Jeffrey Cheung’s first European solo exhibition, ‘Together’ opens at Andenken Gallery in Amsterdam on Friday September 28th, 2018
Last time I saw Scott, we were playing ping pong at The Marcy Project in Brooklyn. Sadly for me, he beat me in a best of 7. It still stings a bit. I mention it here as a form of therapy I think. Anyway, I’m catching up with him now as his two person show with Mary Iverson called ‘Correspondence’ has just opened at Andenken in Amsterdam on November 11th.
I first encountered Drew Leshko’s work at SCOPE Art Fair in Miami…two maybe three winters ago. Steadily and without fail, I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan of his 1:12 classic dollhouse scale models of gritty urban landscapes and worn travel vehicles.
On Friday October 28th, Andenken and Makerversity Amsterdam are hosting Drew’s first solo exhibition in Europe ‘Heaven is Whenever’ . I caught up with Drew in advance of the show.
Jaime Molina is a pleasant chap. His calm demeanor and effortless charm naturally jive with the nice vibes of his work. As a maker of both precise often intimate gallery works and massive mural undertakings, Jaime builds for us a rich and oft totemic visual mythology. His vast imaginary world of bricolage sculpted characters, and playfully engaging, refreshing paintings are a treat for eyes and minds. I caught up with Mr. Molina in Advance of his show, ‘Desolation Slang’ opening at Andenken Gallery in Amsterdam this coming Saturday, June 11th. We talked about his busy upcoming schedule and clothespin ninjas.
Hyland Mather: Sup Jaime?
Jaime Molina: Hey Hyland.
HM: Ok, so I was really hoping that you would be able to travel out and be here for your show in Amsterdam, but alas as the great John Goodman once put it, ‘So many social engagements, so little time’. Give us an update on your busy schedule, current and upcoming projects, just to break the ice, and to make you feel ultra nervous about having to brag right off the get go.
JM: Haha yeah. It’s always a bit awkward talking about myself, but I’ll just pretend I’m bragging about someone else. Coming up very soon on June 11th is my show with you at Andenken Gallery. I’m really excited to show alongside Adrian Landon Brooks for this one. I’ve always felt a kinship that exists in our work so it’s really an honor to present some work with him.
Also, coming up in July, I will have a new body of work at, “Verve and Vitality: In the Third Dimension” at the Long Beach Museum of Art in conjunction with Thinkspace Gallery.
HM: The other day I was interviewed by this high school girl, I’m gonna ‘borrow’ a few of the simple but effective questions she asked me. Do you think it’s cool that I’m ripping off teenage girls?
JH: Haha oh fasho. Street cred level= 10
HM: That wasn’t one of her questions, but Anyway… How long have you been a working artist?
JM: I guess it depends on how you define “working artist”. I’ve been having exhibitions since I graduated from college starting in 2004. At first with friends in their shops/ galleries and then eventually in more traditional gallery settings. If you define “working artist” as an artist that makes a living solely off of one’s art, then I have been one of those since last February. 15 months.
HM: What materials do you generally use?
JM: For surface material, I work with a lot of wood. In my paintings as well as my 3d stuff. It’s something that I feel pretty comfortable working with. It’s something that I can transform very easily. For actual medium I use, it’s mostly latex and some acrylic paint. For my murals it’s usually latex, but it just depends on the wall. Sometimes it’s all spray paint if the texture is very rough.
HM: Ok, cool, that’s it for the borrowed questions…
JM: That’s it, just those two… wa? fa real? No questions about my favorite kind of music? winkmoji
HM: You use found objects with a level of accuracy and attention to detail that’s pretty intense. Some of your pieces have hundreds if not thousands of tiny nails as hairs for example. It begs the question, or questions rather… Are you a weird pack rat type? Do you have huge stacks of materials cluttering every corner of your place? How do you decide what to keep for use and what to let go as true rubbish?
JM: Ha yeah. That’s a great question. I’m definitely a pack rat. It’s somewhat under control though. I feel like I’m a goldfish pack rat. You know how they say a goldfish will only grow as big as it’s environment will allow? That’s like me and my stashes of stuff. I’m not in real danger of being on any hoarder reality shows, but I have a lot of stuff that I see potential in. My tendency is to save stuff because I I see something in it and I don’t want to see it go to waste, but after holding on to certain things for a long time I’m usually able to get rid of it. Usually. Hoarder light? I don’t know.
I used to go trip out at the flea market and at the end of the day I’d see people that were selling their stuff, go throw away everything that they didn’t sell into a huge dumpster. Then I’d see people next to the dumpster digging through all of that stuff and keeping what they wanted. It just seemed to me like the stuff that stayed in the dumpster in the end was true garbage. It had passed through so many different filters and really deserved to be there. I guess I’m that filter in my studio.
HM: You went to Metro in Denver. They’ve produced some great artists, but what’s your take on art school? What did you find invaluable? What fat would you have cut if you could? What would make a young artist more prepared for an art career after the art school experience?
JM: The experience of being in the same boat as all of your classmates and making a ton of work was invaluable to me. The camaraderie and critiques and constant questioning of things, art related and life related, was a really great experience for me. Aside from grad school, I can’t think of too many other opportunities to be with the same group of people and make a ton of work and bounce ideas off of each other and really focus on making art. On the flip side of that, I think real life scenarios could be addressed more in school. I honestly feel where I’m at now as an artist is a culmination of all of my experiences. Not just my school experience. I feel that they should focus a fair amount of time on small business classes. Being an artist today is essentially like running your own business. The more traditional model of having gallery representation and just making the work and letting the gallery take care of everything isn’t as common. I learned a lot of good business practices by working in different fields. Invoicing clients, customer service, writing up bids for jobs are things that I became very familiar with at day jobs that directly affect how I make my living now as an artist. I know that sounds super un artsy and square, but that’s the road. Of course the art has to be solid, but I think at a certain point, that is really just second nature. To be able to pay your bills doing art, in most cases, you really have to be more than just a good artist. You have to be a proficient and professional business person.
HM: Word, I agree to all that. I read an interview with you on jimon-magazine, where you talked about how you used to make little cardboard transformers and closepin ninjas…I’d love to see those, just some fuel for making fun of you I guess, but seriously, do you have photos of those? It would interesting to see the parallels between your current aesthetic and your childhood creations.
JM: Yeah man. Oddly enough my mom still has those little clothespin ninjas. She saved a couple of them over all these years. Now that I’m a father I completely understand why. The cardboard transformers didn’t make the cut I guess, or maybe they fell apart, but the little action figures still crack me up. I drew camouflage on them and made little backpacks full of swords and throwing stars and nunchuks and all kinds of little dude stuff. I made these little loops in the hands so you could pull out the weapons and put them in their hands. I think it would surprise anyone who knows me that I used to be really into guns and weapons and army/ninja things. Typical kid stuff I think. It’s funny you mention parallels because I was just thinking the other day about the commonalities in the things I used to make back then and how it gave me such joy to just nerd out on stuff like that. I feel like when I finally came back to making 3 dimensional work like that, I really got back to that place of joy. I know a lot of my characters look sad, but I really enjoy making them.
HM: I guess that brings me to the next borrowed question … When did you first become interested in art? For me, I had a crazy crush on a girl named Marika, and I just wanted the same electives as her … Give us your artist origin story.
JM: When I was little I wanted to be an inventor or a scientist. Then I wanted to be a cartoonist. Then in 7th grade I read Salvador Dali’s journal and from that point on I wanted to be an artist. It just all made sense. All of the weird stuff I always drew and all the stuff I made with my hands was in a way validated and I just never stopped making stuff.
Did your art win over Marika? It would be funny to hear that story.
HM: Yep, got her. Then lost her, but she was my first great love without question.
HM: People ask me regularly what I’m looking for in the artists that I show at Andenken, and though there is no set answer, one thing I tend to gravitate towards is the artist that uses the venue of the street, but also excels in a gallery environment and has an appeal to fine art eyeballs. It sounds formulaic but actually it’s trickier than you think. You are an artist that brings something strong to both the street and the gallery. Do you have a preference right now for gallery or mural work?
JM: I feel really lucky that I get to do both. I love each one dearly so I could never choose one over the other even though they are so different. In a weird way it’s like I use my heart for the 3d and my head for the murals. The 3d I do completely intuitively. I don’t do a whole lot of sketches anymore. I just start making something and see where it goes. It comes straight from my heart. The mural work I do also comes from my heart, but I have to think about it a lot more. There are so many variables to consider when you paint a mural. I get lost in it the same way as the sculptures, but I just have to be more aware when i’m making it. I guess that’s the big difference and maybe that’s why it’s so satisfying to do both.
HM: So there is are big differences in preparation and creation in the two arenas for you.
JM: Yeah, Like I said before, the murals I have to prepare for. I need a reference, which is usually just a line drawing and a notion of what palette would work best, and I need to see the location of where the mural is going to be. I like to consider the location pretty heavily before I know what image is going to go there. It’s just a lot more prep work. With the 3d stuff, the hardest part is trying to decide what i’m going to listen to for the next few hours. Getting over the hump of starting is all it takes and then the work just evolves organically.
HM: You’re a family man, father and husband. Pressure is very real as a parent, you have to provide. It can be scary as an artist to commit to a career as a maker. Are you working any shit jobs right now to cushion?
JM: Lucky for me all of my shit jobs are pretty far behind me. I worked for a long time as a valet which was great. I worked with a really tight knit group of guys and it was super flexible for my parent schedule. I also did home remodeling which also was incredible. I learned a lot about how things are built. I got to create things or destroy things almost everyday. I will say that becoming a parent is really what put me on the path I am on today. Things got pretty real the moment I knew my life wasn’t just mine anymore. I took everything a lot more serious from that point on.
HM: Denver, where you live, has some really really really good stuff going on with arts. Could be the weed…not in the way that people might originally jump to…’Oh weed just makes you so much more creative and cool’, but rather in the sense that right now there is good funding for the arts, and I think at least part of that is the huge influx of cash into the city. Would you agree? What’s your take on the Denver scene? Drop some names of Denver artists you think are making good work?
JM: I would attribute the amount of growth and development here to the exodus of people coming to Colorado. I think that started with the legalization of marijuana here, but at this point it seems like people just want to move here. I completely understand why. Denver is a great place to be. I’m not sure the dispensaries are directly funding the art boom, but the new people, energy and resulting good economy they ushered in certainly could be. It’s a double edged sword though. There’s a lot of conversations that need to be had about keeping a balance here and not just gentrifying the whole city for growth’s sake, but that’s an entirely different story.
I’m afraid to name artists that I love because inevitably I will forget someone and they will be bummed. Luckily for me, and for Denver, I have a hard time answering that question because there is so much talent here. There are some artistic giants here in this city though. Now that Denver has a little bit of shine I hope they get a little recognition.
HM: Your instagram handle is cuttyup, where does that come from?
JM: Back in the mid 2000’s I used to go out and get belligerent with my homies. I somehow named my drunk alter ego, Cutty McSteez. I’d act up and throw pizza at people and just kinda cause a mess and it was like a running joke with my crew like, “uh oh he’s gettin cutty” One of my best friends who moved to Buenos Aires would come visit and every time he’d come he’d stay with me and instantly turn my house into a big scene. Making everyone shotgun beers and just dumb degenerate stuff. He’d always be like, “can we get this party started already? Are you gonna cutty up or what?” So the cutty up thing became our way of saying, let’s do this, let’s party, let’s rumble etc. Anymore it’s just a reminder to myself to keep things real I guess.
HM: I really wish you were gonna be here for your show in June, you’re fun to pal around with.
JM: Likewise, man! I hope there is a next time.
HM: Thanks for the interview and I hope I see you soon.
JM: I appreciate your time, Hyland. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for the supremely thoughtful questions.
You can follow along with Jaime on instagram @cuttyup
Adrian Landon Brooks is an American artist, making smart illustrative work with a neo-folk slant. He’s living in the hills outside of Austin, Texas. The move out to the sticks has been a big adjustment for the city kid. He and his wife, Dalyce with their 9 month old baby, Willow, have taken on the challenge so many of us dream for…building their own house. Fun, challenging, exhausting, rewarding…the gamut. I caught up with Adrian for a little interview in anticipation of his solo exhibition, ‘Miracle Worker’ opening on June 11th at Andenken Gallery in Amsterdam. Here’s what he had to say.
Hyland Mather: You moved from the Big City of Austin, out into the country. Do you have a shotgun rack?
Adrian Landon Brooks: I don’t think a shotgun rack would fit in our city slicker hybrid! Give me a few years and I might start embracing our new-found surroundings.
HM: I’ve heard you say your working process can be very meditative. Does your move to a more peaceful setting aide this creation meditation process, or do you find yourself missing the bustle?
ALB: I’ve always lived in big cities so the move is definitely an adjustment. I’ve managed to make work in all sorts of tiny closets and corners of dimly lit living rooms so it’s nice to have a dedicated space now. We have a lofted second floor that will serve as my studio ‘til we build something bigger down the line. I’ve learned to sit down and work regardless of the countless distractions surrounding me. All the outside noises are drowned out once I am engaged with the painting.
HM: You’re neck deep in the building of a house. I know for many creatives, building your own space is a massive dream. How is that going?
ALB: My wife and I have been building the last two years in the hill country outside of Austin, TX. I can honestly say it’s been the most challenging two years of my life but also just as rewarding. I am very accustomed to making my creative vision a reality with my artwork, but building was a whole other beast. One of the biggest challenges was learning to share a vision with another person and practicing the art of compromise. I am proud to say that we are now living in our place with our nine month old daughter, Willow. We are finally getting to the finishing stages of the process and can move on to the painting, staining and decorating. All the good stuff!
HM: When you were pretty young, 19-20, you and a few friends had a rental house, and I read that you had pretty much covered it with paint and ink by the time the lease was up. Is this the plan for the house you’re now building, or are you going to try and separate the work you make as an artist from the space you’re living in as a home builder?
ALB: I would like to keep some separation for sure but the work tends to spill over in most areas of my life and house. We decided on a lofted studio partially because it’s more economical to build up but also to better contain the clutter. My actual workspace usually just consists of a drafting table and maybe an easel but it’s the repurposed materials that take up the most room. I hit streaks of collecting interesting pieces and it might be months before I get around to using them. I would really like to build a barn shell for a studio sometime in the next few years. It would be interesting to see the direction of the work without as many space restraints.
HM: More and more you’re using found object as the substructure for your paintings. I’ve heard your work described as ‘neo-folk’. Do you see the found object as a contributing force to this description? When can we expect some more work on clean fresh panel?
ALB: The repurposed materials contribute greatly to my vision and the overall success of some of my work. Particularly using the original surfaces of the wood/metal as the background. I would be hard pressed to recreate the natural patina of some of these objects. I would say it’s pretty common to see repurposed objects and materials in traditional folk art from many different cultures. Some of which are more utilitarian but I imagine it was also about utilizing materials that were easily accessible. Over the last few years I have unearthed tons of treasures on the countryside, which have later turned into paintings. The hunt for materials and discovering ways to use them has become a very vital part of my process. That being said I still crave painting on a freshly built wood panel, especially when I am wanting to work a bit larger.
HM: Your paintings seem to utilize some common totemic themes, for example the bird creatures. Can you elaborate a bit on your imagery mythology?
ALB: Most of the symbolism in my work is a fairly subconscious hodgepodge of imagery borrowed from the different cultures that inspire me. The bird head specifically was a way of separating myself from the main subject in the painting. It’s stepping away from a more self-portrait approach. I put plenty of myself into my work but it’s not really intended to be a literal reflection of myself.
HM: I’ve heard you talk about color interaction, particularly with pastel flavors. Color preferences though, especially from what the fashion seasons tell us, ha, seems to oscillate in popularity. Have you been visually married to the same set of colors for a long time? Do you see your personal preferences for colors changing?
ALB: I am partially color-blind so it’s kind of important for me to continue with what I know works. Certain hues blend when I see them and it can be hard for me to tell the difference. A good example would be light pink and white which can almost look identical to me depending on the surface. I still go through phases and get hooked on different color combos. I will always be a sucker for terracotta, seafoam green and marigold.
HM: You went to school in SF at the SFAI. How much influence have the Mission School artists had on your own work? Was that a big draw for you when deciding where you wanted to study?
ALB: I will never forget sheepishly approaching Barry McGee back in 99 at the Hoss opening in Houston, TX. I brought him my sketchbook full of weak imitations of his work. He just smiled flipping through some pages and found a blank page to sign my book. I have always been deeply influenced by Barry and Margaret Kilgallen from the moment I stumbled upon the Mission School movement. It was only natural that I run to SF the first chance I got. I spent some time at SFAI and lingered around the city long after attending school. I met a handful of locals who showed me sides of the city that probably look like a different world nowadays. The years I spent in the bay area influenced my direction greatly and inspired me in too many ways to count. It was truly a magical time when everything started feeling possible.
HM: Your old work, circa 2007, was an order of magnitude more abstract and expressive, the tight, flat illustrative renderings of your work of today is a real departure. Was this a gradual move, or did you simply wake up one day and say, ‘Nope, time to paint flat, tight work instead’?
ALB: I think the departure came when my painting skill started to catch up with my creative vision. The more expressive approach was a way of going through the motions and fine tuning some of the imagery I still use today. I achieve the ultimate meditative experience by creating a simple and concise image filled with all the colors I love. The process itself can sometimes be more important to me than the final product.
HM: What’s a dream art project for you, if money, time and scale was no nuisance?
ALB: I would like to use some of the experiences from our building process and erect some small structures for site specific installation. Think Pee Wee’s Playhouse with creepy bird head pals.
HM: Thanks for the interview my friend. I’m really really really looking forward to the Miracle Worker exhibition.
ALB: Oh you’re welcome man. Thank you!
Check out more of Adrian’s work here: adrianlandonbrooks.com
Follow the dude on instagram: @adrianlandonbrooks