Artist Interviews 2021

Julien’s Auctions - Degrees of Separation  
By Julia Siedenburg & Laura Siebold

On June 24th, it seemed like the event of the season took place in Beverly Hills. Thanks to Johnny Otto’s connections, we were able to participate in the opening night of “Degrees of Separation” at Julien’s Beverly Hills presented by Billy Morrison and 232am projects. Notable works by Dave Navarro, who is not only known for his art but for being a renowned musician (ex-member Red Hot Chili Peppers/current member of Jane’s Addiction). In celebration of the progress of recent vaccinations, many people seemed eager to enjoy the art event maskless. A collaboration of artists including RISK, Estevan Oriol, Billy Morrison, WrdSmth, Plastic Jesus, Meg Zany, and Dave Navarro & PADHiA (Duel Diagnosis) came together to showcase authentic new pieces, created during the lockdown of 2020. The artworks, organized as a series of different degrees of separation, are a diverse display of Los Angeles’s vibrant art scene. We were very impressed by the broad selection of paintings, sculptures, and photographs, created through powerful collaborations and the resonance of the work artists and musicians have had on each other over the decades. Mentioned as one of the “highlights” of the show on Julien’s Auctions webpage is a collaborative painting by Kelly “RISK” Graval, and Billy Morrison. The butterfly at the center of the image is a symbol of change and rebirth; it signifies the country’s struggle with the pandemic and stands as a symbol of hope for the future. Created at The Risk Rock Studios compound, it paves the way for future artistic collaborations. At Julien’s Auctions, the painting was placed close to the entrance, drawing attention to itself.

Flagship Artwork by RISK & Billy Morrison. Image by Laura Siebold.

The crowd at the event, a mix between Beverly Hills elite collectors, artists, and art lovers, as well as musicians and families, was mixed in the big auction room that was solely divided by a few free- standing walls. The two separated parts on the left side showcased most of Plastic Jesus’s art and statues, as well as Bill Morrison’s colorful pieces. In a short conversation with Plastic Jesus himself, who normally does not attend most events, at which his art is showcased, has kept his identity covered for many years of his career. That night, we learned about his changed views on anonymity as an artist. To keep his controversial art and his identity safe, the artist used to cover his face. However, by creating more commission pieces in recent years, he has regained artistic liberty and counteracts the current identity-masking trend. At the event, the friendly Brit wore one of his popular quotes “Stop making stupid people famous” on his T-shirt and, when asked for it, gifted us with a plastic American Express business card with a Jesus picture in the middle.

"The Art of Noise" by Plastic Jesus (2021) is a mixed medium project.

"I wanna be a celebrity" by Plastic Jesus. Image by Laura Siebold.

The main wall at the right to the entrance was covered in a diverse mix of collaboration pieces which ranged all the way up to the ceiling. Most of the pieces were produced and inspired by the events and feelings of separation over the past year. Using vibrant colors, many of the art works seemed to characterize both a call for change and a desire for easier, happier times. Seeing an opportunity to initiate change, Billy Morrison and Dave Navarro, used the event to do a silent auction collaboration to raise money for the charity MusiCares which provides services for mental health, addiction and trauma. The silent participant with the highest bid was gifted with a grape-colored female bust created and signed by the two artists.

"Fadé" Silent Auction Collaboration Billy Morrison + Dave Navarro. Image by Julia Siedenburg.

A creative collaboration that sparked a lot of interest on the opening night was that of Dave Navarro and PADHiA, a Los-Angeles based creative. The creation of a giant cuckoo clock as an entryway to images that invite the viewer to create their own meaning and life stories: According to the artists, the cuckoo clock is a symbol of innocence, childhood, time, and mental disorganization. Upon entering the installation, the viewer loses sense of rules, scale, and time and steps into a world that is more how Dave and PADHiA imagine it. The artists added: “It’s a world where perhaps life is not about what things seem like on the surface… where we must remain trapped fearfully conforming to fit the narrative of “normal”. A world where we are free to assign our own meaning to our stories and decide for ourselves what is enchanting.”

"Cuckoo Clock" designed by Duel Diagnosis. Image by Julia Siedenburg.

The interior of the cuckoo clock was placed in black light, giving off a bluish glow that highlighted the paintings by Duel Diagnosis. The themes of time, life, and uncontrollable change were continued by the elements of clocks, butterflies, and birds. Each viewer, looking at the artwork, was prompted to draw their own interpretation from the inkblot images, being reassured that there is no wrong answer.

"No Wrong Answer" (2021) by Duel Diagnosis. Image by Laura Siebold.

Dave Navarro in front of the cuckoo clock and entrance. Image by Laura Siebold.

Just before the entrance to the cuckoo clock, more artwork by Duel Diagnosis was placed in a dim, black light.

Poster and shirts by Duel Diagnosis, Dave Navarro’s art label. Image by Laura Siebold.

"I’ll never be the sane" by Duel Diagnosis. Image by Laura Siebold.

"Still Screaming" (2021) by Duel Diagnosis. Image by Laura Siebold.

"Live Fast Die Fun" by RISK. Image by Julia Siedenburg.

"PGFY. Neon Finger" (2019) by RISK. Image by Laura Siebold.

Most of RISK’s contributions to the art show consisted of big installations, lit up by neon elements. Many of them displayed the recurring theme of butterflies and license plates, one of his well-known materials. The car theme was reused by RISK for his statues and painting materials.

"Peaceful Warrior" by RISK Image by Julia Siedenburg.

"Big Boy" by RISK Images by Laura Siebold.

WRDSMTH also exhibited at the show, however, the artist was not present that night because he was currently outside the U.S.

"Kiss the ones you love every chance you get" by WRDSMTH. Image by Laura Siebold.

"LA Fingers" by Estevan Oriol & Defer. Image by Laura Siebold.

Furthermore, Estevan Oriol, a Los-Angeles based artist, urban lifestyle entrepreneur and part of The L.A. Six, a group of six well-established documentary and street photographers, exhibited at “Degrees of Separation”. We came across Oriol’s photographs again when attending “To live and to die in Los Angeles”, a street art exhibit, organized and curated by Frankie Orozco and supported by the Suitcase Joe Foundation in South Central Los Angeles on July 10, 2021.

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