil-pastel, oil-paint, paint-stick, gouache on Lenox Paper.
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Kenwood, 2016, black charcoal, gouache, soft pastel, oil pastel, oil paint, paint stick on vellum.
hours. It’s called “Charles” and I had never made a piece like that in my life. In fact, when it was done I couldn’t believe that I had made it. I felt the happiest that I had felt in ten years! I was set free! I was no longer a puppet to the incarceration of my mind. When I showed the piece everyone loved it and wanted to buy it. At the time I said the price was $3500, which would have been the most I’d made from any piece of art. Now that piece is worth $22,000, and a collector in Washington D.C. bought it. ANP: So were you still teaching through this time? NMQ: Yeah. I was now selling work because a lot had happened and I had collectors coming to my studio, but it was all word of mouth. There was a lot of speculation. Just two years ago I was totally obscure! I was a nobody. But then all these exhibitions started lining up. Pace Gallery offered me a show in London, and even though the show was five months off, and the next day I went in and gave my job my two-week notice. I had to leave my job. I had to go for it! I busted my ass for that show. I worked 16 hours every day. I was in my studio that whole summer. ANP: You were right in it! Now, so much has happened for you since then. You’re in the collection of the Whitney and showing all over the world. I’m curious has it been a difficult transition going from complete obscurity to being so well known and sought after? NMQ: Well hard work pays off and also I’m just always pushing to express the best me that I can express. That keeps
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me rooted on the ground. I hate arrogance, snobbery…I despise it. It doesn’t have to go with this business. I never wanted to be that person and I’m not that person. I’m from where I’m from. I don’t walk around thinking how my art is so good. That’s bullshit. But the market does have to decide to support your work. Art is just too subjective for you to think that you’re that fucking good. But the market supports it and so it goes. I know many artists that are more talented than I, that for whatever reason can’t make it. I don’t know why. It’s a great mystery. So I always try to be humble, always be grounded. Everyone has these titles, like he’s the director of that or she’s the director of this, everyone has their egos, but we’re all humans at the end of the day. I’m very grateful. ANP: Do you think your attitude ends up reflecting in the work as well? NMQ: Yeah. The market doesn’t define me. I’m gonna make work anyway. I’m from nothing! I believe in playing fullout. But to play full-out, you have to have intention. To have intention requires that you are also OK with failure. Most people don’t play full-out because their intention is not to fail. So if you don’t want to fail, then you don’t play full-out. People are afraid so they never try. You have to go for the gold, but if you don’t get it…just say, “Fuck it!” If you don’t get through the front door go through the back window. Anyway you can get in there, get in there! So that’s how I live my life. I play it full-out and I’m not afraid of failure. I’m always expecting that it might not go so well. That’s not even a negative. It’s just part of it.
VETERANAS & RUCAS EAST L.A. PARTY CREWS IN THE 1990S. A PROJECT BY GUADALUPE ROSALES T R A N S C R I P T I O N B Y L A U R E N E A R LY / I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y @ V E T E R A N A S _ A N D _ R U C A S
Guadalupe Rosales is a Los Angeles-based visual artist whose work utilizes marginalized histories and personal experiences such as memory, trauma & nostalgia. She is perhaps most well-known currently for her wonderful Instagram project Veteranas & Rucas. For the record, “Veterana” means someone who has put in work or time in the gang culture, and ‘Ruca’ in Rosales’ words, is slang for “what you call your chick.” The project began because Rosales wanted to create a space for her community to reconnect and reminisce about the SoCal gang and party scene. It all began very modestly, with Guadalupe mostly posting her own personal photos, but has quickly grown. It has become an epic archive where hundreds of people submit their own photos of their lives as Chicanos in the ‘90s and even earlier. Now, a few years in, Veteranas & Rucas has become a living history book. Everyday, people are making connections with long lost family and friends from the era. Submitters have used the account for dedications to their husbands, wives, parents and people they’ve lost. Rosales wants to keep this preservation alive and recently organized a talk at UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center on the subject of the Chicano party scene in Los Angeles in the 1990s. We were lucky enough to gain access to a transcript of this talk and with Guadalupe’s blessing, we are printing an edited version here. This panel discussion serves as a precursor to an upcoming exhibition project dealing with Los Angeles party crew and rave scene culture that will be exhibited in early 2017 at PSSST, an artist run not-for-profit space in Boyle Heights. Aside from Rosales, the other panelists on the talk were Eileen Michelle Torres who became involved in the Whittier Party Scene first by joining “Just Us Girls,” then later on was co-founder of “TWS” (Together We Stand). Through the party scene she was introduced to Marty Beat of Street Beat Magazine and she became a contributor to the magazine from 1990 to 1992. Also on the panel was Ray Rose Ortiz, also known as “Flame”. Born and raised in East Los Angeles, she was sixteen years old when she found her passion for reshaping eyebrows for girls who had thinned them out to keep up with the fad of the time period. The fourth panelist was Manuel Corral, also known as “Dose” and “Deluxe”. He is from Baldwin Park in the San Gabriel Valley and a member of the notorious dance crew “Swing Kings”. The fourth person was Michael Rodriguez, who was also born in East LA. He was introduced to the party crew scene in the late ‘80s and hosted house parties in the 1990s while he was in high school. Through those networks, he was introduced to the underground warehouse parties that he attended weekly both on the east side and west side of Los Angeles. It was through these channels where Michael began engaging in what is known as “Tea Parties” throughout the Los Angeles area, where he was able to find the Latino Queer Community and later became educated in LGBT pop culture and history. The final panelist was “Exit” Lan Deros who is from San Marcos, a city north of San Diego County. He was in a party crew known as “Essence of Evil” back in the mid-1990s. He started barbering in 2008, opening up his own barbershop in Orange County. He has recently sold his shop, moving back to San Marcos, where it all began, and he now has a barbershop in Escondido, California.
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(opposite) Pachuca Lydia Sanchez aka Lily, 1942. Photo courtesy of @pa_mi_pati. (top to bottom) The homegirls Tia from The Avenues @vaneezee @ill_0ne. Midnight Pleasure Brown Authority and Freakshow Tribe, 1997-1998. Photo by @miss_ceejay
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(clockwise from top left) Descanse En Paz Connie (Bashful), 1990s. Insatiables (Chicanas of the Month) Streat Beat magazine, October/ November 1993. Eastside Style & Fashion, from Street Beat magazine,1990s. Photo courtesy of Society’s Perfection Crew, 1990s.
The UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center Presents Southern California Chicano Party Crew and Rave Scene in the 1990s. Co-sponsored by the Cesar E. Chavez Department of Chicana/Chicano Studies (TEXT ON SCREEN: In 2000, Guadalupe Rosales moved from East L.A. to New York City, where she lived for 15 years. As time passed, she found herself wondering about the community and subculture she was involved with as a teenager in L.A.) Guadalupe Rosales: I left Los Angeles in 2000. I brought material with me that has sentimental value. I brought hand written letters from teenage boyfriends, a shoe box full of wallet sized photos that friends and relatives had taken at the mall and photos I’d taken at backyard parties. I also brought a few magazines called Street Beat. Handling these nostalgic materials, but far from a time and place they represent, inspired me to start the Instagram feed Veteranas and Rucas. Veteranas and Rucas serves as a digital archive where strangers, close friends, and family share a virtual space that speaks a language many of us can relate to. The attention that the Instagram has received has resurrected a part of history that hasn’t been talked about or well documented yet—so many people were excited to see it come back. Working on Veteranas and Rucas made me realize how important this subculture is. This is when I approached UCLA Chicano Studies and proposed an archive project to start a collection based on ‘80s and ‘90s Chicano Party Crew and Rave Scenes in Los Angeles. Flashbacks is a collection which consists of ephemera and memorabilia that highlights the Chicano and Chicana underground party crews and rave scene in Los Angeles during the ‘80s and ‘90s. These gatherings occurred in residential backyards and industrial warehouses throughout Los Angeles. This subculture phenomena could also be traced along California’s cities such as Sacramento, Orange County and San Diego to name a few. Eventually, this underground scene moved into licensed venues and clubs such as Baby Toes, Florentine Gardens, and Club DeeLite. Like all youth cultures, music played a key role. These house parties and raves were driven by techno, house, new wave and ‘80s flashbacks. Dancing, fashion, and a sense of unity were highly important. In an age before the internet and social media, party goers utilized “party lines,” or hotlines, where one dialed a telephone number found on a flier and a pre-recorded phone message provided directions to the party. Fliers were
distributed around high schools and parties by party promoters and party crew members. Some fliers provided what we called “map points.” This talk and collection will work to highlight the organic and resourceful ways in which Chicana and Chicano youth cultures work to create and promote a more culturally relevant and self reflective space that continues to influence today’s Latin urban culture in Southern California. The party crew lifestyle was also embedded in messages of empowerment such as education, challenging urban Latinos, especially those within the mess of gang culture/party crew culture, who didn’t think about graduating high school, much less college. The talk will also focus on re-framing the party crew scene, which has been seen on more negative terms or misrepresented. The panelists, people who were deeply involved in the scene, will challenge those stereotypes, and will discuss what the subculture meant to them and share how these spaces and this community were empowering. So the goal for this talk: the materials will be accessible for others to teach and to make work in response to/inspired by acknowledging and establishing this particular history. The reason behind this goal is based on my own challenges when I was looking for material. I realized how…not much was out there. I can only hope this collection will continue to grow. Thank you. Sandra Ruiz (moderator): I’m gonna open the floor up for everybody to give us a little bit about your background. How did you get introduced to the party crew scene, where specifically was it located, do you remember the party crew names (because I know the party crew names are super important and very special)…so whoever wants to take the microphone. Ray Rose: My name’s Ray Rose, I was in the party scene from about 1995 till its end in 1998. My name was “Flame” from East LA’s Aztek Nation. We had moved to Simi Valley in the early ‘90s and we moved back to East LA in 1995. My mom took me to go to Roland High School and to Garfield and there was another mom and daughter in Roland at the same time. So our moms kind of small talked, we kind of small talked and went our own ways. I did about a semester at Garfield High School. It was very overwhelming, very overcrowded. In the beginning we use to have to sit on the floor because there weren’t enough seats for the students. We use to have to share books. Even walking through the hallway was so super crowded. So at the end of the semester I asked my mom, “Hey, you know what, can I go to a smaller
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(left to right) Varrio Hayes Lil Locos El Monte. Photo by @gabster0813. Lefty & Guera, Norwalk Manors, 1987. Photo by @deedeniseee.
school? I think I’ll do better. I’ll be able to focus, and I feel more comfortable at a school where I know people.”
see what was going on and we’d like snicker and be like, “Alright dude, hold my purse.”
She didn’t have a problem with that. You know, I was a “latch key” kid most of the time, so listening to me she thought it was the best decision too. We went to Garfield High School to go get a permit, and the same mother and daughter who we had first met were also in there getting a permit to go to the same school…like, what are the odds? So our mothers kind of small talk again, and me and this girl small talk and she’s like, “Hey, yo, do you party?” And I’m like fourteen years old, you know. So I’m like…”Yeah, Oh Yeah I party ALL THE TIME.” But I didn’t even know what partying was. So she’s like, “Cool. You know what, I’ll get your number. Let’s party this Friday.” And I was like, “Alright.” So I went home with my mom and I was like, “Mommm please let me party pleaseeee! I just want to make some friends! I swear!” And my mom’s like, “You know what, I talked to her mom… okay. It should be okay.” Back then we didn’t have cell phones. We only had our landlines. I think I had like a pager. I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the pager…they’re like…a little electronic device... they’re like… So I’m like waiting for that phone call. And I finally get that phone call. “Okay, we’ll be there in like five minutes.” I’m like alright. I keep looking out the blinds…and I don’t know what to wear, and finally I hear the beep outside. So I go running outside and there’s this brown van. We later called this “The Aztek Mobile.” So this brown van pulls up, and they slide open the doors, and it’s like a hollowed out van. There’s no seats at all in it. But everyone’s sitting on the floor. There’s like ten people just sitting on the floor Indian style. And I’m like cool. I jumped in wherever I could fit. And I remember the van…we we’re going to East LA somewhere. I was kind of new back to East LA and we’re listening to deep house music the whole time. You know we’re like dunn dunn dunn and everyones laughing and I’m just soaking it all in. So we go to East LA, turn down the music so we can hear where the party’s at, and then all of a sudden we hear this bass. And then we look out and there’s teenagers our age walking all different directions to this house. And from the backyard you can see these strobe lights, and we all get out of the car.
Eileen “Michele” Torres: So my introduction, I grew up in Whittier. The famous Whittier Boulevard. I was in tenth grade, I was in honors classes, and one of the girls next to me was like “Hey, do you party?” And I was like… “No, what is that?” She was like, “Don’t worry. Sunday, tell you’re parents you’re gonna go to the movies and we’re gonna pick you up.” So I was like, “Okay.” ‘Cuz it’s Sunday in the daytime. Whittier Boulevard used to pop in the afternoon on Sundays. So that’s what I would do. I would go tell my mom that I was going to the mall. But then I told my mom the truth though, and she was like “Just be back by ten!” So we would go meet up at one of my friend’s house and I’d tell her what time I had to be home, and we’d go to the boulevard. We’d all go in a bunch of cars. We’d jump out and ride the boulevard and jump on a motorcycle, you didn’t have to wear a helmet back then, and we would just ride up and down and then be home by midnight. That was fun. So it just came to like, “Oh, we’re gonna go to a party.” Pretty much the same thing as Rachel described. It was fun. That first party crew was just us girls. It was a bunch of girls from the Whittier/Pico-Rivera area. We just had to get home on time. I was in the honors program. It was the same thing. As long as I got good grades I could say I was going to the mall every weekend.
Some of the people I was rolling with had jackets that said AZTEK NATION embroidered on them with their nicknames on the front. And we walk into this party and there’s so much going on. There’s different groups of people with their jackets embroidered. There’s like LUCIOUS LADIES and EAST L.A. MADNESS and REBEL MADNESS and there’s one section where there’s a circle and they’re break dancing and pop-locking. And then there’s another section where there’s these makeshift Go-Go boxes and girls in there just kinda getting their go-go on. And you have your gangsters on the corner, like kinda hidden in the corner drinking. You had all these genres of people in one place. It was amazing. At that point I was like, “Yea. I want to be in this scene. I want to do this.” So it didn’t take long to go out with the girls. My mom sat me down and she was like, “Okay, listen. You can go ahead and stay out till 2:30 in the morning, you’re fourteen years old. But you gotta bring your grades home. And the one day you don’t bring home the grades, it’s all over.” And I knew my mom wasn’t messing around because I brought home a “D” on my report card one time and I couldn’t talk on the phone for one whole semester until I got another report card. So I was like, “Cool, all I have to do is good grades. I’m just gonna hit those books then and party my butt off on the weekend and come home by 2:30.” That was my incentive, so, it actually drove me to do something positive. It drove me to do good in school. The girls I hung out with who were from my party crew – none of us drank. None of us did drugs. We were more into dance battles. I use to be in gymnastics so believe it or not I could do windmills. I can still moonwalk, I can poplock, so you know… The battle would start and we’d go stand and
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Carlos “Exit” Landeros: My name’s Carlos, they called me “Exit,” or, they still do. It just kinda went on. It all started for me when I use to come up… my mom’s friend lived in Baldwin Park. I would listen to my headphones, and I remember one time I just heard house music, you know, duh dongg and you know, power tools and I was like “What’s this?” and it woke me up. So I go back to school in San Diego and I tell my friend, “Hey, this stuff duh dongg this stuff called house music and oh yeah we’re gonna go to a party you should come,” and he gave me a flyer and it was for “Looney Tunes.” And I remember it was December 19, 1993, and I’m like, “I gotta go.” And I told my mom, “Can I go?” And I never did drugs, I never did any of that stuff and I was like, “Come on, can I go?” She said to be back by midnight. And I’m like, “Come on!” And she’s like, “Either be back by midnight or don’t be back ever and you’re not going.” And I’m like, “Ughh, okay.” And this is before cell phones so…now cell phones make you good liars. You’re like, “I’m ten minutes away I’m up the road,” you know but you’re just barely getting ready. You know, then you had to be ready or you’re gonna get left. So we get to this party, and back then there was a crew called “Hit and Run” from L.A. and they also started one in San Diego. So I go with some girls who were hanging out with these guys from “Hit and Run” and we get to this warehouse and it’s this warehouse in an industrial area, and I hear gogogogo so I’m like, “What’s going on?” They say, ”Just get in get in get in” and he closes the door, security is driving by, “Alright take the tape over there!” They’re taping up the windows…I don’t know anything that’s going on and then of course the DJ system is on the back of the truck where the generators were. The music starts and people just start rushing in like crazy. And they go cops, cops! And I guess the cops showed up and all the doors go up and I got lost from my friends. And they’re like, “Just get in the car with that person.” And I jump in a car and it just looks like mayhem all over the place. People were getting pulled over and stuff…but the entire time…the lights and the music and stuff. I was like, “Dude, what is this?” Finally I find my ride at some other after party, and I’m like, “I gotta get home.” And she’s like, “okay,” so she dropped me off. I literally made it home at midnight. So after that I started talking to my friend about more parties…more parties, and I had met a
Various photographs. Courtesy of Veteranas and Rucas
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(above) Lupe, Monique, Lisa, Jenni and Ana at Sutter Jr. High, Winnetka, CA (Valle de San Fernando) 1990. “One time on a pupil free day at school our parents dropped us off and we ended up in Pacoima. We took the bus. We needed to get back home before our moms noticed we didn’t go to school. We met a guy at the gas ststion with a little sedan and he was nice enough to give us a ride back to Reseda. He had to fit 7 girls in his little car. It was some nice times.” Photo and caption by @ari.mejorado and @MRS_R1VAS. (opposite, first row from left) Leticia at 19, 1983, @beleriebees. Vista, California, 1990s, photo @760coco. La Puente Nogales High School, 1995, photo @angelicadeaner. (second row from left) Santa Ana, Orange, California, F-Troop, Late 70s, photo @_ alexsaenz. Firme Nynas/Firme Hynas Crew, 1999 @firmehynas. La Crow, El Neto (RIP), La Goofy, Canta Ranas Viejo, 1975 photo @richieboy757. (third row from left) East LA’s Ladies of Rated X, 1993, photo @mommyof5princesses. Amy from Torrance, California, 1970s, photo @eeveerivera. Shy girl and Gata at a Lowrider car show, 1995, representing City of Gardena, photo @_chullita_. (fourth row from left) Varrio Nuevo Estrada #VNE13 at Garfield High School, 1974, photo @susi3q81. Peachie, Dolly, Kathy and Chris, Vista, California, 1977, photo @ roxanneecheverri. Elba and Lefty in La Puente, late 1970s, photo @mdanielmakeup.
guy who was like, go here, go here. And back then we didn’t have social media, it was just little cards or...these flyers. And that’s it, and it was all wrinkled from the night before so you’d try to make out the numbers and it was down the street from my house and I went. Back then it was all ages. So you didn’t have to worry about…like I said, underage drinking and all that stuff…maybe you had to in some areas, but it wasn’t like that all the time. When they had these allages things, they got really packed and I met a friend of mine, we just had a common interest in dancing and you know, battling. That’s how I got introduced to it. Just by talking to people. Now on social media, you hit a ”like” button and that’s it. But back then you had to talk to girls...and you gotta ask a girl to the dance. That’s why I did it. Like the fashion, and getting ready and like what are you doing this weekend let’s go to the mall. Malls are empty now! Back then malls were packed. And yeah, that’s pretty much how I got into it, you know? The whole rebel scene and the vintage look - I always liked that. I was always about the fashion and the dancing and the music and to this day and…through social media I found Veteranas and Rucas I was like, “What’s this?” And remember that song? And I know that guy! and it just blew up, so…hopefully this sheds some light about, I guess what we were doing when we were you guys’ age. Manuel Corral aka “Dose and Deluxe”: Um. I don’t even know where to begin because, um, I’m really trying to figure out where did I start. My name’s Manny, Dose, my DJ name’s “DJ Dose.” “Dose” referring to medication…if that makes sense to some of you. Um, yeah, I can’t really say where I started because, again, I work in so many different capacities. Being a DJ and being on the production side of things…I did events and I did gigs, so that was work. It didn’t get fun until maybe a couple years into it when I was approached and asked to be part of a dance crew. I don’t know if you noticed but I’m not really the “dancer type” so I was like, “this doesn’t make sense.” They said, “Nonono, so you can PLAY for us!” I was like, “Ohhh, okay, I could do that.” And it was a match made in heaven. Everybody thought in the same way that I did, and we all had the same passion for everything. Even though I couldn’t dance, or, I didn’t dance, I appreciate it. I understand the artistry that’s involved. It engulfs and engages people in ways…like it takes you to a different place. And to be the guy who enables that to happen, ‘cuz you’re playing the right music, that’s a whole ‘nother ball game. So that’s how I jumped in, in that regard. Being able to show up to a party and seeing a bunch of kids, even though I was a kid rightfully so, but at that point I was a working professional also. It didn’t take me very long to figure out these guys
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don’t know what the hell they’re doing, and I can easily just slip in and assert myself, and you’d never know that I was a part of that crew or whatever. As long as I got my records on the table and I get a couple people dancing…okay they’re not gonna mess with me. Then I play the music that we wanna hear. And that lasted me about 20 minutes until they figured out, “Hey, this guy’s not us.” I was like, “Okay! Time to go.” That’s how it would go. That’s how it started in that respect, as far as being involved with “Swing Kids.” But yeah, I was doing these things and exposed to these things at a very young age. The way it worked for me and my family was I had an older sister, she’s about two, three years older than me, and she couldn’t go anywhere unless I went. So I was the ball and chain. So…being 12 years old do I want to watch Friends, or do I want to go to the arena on a Tuesday night? I think I’ll go to the arena on a Tuesday night. I didn’t know Tuesday night was gay night, but it was better than being home watching Friends. Whatever. And then I payed attention to the music and that’s when it really took hold. Because yeah, I was DJing…but this is quinceneras… sound events…it wasn’t anything that I liked to do. But then when I went to the arena and I heard DJ Irene play, the one thing I couldn’t figure out was how’d she transition from one song to the next? ‘Cuz it was a continuous mix. So I payed attention that one time and I was like okay okay, and I’d be checking out that girl…hopefully it was a girl, or whatever, and then I pay attention to the music again and I was like, “Wait a minute. How does she switch it? Ohhhhhh!” And it was all over. That continuous mix. That ability to go from one song to another song to even different types of songs…and still keep people on the floor? That’s what got me. I don’t think you can change that for anything. But again, that’s me. Michael Rodriguez: Hello I’m Michael, the way I discovered it was growing up with my aunts. My aunts would babysit me. They were all from this crew, “The Cassanova Strippers” I guess was the name of it. I was exposed to all that very young. Like her (Michele), I would go to Whittier Boulevard and lay down in the back of the car so they could do their thing. So, somewhere, I started coming out more and more and learning about that lifestyle. From there I started hosting my own parties, and at the time I’d go by this name “King Kupa” so I’d throw all these house parties. I’m from Norwalk and I’d throw all these house parties and then from there I’d get introduced to the undergrounds. Like “The Latin Underground,” those guys were all my buddies. There was like Mr. Flashback and all these guys and I discovered the East L.A. rave scene at that time. So we would… just like Manny it was about the music. It was all about the music. And then from there I discovered The Arena. And that’s where I also discovered myself, was at The Arena. And then there were these “Tea Parties”… Sandra Ruiz: Can we have a moment of silence for The Arena. Because… if you don’t know, that area’s being gentrified as we speak, so The Arena will not exist in the next handful of years. Michael Rodriguez: Yes. And there’s another club called, before it was Capital it was Que Pasa Papi. And that was another scene…that…I’d never seen Mexican boys in G-Strings before that. Sandra Ruiz: Michael can you talk a little more about that, because you talk about how you went to Tea Parties right? Which were specific towards the queer Latino community…or was it any queer community that was a part of these rave scenes? Michael Rodriguez: It was more towards the gay Latinos. Sandra Ruiz: The gay Latinos. Was it because…normally the party crews’ queer men and women were ostracized or was it…Guadalupe talked about a sense of androgyny that the party scene sometimes also had…but it’s interesting that you have these “Tea Parties” that are sort of a subset of the party scene crew. Michael Rodriguez: The raves were a little bit more…they embraced it more than the house parties. The party crews not as much…but when you started going to the raves, that was like ‘93-ish, when DeeLite came out and everybody started dressing really ‘70s and groovy…there was more acceptance. Because I guess Madonna’s Truth or Dare came out. So it was really starting to come out a little bit in the mainstream. And yeah, everybody started to come out as “bi,” because it was more safe to come out as “bi” at that time. So we would go to…there were these “Tea Parties” which were in the El Soreno area. And it was where the neighborhood kids that were gay could come in one place together. Sandra Ruiz: So you were building a sense of community? Could we talk a little bit about that sense of community that maybe the club scene that was more mainstream wasn’t giving all of you as part of these party crew scenes? Michael Rodriguez: Well…even in the rave scene there was like subcultures. There were people who wanted to dress like Dee-Lite I guess, a “Groover” was one who was about speakers, or there was “The Rebels,” they were the pretty straight boys. Carlos “Exit” Landeros: Well like you said, community and stuff…there was a club called The Boogie in Anaheim, and you know, Anaheim is pretty safe. We were used to going to backyard parties and warehouse parties in San Diego, and we all got our jackets with our crew on the back and you know…501 jeans with shaved head and long bangs and you know, we go to these clubs and they’re like, “Oh sorry, dress code.” And we’re like, “What?” And they’re like, “Dress code.” And people are walking
(from top) Letty, El Monte High School, 1971, photo @ joey96t. Boyle Heights, 1993, photo @fancynancy69. Boyle Heights Babes. Courtesy of @mykalrod. Classic Lowriders, La boo boo from Venice & Stevie & Vicky from Culver City, 1980s, photo @viejitosmorales.
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by dressed the same but just because we’re not…well, pretty much we don’t look “safe.” Or they don’t know who we are. There are some clubs where you couldn’t… oh you know dress code…that was the politically correct way to get rid of people back then was dress code. Like, “Sorry. No white shoes. Mmm sorry, you know what, bald head…sorry.” We use to party a lot in Tijuana, and over there, after a while a lot of gang members wanted to be a part of the like…hooking up with chicks and being a part of the crew but not worried about the whole drama of gang banging…so they’d tag along with you to clubs and then, “Nope, you and you can’t get in. No bald heads.” And so there were some areas where it wouldn’t be like that…like The Arena, it didn’t matter. Age, whatever, it didn’t matter. There’d be white people, black people, whatever you name it they would just be partying. And there were some clubs that just…you hang out with somebody because they get you. It’s like college. You got the nerds, the preps, the jocks, you just feel safe. You have something in common with them. So we did warehouse parties, and you would put shout-outs to this crew and that crew because you knew them and then they’d back you up. Like, “We’re gonna go battle these guys and then we’re gonna throw a party together,” and then this DJ and this DJ… and that’s how you kinda clicked up. So, yeah. There was definitely some…you could say community. We’d come up, “Where are you guys from?” San Diego. “Whatttt San Diego?? You guys are from San Diego! I got a cousin that lives down there!” And sometimes they didn’t like us. “San Diego? Get out of here!” But that was more because Latinos are territorial. That’s just how it is. But for the most part is was like, “You guys came all the way up here?!” I remember a little hole in the wall, Distillery Night Club in Escondido. There’d be a line around the corner and we’d be like, “Dude there’s people…where are you from?” They’d say, “Rialto, Bro.” And we’d be like, “Rialto? Where’s that?” You know. I went to…The Dome had a Power Tools 30th Anniversary and I remember, on a flyer, Rachel Martinez. That was her name…we were in Chino Hills when she gave me her pager number. I remember that! And I had to get out the Thomas Guide like, where’s Chino Hills? And I had the San Diego County one so I had to go to like a bookstore and look at an L.A. County one and Chino Hills…that’s far! Sandra Ruiz: The fact that you used a Thomas Guide…flashback! Carlos “Exit” Landeros: Thomas Guides are maps. Google Map on paper. But yeah, that’s one thing that I think personally that kinda just brought everyone together. Whether it be the music or the style…from our scene, a lot of designers came out, a lot of hair stylists came out…a lot of trends came out. You know, Pumas, fat laces and all that. Like, my wife is into, she’s taking fashion right now. Like, we use to do that back in the day. You’d get like a vinyl skirt and Groovers wore like vinyl backpacks and now you see them at like Old Navy and stuff. That’s stuff we were doing back then. Sandra Ruiz: Can we talk about how the party scene crew was very Do It Yourself? This is DIY before DIY became what we now know it as today. Can we talk about how you all were really the starters of putting stuff together from whatever it is you had resources or access to as communities who are working class… immigrant Latino Chicano communities in Southern California? Manuel Corral aka “Dose and Deluxe”: Well I guess I can speak to that. That right there (points to his portable tape deck) is a perfect example. Bring something we can listen to. So I have a tape deck (lifts tape deck)! They still exist. And I’m gonna play this tape if I can? That’s Do It Yourself. I figure out a way to make it happen. Whatever needs to happen, I’ll figure it out. I’ll make it happen. If Manny has access to sound gear, okay. Get Manny, makes sure he hooks up with so-and-so so he can… oh, you know what… Manny doesn’t drive. Oh, shit. Okay what do we do? Well, we have to get somebody else to get a van to get that from Point A to Point B. We did it ourselves because there were no resources. We were the resource. The mic breaks, you use the headphones. The mic breaks, you take the headphones, but it in the mic jack and you’re (muffles the mic with his hand and talks through it). That’s exactly what it would sound like. But yes, everything was absolutely Do It Yourself, because none of this was authorized. We didn’t have permission to go in that backyard, but because they went to DJ…the parents, well, we got it for the weekend. You did it yourself. You figure it out, how to do it. You get it done. Power of numbers. It wasn’t you by yourself. It was somebody and somebody and somebody and somebody and before you know it, you have a good night. Eileen “Michele” Torres: To talk about the fashion part of it…they didn’t use to sell “distressed jeans,” so we had to distress them ourselves. We’d bleach them… cut them up… the guys, The Rebels, they’d fray them up. They’d fray the bottom. You can probably buy them like that now. Those are some of the things we used to do. DIY fashion. Ray Rose: So I threw one event…we threw it with two other party crews. It was an event we put together ourselves. And at that point I was like, “Hey mom we’re gonna have the meetings down here is that okay?” And my mom would be like, “Yeah with who?” And I’d be like, “Oh, Playboy from Careless” and she’d be like, “Oh okay!” She’d come outside and she’d be like, “Hey Playboy! Do you guys want something to eat or anything?” So, you know, there’s teenagers trying to throw adult events and it was like. Okay. We had a piece of paper and I remember it even took forever to come up with a name. We were doing it for Labor Day Weekend and finally at the last second we were like, Double The Fun Plus One. YES. THAT’S THE NAME. So
(from top) Memo Ortega Car, Pomona, 1980s. Cleo playin some records, Coachella, California, early-’80s, photo @ esa.brujita. Tia, 1990s. Hoyamaravilla Gang, 1970s.
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(top to bottom) Relaxing at home, Los Angeles, 1980, photo @honeysighs. Female Promoters, The Irrestibiles, from Street Beat magazine, 1990s (opposite top to bottom) Chicanas of the Month, Street Beat magazine. August, 1993. Untitled, photo by @passthewire. The Avenues, 1985-1986. Photo by @smil331. From #ChinoCali to EastLos, 1996.
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then we sat down and then we were like, okay, we’re gonna build some go-go boxes for your events. And I’d be like, “Okay, okay. I know some hoochie mamas I could call from Fateful Lovers. I could get them out there. Check.” Okay sweet. “Who’s gonna do security?” And we were like, “Okay. We’ll get the girls to search the guys, and the guys to just like… look at the girls. Cool, okay so security, check.” And here we are. Kids trying to make adult decisions. We got an abandoned warehouse for our Saturday event. We got someone for the flyers…Little George from East L.A. Madness. All-and-all, we were so stressed out, and we made $3,000. We split a thousand each crew. A lot of it payed for stuff we’d put in. You know, my mom was like, “What are you doing?” And I was like, “Aw man I’m making jello shots and I need to hide it from her.” Sandra Ruiz: Three thousand jello shots. Ray Rose: It took me allll day. Carlos “Exit” Landeros: Umm real quick, with the whole Do It Yourself thing…like you said with the equipment…“He’s got this… he’s got that,” you know, these crews, it was almost like Voltron. You know…you’re good at this and you’re good at that. One guy got the chicks, one guy was the best dancer, one guy was the DJ…and we would make these flyers, and all we had was a pager, and you would pay for the amount of message you want to put. So. Okay. Party’s this day. Take the 5 North. And that was it. Your voicemail was blowing up because people were calling in and listening in. We made our flyers. Somebody would make the drinks. We had photographers back then on the cameras, just sitting there and taking pictures. It was all…we did it. Not that we couldn’t afford it but, there were no clubs. There were no parties. Nobody played certain music. So it was up to us. Like, “Ey let’s go to Riverside, talk to this homie, see if he can come do this party for us.” And then we’re driving up there and people hear about it down here…and then you do promotion. And we have to go out there and talk to those chicks, give them flyers for the party. Everything was done by us. We were able to mitigate and dictate what was going into it. Once it blew up to where it got commercial and hey, a rave you can go to on like Melrose, and you could just go to like, Tower Records when it was still around and, “Oh look, EDC. Oh cool.” You know, it wasn’t like that back then. If you got a flyer it was because you wanted to go! Voice in the background: You got chosen. You were the chosen one. Carlos “Exit” Landeros: Yea! And like, “Ohhh this is gonna be good and oh this crew they throw a good party, let’s go, you know, Oh Aztek Nation? They’re bomb let’s go!” It was all just us. Sandra Ruiz: Carlos and everybody earlier mentioned about how social media wasn’t a part of the party scene. You’ve brought examples of different magazines that we now have as documentation – precious documentation, as Guadalupe can speak to. You know, photographs, columns, but also what we’ve noticed is that, for example in Street Beat Magazine you have people encouraging the party crew members to go to college…to graduate from high school. I mean, half of our panelists were like, “I had to ask permission from my parents to participate in a party crew,” which is completely challenging the narrative. Can you talk about being a part of and maybe contributing to Street Beat and what it meant? You (points to panelist) found yourself in one of the magazines earlier. Let’s talk about having these archival materials at hand for those of us who weren’t a part of the scene…or weren’t born during the scene. Eileen “Michele” Torres: So I came into this because of Marty Beat. You don’t know Marty Beat. He should be here but he’s not. He’s the founder of Street Beat Magazine, and he was probably like 30-ish and we were all teenagers. Everybody knows him and he just felt it was important to shed our community in a great light. Dose said he saw his sister here and she’s like “student of the month” or like, “Latina of the month,” academic, and he always made it a point to not only capture the party scene but to capture all the aspects. That was a blessing, to be part of that. Not to talk bad about like Lowrider, but it wasn’t all about girls and G-Strings and cars. It was really showcasing the good about us. Again, that was a blessing to be a part of. He just made sure that we always had some kind of a spotlight in the magazines. Carlos “Exit” Landeros: That little archive thing that Guadalupe showed was… that’s not accurate. I mean, it happened. We saw some parties that were pretty bad, but I think at least all of us here on the panel, myself especially, I know my parents… I’m first generation, my parents came from Mexico so it was like, “Where do you think you’re going? No. Get back in there and do your homework. You’re not gonna pick weeds like me, get back in!” So, that whole thing about good grades and all that…I can tell you, anybody in my crew went to school and had chores and that’s why we got to go out. Which is why it looked so crazy when we’d go party. Because we were letting off all that steam. Because Monday through Friday that was it. Friday night to Sunday it was go crazy. But it was a lot of responsibility. So what you see…yeah, there was another element there. But for the most part I guarantee all of us it was, “Ey, get back in the room. Where are you going? No. Let’s go.” Like, there were times where I…ugh I hate my mommy!! Or whatever, because my friends were there honking like, “Let’s go fool.” My friend’s got a CK-1 the other one’s got Drakkar, “Hey let’s go!” I’m like, “Can’t go dawg.” They’re like, “Get ready let’s go!” I’m like, “Nah...Hey mom, please can I go?” She’s like, “Nope. Your homework.” I’m like, “I’ll do it right now!” She’s like, “Nope.” Yeah I mean, definitely, that was how we let go of steam. But yeah, we had to lie a little bit, obviously we weren’t all saints. But you know what I mean? We didn’t do anything other than stay out late. Or you know, somebody passes a joint. But mostly it was just to get out and have fun.
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CHASE WITTER INTERVIEW BY CAMILLE WEINER PHOTOGRAPHS BY TYLER SUEDA
I guess this is conversation is funny because the space - Selma’s house - is not unfamiliar: I also stayed at Hotel Selma when I was in a jam. I think a week or two? In the master bedroom where everything was pink: carpet, accessories, drapes, bedsheets, clothing in closet. Everything not pink was offset by white. The only windows were at the very top of the walls, butted up to the ceiling and were about five inches tall. Everything felt and looked old and stiff, and I hated walking barefoot in there. It was really intense.
Camille Weiner: What is your relationship to Selma? Chase Witter: Selma is a good friend’s grandmother. She is also a semi-fictitious persona that I formed from photos and five decades worth of other ephemera in her house, pieced together from factual knowledge I knew from her grandson and assumed beliefs that came out of spending time in the house. I learned a lot about her when I was searching every drawer and cupboard in the house for toilet paper, knowing that an 80-year-old woman would have a year’s supply somewhere. I couldn’t help but notice the contents of those spaces. My idea of who she is probably quite different than that held by my friend, her grandson. Camille Weiner: What were the circumstances that lead to you staying in her house? Chase Witter: I first visited the house when my friend Jon was checking on it, his grandmother had just moved into a retirement home. I was instantly blown away by the house, the multiple pink shades of carpet, floral wallpaper, and the un-level floors which was very disorienting. In an overwhelmed state of high, I offered to watch over the house for Jon’s family in return for free rent but didn’t think anything would come of it. About a month later I was told that I could move into the house until it went on the market with the only condition being that I couldn’t break anything. I moved into an empty room with hardwood floor that had been used for practicing ballroom dancing a week later. Camille Weiner: Did you ever bring a girl home? More importantly, did she stay? Chase Witter: I did. She did not share my level of awe and enthusiasm for the house and seemed to be more confused than anything else. She left sometime between five and six in the morning so I’m not sure if that counts as staying. Camille Weiner: I’m just imagining the moment—as her—of driving through the Hollywood Hills, slowly weaving your way to the top (the higher you go, the more vivid the expectations), opening the door, and walking through wanting something only to get everything but. The expectation of a house / neighborhood to live up to certain standards, or ideas, relies on creating and then believing a storyline. This forming of a persona through narrative. It’s also apparent in your Instagram (worth noting here to the uninitiated that the account is @1_800_sandals, a mildly anonymous account that pairs straight forward images of people in LA with somewhat vague spiritualized commentary under the guise of a sale pitch from the resort / vacation company). Or maybe you don’t agree? Chase Witter: I do agree, there are parallels between the Instagram account and the way I approached living in the house, which resulted in a book, Selma. The book being photos I asked Tyler Sueda to shoot of the house accompanied by an introduction that I wrote. The Sandals Instagram is a sort of social commentary on the commercialization of Eastern medicine and spirituality through a collection of pictures taken by myself and occasionally a few others that capture some sort of behavior that I find unusual or hard to explain. I use the caption to extrapolate the bizarre picture’s event and twist it into a pseudo-spiritual, new age sales pitch for my own, fictitious version of the Sandals Resorts whose corny commercials I remember seeing on TV as a kid. The time I spent in that house was similar to the Instagram process in that I was able to form a relatively complete “biography” of the woman who lived in it, based off of assumptions I made from looking at sixty year’s worth of family photos lining the walls, boxes of slides, and books and magazines that I found around her home. Both instances use an inductive approach to take small bits of found information to frame a narrative around them but the Sandals’ narrative is much more fantastical than Selma’s. Camille Weiner: Selma did make an appearance on @1_800_sandals, at least once, if I remember correctly. It was in the room that was my room. Chase Witter: It did, you stayed in the mega pink master bedroom, which I also posted on the Sandals Instagram. So there is a direct crossover. The caption for the picture stated that the rooms were designed to optimize introspective thought but in actuality the pink carpet and pink striped wallpaper prevent any clear mental activity from occurring. Upon entering the room, you’re instantly overwhelmed by this glow of a brutally out of fashion pink shade. The whole house was hard for me to comprehend. I’ve been to numerous homes of elderly people and they all have visual cues that give away the age of the owners but this house was different, it was a time capsule. I didn’t understand how this house remained so grounded in a particular time period so I used the Sandals Instagram to create some far-fetched explanation as to why it appeared that way. Camille Weiner: A few people do make repeat appearances on 1-800 Sandals, which I think expands more directly on your biographical constructions. Eddie is your favorite right? Another pink-loving muse. Chase Witter: Eddie is a good one, he’s one of the most interesting people I’ve met and he does wear pink nearly daily. Eddie is known as the “Silver Lake Five Dollar Guy” because he’s always trying to hock slightly used things he finds in dumpsters on Sunset Blvd for five bucks and he’s lived in the neighborhood since the ‘80s. I’ve been told that he’s the last of some real wild characters that used to spend their days in Silver Lake. Eddie has a flare for the dramatic and tells what I sometimes suspect to be tall tales about himself. Most of the things he tells me begin in a straightforward fashion and end in a joke…the point at which fact ends and fiction begins is left open to my interpretation. Between stories about Eddie told to me by other Silver Lake residents and the claims he makes about himself, I’ve created my own, semi-fictitious version of Eddie’s reality. In actuality, he’s doing a lot more to construct his own biography than any other “character” that I play around with. In this case I’m selectively shaping and smoothing a very elaborate, sometimes contradictory persona that Eddie has attempted to create for himself. Camille Weiner: Selma is your first book project that you’ve not only written for, but touches upon your current interests in identity, both self ascribed and socially imposed. Any plans on continuing this, maybe expanding @1_800_ sandals as a publication project? Chase Witter: The Selma book came together much better than I could have imagined. I invited Tyler Sueda up to take photos of the house and it was his idea to turn it into a book with my introduction. I didn’t give him any direction when he was shooting but his approach did a great job of capturing the way I viewed the house, the photos and intro sit very well together. There are some plans for publishing @1_800_sandals in print. Modes Vu is a publisher out of Shenzen that is making a small compilation book of Sandals’ posts and I’m also collaborating on a zine with Leonard Fresquez who is an artist in Albuquerque. Leonard takes photos of some very insane events/imagery in New Mexico that I’m writing the captions for, perhaps as Sandals or a similar angle. It’s a bit more challenging for me to write descriptions for photos that I didn’t take but it makes the process more interesting. I want to make longer Sandals video collages outside of Instagram, that are edited in a manner that transfixes the viewer so that the presentation of the imagery implies a metaphysical phenomenon that would normally be described through a caption. Darkglobe.bigcartel.com
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E S S AY B Y A A R O N R O S E INTERVIEW BY JIM MUIR & AARON ROSE IMAGES COURTESY THE ARTIST & JOE TORENO
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This feature on Kevin Ancell is a long time coming. Not only have his various creations in multiple mediums been a massive inspiration to the creative community, but his life-story mimics the history of West Coast art. Ancell grew up in Venice, California alongside skate/surf legends the Z-Boys, and though he was younger then them, he still holds a wonderfully unique view on the happenings of the time. Now an accomplished sculptor and painter, his oeuvre defies description. Ancell recently opened Nos Vemos En Venecia, a solo exhibition of his work that was held in Venice, just around the corner from his old stomping grounds. The show was a massive homecoming for the artist and a celebration of a truly unique mind. Below please find a reprint of a short essay I wrote for the rare catalog that accompanied the exhibition. We also sat down for an intimate conversation between the artist and his old friend, and DogTown co-founder Jim “Red Dog” Muir.
T H E V A N D A L , T H E R E B E L , T H E P O E T, T H E S A I N T When I was a kid in the 1970s my parents used to take our family down to the Venice boardwalk on the weekends. This was during the height of the roller skating phase and I remember renting skates and doing our best as a family to disco-boogie down the bike path from the Santa Monica Pier to old Venice Beach. I was about 10 years old, Venice was different then, yet still I’ve retained hazy memories of things that I saw there during that time. Let’s just say that I wasn’t paying attention to the roller skaters, what I remember most was the graffiti, and to be specific the Dog Town Cross. The symbol was painted everywhere and it had a huge impression on me. Over a decade later I had moved to New York and was the proprietor of a small gallery. It was 1992, and we were about to mount Minimal Trix, our first exhibition of skateboard art. Word had gotten around that Kevin Ancell was going to show up. While I was excited about all of the artists that had agreed to contribute to the exhibition, it was perhaps Ancell who I was the most nervous to meet. You see, he was from Dog Town; he was one of the guys who had made that graffiti I saw as a young kid. It was quite possibly because of him, that I had even gotten into art in the first place. When he walked into the gallery he was with a few other guys. If my memory serves me right, he was with the artist (and fellow Dog Towner) Craig R. Stecyk III and Kevin Thatcher, then the editor of Thrasher Magazine. I remember quivering as they approached, but the second Ancell reached out his hand to say hello I knew I had just shaken hands with one of the nicest guys I’d ever meet. This isn’t to say that Kevin wasn’t gnarly. The old Venice art criminal in him was still very much there, but what touched me the most was that behind that tough exterior was the heart of a true artist, and it’s through definition that I’ve always considered him since. In the years following Minimal Trix, Kevin and I continued to collaborate on a few exhibitions and books, and through this I began to know of him as a truly diverse artist. Not only was he involved in Dog Town, but he had also designed some of the most important skate graphics in history and on top of it was an incredibly gifted draughtsman and oil painter. I remember visiting him one at his place in San Francisco. It was a moderate sized apartment and he had transformed the entire interior as if the feel like you were living inside the hull of a ship. The walls were painted to look like rusted steel with rivets and there was even a porthole in the front door. It was impeccably done, and a situation I will always remember. Then somewhere in the mid-1990’s we lost touch. Kevin had become an enigma; it seemed to me that he had dropped out of art completely. I wondered about him often, but our lives had taken on different paths, and I always figured I’d see him again. Then years later, one foggy and rainy night in San Francisco, a friend brought me to a little dive bar, deep in the Mission, called the Slow Club. The bar was dark, and if I remember correctly, filled with cigarette smoke. There on a little stage at the back of the place was Ancell, sitting there alone playing a steel guitar with a slide. The music he was making was perhaps the most beautiful and saddest music I had heard in years. Through listening to this music I realized that Kevin was searching. Somewhere along the way he had lost something, and those lonely Hawaiian ballads he was playing that night, sounded like a wolf’s cry into the foggy San Francisco night. Cut ahead almost another decade and I’m installing the Beautiful Losers exhibition. Barry McGee had been creating these life size animatronic figures and I learned during the installation that they had been collaborations with Kevin. He came to the museum to help assemble the robots and we were once again reconnected. Since that time we have never lost touch. Whether it was meeting up at various McGee exhibitions around the world, different openings and parties or through his many collaborations with RVCA, a company that both of us work with on cherished collaborations, Kevin was back. We spent wonderful times on Oahu’s North Shore during Pipeline where he set up a makeshift studio on the front lawn of the RVCA house. There, he obsessively customized people’s boards with his definitive expressionist-cholo scrawl day and night. I later visited his studio in Orange County where many of the works in this exhibition were created. There I saw the products of long laborious hours at the easel creating what could only be described as masterworks. The level of emotion and detail in each and every brushstroke cannot be denied. As I sat in the studio as Kevin explained the paintings to me I remember feeling that here was a guy who had finally found his groove. I’ve never been quite sure what happened to Kevin in those years when he dropped out, for Kevin has led a long and diverse existence, over which he has embodied the equivalent creative personas of many men. He is the Vandal, The Rebel, The Poet, and The Saint. His has been a journey which has led him down many paths and on countless adventures but then eventually, perhaps inevitably, as these new paintings will attest, directly back to himself. He now creates works with reckless abandon, and one can only surmise that all of those times wandering have provided the fuel for him to do that. His years in the desert are over. The lost boy has finally come home.
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ANP: When did you guys actually meet? Kevin Ancell: I think it was at Zuma beach one day. I remember the waves were really big. I was riding this red swallowtail and my board just smashed me on the head and I came out of the water and saw you. I was like, “Dude, I just got bailed!” and you were like, “Nuh uh! You got murdered!” Jim Muir: Oh man, he got tossed up. ANP: So Kevin, you grew up around Venice right? KA: Yeah all up and around here. I lived upstairs from a brothel that I worked in with a couple of friends and their father. I also lived in Chris Kahill’s place that was a big surf house on Pier Street. JM: He lived in the brothel as I was coming of age, so I was out at bars all night and then we’d go to this brothel after hours. It was wild because all these kids that we surfed with, guys who we were always making sure acted right, all worked at this all-night gambling and prostitution place. It was open from two o’clock to six in the morning. They even had the secret knock… KA: Yeah, and all the city fathers would be there. ANP: How did you end up working and living there? KA: One of the kids, Donny, who was my surfing friend, his father owned it. I was couch touring at the time and I just ended up staying there. His dad was like, “Well if this kid is sleeping here every night, then he’s going to work.” So I got the job. I washed so many fucking dishes there! JM: But when I was going there and actively participating in the frivolous moments, we’d be gambling and Kevin would be serving us drinks. There was a full menu of whatever you wanted…literally. You could basically get anything you wanted. KA: There was a pillow room in back. It was all black-light and mirrors. It was the most bizarre place ever. JM: Walking out of there at six in the morning, after being in the black light all night, I’ll tell you, it was only a four block skate to my place, but it was brutal. I think Kevin was like thirteen at that time. He was coming of age in a really crazy way. But you know he was self-supporting from a really early age. It’s one of those stories that you hear about. You know living in a working class beachside community you just would never expect to see that stuff going on. But there it was right underneath everyone’s noses. KA: But I was completely winging it dude. Still to this day I don’t remember how I pulled it off. JM: That place was essentially a surf house/ house of ill repute, and Kevin would just kind of continually end up in these different surf houses. ANP: But you were still just a teenager at that point?
JM: Oh yeah! He was a youngster! I have known Kevin for pretty much his whole life. I’m curious though Kevin, when was the first time you figured out that you like to draw? KA: The family story goes that when I was a little kid I grabbed three pieces of paper and I taped them together. Then I stole one of my brother’s Playboy’s and crawled under my parents bed and drew the centerfold. I showed it to my dad and he was completely ecstatic. He thought I was a genius, but then my mom saw it. She flipped out and beat my brother for a week for having a Playboy. I was a latch-key kid though, my parents were never around. So I was always either running around the neighborhood or in my room drawing. JM: I think pretty much everyone around here grew up that way. When I was eight years old I was just out on my bike all around the neighborhood. The only rule was that we had to be home for dinner. That’s how people raised their kids back then. ANP: Kevin, you’re younger than Jim, so I’m curious how were you first introduced to the Dog Town scene? KA: These guys took me in! JM: We were in a position of authority then. We were able to pass along the unwritten rules and hierarchy of how you were supposed to act correctly both in the water and out of the water. These were rules that had been passed down from the surf community of the ‘40s and the ‘50s. KA: If you got a pat on the head from these guys you were really stoked! JM: At that time surfing was completely a subculture. Everyone was a stoner dropout and it was very territorial. The media definitely wasn’t welcome, and there was a serious chipping order. If you were raised on the beach and basically hanging out in a surf shop all day, you were taught about the conditions of the ocean, and how if you traveled to a different area what you would have to deal with and how to act right in that situation so you could get out of there alive. ANP: You guys were around obviously during the whole Venice punk thing too right? KA: Oh yeah, Jim’s brother’s (Mike Muir from Suicidal Tendencies) whole trip was that they would roll up to some random park with a generator and just blow out a set and then disappear. JM: Well because we were always looking for empty pools to skate we had generators and electric pumps and brooms and shovels. Basically we had everything we needed to get it ready to skate. So when the punk rock thing came along we had all this stuff. Suicidal Tendencies used to rehearse in my kitchen. I lived in a place that used to be a train station back in 1907 when this
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(clockwise from top left) Kevin Ancell and friends. The artist afire. Ancell with friend at The Mirror Go Round, Santa Monica, Ca. 1970s. De Wain Valentine’s studio, Venice, Ca. 1970s. Billy Al Bengston, circa 1970s. Aloha Oe, 2000
(from top to bottom) The Madonna, 2013, 48x72 inches, Oil on wood. This is an alley in the hood—a short cut. There are so many things going on in this piece I can’t explain it all. But the homeless guy in the tv box is God. Making the miracle happen. Moses Seeking Pharaoh (detail), 2016, 48x72 inches, Oil on wood. When I was a kid you really didn’t want to get caught on Abbot-Kinney (W. Washington) at night. It was as bad as Ghost Town, the hood just north. Buildings were real cheap and all my artistic influences had studios around that area. I swept all their floors—It’s a heavy list. As you move left, going through time to now...Moses coming out of the Sinai to warn Pharaoh of the plagues coming if he doesn’t free the slaves.
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whole area was Asian. It had a Chinese style roof and it was painted orange and black. We used to call it the Oriental Punk-In house. KA: They used to have five-dollar rent parties. I remember the first time I heard Suicidal’s “Institutionalized,” you know the Pepsi song, on the radio I was so stoked. It was like one of us had finally hit it. There was a lot of pride there. JM: There’s always been a lot of talent that has come out of Venice. KA: Yeah, I mean in terms of art all those big time Pop guys were all right here. Guys like De Wain Valentine, Billy Al Bengston and Ed Ruscha, I worked for them all. They used to bounce me around from studio to studio. Remember John Baldessari used to have his studio right across the alley from the Zephyr shop? He used to fuck chicks in the alley on the hoods of cars in the middle of the night! JM: Speaking of De Wain Valentine, he had three sons. Two of them are still with us. But he was the premiere resin sculpture guy of his time. He figured out how to pour giant resin pieces without getting any air bubbles in it. KA: He also figured out how to mix the catalyst so that one 55-gallon drum of resin went off at the same time as this other 55 gallon drum. He was an engineer before he came to Venice. He looked around at all the art that was being made around here and jumped on board. He was the first guy I worked for. He taught me a lot. He was like my pops. Another crazy fact…the Zephyr logo was taken from a painting that Billy Al Bengston made while he was on a motorcycle trip. It was called “The Moon Over The Sea of Cortez.” His studio was also right across from the Zephyr shop. ANP: Crazy. So were you already drawing at that point? KA: Oh yeah, I was hanging out with Wes Humpston a lot. But then I finally got a real job with Jimmy Ganzer (of ‘80s surf clothing line Jimmy’z) and I became their art guy. Then I got a place with a friend of mine off of Venice Blvd. It was a real home and a real scene… ANP: So were you influenced by guys like Bengston and Ruscha? Your paintings couldn’t be more different from what those guys did.
KA: Well, I was also influenced by the Vatos on the beach! But I just fell in love with oil painting. It just touches me somehow. I remember I was in New York and I went to a Magritte show at the Met. I was walking through these galleries and there were all those old Renaissance paintings. I walked up to this Giuseppe Ribera painting and I was literally in tears. It was so fucking good! I decided that I was going to teach myself to paint like that. I think it has something to do with when we were kids. We all loved telling stories. Those paintings really told stories… ANP: So let’s go back to your early years. I think we were talking about the working at Jimmy’z. KA: Yeah, and at that time I was only seventeen and I got my own apartment. JM: So at seventeen years old someone actually rented an apartment to you? KA: Yeah. I was also dealing blow at the time, but I was really bad at it. After that I split to China for a few years. I had to clean up. I was drugged out and everything was changing. There wasn’t much of a future here. ANP: Stecyk told me a story once and maybe you guys can corroborate it. He said that Charles Eames had a military contract and that he came to over to the Zephyr shop to get advice on using fiberglass to build glider wings for the Vietnam war. KA: Yeah. But then Jay Adam’s step-dad, Ken Sherwood locked down the contract. JM: Now he makes all the propellers for all the wind-power towers. Those propellers have to be made to 1/1000ths of an inch or else they’ll vibrate. But Ken also made the molds for the original Zephyr fiberglass surfboards. KA: There was another guy around here too, we called him “Duke.” He was a machinist. As a kid he had escaped Auschwitz. So he ended up in Venice and we used to stash all of our blow in his shop. One day we were in there fucking around and these guys in suits come in. One guy has a briefcase chained to his arm. We thought we
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Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 2014, 48x60 inches, Oil on wood Based on the 1798 poem by Coleridge...Death and his wife Lilith play dice for the souls of 21 cursed seamen. Death wins all of them until only the old Mariner remains, which Lilith properly wins. He lives to repeat his story (his penance) which really pisses Death off.
The Four Horsemen, 2015, 8x10 feet, Oil on wood The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in most accounts, represent Conquest, War, Famine, Death, respectively. I used an old Leonardo da Vinci sketch ”Battle of Anghiari” that I’ve always loved… The painting has never been found. Here they are not battling for honor, faith, religion—but for oil.
were about to get busted. So anyway, Duke tells us we have to leave. But our blow was in there so we weren’t going anywhere. It turned out that they were CIA guys and they had this part that had to be made for something. Nobody knows what. But Duke was the guy… ANP: So it’s a true story!! I always thought that was bullshit. So let’s move on. How did you end up in San Francisco? KA: Craig Stecyk and Mofo helped me to get set up there. I loved it up there! I was working for Thrasher and then when skate companies like Real started I started doing graphics for them. I did graphics for everybody. Then Jim moved up there too… JM: Yeah, I became a partner in the Thrasher owned family of businesses. At one time, the printing business for Thrasher, Dogtown, and Real Skateboards were all in the same warehouse. KA: They didn’t even have an art department at that point! They wanted me to design two board graphics a day and they didn’t even have anything set up. I built it for them. I grabbed an office, put some drawing tables in, got a computer so we could do layouts. Then we started cranking shit out. ANP: Jim, I didn’t know you were in San Francisco. JM: Yeah, but I was just there for three years. Kevin was there a really long time. KA: Eventually I got a studio. It was actually in The Mission, right across the street from Margaret Kilgallen’s old studio. That’s when I started working in the movie business. The guys at Thrasher were really fuming when I quit, but then I started making real money. ANP: Was the reason you quit Thrasher just because of the money? KA: Well partly, I wasn’t making shit over there. Also, I was drinking too much… JM: He was really working at a bar called the Albion. KA: Actually that’s where I drew the Spitfire logo! I was sitting there at the bar, totally smashed one day and Jeff Klindt from Deluxe walks in and says, “Dude we need a logo for this skateboard wheel!” I was like, “Leave me alone dude. I’m busy!” But he wouldn’t stop
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bugging me so I grabbed a cocktail napkin and drew that logo right then and there. I think the last thing I said to him was, “If you ever make any money with that let me know…” JM: Amazing…but your early influences all came from the guys you knew from down here on the beach… KA: Yeah for sure, Ed Ruscha, Billy Al Bengston… JM: Yeah, but even before that when you were like twelve. You know shaping surfboards and that whole community. People like Stecyk… KA: To this day, every single good gig I’ve ever gotten was through Craig Stecyk. He’s never taken credit for any of it either. ANP: So when did the oil paintings start? KA: It was around 1996. I realized I had all this money from working on the movies. Also, I had this great studio! I met this girl who owned a gallery and she looked at some of the stuff I was making and she said, “You know, if you can pull this stuff together I’ll give you a show.” Right after that I dove into painting. The first big oil painting I did was the one that Margaret was in. ANP: Was the show all oils or were there different mediums. KA: It was all different kinds of stuff. ANP: Is that when you started making the hula girls? How did that piece come about? KA: It was kind of around that time. I was painting a lot of sets. I mean I was painting aircraft carriers and stuff. It was gnarly work. Around that time me and this guy Bob pitched a surf show to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. It was a big show! Well they just laughed at us. They thought we were tripping, but they gave us a date in April of the next year. So I had been working with all these special effects guys at the time and I had always had this vision of doing a life-size dashboard hula girl. So I started making them, and once the ball started rolling it became twenty-five of them! Then I wanted to add animatronics so they could dance! Those hula girls have now traveled around the world. ANP: Were you the curator of that show?
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(opposite) Dark Was the Night, 2015 40x30 inches, Oil on wood. An incredible human I once had the pleasure to know got pregnant and a previous cancer returned with a vengeance. She was told that she could be saved but her baby would die. She decided she would die and her child would live, it was the most selfless act I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of shit. I wanted to try and paint that moment she decided her fate. (above, left to right) Cradle to Grave, 2014, 48x36 inches, Oil on wood. Cycle of life, really just a theater show… the lights go on—you live you story, the lights go out… Wrath of God, 2015, 72x48 inches, Oil on wood. World Powers and such are always using God & Faith to steer the masses to their will…eventually this is going to be the end… and when he cries out to God for help!? He flips them off and to hell they go…
KA: No, I wasn’t the curator but I was pretty much driving the car. After that though I moved south of the city because the dot-com thing started to happen. So I moved to this ranch in Pacifica and just made art and surfed for a while. On the ranch they had this building where they were supposed to house the tractors, but it was full of crap. I asked the guys what they were doing with it and they said, “Oh it’s supposed to be a shop.” I was like, “Get that car outta here, get everything out!” and I cleaned the whole place up. It became my studio and I worked out of there for a long time. Eventually, as I will do, I got hung up on a girl and it’s a small town so you know how that goes. Pat Tenore from RVCA was like, “Come down here to Orange County, let’s do a show!” ANP: So had you guys been in touch that whole time? JM: Not so much because I had moved back down south. KA: Yeah we were both off the map for a while. Actually I didn’t end up seeing Jim again until about a year and half ago cause you broke your neck! JM: No, I broke my neck seven years ago. We would run into each other here and there and we would talk on the phone sometimes… KA: Then Jim found me this space! I mean for me to have shown my work in this space is unbelievable! There is so much history here. I was the original Venice boathouse. It was the boathouse for all of the gondolas. JM: The canals used to come right down around the circle and come right down this street. At the end of the day they would run the gondolas right inside here. KA: Yeah, and the park across the street used to be filled with hookers. JM: We called it “Hooker Hill.” KA: Yeah, so one day Jim calls me up and asks me if I’m looking for a place to do this show? JM: Nah, you called me! My office is right next-door, and one day I was just walking out front and I was like, “Holy shit!” If we moved some stuff around in here this place could be viable. We’d already been talking about creating some kind of cultural center down here just because of the lineage. Come to find out that there were art studios in here for years. Jack Nicholson owned it for a time. KA: Charlie Chaplin filmed one of his early films right outside. When Nicholson owned it, it was party time. Janis Joplin played in here, Fleetwood Mac… JM: There was a big jacuzzi and they had built all kinds of trippy shit. It was like a Caligula type scenario. But anyway we worked out the space and now it continues to be an art gallery. There’s nothing around here that isn’t an antiseptic gallery, so it’s a pretty cool thing. KA: There was a huge fight here at the opening. Two old Venice rivals showed up and they were both really fucked up. So they get into a brawl, one guy knocked over the air conditioner and it fell into one of the paintings and broke the frame. It was a really fun night.
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SUSAN CIANCIOLO INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE PORTRAIT BY MARK BORTHWICK IMAGES COURTESY THE ARTIST & BRIDGET DONAHUE, NY Anyone who was following avant-garde fashion in the 1990s has most certainly heard of Susan Cianciolo. She is a multimedia artist and designer who, at the time, turned the fashion industry on its head. Her brand Run Collection was (along with other young designers Bernadette Corporation, Imitation of Christ and Bless) at the forefront of the customizing, deconstructionist movement of the ‘90s. Her seasonal presentations threw away any notion of the classical runway show into the garbage bin, preferring instead to create wildly experimental performances instead. For these groundbreaking shows, Cianciolo collaborated with a large network of creative personalities including luminaries like actress Chloe Sevigny, artist Rita Ackermann, filmmaker Harmony Korine, Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, and skateboarder Mark Gonzales. Photographers like Mario Sorrenti, Antoinette Aurell, Terry Richardson and Mark Borthwick all photographed her collections and Vogue magazine voted her one of the ten most important designers in New York. I should confess here that during this time I was also married to Susan, and while that does color my experience in a certain way, I promise that everything I write here is fact. I first met Susan when she asked me to be a “security guard” at the presentation of her second collection, RUN 2. The show was held in a vacant parking lot in midtown Manhattan and the models had temporary tattoos of automatic weapons on their necks. From that day on we continued to work together for many years and I watched her develop as both an artist and a human being. Throughout the 1990s Susan showed her collections internationally in art galleries, vacant storefronts, furniture shops, a teahouse, a pop-up restaurant and a vacant band shell on the West Side Highway. Her multi-media presentations included films and live music performances that stood boldly apart from the status quo of the fashion shows of the day. All of her clothes were made in the most historically traditional way, that being a sewing circle in the middle of her Canal Street studio, something that would be unheard of in the modern fashion industry. Even as her popularity grew, Susan stuck with this approach instead of slipping into the fashion industry’s accepted ways of doing things. Though the volume of her orders and the process of filling them became a herculean task for her and her small staff, she continued on for many seasons, going against the system while continuing to create intricate, wonderfully designed garments that defied anything that had been seen before. Then, in 2001, the New York Times declared she was “dropping out” as she announced her decision to work independently as an artist and make one-of-a-kind creations for clients only. The seasonal grind of the fashion scene had become too much for her (she never wanted to be that kind of designer anyway) and she decided that enough is enough. Since then she has become a professor (first at her alma-mater Parsons, and now at Pratt) while balancing numerous museum retrospectives of her past fashion shows, which often include her films, drawings, and books in addition to her clothes. We met up recently in Los Angeles in a small room above 356 Mission Road, an alternative art space where she was about to open, “Though I have all faith as to remove mountains, but have not Love, I am nothing” ‘Corinthians’, her first solo show on the West Coast. The exhibition comprises various examples of what Susan calls “kits.” These being cardboard and wooden boxes containing a variety of handmade clothing, notes, sketches and other collected materials. The exhibition serves as a kind of abstract retrospective of the artist’s previous works. However, unlike most surveys, each past artifact is thoughtfully recontextualized, allowing us to derive our own meanings for not only Susan Cianciolo’s oeuvre, but how we each look at our own lives in the process.
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(from top) Run 3 Presentation, Showroom Seven, New York City, 1996. Photo by Cris Moore Run 2 Presentation, New York City, 1995. Photo by Marcelo Krasilcic Frankie Rayder, Run 6 Presentation, The Rotunda, New York City, 1998. Photo by Sarah Kraus
ANP: Why don’t we begin speaking about your current exhibition at 365 Mission and your fascination with kits. Where does the inspiration for this body of work come from? Susan Cianciolo: It comes from way back when I started Run Collection. It’s a very strange question because I’m looking back at the kits that I made a long time ago and I didn’t realize until recently what a big part of my work they were. Now, because I’ve just had a whole show on kits it’s really opening me up to that. ANP: Was the first kit you made the Do-It-Yourself Denim Skirt? SC: Yes. But I’m not sure how that even started. I could sit here and make up all these things, but I honestly don’t know! I was fascinated by the idea of making something that the audience, or the person who was buying my work, would have to do something. It wasn’t just a denim skirt. It was something that they would have to make themselves. I thought it was cool and funny and it allowed me to turn it into this package. At the time that went along with my interests in graphic design. My first job was doing graphic design for Jordache Jeans and when I look back at those first drawings I made there were similar things happening. I did only cut & paste graphics then and I felt that anytime I could come up with a reason to enjoy packaging I would. That first kit gave me a purpose and I liked making things that had this whole interaction aspect with the customer. Then that grew into me thinking, “let’s make kits of all kinds.” So for RUN 5 I made the denim skirt kit, then for RUN 7 I made a swimsuit kit, then I made t-shirt kits, luggage kits, and then I’ve kept re-introducing variations on those throughout my career. ANP: So it really became a thematic constant in your practice? SC: Yes, and I think maybe I felt that I owned that. It became so self-conscious that I was just running and running with the concept. Even after Run Collection closed, I was still doing it. I remember a show I did in the 1990s at Deep Gallery in Paris. Those were the most intricate kits I’ve ever made. There were costume kits and animal kits and it just kept going and going! ANP: It has almost become a Susan Cianciolo trademark. SC: Yeah, but without me realizing. ANP: I wonder if the reason it stuck with you was because it gave some structure to your work which in other ways is very unstructured… SC: Yeah! Even yesterday when I was downstairs installing the exhibition I was contemplating how I’m repeating sections from previous shows. Like one section is taken from an old show I did at Andrea Rosen in New York, but for me that gives me a sense of security and calmness against all the unsure, raw aspects of the work. So repetition is a big thing for me, but I’m realizing that I’m doing it for myself in order to ground down. All the other parts of the work are so unstable. I’m always so unsure when I’m doing this work. I always feel like I’m taking a big risk. So the kits give me this familiarity. It’s cool. ANP: How do the ideas for each individual kit manifest? Do you have a standard process? SC: I’m asking myself the same questions because this show has been travelling and the one here in L.A. is bigger. I wasn’t planning to make more for this but they just kept coming out. Then I realized that I had to stop myself and say, “You’re
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(from top) Thurston Moore and Jutta Koether performance at Run Restaurant, 2000, Alleged Gallery. Photo by Ivory Serra. Untitled, 1993, watercolor and gouache collage on paper.
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Run Restaurant, 2000, working sketch, watercolor on paper. Installation View, If God Comes to Visit How Will You Know, 2015, Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York City.
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not allowed to make any more kits!” But still I was making them secretly! But when curators came to my studio and saw them they just told me if it’s natural then just keep going. So that’s just what happened. Even in my studio it gave me a sense of calmness. Each of the kits is very personal to me. They’re all titled after emotions. Also, it’s a way that I’m still connecting with clothing. It gives me a sense of freedom, but also security in a strange way. Especially because I have no interest to make clothing in the realm of fashion anymore, instead it’s coming through in these works. I recently found an old press clipping from Harpers Bazaar for my “One Night Stand Kit.” I had completely forgot about that one! Now when I look at it I think it’s so great because that one was just a joke. All of them just come from different parts of myself. ANP: Yet the constructions can also be so lighthearted at times! SC: Yes! I’m in this place right now where I’m asking myself all these questions, but at the same time the process is still continuing and morphing into all these different forms. I’ve always liked to work between the cloth, the paper, the wood, and cardboard. So that’s funny because I’m not stuck, but I do have set materials. I can’t imagine that I would go cast a bronze kit or anything! I mean that would be so ugly! My studio in BedStuy is in this crazy old building that’s about to fall down at any minute. I really have to get my archives out of there because everything is covered in soot, but I just rummage around the building for supplies. I just collect random wood and cardboard from there. The only time I buy art supplies is when my daughter Lilac makes me. Sometimes she’s just like, “Enough is enough!” So there’s a mixture of that in the kits as well. There are some beautiful materials and wonderful fabrics. ANP: So this exhibition is a new proposition, but it’s also looking backwards. Yet it’s almost a retrospective of much of the work that you created while you were still participating in the fashion schedule. Obviously that lifestyle wasn’t working for you, but it’s interesting that you are now drawing upon it to create these artworks… SC: I don’t look at it as a retrospective! For me it’s completely new work. Whatever I did in the past I own it. It’s completely a part of me and I have the right to morph it and use it any way I choose. So the context is unimportant. I don’t look back at that time and say, “I was in fashion then.” I just look back at it as references in a library in my head of things that I love that worked that I want to pull from. I constantly look through my archives and choose to re-make certain patterns. It’s the same exact thing. I’m more comfortable with my body of work now, so I give myself permission to own it. Calling this new work a retrospective isn’t true. It’s just my work! Putting this title on it or saying that I stopped the fashion industry is wrong. I never stopped! I just stopped that schedule, but I never ceased producing. There have always even been these random accounts with all these little stores that were on my terms. I would send them whatever I felt like doing. I would just make 50 pieces and the stores would just have to be surprised when they got them. I wanted to make my own rules and whoever joined me on that bandwagon just had to be cool. ANP: What is it about the retail context as versus the gallery or installation context? SC: For instance, the upstairs space at this gallery has an exhibition of a new collection I’m doing called RUN HOME. It’s essentially decorative or useful objects for the home. I have a creative partner, Keva, in this collection and she’s really the head of production on that venture. Sometimes I’ll sit in on a meeting if I can, and I’ve really gone back and forth as to whether I can do this. Yet I really enjoy the collective creative process that we do together. But I have the luck now on that project to just be the creative director. I just don’t enjoy the other side of it. For so many years I’ve been producing and selling the works myself, and I do love being one-on-one with a client, but now I feel I don’t need that anymore. My studio time is my studio time and there’s someone else that sells the work. I feel this allows me to be even more involved in the work now. ANP: Yes, but in a retail experience it’s much the same. Most of the time a client who purchases your work from a shop never has any interaction with you at all. SC: Well I was speaking about the production aspect. But as I said I’m still doing retail with RUN HOME. We have done multiple pop-up shops and everything that I can mentally or physically be at I’m there. I just can’t always make it to everything. So that’s the nice thing about this back and forth play that Keva and I have. Whatever she can do, she does and whatever I can do I do. If there’s a store appointment where she really wants me to be there, then I’ll do everything I can to make it. I’m always asking myself these questions and I don’t know the answers. I go on only when I feel that there is something there. We’re not producing clothes, we’re producing tapestries, and there’s something a little different about that. I’m having more fun with it. The clothes for me really just come through in this deep passion that I have for performances, while I also enjoy the commercial aspect of the tapestries. I don’t know…something works. Sometimes I can’t manage it all. I’m a full-time professor too and then making the exhibitions is also so much. Even though we have a great team, each of my practices, they’re all very different worlds. I’m not opposed to any of them, there’s nothing better or wrong with anything. I’ve just come to realize that I couldn’t do it all myself. ANP: That makes sense. SC: Plus, if I was handling all the sales it would be such a disaster! Can you imagine? ANP: Yeah, you’re late for appointments because you’re out scavenging for wood… SC: Exactly! Not long ago my hand got totally infected and I had this red line going towards my heart and Lilac was panicking that I was gonna die! It made me just realize that I have to take better care of myself and stop scavenging through this dirty building. But I’m still very much in that world. I’m always questioning why I’m still teaching at Pratt. I mean and I really the one that should be doing this? Am I really offering a good enough service? I feel the same about RUN HOME. I only want to do it if my true heart is in it. It’s not about the money or anything! It’s about making sure my integrity is there. So far for me it is there. I am fulfilled being a professor, and I am fulfilled with the commercial and the art systems, but these are big questions in my life. The deepest roots are obviously in my exhibitions, but I also need places to branch off. ANP: One thing I’ve always wondered is that coming from your background, which really is couture fashion. I mean you’re roots were at Geoffrey Beene and Badgley Mischka, not an MFA from Yale. You were trained in clothing design.
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(opposite, from top) Large Doll Box, 1995-2015. Beaded dress, 1970s bloomers, dress, small doll, cardboard jewelry necklace from 2012 collection, cross, photos by Mark Borthwick, 1995 PAAP photos, Anette Aurel, mixed media collage, photos by Rita Ackermann, collage from Angels Do Exist, photos of kit collection from 2011 presentation at Maryam Nasir Zadeh, collage tapestry from Games & Small Things. Photo by Marc Brems Tatti (from top) Deluxe Accessories Kit, 2001-2010. Silk triangle bag, glitter, paper, cotton tapestry necklace or wall-hanging, dye and acrylic on canvas sneakers, cotton woven shawl, cotton bow tie, 2-sided offset printed poster, Run 11 Shiseido makeup bag. Photo by Marc Brems Tatti Mini Accessories Kit, 1997-2010. Run 5 shoes, gloves from “It’s Just An Illusion,” bag, bracelet, collage, small painting, bookmark, cardboard, string, tape. Photo by Marc Brems Tatti
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I can’t think of anyone in the current scene that has made that kind of transition from fashion to fine art in the way you have. I’ve seen so many designers try to make the transition but it’s always horrible. Why do you think you’re different? SC: Well, the insecure side of myself doesn’t even know if it’s working or not! I wake up every day and ask myself that question. “Are you an imposter? What are you doing?” That’s why I didn’t want to teach fashion again at Pratt because I felt like an imposter. I mean, I did that world a long time ago! But now I’ve come back around and I feel there are bigger reasons in my heart. So I’m sticking everything out because I feel like it’s what I’ve been handed. I feel like my whole life I’ve been the person who was wearing the clown costume, but I was acting like an accountant. I grew up poor, so when I was really young I made a deal with myself that I could be an artist on the side if I studied fashion. My family couldn’t give me money and say, “Go be an artist!” So I did the deal. I came up with every scheme possible to study fashion. It was a dream for me and I was so desperate I studied whatever I could. Yet at the same time, even though I was having success in that world, I never fit in. It was so painful! It’s interesting because if look closely you can see all that emotion and angst and pain in the work I did at that time. People would always ask me about that and I didn’t understand at the time. Now I see it, and that had a lot to do with my coming out as a fine artist. ANP: It’s so interesting how we don’t always read the signs that are so obvious if we just step back and take stock… SC: For sure! I naturally believe that my work has its own life and energy. It really found it’s way to where it fits by itself. It seems like every time I begin to feel comfortable in my own skin then my work begins to make sense to me. It’s not that I think galleries are better or cooler. There’s a language to that context that I don’t even know! I’m asked all the time to be in group shows and I’m always looking up artists that I’ve never heard of to see who else is in them. I don’t know about any galleries or really anything about this world! Even though we were married and you had a gallery then, still I’m totally uneducated. As much art history as I know there are so many holes in it. But I’m also having a lot of fun because there’s so much to learn! It’s exciting to me because it’s this whole new world. At the same time I’m not doing anything different, I’m just doing it in a different context. ANP: Maybe there’s something refreshing about your ignorance? Maybe it’s your complete honesty that is so much needed in this over-strategized art world we live in today? SC: Maybe. But I also think I need to stop asking myself so many questions. There are no answers! For me to stay sane and alive is just about making my work. I mean how can I be so lucky to have this chance? It’s my life’s dream and it’s finally coming true! ANP: Well doesn’t that make so much sense? I never have seen any differences between the mediums. I see no barriers between art and fashion and film and music. They’re all the same practice to me. Creative people should be able to bounce between freely! However the markets are based on structures. Artists are required to build their little kit for each medium in order to fit into those structures. It’s crazy! SC: Do you think that’s weird? ANP: I think it’s sad. SC: Really? Do you think my kits are sad? ANP: No!! That’s not what I’m talking about!! SC: But supposedly all those boundaries have been broken, but there’s still a lot of work to be done I guess. ANP: Everyone needs a “Let’s Just Get Along Kit.” SC: It’s funny because that one’s so new and it’s so raw and honest. It relates to a lot of people and a lot of things. I need to make a Life Kit! ANP: I think you’ve already made it.
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(clockwise, from top left) Performance at MMK Frankfurt, 2010. Photo by Maurico Guillien Run 7 Collages (featuring Frankie Rayder and Annie OK), 1998. Photos by Wyatt Troll (opposite, from top) Dressing for God, installation views at Yale Union, Portland, Oregon, May 22 - July 10, 2016. Photo by Claire McKinney
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THE SPOT Over the last few years the definition of an â€œart galleryâ€? has shifted from simply a place to sell art to more of a medium in itself. While there have always been spaces that existed outside of the status quo, recently it seems a small revolution has taken place. Today, a contemporary gallery no longer needs to sound like a law firm to be taken seriously. Change is afoot, and the following spaces are some of our favorites from this new paradigm.
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RAD CONTEMPORARY ART SPACE SOMEWHERE IN FIFTH DIMENSION ACHTUNG PRETEEN GALLERY IS UNDERGOING MAJOR CHANGES AND RELOCATING TO ANOTHER GALAXY. WE ARE TAKING A MUCH NEEDED BREAK AFTER ALMOST FIVE YEARS OF NON-STOP WORK, HEAVY DRUG USE AND LOTS UNSAFE SEX. THIS IS FAR FROM BEING OVER. WE’LL GO ON AND WE’LL KEEP OUR PRACTICE APART FROM CONTEMPORARY ART WORLD INFANTILE FIXATIONS SUCH AS CARTOONISH PROFESSIONALISM, VICTORIAN SOCIAL CONFORMITY, DESPERATE CAREERISM, SILLY FINANCIAL REVERIES, ABRAHAMIC MORALITY, CLOWNISH INTELLECTUALISM, THAT TOYS R US MARKET FETISH AND ALL THAT SHIT THAT’S BEEN MAKING YOUR SEX LIFE SO MISERABLE. BABY, IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. YES, WE KNOW YOU ARE TERRIBLY BORED. WE ARE BORED TOO. BUT THIS AIN’T ENTERTAINMENT. AND THIS AIN’T BUSINESS. WE ARE NOT ART DEALERS. WE ARE NOT ANY KIND OF ART PROFESSIONALS. WE ARE PASSIONATE, SICK. WE TRULY LOVE, LOVE, LOVE AND WE WANNA LOVE MORE. WHAT A FEELING, MAN, WHAT A FEELING: EXTRA BIG DICKS, CIRCLE JERK BOYS, ALWAYS DIETING, ALWAYS WORKING OUT, NEVER SEXTING BACK. WE JUST WANT TO LOOK HOT IN A BIKINI SIP MARTINIS? LOOK HOT IN A BIKINI HEY! ARE YOU AMBITIOUS? ARE YOU TALENTED? WHEN YOU LOOK IN THE MIRROR DO YOU SEE YOURSELF, DO YOU SEE YOURSELF ON YOUR IPHONE SCREEN? DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN ART MAGAZINES? DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN YOUR FACEBOOK FEED? WHEN YOU SEE YOURSELF DOES IT MAKE YOU SCREAM? YOU WILL HEAR FROM US SOON. IN THE MEANTIME, STOP BEING SO HARD ON YOURSELF. GET HIGH. FINGER THAT HOLE. DO ANGEL DUST. PARTY IN FRANCE? YOU SEEM SO AWFULLY BITTER AND DISSATISFIED. MAYBE IT’S BECAUSE YOU SPEND SO MUCH TIME AND ENERGY BUILDING A CAREER AND BEING A PROFESSIONAL IN THE ART WORLD. LOOSEN UP, GET FUCKED, COMMIT MURDER, EAT SHIT, BE A FILTHY FAG. PARTY IN FRANCE? YOU WANNA YOU WANNA YOU WANT A HOT BODY? GERARDO IS VERY ILL, GOING THROUGH A SERIOUS HEALTH CRISIS. RECOVERY IS SLOW. HE ADORES YOU AND MISSES YOU DEARLY. HE’LL EVENTUALLY COME BACK WITH A BAG OF SPEED, AN OUNCE OF WEED, A VERY HARD DICK AND A LOT OF LOVE TO GIVE. LIVE FANCY? LIVE IN A BIG MANSION? PARTY IN FRANCE? SHINE BRIGHT LIKE AN ART FAIR LAMP.
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PRETEEN GALLERY INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE IMAGES COURTESY GERARDO CONTRERAS For more years than we care to count, us here at ANP Quarterly have been following a small art space in Mexico City called Preteen Gallery. We were first introduced to this revolutionary space by Harmony Korine, one Hollywood night in the backseat of a black Jaguar. Which is ironic. The first thing that struck us about the space was how white it is. Not just usual gallery white, but totally and completely white. White walls, white floors, white ceiling…when looking at their exhibitions, the work just seemed to float in space. On top of that, they were exhibiting some of the most interesting and thought-provoking installations we’ve seen in some years. The titles of their exhibitions were second to none as well. Take, The Book I Read Was In Yr Eyes The Meth I Smoked Was In Yr Purse. Or what about Beer Picnic (Stink Finger Clit) or London’s Calling and They’re Calling You Gay, to name a few. Until recently, their website was one of our favorite destinations, but for some reason, last time we checked, the gallery was closed. Any explanation offered for this was a simple bit of text seen on the previous page. Lucky for us, after so many unanswered emails to their general mailbox, a few months ago we finally got a response. It turns out that Preteen was/is a project spearheaded by independent curator Gerardo Contreras. He explained to us that even though Preteen Gallery is no more, that he has been busy working on independent curatorial projects as well as new publishing ventures. As the following interview will attest, Gerardo Contreras is simply unlike any other curator we have ever come across. He looks upon his craft with the eye of an architect, the heart of an artist, and the violence of a terrorist. Great thinkers like Gerardo don’t come along very often, so please, dear reader, take notes… ANP: Can you tell us about your artistic roots? When was the first time you remember being interested in art? Gerardo Contreras: I think I was in seventh grade and I was a hardcore Velvet Underground fan and I had this rare French box set. When I opened it, I saw a beautiful Andy Warhol portrait. Then I became obsessed with him and what happened around him and that led me to my Dada phase, where Kurt Schwitters was my main influence. Then came Duchamp of course. Then came film. I was taking French classes and the owner had a bookshelf with Bresson rare stuff and his Deleuze collection. Then, while in architecture school I had access to so much information. People like Eileen Gray, Giuseppe Terragni and Otto Wagner were so important to me. ANP: How do you think your growing up in Mexico has influenced you? GC: I think that my solitude and my status of an outcast in my hometown shaped the way I experience life. Literally nobody wants to dig deep. I like analysis, though. I was a strange kid and always the tallest in my class. Mostly, I grew up locked in, watching television. ANP: How did you first get involved with curating exhibitions? GC: I was in architecture school and I only had one year left to finish. I was bored to death with school because at that point ideas en experimentation were over. It was so technical. I’m very seclusive anyway and I was even more so when I was in Hermosillo studying. I only talked to one guy. I made one friend in architecture school in five years. I knew about meetings that teachers had about me because of my increasingly complex and “unrealistic” projects and my aggressive insistence. I wore sunglasses to class so everybody thought I was high as fuck. I was so skinny and I was vegan at that time. Then, I threw a party at the end of 2007 and had to empty my apartment. It was the first time I showed myself in public and well…these were wild parties. At some point I was so high looking at how my white room had been trashed and the thought just came my mind: pure inspiration. “I’m going to make exhibitions here.” ANP: What kinds of things are you looking for when you begin to assemble a show? Is there a process? GC: I love this question. Nobody asks about this and it’s the most consuming part for a curator like me who’s been trained as an architect. I never even thought, “I’m going to curate shows.” I just felt free to make fucked up shit happen in my own space and let the world know about this filth. So yes, there is always a process but as of late I have not pinned down this or that procedure. It all starts with the curatorial text, which is not descriptive or didactic. It’s always an exercise in concept-engineering. Lately I am trying to focus on presence versus documentation. I feel the need to make people come together about something. I’ve been reading noise theory and I think it’s shaping things to come. I love the Lucy Lippard old school method of carrying the show in a suitcase and installing it myself. All this diva aesthetics we’re now witnessing; well, that stuff I did in 2009, you know? It’s literally been, literally years and years ago. Think of this: Harald Szeemann meets Mariah Carey crossed with Suicide and GG Allin. You know what I mean? ANP: How did you come up with the name? GC: As I said before, I was sick of architecture school and I had all these ideas that were simply too kooky for school. Only now I realize how incredibly wrong and demented my propositions were. I would explain everything as if I was explaining a Raoul Coutard sequence or something. I was told, “Hey this is not film school, this is not philosophy school, get the fuck out!” But I finished. I did it my way. So I was sitting in my living room as the sun rose one hectic morning. I was doing coke and staring at the empty space thinking, “What the hell am I going to do here?” It’s an exciting feeling. The name Preteen Gallery occurred to me because there was a certain uncertainty to it and its different connotations. I loved that my website was listed as porn and the URL retained its porn aesthetics for so long. Then came gallery and things changed a lot. But I’m so over my past work. ANP: OK, so what can you tell us about some of your current projects? GC: I’m mostly editing books and working on the editorial branch of the gallery. Some book projects are piled up. I just finished my new book, “The Muppets Never Age: Memories of My Nervous Illness.” It will be literally sick. Then comes Abdul Vas’ monograph, which is a total exercise in editorial derailment. I promise something wonderful. ANP: Do you have plans to open a new permanent space? CG: Although I will be making shows in different satellite spaces for a bit I am still looking for just the right space to make it happen. No more white cubes and I want windows and less wall space. But I’m not sure if I will open permanently in Mexico City. I need a challenge. What is happening in Europe regarding terrorism is sad because of all of the innocent lost lives, but I also think you cannot disregard something that is happening only because it grosses you out or it’s against your morals. It’s a given: terrorism is terrorism is terrorism. I think terror opens up spaces for reflection, dialogue, exhaustive analysis, excruciating fear and bold actions. I’m into that. preteen.gallery
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(clockwise from top left) Actually Huizenga, Softrock 3 Screening, 2013. Gallery entrance, Mexico City. Everything Was Michael Bolton and Nothing Hurt, group show, 2012. Beer Picnic (Stink Finger Clit), group show, 2013. Plastic Ono Kuchi Kaiai, group show, 2012. London’s Calling and They’re Calling You Gay, group show, 2012
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(clockwise from top) What Pipeline at NADA Miami Beach, 2015, with Puppies Puppies and Nolan Simon Puppies Puppies, Green. Installation View Pieter Schoolwerth, Your Vacuum Sucks. Installation View Veit Laurent Kurz & Stefan Tcherepnin, Agents of Syphilis, Installation View (opposite) What Pipeline co-directors Daniel Sperry and Alivia Zivich. Photo by Jeff Cancelosi
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WHAT PIPELINE INTERVIEW BY JULES ROCKWELL I M A G E S C O U RT E S Y W H AT P I P E L I N E
What Pipeline is an art gallery which artists Alivia Zivich and Daniel Sperry founded last year in Detroit’s Mexicantown neighborhood. The first time we saw one of their exhibitions we knew that they were attempting something completely unique in the gallery scene. Their installations are serious, yet constantly playful. They challenge our assumptions of what an exhibition can look like or even be, and this is most welcome considering the current state of affairs. Interestingly, The Nada fair recently awarded What Pipleline with their prestigious NADA Artadia Award. This is the first time the award has gone to a gallery and not an individual artist. This year’s jurors, Ingrid Schaffner, the chief curator at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art, and Carin Kuoni, the director of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, explained why they instead went with an exhibitor, selecting What Pipeline: “It represents to us a relevant and future-oriented model of how artists collaborate locally and beyond by establishing networks that operate both outside of, and through, the art world’s centers. Activated by different contexts— studio, exhibition, gallery, art fair—these ad hoc aggregates of artists perform different functions within our very complex art system. And while Detroit may have its own gravitational pull right now, What Pipeline seems purposefully situated to exert pressure from within—and upon—this most utopian of dystopias on contemporary culture at large.” What can we say? We’re in. ANP: There is a constant talk about the city of Detroit and the cultural renaissance happening there. Would you agree? How would you say the art scene there is different from other cities? Alivia Zivich: I would say there’s a lot of people who have been here for many years, focusing on their personal interests and steadily developing those interests into sustained projects. It’s nice to look around and see my friends running art and music venues, cafés, bars, bookstores, record stores, studios, woodworking and metal shops, all varieties of small businesses. Unlike five years ago, there’s multiple events to choose from on any given night. An influx of philanthropic funding has helped, as has the attention from the media. There’s a few new people in town, too, mostly for the better. Comparatively, Detroit’s art scene is smaller and more intimate, perhaps more supportive and less competitive. It’s a small town. ANP: What is the story behind opening your space? AZ: Early on in our friendship, Daniel and I lived across the hall from each other at an apartment building in Southwest Detroit, and usually got home from work at the same time. We’d share a joint and talk about what was going on with art in Detroit, how a climate of non-profit art funding was creating a particular narrative of Detroit art that left out work that did not have an obvious “purpose”. We realized we needed to get in on the conversation and create the art space we wanted to see in the city. We’re both artists, and Daniel works for the Wayne State University Art Collection so he knows a lot about Detroit’s iconoclastic history of artists and art patrons. We’re also both from Michigan, but I’ve lived all over, including LA for many years, and know a lot of artists. Our combined knowledge created a good foundation for an art gallery based here. ANP: We’re very curious about your name What Pipeline. How did the name come about? AZ: It was very difficult. We had a list of names and words eight pages long. Finally, after many months, I thought about “pipeline” and how it was a very zeitgeist word, with important political connotations. It also represented what we were attempting to be, a pipeline for art to come in and out of the city. Daniel liked the word “what” in front of it and that was that. People often ask about our name. Last year, a man who had witnessed the Enfield oil spill in Kalamazoo, MI, visited the gallery. He didn’t have to ask.
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ANP: What are some of the specific things that you feel make your gallery special? AZ: We don’t represent artists. We don’t have the resources. It’s just a two-person, artist run space and we both work day jobs. Primarily we’re working with people we know. A couple times people have approached us and it was a good fit. We’re hoping the artists we work with will bring us their big, weird ideas and let us help them realize those ideas. Most of the artists we work with have had some experience in the art world and appreciate the freedom at our space, and the open-minded, engaged audience we’ve attracted. The space is a good size and the building is free-standing with lots of parking out front (car city), and there’s good Mexican restaurants and a party store (ie beer and snacks) within walking distance. ANP: Describe some of the things that most excite you in terms of What Pipeline’s projects for 2016? AZ: Our 2016 schedule is just being finalized and it’s very exciting! We’ve got a few new artists we’re showing, including shows with Olivia Erlanger, Paul Pascal Theriault, and Will Benedict with Katie McKay. And we’ll release the next book in our Detroit Artists Publication Series, about artists currently working in Detroit, in tandem with a group show this summer. whatpipeline.com
SLOW CULTURE INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE P O R T R A I T B Y T O B I N Y E L L A N D / I M A G E S C O U R T E S Y S L O W C U LT U R E Art-loving residents of Los Angeles may remember This Gallery, a small avant-garde exhibition space that used to be located in an out of the way storefront in Highland Park. In 2012, Justin Van Hoy, the gallery’s talented director passed away far too young and many questioned the future of the space and the community of young artists it championed. This just one reason why Slow Culture, formed by Steve Lee and brothers Max and Fred Guerrero, is such an important addition to the contemporary art landscape. Slow Culture took over the space in Highland Park and while staying true to what had happened there before, has now grown into a veritable force of its own. Now, recently re-located to a new space in L.A.’s Chinatown, the gallery continues to grow above and beyond even what its founders ever imagined. By a twist of fate, we all found ourselves in Berlin, where Slow Culture was hosting an exhibition of photographs by Jerry Hsu in collaboration with HVW8. We all sat down for a long breakfast at Café Einstein, a restaurant that hasn’t changed since it was built in the 1920s. It seemed an appropriate spot to discuss the future of art in Los Angeles. ANP: How did you guys end up partnering up to form Slow Culture? Fred: Well, Max and I are brothers. Steve: We’ve actually all known each other since high school. We have been friends since then, but have gone in and out of seeing each other. About three years ago, Fred and I were putting together some zines and other projects and that idea evolved into us opening a space. ANP: Just like that? Steve: Yeah kind of. We’d known everyone at our original space for a while because it was This Gallery for a bunch of years before we took it. I actually ran into Jeremy and Claire Weiss (previous partners in This Gallery) on a shoot. Fred: Max and I, our family owns restaurants in Eagle Rock, which was close to the gallery. So Justin Van Hoy, who was one of the owners of This Gallery, helped us re-brand the restaurant. He did all of our graphic design work and we became really close. ANP: We’re you guys already talking about opening a gallery at that point. Max: Not really. This has the space for maybe two or three years and we met all these people through them. We kind of grew attached to the space in a strange way. Fred: When Justin passed so suddenly we felt like we had to build on what he had invested. We felt like he needed a proper send off. It shouldn’t be like, “Ok that’s it” and just cut the cord. Max: Also at the time it wasn’t like it would have become a fancy coffee shop or anything. This all happened before the boom in Highland Park and Eagle Rock. At that time still nobody wanted to go there. If you walked down the street it was like just crickets and people doing meth. Fred: Yeah, I mean the transition in that neighborhood possibly wouldn’t have happened as fast if the gallery had just gone out of business. ANP: So you think Slow Culture had something to do with the renewed interest in Highland Park? Max: I definitely think it contributed to it. It brought a lot of energy to that block. Fred: Plus, we grew up in that neighborhood so we saw what was happening. What Justin and This Gallery were doing was definitely about to pay off. There were a lot of things happening behind the scenes. Steve: For us it was just really great timing. We got in there before the boom and we were fortunate to have already been there when it happened. We had so many people coming through in terms of support regardless the fact the area was definitely still pretty rough. ANP: So once you guys had the space what kinds of conversations were you having about the types of shows you were going to do? Fred: We never made a conscious decision on what types of shows we were going to have. We just knew we wanted to focus on exhibiting friends and artists we were into. Our programming is pretty loose. I feel like as the gallery grows, it will always keep evolving. Steve: I think it was all baby steps. Starting a gallery is a very humbling experience. You really have to build a reputation and convince people as to why they should take a risk on you. We wanted to build our relationships with artists from the ground up. Like Fred mentioned, our programming was focused on our friends and relying on them to take that leap of faith with us. Max: We had never worked in the art world. We always watched from the sidelines, but we grew up working in restaurants! We always admired all these artists and we’re lucky enough to work with a lot of them now. But when we started Justin was a really big influence in the way he ran the space based on friends. He wanted to support what the people in his network were doing. ANP: Is that how you guys decide on your exhibitions? Does it still mostly come through a social network? Fred: We try to you know? I think we’re fortunate that because we’ve worked really hard over the last few years, just doing things back to back that it’s somehow worked out. ANP: It’s a hustle. Such a strange business. Steve: Yeah, we definitely question ourselves on a daily basis. But at the end of the day it’s extremely gratifying. To grow any sort of business from nothing, once it’s all said and done it’s just great! When you’re opening a new show every six weeks you go through so many different emotions. But at the end when everyone is psyched, you understand why you worked so hard for that moment. Fred: It’s crucial to us to have built this hub for the artists have a physical space for their work to exist and offer this support system. With online platforms like Instagram playing such a huge role in artists careers, we still feel it is necessary for people to come experience in person. ANP: What you guys are doing provides a super important service to Los Angeles. Fred: Thank you so much. That really means a lot to us. With that, things can still be challenging as Slow Culture does stand just right outside of the establishment. We’re right in between. People always ask us how we curate shows and we always answer that we were all fans of these artists growing up! You know Jerry Hsu is a legend. Ray Potes from Hamburger Eyes, Ed Templeton, all of those guys didn’t come out of nowhere. We didn’t discover them. Steve: But on the flip side, there are artists that we’re friends with or just met through a friend and really hit it off. Which is also nice because it creates this
network between younger, less-established artists and the more established ones. We get the opportunity to guide the younger artists on a path. ANP: That’s interesting. How has that affected your working technique? Steve: It makes us really conscious to try and have a balance between more established artists, and more emerging. Fred: I think the biggest thing we’ve learned is to take control of situations and trying not to make the same mistake twice. ANP: Can you name a mistake that you guys made that you won’t make again? Steve: Don’t put anyone on blast… Fred. No, not at all! But you know when we began we would give artists full control. Someone would want to blow out a wall or hang something crazy from the ceiling and we’d just let them. Max: Like painting the entire gallery from floor to ceiling! Fred: Yeah, that was our third show. The artist painted every surface in the gallery. Event the front! Steve: It was rad at the time! ANP: But the lesson learned was that at the end it was up to you guys to paint it all back… Fred: Yeah, but it’s not like we regret doing it. It was a great show, and we still work with that artist. It was a huge turnout too. Steve: You know, it’s a big learning curve regardless. Fred: But I guess the lesson was to be more conscious about what is possible for us to do in regard build-outs. You have to know your limits. A project like that that full immersion takes so much more production. It is just so much different than just hanging works on the wall. Max: It’s only three of us and it’s always been just the three of us. Steve: I guess the purpose of a gallery, especially with an artist who is just starting out, is to offer them some guidance. We can now set limitations in discussion with the artists where something could maybe be better. Not just for us, but for them. Sometimes it’s not good to give your artists free-reign. Hopefully it works best when you find the best angle for both people. ANP: Do you find that the best relationships you have with artists have that give and take? Steve: Definitely. I think artists really appreciate the fact that we work with them, and not just tell them what to do. We’re all friends, so the goal is for us all to grow together. We always strive for them to leave the gallery with a positive working experience. Max: We’ve had a crash course. Steve: When you’re working with friends, hopefully the best outcome is that everyone grows together. It should be a positive experience for everyone. Max: there’s not one artist that we don’t have a relationship with outside of just the professional part. They all come to our shows and bring new artists to the table also. Fred: For sure! Our relationships with the artists don’t end at the gallery. We hang out with them. We grab beers together. That’s a big part of our programming too. We choose people that we want to spend time with. Max: Yeah, and artists ask us for advice now, where as before a lot of times we were asking them. Fred: It’s about a community, which I think is something that we’re really learning about too. The business side of things definitely has to be taken seriously, especially now that we’ve moved to our new space it’s not a clubhouse anymore. We’re trying to keep that vibe, but it’s different too. ANP: Why did you make the decision to move? Fred: Our lease was coming up and they were going to double the rent. So that was one thing… Steve: It was actually more than double… Fred: Yeah, and we all said from the beginning that we would keep it going to a certain point and then see what happened from there. We always considered it a trial run. Our new space in Chinatown is a better place for us. We’re surrounded by galleries, we’re closer to downtown, we really noticed the change immediately. People are much more willing to come to downtown. Max: Yeah, plus Fred and I opened a restaurant, Burgerlords, seven months ago in Chinatown so now we’re directly across the street from each other and we can walk back and forth. Steve: On the accessibility side it made way more sense for us, but it was also one of those things where three years went by really fast. So last November we were like, “We should talk to the landlords now before the lease is up.” Everything was getting bought up around us, and it’s a good thing we did because if we had waited until the end they would have just dropped the hammer on us. But because we talked to them we had a heads up. Fred: They knew that the minute we moved out they could make more money. Steve: We took everything into consideration and thought, “We created this thing and people really enjoyed being there, but are we going to keep this going?” We were 50/50 on it. But then we realized that it’s about us. We created this thing for our friends, our peers, the art community and we felt like we needed to keep it going for everyone else. It couldn’t end. Everyone contributed to this project. We created this interface and the energy shouldn’t die now. slowculture.com
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(clockwise from top left) Jeremy & Claire Weiss, Portrait of THIS Gallery co-owner/friend Justin Van Hoy, for Milk & Honey group exhibition, August, 2015. Hamburger Eyes, Cybernetics, February, 2015. Kyle Montgomery, Existence, May, 2016. Opening Reception for DFW, PDFW: Performance. Drawing. Film. Writing, March, 2016. Jamal Gunn Becker, Felix the Cat mural by for Cats Out of the Bag, group exhibition, May, 2015. Jay Howell, Come Down Easy, November, 2014. DFW, PDFW: Performance. Drawing. Film. Writing, March, 2016. Kristofferson San Pablo & Vacancy Projects, A Day Away, November, 2013. Brain Dead, Lights Out: Black Light, group show, June, 2015. Sage Vaughn & Jeremy Shockley, Just Tell Me Youâ€™re A Dreamchaser, April, 2016
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PORCH MUSEUM INTERVIEW BY AARON ROSE IMAGES COURTESY THE PORCH MUSEUM
The Porch Museum is a highly unique gallery project in New York founded by visual artist, Brendan Lynch. Like Lynch’s personal work, which ranges across mediums, the Porch Museum is impossible to define in the context of the gallery world. Forsaking the classic white cube for a more instagatory approach, this space existed essentially on a small porch in an airshaft off of Lynch’s personal apartment. Unfortunately by the time this magazine comes out, the Porch Museum will be no more, but we can honestly say that some of the most interesting exhibitions to come out of New York in years happened in this small, secret space. RVCA /A NP QUA RT E RLY / 96
(from top) Works from the permanent collection, Mark Flood, AnnaSophie Berger, Raymond Pettibon, Josh Smith, Will Boone, Cyprien Gaillard, John Currin, B. Thom Stevenson and Pablo Picasso Invitation, Street Hassle, Martin Kippenberger and Cali Thornhill-Dewitt (opposite, clockwise from left) Street Hassle, Martin Kippenberger and Cali Thornhill-Dewitt Neil Raitt, Joshua Sex and Alfred Wallis Works from the permanent collection, Mark Flood, AnnaSophie Berger, Raymond Pettibon, Josh Smith, Will Boone, Cyprien Gaillard, John Currin B. Thom Stevenson and Pablo Picasso
ANP: You’re known primarily as a fine artist, what inspired you to open an exhibition space? Brendan Lynch: After years of looking at and experiencing art in a variety of ways, my thinking led me to investigate the infinite ways a piece of art or an idea can exist. Nothing against the pristine white cube, but I refuse to believe that it is the ultimate context for art. The first Impressionist exhibition happened in 1864 at the photographer Nadar’s studio. During that time, the art community in France was dominated by shows juried by the Académie des Beaux-Arts, a show in an artist’s studio was the antithesis to the norm. The artist Borna Sammak had a show of video works in the T.V. section at a Best Buy in New York. These ways of showing, by any means or venue necessary always felt so much more exciting to me. These shows harnessed the same kind of energy. If you have a vision, why wait for someone to tell you when and where to do it! I was also influenced by contemporary exhibition spaces such as Water McBeer and Ryobi Room, which are playfully elusive and push the limits of where and what an exhibition can be. I have also been continually influenced from the attitude and output of Eight Ball Zines. ANP: Would you consider Porch Museum an extension of your fine art work or is it a completely separate conversation? BL: It is very much an extension of my own work. I don’t think ideas or objects should be isolated strictly to the self. My work is interwoven with the work and existence of others. I have a symbiotic relationship with the world and I am the symbiont. I have an ongoing project, which I refer to as ‘the placement paintings’, where I make a landscape painting based on the instructions of Bob Ross and find a location for them to exist. The places I choose are liquor stores, restaurants, dive bars, apartments, etc. I love seeing how my work interacts with these environments. The painting and the space blur into each other, becoming one. Working on this project introduced some of the ideas that motivated me to launch the museum. ANP: What are your curatorial criteria? BL: I typically choose from artists that are a part of my extended network that I think would be interested in the project. Because it is an independently run space, it becomes an intimate collaboration between the artist and myself. To me, dialogue is the most crucial part of being an artist. ANP: I’ve noticed that you tend to pair works by established artists with more up and coming talents. Are the works by the established artists from a certain collection or is there another more conceptual idea at play? BL: After the artist agrees to do a show I ask them to pick a work or two from another artist whom they would want to exhibit with. It can be anyone from any time period. I then make forgeries of the
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selected works. To me this is a chance for an artist to contextualize their work in the way they want. The power and ideas are in their hands. It allows the artist to fulfill a fantasy or a way to create a conversation between you and an icon. There have been forged works that existed in museums for years before they were discovered. But all the years they existed in that space, viewers had a real response to it, as if it were authentic. The feelings were ‘real’ even if the object wasn’t. Let’s say your work and inspiration comes from Picasso, probably the chances of you exhibiting your work next to his are pretty slim. But in the surreal space, which is The Porch Museum anything can happen, ideas or ambitions take on a certain kind of reality. ANP: One of the things that’s interesting to us is that the Porch Museum is not open to the public, can you explain the logic in that? BL: The documentation of the work is what becomes important. Having it exist exclusively in photos puts a layer over the space that gives it more mystery. The legacy of most iconic shows or pieces exists through the photograph. Where the viewer only gets to see certain angles, which may be its most flattering one. Think about John Schiff’s photograph of the First Papers of Surrealism show, it is the image that lets Duchamp’s Sixteen Miles of String live on. Even though the piece existed all throughout the space all we have is that one head on shot. I also like to think about Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, which has been documented beautifully but only when the piece is above water. The jetty is often submerged, but that’s not the image that shows up in books. There is a lot of room to play or focus on something specific through documentation. I feel like it’s also a response to websites like contemporaryartdaily.com, which has changed the way people digest art, looking at 20 shows in 20 minutes. I don’t think it’s a negative thing; it’s just a different way of connecting to art. Seeing the images sometimes feels the same as seeing the show. Although I may have a different response if I were able to see them in person, viewing the images is equally an encounter, one which shapes my experience. ANP: What are the future plans for the space? BL: My apartment was recently bought by a new management company and they are kicking everyone out of the building. But until then I’m doing as many shows as I can. Up next is Neil Raitt, Joshua Sex, and Alfred Wallis. Alfred Wallis was in English fisherman who was born in 1855 and started to paint when he was 67. Then a show with B. Thom Stevenson and Picasso. I am also organizing a show with the phenomenal painter Betty Tompkins. Either way, I’m going to continue the Porch Museum in different spaces. A porch can exist anywhere. groodstuff.tumblr.com
CHERYL DUNN INTERVIEW BY EMMA REEVES / PORTRAIT BY DANIEL ARNOLD / IMAGES COURTESY THE ARTIST
It’s truly crazy that this feature on photographer and filmmaker, Cheryl Dunn has taken so long to come to fruition. Cheryl has been a regular contributor to this magazine since the beginning and hugely supportive over the years, so it feels wonderful to be finally bringing this to fruition. To describe Cheryl’s life work is a true feat. One magazine article can’t begin to come close to showing her full spectrum as an artist. Her career began in the 1990s when she was primarily working in fashion, however he focus shifted to documentary work pretty early on. Her hard-edged photos of the New Jersey boxing scene are some of the most iconic ever taken, and she has continued to apply her unique badass approach to everything she has chosen to capture with a camera. Whether she is covering the lives of artists and graffiti writers, festivals or protests, she brings the same intensity to each subject. Cheryl saw the beauty in street photography very early and has continued to practice it and promote the work of other like-minded photographers ever since. Her 2013 documentary film, Everybody Street, brought together some of New York City’s most iconic photographers into one film, exposing their works to an entirely new audience and inspiring a whole new generation to start shooting that way. In a world where social media has now made everybody and their mother a photographer, Cheryl Dunn is the quintessential real deal. She brings a particular honesty to the craft that we see less and less everyday. We asked our favorite fellow photonerd Emma Reeves to speak to Cheryl about her process and her career. We hope you find her story as inspiring as we do.
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(top to bottom) New Jersey Front Lawn (pre-dance recital). Cheryl Dunn and her sister Coleen when she was 10 years old. Cheryl Dunn, back walkover on the balance beam. Rutgers University gymnastics team. Self Portrait, Barcelona, Spain, 1986. 4x5 negative. Julianne Nicholson from a fashion story for Raygun magazine. Hunting lodge in rural Pennsylvania, 1990s.
Emma Reeves: What was your first camera? Cheryl Dunn: It was in high school. A 35mm Rollei that was like a tiny little box that had a lens that just popped out of this little square. That was probably my first camera. I must have been fifteen or so. A boyfriend bought it for me and I used that probably until I got my first Nikon in my twenties. ER: So obviously it was a film camera. CD: There was no such thing other than film at the time. I mostly came in contact with 35mm cameras, Polaroid, little instant 110 cameras. My brother had a Polaroid “Swinger,” it was a super cool design and I remember the fixer stuff you had to smear across the print was pretty toxic. I can still remember the words to the commercial jingle for it to this day. “Meet the swinger, Polaroid swinger, meet the swinger, Polaroid swinger. It’s more than a camera it’s almost alive, its only nineteen dollars and 95. Swing it up, yeah yeah, it says yes, yeah yeah, take the shot, yeah yeah, count it down, yeah yeah, zip it off…” It went to this “groovy” tune, bikinis, dancing, and beach vibes. The camera was cheap, but the film wasn’t. The pictures faded and curled up in a great way. ER: Did you do all the processing yourself at that time? CD: No. I would take all my film to the drug store! Color film is a very tricky thing to process by yourself. I have done it, but your chemicals need to be like two degrees within a certain temperature for it to work right. I did do a lot of black & white processing and printing in high school and then in college. ER: Once you had a camera in your hand did you think, “I’m always going to do this!”? CD: Not really actually! I grew up in a very well documented household. My mom was really a frustrated artist. She painted, sewed, made mosaics; she was also a photographer and shot a lot of 8mm film. She had four kids, so she basically took pictures and made films of my whole life. We just had boxes and boxes of photographs lying around. We would always bug my dad to watch the films, but it was kind of a pain in the ass to bring out the projector so it took a lot of bugging! We would all lay all over the “wall to wall” shag carpeting and watch these 8mm movies that my mom made of things like the circus or the kittens being born, water skiing and lots of bulldozers moving dirt for the house they were building. Sometimes she would direct us and make up story lines. One was called “Marvin’s Funeral.” My brother made a mini coffin out of left over wood paneling for his dead mouse and we had a procession and fake cried. To me, constant documentation was just the norm. So when I got a camera, I would naturally just document a little bit of everything I was doing at the time. You know, my gymnastics meets or my friends, life in the suburbs. I did a photo project on my sister. She looked like Farah Fawcett in high school and I was totally jealous. So my high school photo project was photos of her in curlers or in bed, just looking really terrible. Ha. ER: I love that! CD: I came from a blue-collar family so I had no idea that you could be a photographer for a living. The people in my family were construction workers and waitresses so I really had no frame of reference. I went to college and got an athletic scholarship, but my major was art history. After graduation I worked for the summer and saved enough money (a shit ton of quarter tips from Max’s Hotdogs in Long Branch, NJ) to hitchhike and train it around Europe for four months. So when I got back and had to get a “real job” It was January and I had no leads or connections. It was bleak and I thought, “This sucks!” I worked my day job in a law office typing invoices at night and waitressed on the weekends. I was also a secretary in a fashion house and I had a boyfriend at the time that got scouted in New York to go to Milan to model. So I
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decided to move to Milan with him and try to be a photographer! I saved my money and moved there for a couple of years with a naïve grand ambition. When I started shooting, something just clicked! My brain was actually 100 percent engaged and photography seemed like something that I could never stop learning about. I was 23 at the time and right then I knew I wanted to do it for the rest of my life. ER: What was it that made you focus on street photography? CD: At that time it wasn’t the age of documentary work. I grew up looking at Life and Look Magazine, but those magazines were becoming less popular. To get your work in magazines it was all about doing fashion. When I was in Milan it was a great time for fashion photography. Bruce Weber were just starting to hit. Peter Lindberg was shooting all this amazing editorial, and all the girls had giant black eyebrows that looked like gaffers tape over their eyes. Creative fashion photography was really at its height. Editorial images didn’t have to appease the advertisers then. It was really wide open. Italian Vogue was our bible! Then my boyfriend ended up moving to Japan and I stayed living in Milan for two years by myself. I was alone a lot and I didn’t speak the language so I would shoot a lot of photos out on the streets. I knew of Bruce Davidson and a lot of the photographers that eventually ended up in my film, but at that time I was doing it totally subconsciously in a way. When you rip yourself out of your social systems at that age, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. It was for me. I really honed my observation and storytelling skills due in part to so much solitude. To occupy myself I would walk forever, shoot and look at art. I would sit in cafes and write stories, and make up character studies of the people I was observing. I made all these journals too. I had no social distractions and didn’t talk to anyone, so my existence was super focused on just “seeing.” I just read, wrote and took pictures for two years. ER: Wow! That’s a really intense selfimposed apprenticeship! CD: Yeah, it forces you to figure out who you are. In American society they ask you what you want to be when you’re 18 years old. But you have no life experience! How the hell are you supposed to know? Sometimes you have to figure out what you don’t want to do to actually know what you do want to do! It requires selfintrospection, but I think it will lead you to a more fulfilling life. I know when I was making Everybody Street I would read the obituaries and make notes of photographers who passed away in those years, and each and every one of them were in their ‘90s when they died…and still working! ER: So you’re saying that you’ve discovered the secret to living until old age!! That’s no small claim is it? CD: Yeah, I guess I have. (laughter) ER: I’ve always been in awe of your unique anthropological talents. You’ve always kind of gravitated towards outsider cultures. You seem to gravitate towards people who are on the margins. Would you say that was true? CD: Yeah, I would say so. As to why that happened I could say that when I came back to New York from Milan, through a serendipitous set of circumstances I met a guy who was a boxing manager. He was actually in love with my sister. After the 1988 Olympics he formed this boxing club with a couple of Olympic boxers called the Triple Threat in Newark, New Jersey. He wanted to ingratiate himself to my sister, so he befriended me and was like, “Do you want to come to the gym and shoot the fighters? It was the heyday of Mike Tyson and suddenly I had access to a world that was very inaccessible at the time. In order to see a fight you had to physically be there or you had to buy a ticket to watch it on satellite. It was very expensive and exclusive either way. But through this connection I had ringside access to some
(opposite) Boxing Judge Between Legs, 1990s, New Jersey. (top to bottom) Marla and Donald, 1991, Foreman vs. Holyfield, Atlantic City. Untitled fight in New Jersey, 1990s.
big fights. At that time I was a photo assistant and trying to build my portfolio, so I used boxing as a continuing documentary subject to become a better shooter. It wasn’t for anything, so I was free to make mistakes and experiment and go deep into a world. In hindsight, when I was doing press for Everybody Street I realized that those photos really helped me with street photography because with boxing, it was pretty rough and it’s so much about timing and finding your place on the ring. You had to be super ready with your equipment, have the right lens standing by, making sure you don’t run out of the roll if a knock out is eminent, and be willing to be elbowed and pushed around while jockeying for position. I studied the behavior of these powerful businessmen, athletes being taking advantage of and the woman in the scene who where basically caricatures. I learned a lot about male ego at a very high level. If you couldn’t be the strongest, fiercest man in the world you could try to own him. I learned about what I could get away with in a documentary sense by being invisible and in that world my presence was so inconsequential to them. I was really a fly on the wall. I shot that scene for almost 10 years. ER: Wow, you did it for that long? I didn’t realize that! CD: Yeah! Then in 1997 I had the opportunity to make my first film. It was through that that I started to get more involved in the art scene. The film was for a snowboard company called Original Sin and I met them through the artist, Phil Frost. Instead of making a film about the snowboarders, they wanted to make something about the artists that were doing all the graphics. I had never commercially made a film before and it was an amazing awakening for me. It incorporated all the elements that I love: motion,
rhythm, music, real people, real stories and insight into process… ER: Yeah that must have been a big difference after coming out of fashion. Was that because the commercial world was starting to look at street culture as suddenly viable in terms of marketing? CD: Yes you could say that. I started to change my focus. I began documenting a lot of graffiti and artist friends in San Francisco, New York, LA. Artists like Chris Johanson and Dash Snow. I did that because it was interesting to me. I wasn’t getting a ton of fashion gigs, so that freed me up to do things that came from within me. I thought it was cool and I thought it was culturally important. I was shooting for music magazines at the time and I would pitch them stories about what I was seeing on the street. So I was saying, “Forget about that boy band, you should be doing stories about Margaret Kilgallen or Barry McGee!” Some magazines were receptive. I just thought the art that was organically evolving from work on the streets was leading the culture in the late-1990s. ER: So really you were using the magazines as your forum for that… CD: Yes. ER: I still have a hard time believing that you wanted to be a fashion photographer. Somehow I just can’t imagine that from you! CD: I’m interested in story telling and in the implications of location. Fashion editorial was for me the way I was surviving. It was different than it is now. We would get thrift shop clothes and find some crazy location. Like we’d go to a bizarre hunting lodge in Pennsylvania and just create a narrative. I always would search for an unusual location and out of that a story and characters would emerge. The fashion was
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just part of that story. Looking back, the girls that I shot were usually my friends who were game to go on those shooting adventures. Now some of them are big actresses…like Juliana Nicholson who I shot so many times. I was getting these stories published in magazines like Raygun and Bikini. Sometimes that work would lead to an advertisement gig. Really, I was just trying to survive! To be honest, before 9/11, you really didn’t see documentary work in magazines that much. After that happened people started to look at documentary work in a different light. ER: You mean the media wasn’t just looking at documentation as a news story, the shift was looking much more at what popular cultures were doing. CD: Yeah. I mean look at documentary film. It was never distributed theatrically before that. The powers that be did not think people were interested in real stories. But that all changed. Suddenly magazines were interested in publishing those kinds of stories too. So the work I had been doing on my own was all of a sudden interesting to publications. ER: Was graffiti something that you had always been aware of? CD: Not in my hometown but I lived about 30 minutes out of New York City. We would come to New York to go to concerts or baseball games. The city was bankrupt at the time and graffiti was everywhere. The shoulder of the Westside Highway was littered with car carcasses. If your car broke down it would be stripped and tagged within minutes! The city had no money to get rid of them so those tags would run for a long time. It was quite a sight. When I first really learned about graf, I was attracted to the tight network of dudes (and some girls) from all over with a singular passion. I hadn’t seen anything like that
(top) Amaze Crane, 1996, San Francisco, CA. (middle, left to right) Margaret Kilgallen in her studio, 1997. Chris Johanson, 1998, rogue punk show on the Armory steps, San Francisco. Barry McGee, 2000, installing Street Market show, Deitch Projects, New York. (bottom) Cheryl Dunn shooting 16mm for SPED. Bensonhurst, Brooklyn subway tunnel. 1997 (opposite, top to bottom) Graff Cab, 1999, San Francisco, CA. Sacer in Abandoned Building, 2000, Maiden Lane, New York City.
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in my world before. I loved the evidence of someone having been somewhere and leaving a mark, that form of communication. I remember coming out of a random hotel in London once and seeing this little “AMAZE” tag and thinking how cool to happen upon that trace on the street on the other side of the world of someone I knew. ER: Sure, and now those artists have become a part of your network. Friends for life. CD: Yeah. Friends for life is a grand term, but I definitely treasure memorable shared experiences. ER: How do you feel your take on documentary photography integrates with social media? Are you engaged with social media on that level? CD: Yeah. I love Instagram. As a photographer or an artist it’s an instantaneous way to get your work out into the world. Your photographic portfolio is in the palm of everyone’s hand. That said I don’t really use it to show my personal life. I do what I can posting things from my archive as well as new work. I know how important it is and I really do try to keep up. Compared to when I started photography it’s so much easier for work to be seen now. I used to spend hours in the darkroom and I had like eight different portfolios
that I would drag around or send to Europe to try to get assignments. Now people just have to look at your instagram account. It’s kind of amazing! There’s a downside to it as well though. How do you deal with the fact that everyone is a photographer now? I take no offence to anyone claiming they’re a photographer, but that doesn’t mean that you can handle all the professional aspects of a big shoot. ER: I’d love to talk more about your film Everybody Street. It’s such a wonderful film and such a labor of love. You’ve really become a champion of some of the lesser-known, really pure street photographers. Many of whom have never been able to navigate their way into being well known. I’m curious about how you chose the photographers to feature in the film? Also, do you now see a young generation of photographers that have taken up street photography? CD: Absolutely! We’ve actually been working on an Everybody Street TV series and that’s going to be more about younger photographers. There are so many amazing young photographers right now that are so, so good and diligent. In my film, most of the photographers have 40 to 50-year careers. The youngest person in
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(opposite, clockwise from top left) Ticker tape on fire in the Canyon of Heroes, 2000, New York City. World Trade Center wreckage, September, 2001, night light from roof, 4x5 negative. Young man stares at World Trade Center wreckage, September, 2001, Broadway, New York City. Cheryl Dunn’s loft filled with WTC dust, September 11, 2001. (clockwise from top) New Jersey Fans Watching My Chemical Romance, 2007. Georgia (first festival), 2014. Mud face, Woodstock, 1994.
the film is Boogie. But when I was in post-production, I did hear comments about the lack of younger shooters. I did interview some younger photographers that could speak more for their generation, and some of these interviews were in the film at one point but I decided to change it. You have to understand that a film is a finite entity. You have about of 90 minutes to tell a story. The less time you have for a character, the less you get to know them and the less their story is going to resonate. I actually still think Everybody Street has too many people in it, but it was really hard for me to take anybody out. That’s why I decided to keep it with this older generation that could really speak about decades and decades of practice. I figured I had time in the future to talk to some of the younger artists. When we went to our first festival with the film I was pleasantly surprised that most of the audience was in their 20s and very interested in the history of street photography. So even though we might be showing a picture that was taken in 1950, human nature doesn’t change that much. The clothes and the cars are different, but behavior kind of stays the same. I wanted to make it clear that even though these photographers were working in completely different eras, they’re still punk rock. I made the decision to pair some of these images with more contemporary aggressive music to illustrate that. So yeah, I think that there are so many incredible young street photographers and I’m so happy that my film inspired some kids to hit the streets. ER: You recently released a book documenting your experiences and the crowds at music festivals. What do you find particularly interesting about the crowds at festivals and why did you decide to do a project around them? CD: Sometimes you continue to shoot something for a long time and then one day you ask yourself that same question. I guess it goes back to anthropology again and crowd behavior. Only in this case it is very happy crowds. Maybe I needed that balance over the years to have those elated crowd experiences and study that type of energy. It really started at Woodstock in 1994. I went with a crew of people. I had a half frame camera (Pentax Pen FT) and about 10 rolls of tri-x in my pocket (700 frames). By afternoon of the first day most of our crew bailed due to weather and shitty footwear. What I learned from that experience as far as human nature in extreme conditions and survival was indispensible and fascinating. Four days later I emerged a different person. It’s a big ol’ story but ultimately there is nothing like the collective energy of people and music and nature. One of my favorite things to do is looking back into crowds that are so psyched to see their favorite bands. The kids that wait all day to be front row and
(opposite, from top) This Is Shit, 2016, Anti-Brexit march, London, England. Gove Fuck Yourself, 2016, Anti-Brexit march, London, England. (from top) A Woman’s Place Is In Your Face, 2017, Women’s March, New York City. No Human Being Is Illegal, 2017, Washington Square Park, New York City.
display such unmitigated elation, its rad! I also like to dance out of a crowd, while shooting, being a participant, not just an observer. It’s cool to be in a sea of a hundred thousand happy people who are ok with you taking their picture too. One thing I really took away from creating that body of work over the last ten years is the study of people’s relationship to the camera, both in front and behind it. It changes as much as technology does. Also, it’s always exciting for me to be able to shoot many days in a row. I need that to keep the shooting muscles toned, the reflexes in shape. It’s like going snowboarding one day every once in a while or going on a week trip. You get so much better when you put in the time. ER: While your work has explored many themes over the course of your career, one through line seems to be an interest in the political climates we’re living through. Your photographs of protests…whether it be the “Occupy” movements or “Brexit” are really striking. Why do politics matter to you? CD: Justice matters to me! I’m very interested in what compels people to take to the streets to fight for things they believe in. I love the communication of that, the signage, the physicality and theatre of it all. I guess there are a lot of through threads that stem from my interest in the documentation of graffiti over the years. The taking over of our common visual landscape for a cause whether it’s a kid trying to make a name, get up, or people protesting injustice. You know my studio is in the belly of the beast in lower Manhattan and I have been there now for over 25 years.
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It’s the most contentious small area of blocks in NYC and in this country historically. City Hall is there and it’s been the stage for riots, protests, occupies, bombings, mass murder, it’s just a caldron of volatile energy. I have witnessed and photographed many of these happenings over the years. I’m interested in that type of visceral “word on the street”. The difference between a first hand experience or a “one degree of separation” experience vs. one through the filter of big media is vast. I think it is always important to keep in mind the channels by which one gets information. Street photography is about not altering a scene. So in my opinion, it’s the most un-biased form of visual information sharing. That is why it is important. My first hand experiences of the events of 9/11 gave me a lot of insight into this. I had a front row seat and an all access pass, so to speak. I could directly compare what I was seeing and what was being reported on. It was very different. I really took my access very seriously and felt it my responsibility to document things. As we know now, there were so many undisclosed health hazards. The government’s main concern was the economy of New York (fuck you Giuliani!) and the country (thanks Bush!) and now I don’t know the exact statistic but I would say more first responders are dead or have cancer than don’t. So that is why politics matter, because paying attention to shit and documenting shit and “citizen journalism” can save lives.
We’ve generally shied away from covering streetwear in this magazine. Most of this has had to do with the fact that we have always wanted to separate ourselves from subjects that almost all of the other magazines in our field have beaten to death. This time, however, based on recent developments, we’re breaking our own rules. Each time we think modern street fashion had finally met the final deadend, that each new development amounts to a subtle re-interpretation of camouflage, a new generation pops up and changes our minds completely. These new groups of young designers are primarily fine artists first. Each has chosen to use the medium of clothing as their own personal canvas. These garments are not manufactured in factories, rather created piece by piece in the artists’ studios…bringing a completely new definition to the words “limited edition” and restoring our faith (once again!) that the kids are on point. Follow these innovators immediately.
PERFORMANCE PHOTOS BY BENJAMIN BARETTO / STYLED BY IMOGENE BARRON
Los Angeles-based boutique brand Performance is a wonderful collaboration between artist husband and wife team Caitlin Talijancich and Benjamin Barretto. While the project is new, they have already created quite a statement in the underground streetwear scene. Their approach is minimalist while still packing a sizeable aesthetic punch. They walk the fine line between high and low fashion while simultaneously creating a commentary on the nature of style itself. That said, Performance is still a painstakingly crafted venture. All of the pieces are hand-dyed in their small Echo Park studio, the individual pieces becoming more akin to small edition works of art than any typical description of what a clothing label can be. ANP: How did you decide to start Performance? Performance: We’ve spoken about collaborating for a while and although art is always the focus, we realized that we’ve always been involved in some capacity with photography and fashion and we liked the idea of working on a project that that coalesced many of our ideas on those subjects. Particularly given the current climate of image making, identity and fashion. ANP: Performance has a very unique approach to a clothing brand. Is there any kind of ethos behind the project? Performance: It’s streetwear with a focus on unique pieces and small runs which have been hand-finished in some way. Even the small editions are all hand-dyed, so they’re all different, singular objects - which is generally incongruent with the mass-production of streetwear, and is a terrible business model! Streetwear has this interesting relationship to branding and identity. It’s a kind of stage for people to explore their character and express their cultural allegiances. And now there is this proliferation of imagery that drives this constant impulse to perform, and the performer and composer is often the same person. So in a way, photography and fashion share many of the same aspirations and contradictions. We are interested in trying to contain a certain energy in both the materiality of an object as well as in its transfiguration into an image. Also, streetwear made sense since Benjamin is a skateboarder and is heavily inspired by performance in the streets. Capturing that energy is always a goal. Our first shoot was in Beverly Hills, along Rodeo Drive against the backdrop of existing luxury brands. It was a week before Christmas and that really heightened the idea of that place as a stage. Watching people pose for selfies with their shopping bags against palm trees wrapped in fairy lights, alongside a guy who parked his Lamborghini in front of Louis Vuitton for the day. That provided the right kind of atmosphere for our ideas. ANP: How do you come up with your ideas for designs? Performance: It’s usually a process of collage using a handful of elements. Hand-
dying, applying sequins, rhinestones, embroidery, drawing and screen printing, often layered over one-another. Some pieces are found objects which have been reconfigured in some way, nylon training pants with one leg cut off and pieces from different pairs attached via their existing press-studs. ANP: What do you find interesting about the overlap between art and fashion? Performance: I guess that’s what we are interested in exploring. That dialogue, there is definitely something we find attractive about fashion and design as a format for both creation and documentation. The theatrics that surround a brands’ identity…the videos, campaigns, even the idea of doing shows or presentations. Art can be anything but fashion has an established framework and we liked the idea of responding to that. Moving through a familiar space in a not so easily categorizable way. We both studied under artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz while at art school in France and his practice really thoroughly considers that space between design and art. To borrow his words, “there is something utopian in leaving traces of ones personal view of things in the general consumer context, far removed from the art world.” ANP: Can you define your overall aesthetic? Performance: Hard-edge, high-performance, stained color fields. Petal to the metal. Electric eccentric. Hoochi gucci fiorucci. Sci-fi by candlelight. ANP: What do you see for the brand’s future? Performance: We aren’t putting any boundaries on it at this stage, as a collaborative project we aren’t sure what kind of strange hybrid of ideas may eventuate but we are about to start working on some accessories and design objects, we want to keep it as a pretty open space for exploration and making. So the future is unknown, which we are happy with for now. performanceperformance.website
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COME TEES PHOTOS BY JUSTIN COLE SMITH STYLED BY CLAIRE QUILALA
Come Tees, is a boutique clothing label started in 2009 by Los Angeles artist, Sonya Sombreuil. Wielding her screen-printing press as a virtual megaphone, Come Tees specializes in ornate conceptual and narrative infused garments. Each piece is individually hand-screened, hand drawn, and hand executed personally by the artist. Sombreuil’s unique method of the silkscreen process allows the ink to settle deeply into the fibers, resulting in a higher saturation of color and permanence, and a texture that feels more embedded in the fabric. Sonya’s style of illustration is bold and provocative, including references to the history of music, punk, protest, the silly and the weird. Miss Sombreuil describes her garments as “Psychedelic Obscenitees” mixing together disparate imagery to create what can only be described as truly modern mosaic.
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ANP: How did you decide to start Come Tees? Sonya Sombreuil: I bought my screen-printing rig in late 2009, about a year and a half after graduating from Hampshire College where I had studied painting. Making clothes was an antidote to the arbitrariness, privacy and embattled search for subject matter that had become my studio practice. I wanted to be overt about my references and my relationship to art as fan and lover of culture. T-shirts and jeans are populist objects, easily disseminated, while painting exists for a small, in-the-know circuit. Living in a small town in Massachusetts, it had become unclear why and for whom I was making work. In an inspired flight of fancy, I drove home to Santa Cruz, relieved myself of rent for a few months by living with my parents, bought a basic screen-printing set up and taught myself how to expose screens and print. I still use the exact same equipment. The accouterments of legitimacy —a name, labels, business cards—were a joke at first. Unconsciously, I found a resolution to my creative gully in making what were essentially band shirts, for myself and then for my clique, in which I could incorporate both my love for music and phraseology with the language of painting. ANP: It’s kind of a conceptual brand. Is there any kind of ethos behind the project? SS: I don’t I don’t really think of Come Tees as a brand--any more than anyone who makes things imbues their work with a kind of consistent subjectivity. It’s almost more like a moniker. Recently I brought back some old editions and had them printed by a third party, but other than that I have personally printed every garment I’ve ever made, so I still think of my clothes as an emissions directly from my studio, rather than a product of company manufacture. I can see how that’s a very blurry line, but I never try to separate my production for Come Tees from my paintings, or from myself, my life, whereas I see the primary function of “branding” as implementing autonomy for the object from its creator.The ethos of the project is drawing a together the deeper nature of all subculture: the willful deviation from mainstream culture-- which I interpret as a spiritual behavior and moral passage. Homogenization and the shunting of thought are the by-products of the mainstream. I think of Come Tees as an homage to subculture itself, an explication of my ever-evolving tastes, and the desire to commune around the sense of being in a world within a world.
One of the most universal experiences and one that is reiterated constantly in music and art is the experience of the outsider--paradoxically it’s really more like an insider’s excursion. It’s like Jimi says: “If you can just get your mind together/then come across to me/We’ll hold hands an’ then we’ll watch the sun rise/from the bottom of the sea.” ANP: How do you come up with your ideas for designs? SS: My ideas are often spontaneous and usually reflexive responses to experiences in my life, filtered through my constant ingestion of culture, especially music. I usually attempt to coalesce a few points of reference into one image, the impetus for which is often something personal. Like the Mood Indigo shirt was a tribute to my friend who passed away recently, but also Duke Ellington, the graffiti king “Vinny,” Philip Guston, and the color of this great old leather couch I just got in my studio. There’s also a bit of strange magic, a kind of synergy or coincidence that has become almost a bellwether of ideas I take into production. ANP: What do you find interesting about the overlap between art and fashion? SS: I think art and fashion are pretty indistinct from each other. They both run on a spectrum from high to low and are both riding a crest between an evolution of the medium and public opinion. I see the definitions as unimportant and reinforcing a meaningless hierarchy. ANP: Can you define your overall aesthetic? SS: While I know that my aesthetic is blaringly obvious to other people, I don’t have enough objectivity to really distinguish it. To me it seems quite mutable. I hand-draw everything and my process is intensely analog. I love the human touch, especially in lettering. ANP: What do you see for the brand’s future? SS: I have to use Come Tees as a platform for important social justice issues in times…we all have to find a way to leverage ourselves against the current political regime. It doesn’t seem like it’s possible in these circumstances to be passive. It’s actually a really amazing creative inquiry. I’m excited to explore it. I’m working on a small work wear line right now based both on Dickies’ classics and Samue, Japanese monk work clothes, but mostly I want to get back in the groove of making paintings. Imagemaking, straight up. cometees.tumblr.com
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BACK MATTER CONTRIBUTOR BIOS
(front cover) Amanda Charchian, Las Pozas, Xilitla, Mexico (inside front cover) Jesper Haynes, Elena, Stockholm, 1999 (inside back cover) Cheryl Dunn, Festivals Are Good, 2016 (back cover) Cheryl Dunn, This Is Not Normal, New York City, 2017
EMMA ELIZABETH TILLMAN is a photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her
book of diary and photographs, Born With a Disco Ball Soul is due this spring. Emma shot the portrait of Amanda Charchian for this issue.
TOBIN YELLAND is the only child of two artist parents. Still and movie cameras were
common tools in the house growing up. His subject matter started in skateboarding and led him through many amazing subjects from musicians, athletes, film stills to ad campaigns. Tobin photographed Athena Curry and Slow Culture for this issue.
CAMILLE MARY WEINER is a Los Angeles-based writer and curator who operates under
the name So Fine Arts. Recent projects include collaborations with Audrey Woolen, Cali Thornhill-Dewitt, Matt Damhave, Emma Kohlmann and more. Camille interviewed Chase Witter for this issue.
DANIEL ARNOLD is a Brooklyn-based photographer who has been described as the William Eggleston of Instagram. His work captures the daily rhythms of New York street life in moments of both high drama and sublime banality. For this issue, Arnold shot portraits of fellow photographer, Cheryl Dunn.
EMMA REEVES is a creative personality working across all aspects of cultural
communication and new media. She lives in Los Angeles, speaks fluent French and is currently running her consultancy Emma Reeves Consults. Emma interviewed Cheryl Dunn for this issue.
JIM “RED DOG” MUIR is a native of Venice, CA and was an original member of the Zephyr Skate Team in the ‘70s. In the early-’80s Muir (along with his brother Mike Muir from Suicidal Tendencies) he helmed Dogtown Skates and continues to run the brand to this day. Muir interviewed Kevin Ancell for this issue.
T H I S I S S U E I S D E D I C AT E D T O T H E M E M O RY O F D Y L A N R I E D E R ( 1 9 8 8 - 2 0 1 6 ) ANPQuarterly Volume 2/Number 9 Publisher PM Tenore Editor-in-Chief Aaron Rose Art Director Casey Holland Contributing Writers Emma Reeves Joshua Wildman Brian Roettinger Jules Rockwell JC Gabel Camille Mary Weiner Jim Muir Clark Rayburn
Contributing Photographers Tobin Yelland, Melanie Nissen, Joshua Wildman, Daniel Arnold, Emma Elizabeth Tillman, Amanda Charchian, Aaron Rose, Joe Toreno, Mark Borthwick, Tyler Sueda Special thank you to: Lauren Early, Sandra Ruiz, Bridget Donahue, Tricie Krim, Erin Leland, Margot Ross, and Jeanie Choi at M+B, Los Angeles. ANPQuarterly is published by RVCA Corp © 2017 RVCA (All rights reserved). Printed Feb, 2017 on Bad Hombre Street in Mesa, Arizona. Reproduction in whole or in part is strictly prohibited by law. Opinions expressed in articles are those of the authors. All rights reserved on entire contents unless otherwise noted. Artists, photographers and writers retain copyright to their work. Every effort has been made to reach copyright holders or their representatives. We will be pleased to correct any mistakes or omissions in our next issue. ANPQuarterly™ is a Registered Trademark 960 W. 16th Street Costa Mesa, CA 92627 PH: (949)548-6223 email@example.com