THE FREEMAN FILES

THE FREEMAN FILES

Taking our time to contemplate the photographic journey of Jonathon Freeman

Jonathon Freeman

As we’ve discussed before, we are all photographers. Put that trigger finger to the clicker baby and, ba-blam! That’s all you. In taking a picture, we essentially take a moment out of context, from the world we know it to exist in, and create a space for sitting and reflecting on it in hindsight. Maybe that picture is destined to get lost in the shuffle of likes and comments. Maybe it’s developed and hung on a gallery wall. Maybe it sits idly and comfortingly on a nightstand next to our bed. But whatever the case, these photos are captured so we can engage with them. Some of the photography I’ve been engaging with hella much lately can be found in the expansive and effortlessly impressive portfolio of San Francisco photographer Jonathon Freeman.

What attracts me to Freeman’s work, specifically, is his ability to capture intimacy. While for some, intimacy is a concept that evokes considerable anxiety, Freeman’s photographs lend the viewer a comfortable dose with a gentle hand and a skillful eye. I first stumbled on Freeman’s work through his female portraits that I later learned were part of his publication collection The Freeman Files: [Fer-uh-mohnzs] – which is the title of his soon-to-be-published print magazine. The series captures women of the fantasy-girl-next-door variety, accompanied by a similarly dreamy tone. The images are beautiful, whimsical, and effortlessly sexy. “I’ve had a girlfriend throughout my photography career,” he tells me, “and it’s kind of fucked up, but… if she gets mad about my shots, then I know I’m doing something right.”

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NEON ICON

NEON ICON

Patrick Rodgriguez turns the traditonal shop window display into his canvas

Neon Icon

There’s something about neon that’s just hella compelling in an artistic context. Not that it’s a new concept, but it’s a medium that lends itself exceptionally well to conversations about our culture; situating something as commonplace as a neon window sign inside the gallery setting is the kind of gesture pop art was built on, taking something brutally commercial and celebrating its expressive power.

Estevan Oriol, the photographer behind plenty of enduring portraits of Chicano L.A., recently put together a quick doc on one of his favorite up-and-coming artists utilizing neon as a medium, Patrick Martinez. Weaving in subtle social critiques and golden age hip-hop adages, Martinez puts a distinctive spin on the prototypical window design. Thankfully, Oriol’s short served as an introduction for me, though Martinez has been creating these pieces for years. Peep a brief selection of his neon works below, and the video for his take on his place in the tradition of American artists and why he counts Drake as a collector of his work.

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IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?

IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?

Michel Gondry's latest film illustrates a conversation with Noam Chomsky

Is the Man Who is Tall Happy

In what feels like an insanely dope Interview magazine-type scenario, Michel Gondry’s latest film is centered around a long conversation with the legendary linguistic theorist/philosopher/towering pop intellectual Noam Chomsky. In between shooting more Hollywood-centric fare, the visionary director behind Eternal Sunshine and classic videos from Daft Punk and Beck found some time to explore the vast troves of wisdom and insight that live between Mr. Chomsky’s ears.

Listen to Chomsky explore different ideas is all well and good, but Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy goes a little beyond that. For the film, Gondry’s chats with Chomsky are set to retro-inspired, neon animations, like something you might see in a trippy ’70s education film or science textbook. I can’t even say I know what the core of their talks are about, but the prospect of being visually dazzled while these two chop it up is enticing to say the least. Peep the trailer below, and read an interview with Mr. Gondry about the project here, from the actual Interview magazine.

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NIKE’S SPIRIT MACHINE

NIKE’S SPIRIT MACHINE

A three-man design collaboration between Nike's visionaries aims to save the brand from itself

Nike

What do you when your brand has achieved permanent ubiquity? People used to cite some survey that located the Nike swoosh in the hyper-elite category of recognizable symbols; I don’t remember the order, but the crucifix, Mickey D’s, and Coca Cola were all in the conversation. For those of who grew up with J’s and all-white Forces as absolute wardrobe staples, it can be easy to forget that Nike was once just another sneaker company, trying desperately to separate themselves from the pack. Luckily for them, Michael did. And then they did themselves, through the efforts of visionary designers like Tinker Hatfield, partnerships with top athletes, and some extremely effective three-word sloganeering. Adidas is probably still salty.

A few hundred billion in revenue later, and Nike is still the most powerful sports brand in the world, but along with that massive structure come some pitfalls. Generally speaking, brands on that type of scale can get stale and boring real fast, and innovation can sometimes take a backseat to comfortable economics.

Nike’s leaders though, are making a concerted effort to reverse that trend. The folks at Berlin-based design and culture magazine 032c recently spent some time talking with Nike CEO Mark Parker, legendary designer Tinker Hatfield, and musician and artist Hiroshi Fujiwara, who collectively comprise HTM, a three-man design collaboration aimed to inject some risk-taking creativity into Nike’s vast corporate structure.

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PATHS TO THE ABSOLUTE

PATHS TO THE ABSOLUTE

Mark Lovejoy's abstract, psychedelic pieces are a doorway into a different world

Mark Lovejoy

A few weeks ago, I came across Mark Lovejoy‘s work on But Does It Float. The caption above the artwork informed me that I was looking at “photographs of printing press inks,” but I still couldn’t quite piece together exactly how these images came to be. Lovejoy’s imagery is full of vibrant, impossibly complex combinations of color. The inks seem to form a pattern, yet there’s no ostensible organization whatsoever. Whatever movements caused these collisions of color feels like it’s been preserved, permanently, almost as if the whole image is still in motion.

When I got in touch with Mark, he was more than happy to share some insight on his process. Mark is a prolific visual communicator who’s not afraid of experimentation. Mixing and manipulating inks, Lovejoy uses a variety of tools and techniques, allowing colors to ooze into one another both through both deliberate action and random, uncontrolled motion. After, he shoots them point blank, and the results are spectacular: dizzy psychedelic layers, marbled color, and three-dimensional shapes that rise up off the page.

But aside from the ins and outs of production, Mark also shared some insight about the philosophical dimensions of his work, and the ideas that inform that process. I’ve included most of what he told me at length, which basically amounts to a kind of artist’s statement. But as specific as it is to his work, Lovejoy’s discussion also opens up a conversation about abstraction in general, where it can take us, and even what it can tell us about ourselves.

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SEARCHING FOR CASTRO

SEARCHING FOR CASTRO

Andres Serrano embarks on a photographic odyssey through Cuba

Andres Serrano Cuba

Fresh from the pages of the latest issue of Vice comes a collection of photographs snapped by controversial artist Andres Serrano, on a journey through Cuba. Serrano, who rose to art world fame in ’87 with Piss Christ, an incendiary piece that featured a plastic Jesus floating in pee. Since then, he’s made a career off of playing around with touchy ideas, from religious imagery to all kinds of graphic sex stuff.

More recently though, he set his sights on tracking down the increasingly reclusive Fidel Castro. Spoiler alert: he didn’t find him. But in the process, he came up on some incredible portraits and some shots that set the scene beautifully, a few of which are featured below. Vice followed him there, and put together a brief doc about the whole trip, which also recounts some of the highlights of his career. Very dope.

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W&B PRESENTS: LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP

W&B PRESENTS: LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP

Our screening series rolls on next Wednesday, with some classic material from the master

Richard Pryor

There are few people I can place in the same stratosphere as Richard Pryor. He’s one of those figures my heroes look up to. One of those dudes whose DNA has seeped into just about everything tight that’s happened in his wake. Between him and Carlin, you can pretty much draw a straight line to any comedian of note over the last 30 years.

This December 1st, I’ll be turning 25, and Pryor would’ve been 73. The birthday thing is one of those connections I choose to attribute some vague sense of cosmic significance to, even if my views on astrology are a little like my views on Magic 8 Balls. So with December around the corner (how the fuck did that happen?), it felt pretty appropriate to gather at Oakland Surf Club to pay tribute to the master for the latest installment of our screening series.

For me, as much as his sense of humor, Pryor has always been a symbol of the power of honesty. And there’s nowhere else in his catalog where that quality is on display quite as much as Live on the Sunset Strip. After heavy addiction and the infamous freebase-fire, he puts it all out there on the table. He riffs on monogamy, talks about Jim Brown’s role in his rehab, and marvels about a poignant trip to the Motherland. Sunset Strip is real and raw, and all the more brilliant because it puts all that vulnerability front and center (he also tells a few jokes). So for plenty of reasons, this one should make for an enjoyable viewing experience accompanied by friends and beers. As usual, admission is free, and it’s BYOB. We’ll also be there flipping tees Radiohead-style, if that appeals. See you there next Wednesday (November 20th) around 7:30. Also, a few vintage trailers after the MORE.

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FLAVOURHOOD PRESENTS “THE RETURN”

A Bay Area arts and culture collective aims to put on an art show for the ages

Flavourhood

Oakland based art and culture collective Flavourhood is coming together again to produce a one of a kind art show. Simply titled, The Return, the show features work by over 30 artists in one of Oakland’s most unique spaces. Founded by Japheth Gonzalez and Benjamin Giustino, Flavourhood aims to serve as a forum, an archive, and a bridge to everything that makes creative people shine.

This Saturday marks the collective’s return to events, with their first art show of the season. Featuring works from our friends Lauren Crew, Danielle Schnur and many more, the show is sure to bring a number of awesome networks together. Curator for the show and graphic designer Japheth Gonzalez recently spoke about the show, telling me, “I’m really into the new artists who I’m working with for the first time. Seeing their work and how it interacts with both Flavourhood artists and the crowd will be cool.” Set to go down in an underground venue underneath Gogi Time, this show will undoubtedly be a good look for your Saturday night. Doors open at 5p.

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ORDER & CHAOS

Philip Kupferschmidt creates ceramics that draw from the world around him

Philip Kupferschmidt

Our good friend Rebekkah Castellanos is responsible for introducing us to the pottery of Philip Kupferschmidt. A mixed media artist, Philip is versed in the world of photography, illustration and print making, although today we’ll be focusing on his work with ceramics. Choosing to both draw and etch into his work, Philip has created an assortment of wonderful pieces, each one distinct and original in their own way. Speaking about his work, Philip tells us, “My work often deals with nature, as well as patterns in nature, all created by the earths rotation. Overall consistent, but not without variation. I record my observations of the world, and the simultaneous order and chaos within it.” With a number of his pieces still available on Etsy, you’d be hard pressed to find quality ceramic pieces at a better price.

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OH ARIS…

OH ARIS…

A look inside Aris Jerome's growing collection of gorgeous portraits

Aris Jerome

It’s been quite the journey for Aris Jerome. When we first met, he was shooting music videos for Kreayshawn and Bobby Brackins. Today he’s still shooting videos, but his photographic work has taken precedent. Creating lasting images through his lens, Aris’ Tumblr looks a lot like a casting call for Nasty Gal, with dozens of wonderfully composed female portraits. But wonderfully composed doesn’t quite capture exactly what’s going on here. To put it bluntly, calling the women Aris photographs attractive would be an understatement. But he hardly seems phased. When asked how he’s happened to come across so many pretty women, Aris took the high road, simply telling me, “I just capture what I see as beautiful.”

But there’s more to Aris’ resume than slender figures and pretty faces. Shadowing fashion photographer Solmaz Saberi on her test shoots, Aris transitioned into photography, taking on shoots of his own over time. Also working alongside Joseph Tran, Aris picked up perspective from a few talented teachers and channeled it into his own distinctive style of portraiture. “Having them as mentors changed my whole perception of photography,” he remembers. Today though, Aris is showing us how it’s done with his own work, and by the looks of things, there’s plenty more up his sleeve. We spoke with Aris about his career, his successful transition from film to photography, and where he’ll take it next.

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ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG

ILLUMINATI GIRL GANG

The third installment of a gorgeous new zine showcases female expression in many forms

Illuminati Girl Gang

It’s been a while since a zine caught my eye like Illuminati Girl Gang. Okay, the name helped too. But after a brief browse through the visual art and poetry that makes up the latest volume of IGG, I was kinda blown away. With the stated goal of celebrating female expression across a variety of media, creator Gabby Bess curates a broad selection of art, lit and poetry, maintaining a distinctive tone and aesthetic.

Volume 3 features clever meditations on heartbreak and internet culture, gorgeous collage work by Brittni Collins, illustrations from Amy Worrall, and tons of other cool, generationally relevant shit. Also, each one of the artists featured is also new to me (I just named a few I liked), so shouts out to Gabby for putting me up. Below, check out a few pretty visuals from the zine, but make sure to dig into it all here. Anyway, looks like IGG is a movement to keep an eye on.

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SAFE SEX BANG

SAFE SEX BANG

Buzz Bense's safe sex archive documents creative communication that saved lives and fought fear

Safe Sex Bang

“These posters do more than chart the tragedy of an epidemic, of an outsider community reeling from grief, loss, and the decimation of a blooming culture of sexual liberation. The history of these posters is a story of a fight against stigma, hatred and ignorance; of a community stepping up to take care of its own; of finding a way to extinguish fear and build pride and self-esteem; and of devoted efforts of committed activists to communicate a path to health and survival.”

– Buzz Bense

It’s rare these days to find examples of art with a real sense of urgency. Looking back on propaganda posters about WWII scrap metal drives or Rosie the Riveter, it’s easy to lump them in with cutesy kitsch items, rather than thinking about the circumstances that led to their creation. In reality, we’re not too far removed from an era where posters were a vital, necessary form of communication, a pop art form that harnessed the power of good design with the deliberate goal of inspiring action.

In the wake of the devastation brought about by the AIDS epidemic, materials began to circulate that communicated the nature of the threat, and the most effective methods of prevention. Forward thinking creatives applied their craft with purpose, from art-world luminaries like Keith Haring, to advertising professionals, to everyday educators and community organizers. Over time, Buzz Bense made a habit of collecting and preserving those materials for educational purposes, and today his collection stands as a powerful document of an era, in the gay community and elsewhere, when creativity was applied to save lives.

For the last two years, Buzz’s collection has been housed at the Center for Sex & Culture in San Francisco, and starting this Friday, it’ll be on display both in the CSC gallery, and in their inaugural exhibition catalog.

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