Artist Interviews 2021
By Johnny Otto
I first saw your work at Beyond The Streets in Los Angeles in 2018. Seems like yesterday. What have you been up to since then? How has the Covid Pandemic changed your way of doing business?
Since BTS 2018 I started getting ready for BTS NYC 2019. They let me know I’d have another even bigger room and I wanted to really build the concept out bigger and better. For BTS 2018 I really only have a few weeks to put that together. Of course I had a lot of work hanging around so that made it easier but I was only offered my own room about 3 weeks before opening. Prior to that I thought I might have 12 feet of wall space. But I got that room and I wanted to double that whole idea for NYC. I wanted the room to feel like a very cluttered NYC apartment. But it's really more like my college apartment.
At the very beginning of 2020 I was again prepping for BTS 2020. Didn’t know where it would be but they let me know another one was coming up. My plan for that was to create a projection mapped video/art game that would be projected 360 in a version of my cardboard room. But we all know how all these plans change and God laughs.
Anyway, and luckily, I had just set up an online store. Mainly to explore the possibility of it. I thoughtI'd sell a few t-shirts. But with Covid - that’s where I focused my energy. So I did a lot of research and started experimenting with different artworks I could sell online. And it’s been a life saver. I do a very small limited edition print each month. 10 - 15 per edition at a low price point.
Who are your earliest influences? When did you start this madness and where do you hope to take it?
Picasso was one of my earliest influences. But my parents were always taking us to museums like the Art Institute of Chicago. I remember standing in front of Sunday in the Park by George Seurat every time we went.
As far back as I can remember I loved having a piece of paper and a pencil. I was my escape point. I could create my own world and set my own rules.
Artists that you'd most like to collaborate with? Why?
I think it’s important to collaborate with someone you can learn from. People have habits that make them successful. And by successful I don’t necessarily mean financially but in many different ways. And if you put yourself in proximity to them it might rub off or open your eyes. So for me it’s not so much about collaborating with someone but maybe being able to hang out and observe their work habits and overall artistic approach. I’d really love to follow Cey Adams around for a week or Futura for example.
What is an anagram and why are you fond of them or am I misinformed? Does that make you a fan of the movie Sneakers with Robert Redford?
Listen = Silent. An anagram. Same letters but different words.
There is no such thing as art. What do you do with your life?
Make stuff. I’d make chairs or build brick walls. That kind of work has always been soothing to me in the same way that making art is. Which begs the question, is art the process of making it or the thing you make? I like to thing that a painting is the consequence of art. Not art it’s self. But I might be wrong. Or half right.
Do other art forms influence your work? If so, why? Is film an influence?
I’m guessing yes. But it’s all a stew pot. I think today I have become more personal and less political with my work. I have also found the joy of creating work that exists for people to essentially play with. Artwork just for the fun of it. The cardboard room where you can basically pick up, touch and sit on the artwork seems to really please me. I get so much gratification watching people have fun with it. It breaks some of the traditional barriers in an art space hopefully in a good way.
Walter Robot is pretty cool. Can you talk about that project? How'd it start? Your musical background and influences?
Walter Robot is the name of a directing partnership between myself and Christopher Louie. We met at UCLA. He was a student of mine and we started working together. We did a lot of music videos, mostly animated or a mix of live action and animation. We even got a short film accepted at Sundance 2009. That was loads of fun. We still work together form time to time but have also pushed off in different directions. I think I have really gravitated more to animation and Chris is more live-action.
My musical background starts with growing in a house full of musical instruments. Week-end mornings the house was filled with classical music. The afternoons the kids were aloud to play other stuff. This was back when your house had a single entertainment unit and you played records. FM stations really didn’t even exist yet. But I was never really coordinated enough for the piano at that age. I found it too frustrating. I took lessons but not very well.
Today I play music. I have keyboards and guitars. I’m good at it but with DAW’s one can edit the crap out of what you record and fix it up.
What is coming up for you? Shows. Collaborations? New Music?
I’m waiting as everyone is to reopen the world. I have plans for the next art room full of interactive cardboard art and the projected art game in that space. Lot’s of ideas. I’m waiting on making new music. I usually cycle through my interests. Painting, music, animation, 3d gaming and teaching. Right now I’m really interested in animation again. A few years ago Walter Robot sold a show to Adult Swim. But it sits on the shelf. It soured me on animation for a time since I had put so much work into it. But now I'm back on it again. I started a series about lockdown called Burnt Marshmallow. I did several short IG episodes. And am now mulling over more episodes. And also animation with Boozy Uzi.