Canadian artist Denial (aka Daniel Bombardier) has always used his clever and ironic street art to make sense of his surroundings. Drawing inspiration from pop art and popular culture, Denial creates playfully grim imagery that sticks a nihilist thumb at consumer capitalism, pointing to corporations’ insatiable greed and shoppers’ fathomless gullibility. Sometimes referencing big-name brands directly, Denial’s art holds a mirror up to a world that’s making an absolute fool of itself.
Creatives all over the world are struggling as the pandemic takes hold and opportunities for artists have become few and far between. That’s why we’re giving Denial the spotlight for a month-long takeover on 1xRUN! May I Have Your Attention Please… is a new ongoing series of hand-painted multiples, stencils, and more created by the artist in isolation.
We spoke to the artist about adjusting his process in quarantine, avoiding the news, and spreading positivity through street art. Read our full interview below.
1xRUN: You work in isolation enough as it is––what has changed about your creative process since quarantine? Denial: Yeah for sure. I actually enjoy working alone a lot. I tend to do a lot of my designing and drawing either very early in the morning (4:00-5:00am) or late into the night, so not much has changed in that regard. As far as painting and packing the artwork, we have been wiping things down and washing our hands more than normal for sure.
I find myself flicking through news networks and sources all day a lot more just because of all the political spin and rhetoric. Hard to gauge “reality” more now… it’s sad actually.
1x: Now that the world has shut down and a lot of your public art projects have been cancelled, how does this Month Long Takeover on 1xRUN play into the new reality as an artist? Denial: I mean, I am very fortunate to have such rad friends at 1xRUN who believe in me and my sometimes strange ideas. I have had such a wild ride working with all of them, and I think that we all made some really intuitive, smart choices over the years to maintain this symbiotic and beneficial relationship. All those years of working together has lead us to this point, and we have the ability to pivot quickly together and shift our collective energy into seemingly “last minute” ideas.
This concept of the takeover was born of necessity as I was supposed to be the artist-in-residence for Movement Festival, a massive electronic music fest in Detroit that 1xRUN helps curate. We had an entire month planned for that. The festival has been put on the back burner for the moment, so we had a huge gap in the schedule. I am very lucky to have this opportunity, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that there are still a lot of people working together creatively to put this all together last minute. So, thank you to everyone at 1x!
1x: Your body of work jabs at politics, capitalism, and the end of days, but now that the world has really stopped, are your premonitions as real as you suspected? Denial: The world is on pause for a very uncontrollable reason, but the reason we are on pause is very simple: to protect the less fortunate, weak and elderly. That doesn’t seem like rocket science to me. I know that this must be very difficult for a lot of people, and I am nothing but humble and grateful for my personal position during this unprecedented event.
My work speaks of impending doom and a lot of crass sinister themes, but that should not mean I desire this to happen at all. I hope my work suggests the opposite: to show the ridiculousness of it all and how we may find better solutions for the future. Shit has to change and that is what I believe my work truly speaks to.
1x: How do you use sarcasm and humor to cope with the crisis? Denial: I have been doing some street work and some interventions during the pandemic. I wouldn’t say that I am really digging in on the subject yet because we are all still living and dying with this everyday. I don’t know if I am ready to really lay into the errors and political bullshit of it all yet. I have mostly been doing more positive and grateful street art at the moment.
1x: All of us are having a hard time escaping the 24-hour news cycle––how do you stay focused while the world is trying to distract you? Denial: I do find it difficult to avoid, 100%. I think I need to take more “Bob Marley” days in the studio soon, LOL. Bob makes it all better for a bit. I guess I have been trying to mix up the sources of news at the very least so I can see a fuller picture of it all. More bike rides too, hopefully in the near future. Kate and I have been having fun renovating our old-ass house and cooking a lot of new creations… One day at a time.
1x: What do your fellow Canadians think of Trump’s press conferences? Are they injecting themselves with hand sanitizer? Denial: I think the stupid briefings are a complete waste of fucking time. There is literally ZERO useful information. He just blabbers out lists of useless numbers and lashes out at the media. He is a fucking vacuum and I hate hearing him speak. I can personally say with some pride that Donald Trump represents about 0% of the people in America that I have ever encountered. I know his supporters exist but I guess I have been lucky to mostly only meet rad Americans. His words are poison and his lies are fuel to the pandemic’s fire. He is causing more pain and death and suffering for the poor every time he opens his useless mouth. Want me to tell you how I really feel?
In celebration of Earth Day, Portland-based contemporary artist Josh Keyes offers of a grim look at the future of a lonesome planet left behind. Goodbye pictures a graffiti-battered whale bidding farewell to a society that failed to protect it.
Keyes’ work often imagines wild animals reclaiming spaces once occupied by humans, highlighting the long-term environmental consequences of unchecked capitalism and urban decay. Drawing narratives that are at once unsettling and hopeful, Keyes reminds us that someone, or something, will have to deal with our mess when we’re gone.
In our exclusive interview, we asked the artist about his inspiration for the piece, coping with a global pandemic, and digging Golden Girls.
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about this piece, anything immediate you would like to highlight? Josh Keyes: Goodbye is a dark comedy, hinting with a serious tongue in cheek at our precarious relationship with the natural world.
1x: How did the idea and execution come about? Keyes: I enjoy working with ocean themes and I had an itch to paint a whale underwater. I wasn’t sure if it would have graffiti or not, or some other element or indication of a human relationship gone wrong. That’s not to say that I personally feel that graffiti stands for demise or disrespect. To me, it is more like an angry or loud thought bubble. Kind of a cathartic human tantrum, but it does read as a kind of emotional scarification of territorial markmaking in urban environments. The whale is represented, for the most part, as a peaceful entity in many folk legends, and evokes an old soul sort of feeling for many people.
This image sat on the backburner in my imagination for a while. I felt sad thinking about it. Eventually I just had to paint it, get it out of my system, kind of like a personal exorcism. I feel it is a strong image, and with my work, I really try to find a balance between the absurd and the sublime. The title, Goodbye, is the tail waving farewell to humanity, and humanity to the whale, the natural world.
I think it is a reminder of the natural beauty that we are losing every day, as well as a reminder of how hard we have to fight to preserve it. But I don’t know if it will go well with your living room sofa.
1x: What materials were used to create the original piece? Keyes: I used Golden acrylic paint on birch wood panel, 2019. I created this painting for the my 2019 show with Thinkspace at Moniker UK.
1x: How long did this piece take to create from start to finish? Keyes: I usually start by doing a lot of image searching on image stock sites. Once I find an initial image, something that has a solid punch to it, I begin altering it by adding or subtracting elements until it falls in line with my conceptual vision. The painting process can take anywhere from a week to a month, depending on the level of detail.
This painting is different from some of my other whale paintings in that the whale is underwater. Some of the other paintings I have done feature only the tail descending into the waves.
1x: Describe this piece in one gut reaction word. Keyes: Sniff.
1x: These are strange and uncertain times we are living in –– how have things changed for you over the last few months? Keyes: As a parent of a five year-old, it is pretty terrifying. My daughter is in this beautiful bubble of unicorns and fairies, so when I play with her, I try hard not to look out the window at all of the people wearing masks. I try hard not to check the latest news, holding back the tears. What is going on in the world is like living or waking to a nightmare. Not knowing how long this will last, or the endless repercussions affecting so many around the world, with no time to process emotionally, mentally. Trapped in the sensation of shock and awe. I think everyone is hoping that a vaccine is found, and that families, communities, small businesses can return to some form of normalcy. And anything that comes from Trump’s mouth makes me sick.
1x: Has anything remained normal? Are you spending more or less time in the studio? Keyes: I have found it challenging to work. Much of what is going on––visions of vacant city streets with wild animals roaming free––feels like many paintings I have made. I’m not sure how this will affect my future work, but I am definitely absorbing the energy and tension in the world, waiting for it to gestate & transform into new imagery.
1x: What music and TV have you been digging lately? Keyes:Golden Girls, True and the Rainbow Kingdom (my daughter’s new favorite), and that crazy Tiger King documentary on Netflix, WTF!!!!
Prior to all this insanity, I was digging the films of Jordan Peele––so good. I was listening to the audiobook Mountain Man by Keith Blackmore, but it was too close to current events. Still a good listen.
1x: What advice would you give to a fan during these tumultuous times? Keyes: Wash your hands, wear a mask, and be good to yourself and others. When you feel it, have a good cry or nap or both. Do what you can to help those less fortunate.
1xRUN: Where else can people find you? Josh Keyes:Website – Instagram @joshkeyes.art
Zane Kesey is the son of American novelist Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Sometimes a Great Notion), who pioneered the 60s psychedelic movement alongside Neal Cassady and the rest of the Merry Pranksters. Today, Zane and his wife Stephanie run Key-Z Productions, a small production company that later morphed into a blotter printing after they moved from his father’s farm in 1991. 1xRUN has partnered with Zane to hand-perforate blotter editions since 2018, carrying a tradition passed down from the family that started it all. Through Zane’s legacy, the Bicycle Day Collection is deeply connected to a history of creating art on blotter paper.
In our exclusive interview, we spoke to Zane about growing up with one of America’s most influential figures, collecting blotters, and the secret history of Acid Tests. Read our exclusive interview with Zane Kesey below…
1x: For those who don’t know, tell us a little about yourself… Zane Kesey: I’m Zane Kesey. Ken Kesey was my father. He’s the guy that wrote One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and Sometimes a Great Notion, and drove around in a psychedelic bus with the Merry Pranksters and put on these parties called The Acid Tests, which had a big vat of Kool-Aid in the middle of the floor, and in the Kool-Aid was LSD. It was legal at the time, and they had a lot of fun with that. Out of these parties came all the things we consider to be part of psychedelic festivals: the wild clothes and the day-glo and the strobe lights and the psychedelic light shows and the weird music. That whole feel.
1x: How old was he when you were born? What were some of your earliest memories? Kesey: How old was he? Good god, this is math. No idea. I don’t do that stuff. I know that around the time I was born, in 1961, while he was writing Cuckoo’s Nest, he signed up for these drug experiments with LSD. It turned out to be the CIA that was giving it. That’s sort of where Cuckoo’s Nest got its oomph from: it was this fairly boring, straightforward, first-person story until that night he hallucinated Chief Bromden, who was crazy, and told it through his point of view.
1x: Were some of your earliest memories with him? He was doing all these crazy, psychedelic buff antics––was that part of your life? Kesey: Yeah, totally. Painting on the bus, riding around on the bus, all the wild Pranksters doing their thing. Eventually all of us moved up to Oregon onto the farm. There was a commune there. It wasn’t until about 1969 or ‘70 when I went to school and found out that not everybody grew up in the circus. I learned words like “hippie.”
1x: What was your relationship with psychedelics early on? How was it introduced to you? Kesey: In general, acid was this cool thing, just like people smoking pot. No worries. I remember, it wasn’t until I was deep into school when they had cops come in and show us this or that. All the sudden, I realized, “Wait a second, you mean acid is the same thing as this horrible stuff I’ve been hearing about called LSD?” I had a hard time putting those two things together. Realizing that, all this time, the straight world was freaking out about acid? I was never worried about acid.
Later in life, when I started really participating in it, I came to respect it a lot. I’ve never been very good at megadosing. It still scares me, as far as taking too much of it. I don’t like the idea of being out there where my feet aren’t even a little bit on the ground.
1x: That’s a good way to put it. Kesey: I don’t know if I would pass the actual Acid Test.
1x: Once you started taking LSD, did you guys start working together on things? How did your relationship with your father evolve? Kesey: Well, around that time, it was me and the neighborhood kids. An easier way to look at it would be pot: that every now and then, the joint would be passed in the direction of the kids. Same with acid, in a very rare and very tiny amount. But once, as kids, we found where the stash was… that was a different story.
It wasn’t something that you talked about because you’re sneaking off to do it. About that time, I’m fairly deep in school, an athlete, and this was frowned upon. I’m supposed to be more serious than this. I’m really sneaking off to do it. People always assumed it was this wonderful relationship of getting high whenever you want, it’s all a party. No, that was when I was really young, when the Prankster scene was happening. Later in life, it was, you’re a farm kid, these are your chores, this is what is expected from you. Dad was a different person from what you see in his public persona. This was more about him and the way he grew up, which was fairly strict and straightforward. If I tell you do something you do it. Normal dad stuff.
1x: When did you guys first start working together, making art? How long have you been doing this printing and perforating? Kesey: Key-Z Productions goes back to just before I got married. I moved into the family farm with my future wife, and Dad had us looking through the old films. He had my wife Stephanie and I start transferring these old historical films of the Merry Pranksters to video, editing them, and my wife and I started a company that dad named K-E-Y-Z Productions. We’d do films for people, and we came out with the old bus films. We had a lot of fun. It went on for a while. We had a catalog that we would put in the Grateful Dead magazines.
And then came along Tom Lytle. He had these blotter prints that he was having Timothy Leary sign. He wanted to have Dad sign, too. I told him, “Well, give me a couple hundred of them and I’ll get them signed, and I’m going to keep some to sell ourselves.” And by gosh, they signed! I couldn’t believe it. They sold. We got them signed and they sold. I was surprised. And then I spent a long time after that trying to find out where to get these things printed.
1x: When was this? Kesey: Mid-90s. That wasn’t easy. You could find the ones that were already printed, and I had Dad sign all of Mark McCloud’s, who is the godfather of blotter art. All the early blotters were from him pretty much. So I’d get some of his, and have Dad sign them. You can always find Dad’s signature on a Timothy Leary blotter, but I wanted one with the bus, or with the Merry Pranksters, or “Acid Test” for him to sign. I spent ten years trying to find people to print them, and finally found one person to print for us. It was just about that time that Dad died.
After that, the printer was going out of business, and I tried to find one of these machines. Finally I realized I was just going to have to have somebody make one. So I had somebody design it, and fabricate it, and create the darn thing after a few sample tries. I’ve been working with that one ever since. It’s an old school printing press. You run it by hand with a big wheel and hope you don’t get your fingers caught in it (which I have done a number of times).
1x: How many do you think you’ve printed since you started doing everything yourself? Kesey: I don’t know. Hundreds of thousands. It’s been quite a while. There’s a lot of people coming in with really big orders. You wonder where they went to.
There’s been a few other people that are in the business. My main friend bought the business of blotterart.com, and he’s now in England doing it. I’ve got another pseudo-partner down in the Bay Area who does it a little bit. And still, the godfather of all blotter art is Mark McCloud. If anybody’s ever down in San Francisco with a day to kill, man, go drop in at his place. He is still one of the real revolutionaries. He’s out there ready to change the world. His whole house, one of those painted lady houses in San Francisco, is floor-to-ceiling all framed, original blotter art, one of a kind, from the old days. He loves to have people come in and blow their mind.
He’s a really good guy. He is a bit out there like you’d expect, but not too far. He has spent his family fortune, twice now, defending the right to collect blotter art. That he’s not trying to do something illegal. He’s trying to preserve this art form.
1x: Can you tell us a bit about your blotter editions, Acid Test Diploma and Acid Test Flier? Kesey: The diploma is the original diploma that was handed out to Acid Test graduates. They handed out a diploma just like this, except on basic white paper, and this one has an aged look to it. There’s still a few of them around. Mountain Girl has hers and Jerry Garcia’s. I’ve seen two or three others, and that’s about it. Getting a real one is psychedelic gold.
1x: Would Ken give you that? Kesey: Handing them out? That was Neal Cassady. Actually, you can go online and you can see footage of Neal Cassady handing out diplomas to people who they decided had passed the Acid Test. They actually judged these people, and decided who didn’t pass.
The other one is sort of like Wes Wilson’s design (below) of the Acid Test, with the swirly colors and optical illusions. It’s got the great words up in the corner about the Merry Pranksters and their psychedelic symphony, and listing who all’s going to be there. One of the famous things that Acid Test posters had was, Pranksters would put them up on a telephone pull and let it sit there for weeks, and the day before, they would put the location in. Oftentimes they didn’t know the location, but they were also one to keep it secret. That’s a hugely collectable thing, nowadays: one of these Acid Test posters taken off a telephone pole that has the location on it.
1x: Was this for a specific one? Do you know the date of the one that we used? Kesey: There were really only two main Acid Test posters, and there were a lot of Acid Tests. They would use this poster in San Francisco, and then use the same one in LA, and put in the location at the last second.
1x: Who are some of your favorite blotter artists that you like to collect? Kesey: If you’re going to collect blotters, the place you have to start is the double-sided Alice In Wonderland / Through The Looking Glass and its sidekick, The Mad Hatter. Then comes Mark McCloud’s double-sided Dancing Condoms and Pink Elephants on Parade. Those were printed together with a reverse side. If you get both of them together, the reverse side combines into one image. But the most highly sought-after one of all is the Purple Jesus by Alex Grey. Before Alex Grey was well known, it was a Tool cover, I think. This was back in the day, where you didn’t ask for an artist’s permission because this was hitting the streets. Everybody was really fond of that.
That’s kind of how blotter art exists now: there’s a ton of people that are my age who want to remember back to their college days. It’s kind of like having a diploma on the wall: “Yep, I passed it, and it was that design right there!” The people who don’t really know what it is don’t really notice it. The people who do notice, oh, it brings back a lot of stories. But I’m still surprised at how popular it’s gotten. It really has become sort of the psychedelic trading card, where the collectors out there are so deep into it, that once some new artist comes up who is now doing blotter art, they have to have his art too. It’s gotten big.
1x: I think we can attest to that. That first year we did it started off with just Mike Giant, and then each year it’s just ballooned. Kesey: It’s one thing that I can say: if you’re an artist and you’ve already done a great limited-edition print of your work, and you’d love to be able to print it again in a new format, blotter is the perfect excuse.
1x: That’s what we’ve been saying to people. Kesey: There’s people who have done this great artwork, and their blotters are selling fantastically because the earlier editions sold out long ago, and this gives them another chance to cash in on it, and to give people a chance who otherwise can’t afford the more highly collectable prints. I’m really shocked at how great some of these artists you’re finding are, though. Wow.
1xRUN: We appreciate you taking the time. Where else can people find you? Zane Kesey:Website – Facebook @zane.kesey
Zane Kesey was interviewed over the phone by 1xRUN Editor-In-Chief Pietro Truba during first week of the Coronavirus pandemic while on his farm in remote Oregon. Read previous interviews for Bicycle Day here.
As part of 1xRUN’s 2020 Bicycle Day Print Suite, we are excited to make history with the first collaborative editions from poster art legends Shepard Fairey and John Van Hamersveld! In four distinct colorways, Psychedelic Andre is equal parts influence from the two artists: Hamersveld’s classic Jimi Hendrix concert poster is blended with Fairey’s ubiquitous Andre the Giant Obey illustration.
You may recognize Van Hamersveld’s work on over 300 album covers, including art for the Beatles, The Beach Boys, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and the Rolling Stones. Known for a wide array of styles and a sophisticated use of color, the art of John Van Hamersveld helped define the gig poster movement of the late 1960s, and one image in particular, Pinnacle Hendrix, had a profound influence on Shepard Fairey in his early development as an artist.
To mark this occasion, we caught up with Van Hamersveld and Fairey to trace the lineage of Hamersveld’s Pinnacle Hendrix poster, its impression on Fairey, and the relationship that the two artists developed because of it. Read on to find out more about these historic editions…
1xRUN: Let’s start with talking about this imagery. John, tell us about when you first created this Hendrix image. Anything immediate you want to highlight? John Van Hamersveld: I made this image in 1967, and then the poster came out in 1968. One day I sat down and started this drawing out of my style. I had been an art director at Capitol Records, and I hadn’t been drawing very much. It was a whole new state I was in. But it was an opportunity to test my drawing and put it into a poster, and have it published. It all came out great. It was a fantastic show. There were ads everywhere and people loved the poster. It just started to become a piece of history right away, much like The Endless Summer poster.
1x: Was there much art direction given, or were you left to your own devices? Van Hamersveld: No. I actually found out much later, just the other day in fact, from my partner Mark Chase, who was at Pinnacle with me. (Ed. Note: Pinnacle was Van Hamersveld’s production company for concerts around Los Angeles.) He had met with the manager, and he said they didn’t like the poster. They wanted to have all three members of the band. You always have that going on. But somehow it went through the politics, went to the printer’s, and was published.
1x: That original design, was that for promotional flyers and handbills, or a poster that people could buy at the show? Van Hamersveld: It was a promotional poster first. There were around 2,400 of them made. They were put in stores and on telephone poles as a communication. People could buy them. We would line the windows with them so people couldn’t see in the windows when they came to the shows, and when they would leave, people would tear them all off the walls and off the bandstand.
I had a relationship with Martin Geisler of Personality Posters, in New York for the distribution of the Endless Summer posters. There was an unbelievable amount of posters sold through college campuses, bookstores for students’ dorms and all of that. Then to the army, the PX’s (Post Exchange/military stores), so it went all the way to Vietnam. There were surfers there. So I meet Geisler at the studio and he sits down with me and says, “What’s going on?”. I show him these posters and he says, “Great, I’ll buy those from you.” So I printed 3,500 of each design, put them on skids, and sent them back to New York. Then they were sold there throughout the world. So I had a much more connected world of distribution than San Francisco. But then, Chet Helms opened up a ballroom in Colorado, and he had stores there selling the San Francisco posters. They had some distribution, but what San Francisco really had was media looking at them. Writing everything they did. Every riot. Every poster. Every singer. They had such attention in the media. That was their distribution.
1x: So you went to the show too? Van Hamersveld: I was a partner in the show. There were three of us at Pinnacle. Marc Chase, Sepp Donahower, and myself. Then there was the Bogdanovich Family, who owned Starkist Tuna, who put the money up for the shows.
1x: Interesting. That tuna money. Fairey: Amazing.
1x: What was your technique at the time? What materials were you using? Van Hamersveld: Well they had these rapidograph pens, then they had these Pentel pens, which were a bit looser. I liked that because it was much more like a crayon in making up the drawing. The rapidographs were for more detailed-like drawing, for mechanical diagrams.
1x: How was that original printing done? Van Hamersveld: They had a two-color press that I was using at Capitol on Fairfax, so I took it over there, and the guys fell in love with my complicated mechanicals. We would run two colors: one sheet through, then turn it around and run two more colors down. It was almost like silkscreening at the time. The tuning board was people turning screws or running along the side of it trying to get the ink to flow. There was just one button for color up or color down. You want it brighter, you just press harder. You want it lighter, you just don’t push it.
1x: Shepard, what was your first interaction with John’s image? What did you think the first time you saw it? Shepard Fairey: It’s fascinating because it’s one of those images that I’ve seen… I became a fan of Hendrix after I exited my punk rock orthodoxy phase. Later in high school I was really getting into a lot of classic rock, and Hendrix was one of my favorites. I liked a lot of the imagery around Hendrix. I don’t really remember where I first saw the Pinnacle image because I was just collecting as much literature and ephemera of this culture as I could. I know that I had a L’Imagerie catalog, which was like a poster publisher out of San Francisco, that had this image in it.
I was getting really into a lot of the other psychedelic posters by Victor Moscoso, Rick Griffin, and Stanley Mouse, but I assumed that John was part of that San Francisco grouping. What he did with this, and a couple of other images of his, felt very much in step with that movement. I ended up gravitating towards John’s image because it had that nod to psychedelia, without going so overboard in the baroque detail, that it remained iconic. When you look at my work there’s more of an influence in that direction, where there is a recognizable style, but there’s an iconic quality that is not too difficult to read what the communication is from the typography or from the portrait.
In fact, there’s a good reason for that: the reason was that this Hendrix image itself — along with a few other influences, like Barbara Kruger and Russian Constructivism — was a huge influence in how I was going to make work that had the ability to cut through the clutter of what’s on the street and still have a recognizable style. This image was incredibly influential because it captured the essence of Hendrix while still having strength in each abstract mark that makes up the face, the hair, the sort of frilly part below him (which, at the time, I thought was an homage to Beethoven, but then realized was actually a nod to Eric Clapton). All of that was really an inspiration for me.
It also turned me on to what I thought was really great about the styles of Art Deco and Art Nouveau, because there are nods to both here. This image for me, it drew me in, and really made me dig deeper into all the stuff going on within those movements. It was the first image that I first sort of knocked off and did a mash-up of with Andre. It was 1992, and I had only made variations of the original Andre face and sticker.
I think that one of the reasons I was so attracted to the psychedelic stuff was that the color combinations and patterns were so powerful. When I was just making variations of the Andre on the different backgrounds, I was looking at a lot of psychedelic work, but John’s piece really inspired me to make something that was a deviation from just playing it safe with the original Andre image. So John’s Pinnacle Hendrix was sort of a gateway to the evolution of my entire Andre The Giant project. I can’t really understate the importance of this image for me.
1x: John, when was the first time that you saw Shepard’s reclaiming of your Hendrix iconography? Van Hamersveld: In this poster scene, there was this place called the Psychedelic Solution, and Jacaeber Kastor would have these shows. I had a show there, and we had a relationship because he was from San Francisco. So he had set up a gallery in New York on 8th street, or was it on 13th or 11th street?
Fairey: I think the show that you came to was at the Alleged Gallery on Ludlow Street. I wasn’t there when you and Jacaeber came through, but the co-curator was Carlo McCormick, who was good friends with Jacaeber and—
Van Hamersveld: Right! I remember. He was a writer/critic.
Fairey: Yes. Carlo worked at Paper Magazine. He wrote the foreword for Robert Williams’ book, and is basically a cultural aficionado. He was the one who brought you and Jacaeber over to the show at Alleged, where my Andre-Hendrix mashup was displayed. At that time, I had only made about five different images, and all of them were in that show. That was in 1994. I had originally made that image in 1992. It was very early on that John saw my work. Juxtapoz Magazine was brand new at the time, and there was a small blurb about John seeing it and giving it sort of — they were a little bit enigmatic about it — but they gave it a nod of approval. It wasn’t any more explicit than that. But to me it was just such a relief that you weren’t mad about it. So, thank you, John.
Van Hamersveld: You’re very welcome. I was a teacher at CalArts for seven years, so I was well aware of influencing and teaching people how to be artists, deal with design, typography and all of it. I was a little more philosophical about it. Always interested in the discovery and people discovering, and how that expands and explodes and becomes their thing. Much the way my work works.
Fairey: The way I would describe it is: you should be flattered because I was emulating your work. I was out of art school at that point. I had recently graduated and was developing my different set of skills. I called it a “solo apprenticeship.” I basically emulated everything I thought was good, and I learned how to achieve that visual language. Eventually, it all sort of synthesized together into my own thing. But that was in the early, early phase, when my work was much more derivative. Me doing that piece, and you being okay with it––I got to have a positive association with an important part of my evolution. That’s something that I’m always going to be thankful for.
Van Hamersveld: Yeah, and I was a living artist. When I designed the Hendrix head, Aubrey Beardsley was my sort of influence, along with Japanese woodblock cuts from The Floating World. They were always getting high and they all kinda went together.
Fairey: I learned a lot of my color theory from the psychedelic rock posters. Prior to that, I treated most of my work like punk rock poster making, where everything is black and white and then you add color.
Van Hamersveld: Very restrained.
Fairey: Very restrained. The cool thing about your pieces is how the use of color is very sophisticated for how loud and attention grabbing they are. It made me realize, when you’ve got simultaneous contrast but chromatic difference, that’s a whole different world to play with, instead of just looking at things like grayscale with spot color added. It’s a different sensibility. So that was really important to my evolution. Even though I was never a psychedelic drug user, it gave me a sense of how to achieve that hypnotic vibration with color. That was obviously why psychedelic drugs and that kind of color use were associated with each other.
Van Hamersveld: Yeah, but that is a naive world of color use in the San Francisco scene. I come from Art Center College of Design, in the sort of Bauhaus training about color, shape, form, and line. I’ve learned how to make letter forms, juxtapose all different kinds of colors together. So when the Endless Summer is made, it’s very academic. It has the analogous color scheme. I knew how all three of those colors would go together.
From photography being a line resolution and making contemporary high resolution of that, then I actually hand-lettered the lettering, which is still good some 50 odd years later. But I had all those skills built into my academic work at that time, working on surfing magazines. So when I get to Chouinard [now known as California Institute of Arts], I loosened up and realize that there’s much more flexibility within the Bauhaus, I don’t have to deal with it. So I was attracted to the San Francisco scene because they were all naive, but they were spectacular color combinations that I had never seen before.
Fairey: One of the strengths of the Hendrix — I think — is the structure of the typography, and how the border allows the sort of psychedelic, electric, and ethereal aspects of the pointillism to fit and create this tension between organic and chaotic. But very refined and controlled and structured. A lot of the psychedelic posters at the time just abandoned traditional structure altogether.
Van Hamersveld: Altogether. Sweeping. Rolling. Turning.
Fairey: In a way I can understand — even though I’m not an acid taker, many of my friends do, I hang out with that crowd — why that made sense. I can see it. It’s almost as the viewer you have to let yourself become enmeshed into the chaos of the psychedelic posters. My preference has always been more what you did with the Hendrix.
Van Hamersveld: It’s organic, a moving form, which is within the drug, as you see the bending and swirling of all these different images together in that view. You have the high contrast. You have the typography reading in negative/positive, but in this flowing structure. So, to the viewer, it was like having the sense that you’ve been there, and they’re going to have this show. Look at this show and look at what they are showing us. That was the San Francisco scene.
Then with mine, each poster I did was an experiment. The secessionist typography and this live, crazy looking face with electric hair. The juxtaposition was so great. It was really taking the tradition of typography and its history, and then combining that with something that was brand new, odd and strange. That’s the way that kind of worked.
The typography is really kind of an influence from the secessionists, which is a little earlier than Art Nouveau. (Or maybe later? I’m not sure). But the head, the portrait itself is being at Capitol Records. Seeing all the album covers coming in, they were actually working on an album for Jimi and his bass player at the time (pre-Experience), and I thought, “look at that hair!” That kind of bouffant, sort of strange hair that he has, that The Cream has in their photographs. Why don’t I just make that electric? Rather than a straight line, it became wiggly, so it felt like a jolt of energy. It really seemed like it stood on its own. Then if I could just put that into a square with silver in the background, then orange into the letter forms, and use the blue for the border, it would have a much more royal quality to it.
The event with Jimi Hendrix and Blue Cheer at the Shrine Auditorium in 1968 was the first time that they had ever let a band play there. Politically, it was a whole new dimension for us and for the USC students. When it starts out, they let all these elegant membership people into the auditorium, and then the ticket buyers who are there to see Hendrix. The other two bands, The Electric Flag and Blue Cheer, were just these knockout bands that just leveled everything in sight in terms of sound. Then we had a light show behind that, which had some disturbing images. Some of the board members got upset and they left. Towards the end of it, Hendrix is blasting away and everything, he comes to the end of his solo and picks up the guitar and throws it into the screen of the light show. That sort of ended it. It was one of those amazing points in time in LA. Way above everything you ever saw on the Sunset Strip or in the Hollywood rock scene.
Fairey: So John, at that point had you already shot the photo for the Blue Cheer cover, or did that come later? Van Hamersveld: I think that was around the same time. I think I did that in December, so it was before. Allan “Gut” Terk (manager of Blue Cheer) came by the studio after the band played. We hung out with them in San Francisco for a little bit, and then he decided I should take a picture of them. When they were down there at my studio, I was into photography and had a dark room built in. So I took this picture, and then Gut kind of responded. (He was a friend of Rick Griffin’s, and one of the notorious people of the Kesey/Acid Test groups in San Francisco.) Gut was a very knowledgeable and experienced character in that San Francisco scene, so when he went about making that cover up, he did a really great job.
Fairey: Yeah, it feels like the artist and the photographer would have been the same person. It really is a great collaboration. It feels very seamless.
1x: Where was this sitting in terms of other projects you were working on during this period? You said you were at Capitol at the time––what else were you working on? Van Hamersveld: I was at Capitol, and I was finishing the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour packaging. I did the campaign for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The artwork was already done for that one––I just had to help with the campaigns on that.
But I would fly to San Francisco on the weekends, I had money from my job, and then I had a studio in LA next to Otis Art Institute. So, in the back and forth, I was meeting with Rick Griffin and Victor Moscoso at the Avalon, and we’d go backstage with the Grateful Dead playing. It was these amazing moments at the time.
It was an intense scene there, in San Francisco. I’d get on the plane and come back to LA, and it was really very neutral by contrast. If you went to go see bands it was okay, but when you went to these love-ins it was just spectacular. Huge groups of people from all walks of life, all colorfully put together. The drugs. The scene. It was a wild scene with nude girls. It was a new thing going on.
I had been at Chouinard the two years before, and I had made a proposal to do a happening at the Elk’s Hall, which is next to the Otis Art Institute. It was a smaller hall, so I decided that I was going to do a light show there. As that sort of matured, and when the tuna money came along, we saw the opportunity to do the Shrine Exhibition Hall. So in my partnership with those two other people, with the Starkist people as our financing, we started booking bands. I was going back and forth again.
By December, after doing two shows, I had to quit my job. I would be at the studio and I would get phone calls from various executives at Capitol Records asking me to come back. “Don’t do this!” I essentially had to break it off with my boss, Brown Meggs, who signed the Beatles to the label in 1963. I became his art director in 1967, and it was like a doctorate education about the entertainment business every day. I felt very strong about my position, about being able to work within the rock business. With my partners, I would try to make an artistic statement through the posters and the light shows, these environments. In a way, it was as much as (Robert) Rauschenberg’s small happenings, and having his images and the way he was doing it, I felt that I was attacking it from a different point of view, but it was very artful. So that’s how all of the posters kind of come out of the woodwork, or out of the underground of LA.
1x: Would it be safe to call the Shrine Los Angeles’ Fillmore equivalent? One of the hubs for the psychedelic scene in Los Angeles? Van Hamersveld: Yeah, but it was a bit bigger, like Winterland. Even larger than Winterland. They had the Fillmore and Winterland, and Winterland was the larger venue. We had the Shrine and the Avalon, which would take in maybe 500 to 1,000 people. The Shrine would take 5,000.
Fairey: I have seen Radiohead, Interpol, David Bowie all at the Shrine. The Shrine still puts shows on, and it’s amazing how that show was the first time that rock music was there. And now they have rock music there on a regular basis.
Van Hamersveld: In the beginning, it was originally for circuses. What was different about the time was that Ken Kesey and his whole psychedelic world rented it once. They had a big LSD-fest there. They had an experience in there. So when we came in, they quibbled a little bit about it, but they finally said they would go with it. But you had to get a permit from the city, and they didn’t want people sitting in an auditorium. You had to be standing, so it became a dance concert. We had to change the name to Pinnacle Dance Concerts to get through that licensing issue.
Fairey: John, considering how short Pinnacle productions was around, you did stuff for Big Brother & The Holding Company, Jefferson Airplane, The Velvet Underground––I mean, there were some phenomenal shows for such a short amount of time.
Van Hamersveld: 43 national and international groups came through the house and studios. We had two houses. One was my studio, a three-story place with a studio part at the top. Then the other one was over on Wilton and Third Street, and that was called The White House. That was where we would have all the parties and the drug scenes, all that stuff. I always tried to keep that away from my house.
Basically, as we got into the summer, we had these finance problems. A group called The Brotherhood of Eternal Love––which was like a drug scene of surfers just selling drugs around the world––wanted to meet the bands. So they would come by with suitcases full of money. My partners got a little bit out of line there, and kept accepting these suitcases. Then came the “Rose Bowl American Music Show” with 12 groups, no profit on ticket sales, and a loose situation with a show for all the backers. It bankrupted the whole thing and we went out of business.
Fairey: That’s too bad. But, at least you have all of those great images to show for it.
Van Hamersveld: Yeah, but it also has a lot to do with LA because things change so much. LA doesn’t really worship its history, it just kind of passes by only to accept a new history, which passes by. We have a changing culture here. It’s not a consistent thing. Whatever scene happens here, it’s only like six months. The media attacks it. It gets spread everywhere. A lot of people show up for it. Then it just goes onto another thing. The way I look at it, is that it was just all part of being in Los Angeles. You had your time. You had to close down and go back onto the carousel as the carousel went around to the next person. The fashion business is the same way, as I’m sure you know. You’re big one year and then you’ve got to get back on the carousel and try to equal out with all the others.
1x: In its kind of infancy stages, what were some of your early experiences with LSD? Van Hamersveld: It was like ’65. It came in a cube. It had a brown quality to it. This friend came over and said, “do you want to take this with me?” and I said “No, but I’ll sit this out with you.” So we smoked some pot and he took the cube, and then I watched him. He would be talking, and then he would start groaning, and he would hold his stomach, and then he would go into an elaborate abstract conversation. He’d come back, and then he would be cognizant, but he would be holding his stomach again. I didn’t know quite what to say about the whole thing.
It wasn’t until later, during Pinnacle, that Jim Otto comes by. He started Sound Spectrum in Laguna Beach. I was always asking him for these ginseng roots, and this particular time he dosed it. So I had an LSD trip. I got sick and felt terrible, but had all these hallucinations. Then the next morning I started a poster which would become the Traffic poster. That’s almost like a blotter in a way. The figures are typography floating in the air in a bit of a chamber, and the background is multiple sets of squares with the Indian faded into it. That poster connects three getting higher: there’s the Jefferson Airplane, The Cream, and the Traffic poster, and they stand on top of each other vertically in a sort of triptych.
1x: Was blotter art a big thing back then? Van Hamersveld: I remember being with Stanley Mouse. We were talking about it, and he was going to do his Mouse on a blotter. The little symbol that he puts into his signature. I had a lot of rapport with him early on. Rick Griffin had grown up with him. He was three years younger, and they were all older, but they took him in as a group. So he became one of the Big Five, along with a few others. But they became this group of people that I would go and meet, and we’d go house to house and studio to studio, and we would talk about everything. Then they would come down, stay in my studio, and come to the shows. I was very integrated into that scene for a couple years.
Like all things you have to move on. After hanging out in that scene from like ’66 to ’69, I took a little piece of mescaline, and I had such a huge trip on the whole thing that I got scared and stopped the whole drug scene. Got rid of those people and moved on. Cleaned up. Went swimming every day. Went to the record company trying to make money.
1x: Interesting. So by ’69 you were already pretty much over it. What was your introduction to the whole scene? Van Hamersveld: The way that it goes is that Albert and Leary had been on TV with David Susskind on CBS, a nightly show. They were talking about psychology and LSD. The group that I was with in Dana Point was just starting to smoke pot. This was really early. It was a new thing happening. By ’65 or ’66, when I was in Chouinard, people were taking acid all the time. Normally, it was always at these pot rooms that you would go to from one place to another.
Then when it goes into doing Pinnacle, you start seeing much more of a huge society, a generation of people in this huge drug scene. As it gets into ’69, all of the sudden it’s over because people are getting busted and Leary is going to jail. The media. Nixon’s coming into power. Your parents. It all just had to be over with by ‘69. Even though, after Woodstock and all of that, the hippie sensibility continued, but it went into another scene.
When I was doing the Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street, that particular album is to look at that whole scene as freaks. So, on the cover are these freaks from the past decades. It was an interesting concept between Robert Frank, Mick Jagger, and myself. When it came out, people said, “Oh gosh, this is so ugly! Awful!” and that was really the transition. As John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) says, “When I saw your cover that gave us the incentive to have our own kind of look. This kind of rip and tear.” I always thought that was interesting, the way that influenced the punk era in 1974 – ’76.
Fairey: I could definitely see that.
Van Hamersveld: Yeah, I’ve got John Lydon in my face telling me 10 years after I do the album cover.
1x: How many shows do you think you’ve seen over the course of your life? Van Hamersveld: Well, I kind of wrapped it up in about 1969. I met Billy Idol in probably ’92 or ’93. He had a show at the Forum here. I had tickets on the floor, near the bandstand and everything. I was with my children, and it was so loud that my ears rang for three days. I just couldn’t believe that people were going through that kind of torture. But I had to just get rid of all of that. I could see them on TV because I can turn the volume down.
Fairey: That’s funny. I’ve seen Billy a lot. I’ve done three of Billy’s album covers and he always puts on a good show. It’s funny how much overlap John and I have in weird ways. Richard Duardo (of Modern Multiples Gallery), who passed away, was printing and co-publishing a lot of editions with John, and he was also helping me with a lot of my printing at the same time. That’s how John and I initially met.
Van Hamersveld: I had been printing with Duardo for 30 years. I met him when he was like 19 or 20.
Fairey: He was one of the few fine art, large format screen printers in LA. The amazing thing about him was that a lot of the people who worked for him now have their own studios printing stuff. So even though he passed away, his legacy is still going. But that was how John and I met and got to spend some time together. That was ’02 or ‘03?
Van Hamersveld: I think it was ‘03. I had just finished the Indian with the bursts and rays behind it.
Fairey: Yeah, I had moved to LA in 2001. I think I had met Duardo shortly after that. I went to his studio and he had some of John’s work there. I explained to him how much of an influence John was for me and he said, “Well I’ll have to get you guys together.”We’ve been friends ever since.
Van Hamersveld: In my case, he would always split editions with me. I never had to pay any money to him. I would always give a percentage of my editions to him, and then he would sell it. He was always undermining me, because he would sell it for sure.
Fairey: I remember that he tried to sell me your Hendrix. But I bought that version directly from you because I wanted to make sure you got the benefit. I did buy a set of the classical composers from him though. What year did you print those?
Van Hamersveld: That’s in 2005.
Fairey: Ah, okay. Tell me if this is going off on a tangent, but I think it’s relevant: when I first saw your Hendrix, the style that the hair was done in and with the ascot, I didn’t realize that it was inspired by the fashion of the time. I thought that it was meant to be a hybrid of Jimi Hendrix and Beethoven. I thought it was a really great philosophical statement: that Jimi Hendrix was as important of a musician as Beethoven. I was saying this for years to people. Then I found out that it wasn’t true. But when you decided to do the series of classical composers, was that something you wanted to do anyway?
Van Hamersveld: Believe it or not, we had been selling posters across the country. With Clapton, Warner Brothers and Tower Records, I went to 17 stores around the nation to sign posters. So we had two posters made, an art version, which was smaller, and somewhere along our travels my wife Alida [Van Hamersveld] says, “You know what we should do? Composers. Because they’re like rock stars.” Rock and roll in a sense was so old at that point, it became classic rock. It was like classical music. I said, “Okay, let’s try this.”
1x: John, on that note, let’s touch on your solo images as well. Can you tell me a bit about each of these images? Van Hamersveld: On the right side, I have the actual blotters, and then on the left side I show how the images changed from year to year, into what you have today.
The butterfly comes from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band in 1968. It was a black and white drawing. Then in 2013, I did another version of it, because I was going to make a poster of it. Then it went on to become a mural.
On the Indian that you have: it goes from the original poster in 1968, then to the Traffic poster, then to the Hippie Nation poster in 2007, then the image we have today as a blotter.
The Waves: You’ll see the cat as a wave, then you’ll see the next wave, then you’ll see the print image, and then you’ll see the big wave we have today.
Then last we have this Statue of Liberty image for Stussy, and you’ll see two of those. That led into the ACLU poster, that gives us what we have today.
Because of the internet, people have become more interested in their monitor than having something on the wall. I remember when this whole thing started with the internet, and I would go to San Francisco, and the walls were clean. There was nothing on them. Everything was on the monitor. Everything was about the phone. That’s where we are today. We’re entirely mesmerized by this iPhone and iPad. It’s ridiculous.
Fairey: I still like the more permanent side of things. Like everyone, I use all the tools, including the computer. But a lot of the prints that I did back in the ’90s –– I didn’t learn how to use the computer until 1997, so everything I did prior to that was done completely by hand. The version of Andre mashed up with the Hendrix was all done by hand. But I think 1xRUN wouldn’t be around if people didn’t still like to have physical prints as objects. I think it’s important.
1x: I think we can definitely agree on that. I appreciate you both taking the time to talk and putting together these historic editions for us. Van Hamersveld: Thank you very much. It’s always good to have an interview with the new as the old and the old as the new!
ShepardFairey: Good to talk with you both. Hope you’re both doing as is possible during the chaos. John, I always enjoy hearing your stories.
John Van Hamersveld and Shepard Fairey were interviewed by 1xRUN Editor-In-Chief Pietro Truba via a phone call. Read previous Bicycle Day Interviews with Stanley Mouse, Roger Steffens/The Family Acid and Mike Giant here.
1xRUN welcomes back multi-talented Melissa Villaseñor for her second installment of letterpress prints in a new ongoing series, Shelter In Place! Last month, we published Melissa’s first-ever printed editions as part of International Women’s Day, and this April, even though life has been turbulent yet quiet for most of us (and SNL is off the air) the fine artist and comedian has stayed busy doing Instagram live feeds drawing, making music, voice messaging fans, eating pizza, and watching movies. Through the madness, she finds that creativity in all forms helps keep her mind at ease. And above all, sharing comfort and hope with the world is especially important during this time. In our exclusive interview, Melissa reveals the inspiration behind these new editions, her shelter-in-place routines, fun ways to stay busy, and her favorite things to watch. Read on to find out more about our latest releases with Melissa Villaseñor…
1xRUN: Anything immediate about this collection you would like to highlight? Melissa Villaseñor: These drawings were all created during this time of being in quarantine. The seed of them is gloomy but I keep pushing to make them hopeful. I am alone, but thankfully with my dog and at home safe, but I feel for many, and my brain rushes with ideas and images as I feel a greater range of emotions these days.
1x: When were these pieces created? Villaseñor: These were all created over the past three-four weeks.
1x: How did the ideas for these pieces come about? Villaseñor: They all are hopeful. I share them immediately ’cause I want my fans and folks to see the little light and hope.
1x: What materials were usedandhow long did these pieces take from start to finish? Villaseñor: Bristol paper, Faber-Castell pens. Usually within an hour or two.
1x: We’ve been keeping up with your daily #MelissaHobbyTime live streams with different activities each day––How important has it been to try to stay busy over the past few weeks? Villaseñor: It’s been helping me and helping others. Some days are harder to show up with energy, but I show up and usually end up feeling happier and more productive, and it’s just nice to connect with fans. And right now I am sending them voice messages on Instagram chats to reply back! I have the time and I know I have the silly brain to help them step away––even for a moment––to make them smile.
When this happened, I stepped up because I know my purpose is to help others. So I made that hobby list, and all my hobbies that I love to do on my free days from SNL and stand-up gigs, these are the things I do that bring me comfort. I thought, why not share them with folks out there? They may feel comfort, too, and maybe I’ll even spark an interest in a new art form for them to try!
1x: Along with drawing and creating visual art, you also recently put out an album. Does it help to stay creative in those different ways? Villaseñor: It really helps me. Everything helps each other. When I feel real low and hurt, a drawing can soothe me and help. Sometimes a joke is what helps. If those don’t help, I bounce into a music bubble and write a song. I am fortunate to be able to swim into these different worlds, and it all feels cathartic.
1x: What are some of the ways you’ve been trying to unwind and relax the past few weeks? Villaseñor: I’ve been watching movies and shows and eating pizza! My family has been doing a weekly zoom karaoke night or trivia, and that’s nice to laugh and see them. I have been hanging out with my dog Penny who is an angel! Sunday I take off to rest my brain, and this past Sunday I watched Pixar’s Onward, which I loved a lot! I also watched a couple episodes of Adventure Time (did voices on that show in the past nbd hehe), and Over the Garden Wall, which was also on Cartoon Network, and boy! The animation and art is so beautiful! It’s also very funny and sweet. Those felt very good for my kid soul.
1x: What musical and visual artists or have you been liking as of late? Villaseñor: Been really enjoying these two sisters that are artists @heidiroo_art and @preemoreno. They are sisters here in CA, and they just make such cool and cute art! I love the accounts I follow on my art page (@melissavart) ’cause artists are pumping out so much right now and it makes me feel a lot of comfort knowing we are in our shells making some magical stuff. Also, I dig the New Yorker cartoons. With music, I’ve been listening to Tarantino movie soundtracks as I’ve been drawing or making breakfast, and classic rock has been good too. Today, I did my Owen Wilson impression livestream and worked out to 80s jams, and that felt good, too. I’ve been stepping into childhood music and movies––it helps keep things innocent in a time of heavy weird things.
1x: What movies have you been watching? Villaseñor: Rewatching Lord of the Rings! It’s been so long since I’ve seen them all! So Two Towers is next! I also want to watch movies with some new impressions I’m trying to learn! Also! Been reading a sweet book by Brad Montague called “Becoming Better GrownUps” and it’s so sweet and good. Also its awesome because he has his art in there mix with stories.
As we continue to practice social distancing and as our staff works from home, we assembled a list of feature-length artist documentaries that we hope will offer some relief from the daily news cycle. Get a glimpse into the life and art of Estevan Oriol, Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Wayne White, and Ron English.
Newly released last week, LA Originals is a Netflix documentary that explores the history behind Estevan Oriol‘s and Mister Cartoon‘s rise to become the biggest visual artists in hip hop.
Beautiful Losers (2009) documents how a loosely knit group of friends in New York City, including pro skateboarder Ed Templeton and street artists Shepard Fairey, Barry McGee, Steven Powers and Harmony Korine, found themselves at the intersection of street art and skateboarding before it transformed into a movement that changed pop culture forever.
Woven together from 20 years of footage shot around the world, Fearless is an intimate portrait of street artist Caledonia Curry, aka Swoon, her collaborators, inspirations, and antics.
Beauty Is Embarrassing (2012) is a funny, irreverent, joyful and inspiring documentary featuring the life and times of American artist Wayne White. The film chronicles his early days as a creator of the Pee-wee’s Playhouse, his work as an art director for Smashing Pumpkins, and his current turn as a star in the fine art world.
The Art and Crimes of Ron English (2005) offers engaging insight into the life and art of the culture jamming pioneer. See how Ron flips the script on corporate messaging and propaganda, subverting meaning and turning it back onto the messengers.
As we close out International Women’s Day this March, in these tumultuous times, 1xRUN is proud to showcase Mab Graves emotionally resonant edition “Mourning.”
Painted in the wake of the death of her father, “Mourning” captures an unfortunate universal truth of loss, sadness and what she aptly describes as “the place beyond tears, sadness so present your skin and hair hurts.”
We thank Mab for sharing this extremely personal piece in hopes that it will get others through tough times. Read on as Mab Graves gives us the story behind her latest edition, earliest influences and more…
1x: Tell us about your execution of this imagery. Mab Graves: This piece was created in the aftershock of a tragic loss in my life. My dad had died suddenly and unexpectedly, and everything felt broken.
I didn’t paint for months, and I was honestly almost scared to try. I had so many feelings and emotions that I needed to unbottle. I sat down at my canvas and just relaxed — letting my mind release and wind itself around the memories of loss, then I let the brush take over.
This piece is about the place beyond tears: sadness so present that your skin and hair hurts. It’s about sleepless nights that smother time and duplicate. Those feelings are terrifying and precious to me. Those feelings are important to my human story and I wanted to find a way to express them and record them. Those feelings created a whole new scale for what pain means to me, and I always want to maintain that perspective. It makes the small stuff truly unsweatable.
1x: What were some of your earliest interactions with art growing up? Graves: I actually grew up in a very art-starved area. There were no galleries, no working artists. My only real art exposure was through the library and picture books. I adored strange and surreal illustrations and odd stories that didn’t end the way you thought they would. My favorite illustrator from the time I was five, and still today, is Gennady Spirin. Before I could even read, I would seek out his strange books and pore over their exquisite pages.
1x: Who or what was a prominent figure that played a role in your formation as an artist? Graves: I think undoubtedly Margaret Keane was a huge early inspiration. Olga Dugina and Kinuko Y. Craft were also mesmerizing to me.
1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist? Graves: Being an artist is so bright and beautiful and painful. My work always comes from a deeply emotional place, and the vulnerability that it places on you is always a challenge. I think it may be impossible to ever craft a balanced life as an artist, so there’s always a coloring of chaos in life.
1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more (or less) accepting and equitable for women? Graves: This is such a hard one. I think equality is key, but that’s not just a change the art industry can be held accountable for. It’s a much bigger issue and is woven into the tapestry of our society.
1x: What advice would you give to any aspiring artists? Graves: Don’t put too much pressure on your work. If you are an artist, creating art is an essential emotional need, and it’s important that you not add stress to the process. It takes thousands of hours of work and practice, and mistakes are the most important part of learning. If you start to get blocked, try picking up a new medium, and just play. Eventually everything will start to flow again, the most important thing is not to walk away and fill your creative time with something else. As long as you’re creating, you’re learning.
1xRUN: Where else can people find you? Mab Graves:Website – Instagram @mabgraves
To celebrate 1xRUN’s International Women’s Day, muralist and model Diana Georgie introduces Stay Golden, a collection of limited edition prints and original artwork paying tribute to the “Golden Girls”.
Diana Georgie blends influences in Dutch still life mastery and text-based pop artists like Ed Ruscha and Wayne White, creating neon phrases over floral backdrops. For Georgie, her art is a portrait of a word. “Colors and shapes work with it, and bring it more to life.”
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about this series, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this imagery? Diana Georgie: This work is actually one of a kind, or you can say the first of a future series. I have always had a penchant for neon lights and wanted to see how I could incorporate that aesthetic to my usual style.
On the smaller pieces, I was looking up quotes for this project and there were so many hyper feminist type quotes like ‘anything a man can do I can do better…’ and I don’t really vibe with that. But then I watched The Golden Girls and voilá! Some of these quotes are really sassy to be honest. ‘Eat dirt and die, trash.”
1x: Tell us about your execution of this imagery. What materials were used, how much time did it take, etc? Georgie: This was created on a 24” x 24” wooden panel using acrylic paint. Something of this size usually takes me anywhere from 10 to 14 days on average, give or take a few, depending on the level of detail.
1x: What were your earliest interactions with art growing up? Georgie: When I was four or five years old, my mom put on classical music for me and told me to draw how it would make me feel. I remember I always loved doing that, and my enthusiasm definitely showed. She started introducing me to the world of art through books ,and later took me to museums.
1x: Who was a prominent figure that played a role in your formation as an artist? Georgie: You can definitely credit my mom for that one. She planted that seed when I was so young and watered it over the years until I became old enough to avidly pursue art myself. I’m very thankful for that.
1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist? Georgie: Finding stability I would think, at least at this stage early in my career. You have your brushes, your paints, and all your hopes and dreams. You do your part, but there are so many elements that play a key role into where your next work will go, and what will come next.
1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more (or less) accepting and equitable for women? Georgie: When I first started pursuing art more seriously years ago, I honestly had some horrible interactions. Certain prominent male figures within the industry proposed indecent offers and made inappropriate comments to me. It saddened me and almost deterred me from wanting to pursue my dreams. But I also met others who encouraged and motivated me to rise above that fear and to take no bullshit from anyone, and that’s exactly what I did. I stuck by my own principals and took the longer route, and I’m damn thankful I did. I do think these sorts of experiences tend to be all too common for women, being objectified, and sex being used as a path to reach the next opportunity.
1x: What are changes that you would like to see? Georgie: Balance. I’m not saying for it to become dogmatic or religious, but definitely more balance on the scales.
1x: What does a balanced art industry look like to you? Diana Georgie: The same opportunities to be given to people of any gender, ethnicity, or walk of life. The works are the stories and the artists are the storytellers, and those stories deserve to be heard.
1x: What artists inspired you in the past? Who are some woman-identifying artists that inspire you today? Georgie: I remember being very young and seeing Artemisia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes and being taken back by it. I adore Dutch still lifes also, and seeing Rachel Ruysch’s works have always inspired me. One of my favorite current artists is Camille Rose Garcia. Huge fan of her work; it’s absolutely magical. I got to meet her a couple years ago and she’s a very lovely person in real life.
1x: What advice would you give to an aspiring artist? Georgie: Do your best work of what comes naturally. That will always be received best, I think, and more ideas will continue to come organically. Once you refine your own style, it will only grow from there.
Dina Saadi is a contemporary artist, muralist, and designer living and working in Dubai. Her latest print edition is a vibrant portrait of American political activist Angela Davis. Each print portrays Davis as a beacon of wisdom, her hair beaming with color and resplendence, ahead of a hand-painted backdrop of her best-known quotes.
In our exclusive interview, Dina Saadi breaks down her decision to highlight Davis, her early artistic influences, and the challenges to navigating an imbalanced industry.
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about these two pieces, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this imagery? Dina Saadi: When it comes to human rights activism, feminism, and the real fight for equality, I think Angela Davis is a champion. When 1xRUN approached me to participate in the 2020 International Women’s Day print suite, I thought I had to create something specially for that, and what could be more inspiring than Angela’s fight to give voice to those who are powerless to speak?
1x: Tell us about your execution of this imagery. Saadi: This piece is a digital artwork that was hand embellished with acrylic paint, so each print is 100% unique and special. On the white background of each print, I painted inspirational quotes by Angela Davis that are close to my heart.
1x: What were some of your earliest interactions with art growing up? Saadi: My story with art goes way back. I was a very hyperactive kid, and since I was only three years old, nothing could make me stick to the chair like a pencil and a plain piece of paper. I still have that wild child imagination and energy in me. I think it reflects a lot in my work and style. I grew up surrounded by art lovers like my mom, and I guess that’s how my love for art evolved.
When I grew up to design and begin art school, and later when I moved from Syria, I had the courage to pursue art as a full time career. I also think my hometown in Syria was a little gray for me. I never liked it that much and I barely had any access to art there. We also didn’t have any art curriculum in our school (as is the case in many schools around the world). So drawing and painting was my escape from reality and from my boring classes in school.
1x: Who was a prominent figure that played a role in your formation as an artist? Saadi: My mother has always been my biggest supporter and fan. She used to take me to museums and galleries during summer vacations in Moscow. So on all school holidays, my schedule was always filled with different art courses and classes because of her. And to be honest, I’m very lucky to be surrounded by support and encouragement from my whole family on both my Syrian & Russian sides.
1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist? Saadi: Working as a full-time artist can be frustrating and challenging at times, especially working on commissioned projects for brands or companies, as we have to maintain a healthy balance between the artistic value to the work and the client’s expectations. Some clients commission artists and give them more creative freedom than others, which is great, but it’s not always the case.
On another point, maintaining a financial stability is not always easy, especially at the beginning of any art career. Finding gallery representation, and good art platforms to sell, is hard in general.
1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more (or less) accepting and equitable for women? Saadi: I think it’s been getting so much better in the last few years because of all the awareness and activism around this subject, but the industry is still not where it should be, as many collectors and galleries still believe that the value of work by women won’t grow as much compared to work made by men.
1x: What are some changes that you would like to see? Saadi: I want to see real change, equal rights, and equal pay. I would love to see more female artists winning big projects, selling more work in galleries, and being considered as headliners for international festivals. I would also love to see behavior change on the collector’s side to balance the equation.
1x: What does a balanced art industry look like to you? Saadi: An equal art industry is a balanced art industry. For me, the root of this problem is beyond the art industry. If we had equal work rights, equal pay, equal parenting rights, and duties. If we had no predetermined gender roles & societal expectations for women, and if women had the power to make all the decisions with respect to their own bodies, then we could talk about real equality.
All these obstacles are mainly imposed on women, so they have to do double the work to get to the same place professionally as men. It starts at our upbringing. We should make sure that little girls have the same mental support, encouragement, and chances to participate in all the same fields as boys do.
California-based artist Bunnie Reiss joins us for 1xRUN’s 2020 International Women’s Day Print Suite, featuring her first ever letterpress edition Nature’s Cosmic Force. A lifelong rebel, Reiss first joined us back in 2015’s wildly diverse Alchemy, curated by Monica Canilao. For these unique prints Reiss created this design specifically for International Women’s Day to pay homage to “strong, smart, beautiful women who have worked hard for us and given us the power to continue building.” These vibrant hand-stamped letterpress editions also mark 1xRUN’s first split fountain letterpress editions, available in two ombré color variants. Read on as Reiss tells us more about the story behind her debut RUN, her earliest influences and advice for aspiring artists.
1xRUN: Tell us a little bit about this piece, anything immediate you would like us to highlight about this image? Bunnie Reiss: I created this piece specifically for International Women’s Day to honor not only myself, but all of the strong, smart, beautiful women who have worked hard for us and given us the power to continue building. This image falls within my larger body of work, where I continuously explore the cosmic world, nature, historical representation of women, symbology, animals, and mythology.
1x: Can you tell us more about that body of work? Reiss: My current series is titled Cosmic Vacation, and discusses other dimensions and what they will look like, how we will exist, how nature will play a role, etc. It’s an exploration of the inner workings of my brain and the cosmos, but also of my imagination. The character I drew for my print release lives in this other world, and represents a type of femme mythological creature that communes with nature and the elements. I often rely on my imagination. I feel that it’s the key component to building not only things you want, but things you hope for. Without hope, you have nothing, so I often try to express that type of hopefulness across all of my work.
1x: Tell us about your execution of this image. What materials were used and how long did it take to create? Reiss: This was a large ink drawing (24″ x 36″) on archival paper. I was really interested in doing a letterpress and figuring out a way to add color. I loved the idea of an ombré affect behind a simple line drawing.
1x: What were your earliest interactions with art growing up? Reiss: I was a super wild child, so art was an outlet to keep me occupied ;)
1x: Who or what was a prominent figure that played a role in your formation as an artist? Reiss: I grew up in a family without other artists. I often felt like I lived on an island surrounded by lots of people. My imagination was my inspiration, and it wasn’t until I was old enough to remember the things I saw in museums for that to have any kind of influence. When I say I grew up as an artist under a rock, I’m not kidding. I still feel slightly blind to contemporary art, and I don’t always know what people are talking about. I just paint what I see in my funny brain.
1x: What are some of the biggest challenges to being a working artist? Reiss: I’d like to say that my life is hard, but it’s honestly not. I do what I love, and that’s all I can really ask for. But I do think you have to really fight against the fear that you might starve. I work constantly, for the pure love of creating, but also because I have to pay my bills. I work with the deep gratitude that I get enough support to do what I love.
And despite what our current internet world tells you, none of this came overnight. I have been working for 20 years on my career, and to be honest, I feel like it only just started 5 – 7 years ago. You must fight for what you want in this world, even if you’re tired. And the fighting needs to be with every ounce of your compassion and understanding. You have to work the hardest you’ve ever worked, and then work even harder. But that’s the fun it all, right?!!
1x: In what ways is the art industry becoming more (or less) accepting and equitable for women? Reiss: Is this a trick question?
1x: What are changes that you would like to see? Reiss: I would like to see free healthcare and education for everyone. Imagine a world where you could be healthy and smart for FREE!!!!!
1x: What does a balanced art industry look like to you? Reiss: Until we abolish the 1%, we will never have a ‘balanced’ art industry.
1x: What artists inspired you in the past? Who are some artists that inspire you today? Reiss: Louise Bourgeois, Remedios Varo, Margaret Atwood.
1xRUN is the premier online destination for exclusive one of a kind artwork in any and all forms. Working with leading and emerging artists from around the world, 1xRUN is focused on bringing limited-edition time released artwork to collectors across the globe.