Cover Photo Heidi Kirkpatrick - Growing Pains
TBC / MAG is a platform for emerging and mid-career artists. It is a semi-annual digital and print publication for curators, galleries and art enthusiasts. We are an extension of The Billboard Creative, a nonprofit organization that turns billboards into public art sites. Our goal in this work is two-fold: to help emerging and underrepresented artists break through traditional career bottlenecks by providing exposure to a mass audience and raising their profile with the public and the arts community.
SKID ROBOT INTERVIEW
18 22 28 32 36 42 44 48
CHEE-KEONG KUNG MARGERY THOMAS-MUELLER BERNADETTE DESPUJOLS HEIDI KIRKPATRICK PHILIP LEPAGE YASMINE DIAZ GEIR MOSEID SEAN GALL
JUDY LIPMAN SHECHTER + DAVID SHECHTER
Adam Santelli / Kim Kerscher
Carly DeFilippo COVER DESIGN
Frankie Hamersma for LADdesign Inc. SUBSCRIBE / SUBMIT
thebillboardcreative.org CUSTOMER SERVICE
@tbcbillboards All Image copyrights are held by the Artists that created them.
INTRODUCTION If you live in Los Angeles and have an interest in street art, chances are you’ve heard of Skid Robot. With his creative juxtaposition of art and
the daily struggles of the homeless community in downtown LA, his work takes us back to a time when graffiti was primarily a political outlet—a way to hear those who don’t traditionally have a voice in society. At a time when street art increasingly looks like curated installations in closed galleries, Skid Robot’s work depends on the gritty, chaotic realities of city life. We sat down with the artist to learn what drives his work and what he feels modern street art has forgotten about its roots. How did you get started in street art? Before Skid Robot, I was already doing graffiti with friends, but I wasn’t happy with the explosion of street art and how it had lowered the bar of artistic quality over all. In particular, certain graffiti artists would plagiarize other people’s work and pass it off as their own—and that was increasingly accepted. I also wasn’t interested in doing stencils or posters; I wanted to produce something more than simply my own tag or my crew’s name. I was discussing all of this with the girl I was dating as we pulled up to a light on Skid Row. She looked over and said, “Why don’t you paint that [homeless] person like they are dreaming of money—like, we all want to be rich.” So I jumped out of the car with a spray can, and when I pulled back to take a photo of what I had done, I just had this feeling of “this is it.” It’s one thing to have an idea, and another to take immediate action on it. I just became hyped on the concept, and started sharing my work on Instagram, which is how most people came to see what I was doing.
Your graffiti isn’t traditional or two-dimensional, in that it interacts with a living, breathing community. How has that relationship developed over time? When I turn a corner and see the tents of the homeless population, I’ll think, “Those tents belong in the mountains.” So I draw a forest of pine trees. When the individuals living there see my work, they’re generally (OK) with it. We end up having a different interaction than they are used to, and it’s led to me getting to know the community and understanding that many of them are okay people. From the perspective of outsiders, I think it becomes humanizing as well. We all watch movies where we can relate to fictional characters [whose circumstances are different than ours], and I think my art provides a sort of similar frame—only in reality. Why do you think your art helps people view the homeless in a more compassionate light?
We are all born and gifted with the power of our imaginations—to pretend or make believe. There were a series of thrones I painted, which I called “A King Without a Castle.” To me, that’s about the fact that every life is divine and precious. If we really learned to value ourselves and the lives of others, we wouldn’t allow people to end up in these situations. The juxtaposition of my art with the gravity of these situations creates sort of a mirror—a space for compassion. You’ve also gone past traditional graffiti to creating larger installations around Los Angeles. Can you tell us about the cabin under the bridge, for instance? That was “Old Rusty’s Cabin.” When I first met Rusty, he was living in a place full of garbage. I wanted to do something in that location for years, and at some point, the city had cleaned everything out, so I
took that opportunity to go talk to him again. What I initially made for him was a living room, and through that, I was able to drum up support to get him a few nights at a hotel through my following on Instagram. But ironically, Rusty didn’t want to go. He isn’t someone who doesn’t have family or a place to live. He’s one of nine siblings, but to him that bridge is home. That’s where the idea of building the cabin came from—bringing home to him. I actually built another tiny house under the freeway for Birdman, but the city came and bulldozed it. I went back and tagged the site with the mayor’s Instagram handle, posting the image to social media with the phrase, “You can take a man’s house, but you can’t take his spirit.” That was mid-afternoon, and later that night, I couldn’t believe the notifications on my phone —even the mayor had commented on my post. I was blown away that I could get his attention and that he would feel compelled to respond. The next day, on Good Day LA, they were showing my art during a segment on homelessness and cut to a speech from the mayor. People contacted me assuming that my artwork was the motivation for the address—which may not be the case, and it’s not my intention to be a thorn in the mayor’s side. But got me to start thinking about how I can make a more lasting impact. What would that look like—a more lasting impact? Currently I’m doing an exhibit at an architecture firm in Long Beach called Studio 111. They do a lot of urban and community development in that area, and I’ve started working with them to imagine a new style of container housing. As it stands, when the city proposes a “shelter,” it’s immediately off-putting to the surrounding community. I understand, because people should have a right to know who is moving in and there should be some sort of transparent screening process that they have access to. Rather than addicts or people with psychiatric diseases, many of the people who can benefit from low-income housing are single parents or individuals have one or more jobs, but the economy prevents them from getting a traditional apartment. We believe that if these communities were
presented as art-centric, it would be more interesting for both the people who would live there and the existing neighborhood. In the cases where residents do need some sort of rehabilitation, I also think it would be helpful if we developed communities that are specific to each addiction. I don’t see it as highly efficient to have alcohol and meth addicts, for example, recovering side-by-side. When a community shares the same struggle, it’s easier to create genuine empathy and support. It’s not just about a handout—the focus should be reconstructing lives. You said that when you first started this work, it was because you were dissatisfied with the state of street art. How does your art continue to reflect that perspective? Art has always been a reflection of the times, a major part of revolutions and a way to transform our world. But over the last decade, art has suffered. Street art has become a medium where non-talented individuals can
appear to have more talent than they do. Today, you see people getting out of art school with degrees, and instead of going into advertising, they now go into street art. If their work plays off of something that people are already familiar with—say, The Beatles— people will consume it and it becomes a “hot tip.” But I come from much grimier soil in terms of my graffiti. It isn’t about commercialism. I believe that art should have something to say.
10 Artists we should be watching
Stolleâ€™s work explores the darker side of American agriculture, using collage to reveal challenging contemporary perspectives on practices including GMOs and the widespread use of pesticides. In
MONSANTO INTERVENTION, she repurposes Monsanto Chemical Company advertisements,
exposing the true threat posed by this propaganda and weak government regulations on corporate agribusiness. In ANIMAL PHARM, her collages
play off Orwellâ€™s dystopian fable, exploring the role of pharmaceuticals and corporate influence over national agricultural practices. Finally, in
REVOLUTIONARY CONTROL, she extracts
audio from 1940-50s USDA pesticide videos,
manipulating it into a looped, auditory collage that contrasts this heavy-handed messaging with the documented dangers of pesticide use.
Kirsten Stolle is an Asheville, North Carolina based
WORK - MONSANTO INTERVENTION; ANIMAL PHARM; REVOLUTIONARY CONTROL
visual artist working in collage, drawing and mixed media. Her research-based practice is based in the investigation of corporate propaganda, food politics and biotechnology.
In this photographic collaboration, the emotional aspects of the crime have been removed from each image. These are not real people; there is no pain, fear, dread, remorse or regret. This disassociation allows the viewer to linger as an
observant voyeur, discovering details that beg the question: “Are you a witness to a crime or
misinterpreting the moment?” In turn, as the
viewer considers what they are perceiving, they must simultaneously confront that which draws them in and that which makes them uncomfortable.
WORK: CRIME SCENES 5PM; CRIME SCENES 7AM; CRIME SCENE 2AM; CRIME SCENES 10PM
Judy Lipman Shechter + David Shechter
Based in New York City, Judy Lipman Shechter is an assemblage artist and David Shechter is a fine arts photographer. Their collaborations integrate serious contemporary topics into fantastical images that captivate and challenge the viewer’s assumptions and perceptions.
Kung is interested in the emotive resonance that springs from the act of seeing and remembering. His works evolve over time, often set aside for days until his next move becomes clear. This â€œDispersion Seriesâ€? was created through alternating layers of intuitive gestures and precise geometry, continuing until each work
appears to hover between perfection and imperfection, gravity and weightlessness. For certain paintings, the trajectory of the work was defined early on; yet Kang
often finds his most satisfying works lead him to entirely unexpected places.
Chee-Keong Kung is a Singaporean artist based in
WORK: ACCRETION (Dispersion No. 4); HELIX
(Dispersion No. 17); RIPTIDE (Dispersion No. 3)
McLean, Virginia. His evolving visual vocabulary draws from the media and contemporary culture, as well as observations of natural and man-made environments.
Mueller’s work has been deeply impacted by the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay, specifically Renascence, which speaks to the space between one’s state of being and how we treat each other. Her abstract landscapes convey this “world in between,” expressing an empathy for the
challenges and circumstances of the other. The uprooting of humanity informs her landscapes, rich with branches, thickets and thorns. Her
choice of Yupo paper—whose waterproof quality allows it to be erased with a simple stroke of
water and ammonia—mirrors the instability and constant flux of our natural environment.
WORK: CURRENTS; SIX PIECES; RETURN; CHILDHOOD
Margery Thomas-Mueller is a fine artist based in
Alton, New Hampshire. Her work is inspired by the concept of liminal space, depicting abstracted landscapes through the medium of graphite and India ink on Yupo paper.
WORK: RETRATO DE FRANKLIN BRITO; TIRESIAS AT SOME POINT; ESTUDIANTES PRESOS EN EL DORADO
Depicting events in Venezuela’s
5 past, “Homeland Feed” is a series of paintings in which Despujols
strives to uncover the causes of the social decay in her country. Portraying each image as an
archive—something that may
have been forgotten—each work has the feeling of a children’s
story from a land far away. This
sense of detachment expresses the growing international
desensitization to the region’s
situation, which has worsened steadily over the past two decades.
Bernadette Despujols is a Venezuelan artist currently living in Miami, Florida. Exploring and questioning the
perception of women, sex and
contemporary life, her practice
incorporates such varied media as painting, sculpture, video and installation.
Using photographs, Kirkpatrick transforms found objects into playful works of art. Breathing new life into each object, she creates tension between imagery and object through the fusion of children’s blocks and toys with transparent figurative and family portraits. The lovingly worn
details—flecks of missing paint, soft corners
broken down by tiny fingers—reveal hints of the past, while presenting the work on table tops or shelves constructs a narrative that stretches beyond the formality of the frame.
Heidi Kirkpatrick is a fine art photographer and educator based in Portland, Oregon. Her work
WORK: WATCHTOWER; TATTOO; IT TAKES GUTS
regularly explores the themes of the female figure, the family and contemporary women’s issues.
LePage’s ongoing project, “A Certain Distance,” is a study of mental illness, exploring the deeply personal space between what is known and what is felt. The series draws from short stories the artist has been unable to tell and reflects on the distance that has defined much of his work. The
images are in some ways fragmented—lives that no longer exist or disjointed memories that
cannot mix with the “now.” Yet rather than trying to hold together the “myth we perceive as
ourselves,” the work dwells in the strength of owning that which challenges this myth,
intentionally occupying a contradictory space.
Philip LePage is a Northern Canadian photographer currently based on Prince Edward Island. His work
WORK: Passages, Illuminated, Traces II
explores the contradictions inherent in ideas of home, identity and belonging, viewing the photographic practice as a dialogue or a “journey between two worlds.”
These collages are a central part of Diaz’s practice—a non-series she returns to between more intentional projects. Born in Chicago to Yemeni parents, these personal works explore the opposing and overlapping cultures Diaz was raised in, juxtaposing the artist’s complicated
relationship with Islam, patriarchal culture and
social norms with Western pop culture from the
80s and 90s. Unlike Diaz’s other projects, these
intuitive works begin without an agenda, providing space for an agility that fuels the rest of her practice.
Yasmine Diaz is a Yemeni artist based in Los
WORK: LEAVE THAT FIRE; CROWN; LOST
Angeles, California. Her work navigates overlapping tensions around religion, gender and third-culture identity using personal archives, found imagery and mixed media on paper.
The home is often known to be a safe space where one can be private and intimate. Yet this seclusion can also harbor and hide some of humanity’s gravest crimes, including physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Moseid’s
“Plucked Series” investigates that duality of the home, as well as larger themes of urban
alienation, social segregation and human
relationships. Layering social documentary and staged photography, the images resonate with cognitive dissonance and ambiguity.
Geir Moseid is Norwegian photographer based in
WORK: BIRD; WHITES; FOR WINTER
Oslo. Working with a 4x5 camera, his use of both documentary practice and staged photography aims to challenge how one can discuss social, anthropological and economical issues through contemporary images.
These mindscape drawings and urban sprawl paintings are inspired by environments as diverse as Gall’s original home in Los Angeles, his mother’s roots in the rugged landscape of Western Ireland or his adopted city of Rome, Italy. The surface is initially approached by either
the layering of obsessive details or one horizontal line across the entire canvas. Repeating these elements across the picture plane, slight
variations add to the pattern and reflect the visual landscapes of mountain ranges and urban centers alike.
Sean Gall is an American artist currently living and
WORK: ALWAYS RETURNING; DEEP BLUE DAY
working in Rome, Italy. His work in drawn ink and painted patterns explores the themes of wandering and urban sprawl—walking, exploring and getting lost.
1 - Kirsten Stolle - kirstenstolle.com Galleries: Tracey Morgan Gallery, Asheville, NC, Tracey Morgan; NOME Gallery, Berlin, German, Luca Barbeni 2 - Judy Lipman Shechter and David Shechter - judylipmanshechter.com 3 - Chee-Keong Kung - kungcheekeong.com 4 - Margery Thomas-Mueller - margerythomasmueller.net Patricia Ladd Carega Gallery 5 - Bernadette Despujols - bernadettedespujols.com 6 - Heidi Kirkpatrick - heidikirkpatrick.com G. Gibson Gallery, Seattle, WA 7 - Philip LePage - philiplepage.com 8 - Yasmine Diaz - yasminediaz.com 9 - Geir Moseid - geirmoseid.com 10 - Sean Gall - seangall.com
Ruben Natal-San Miguel
The Billboard Creative is a unique, nonprofit platform for both emerging and mid-career artists. Our work consists of breaking through traditional career bottlenecks and providing unprecedented exposure to a mass market, by transforming commercial billboards into public art sites. This representation both raises the profile of individual artists with the general public, and reintroduces new works to curators, galleries and passionate art enthusiasts. In addition to these public works, our semi-annual digital and print publication memorializes these efforts for the art community at large.