THE POLITICAL LINE

THE POLITICAL LINE

A closer look at the de Young's massive Keith Haring retrospective, before it goes away

If you haven’t had the chance yet to check out The Political Line, now would be a good time. Like now. Go. As of today, you have less than two weeks. The exhibition, which opened up at the de Young in November, is something to behold, showcasing dozens of works from Keith’s ridiculously productive, tragically short ’80s run. Haring, for folks in our generation, is one of the two or three most iconic visual artists of the last century, a figure whose influence is completely inescapable if you have even a passing interest in art or own a Tumblr account. Seeing the work in person though, reminds you why he’s so ubiquitous, and why the work is so essential.
Visually and physically, the show is spectacular, with Haring’s symbol-language spilling out across an insane variety of media, from giant tarp canvases to subway drawings, ceramic pots to ten-foot totem poles. Naturally, it’s also a feast of ideas, placing a particular emphasis on Haring’s most politically charged pieces, and grouping them loosely by theme. While some pieces refer explicitly back to the circumstances of their ’80s genesis (Apartheid or the AIDS and crack epidemics), others–say the ones where computers supplant human heads–seem to foreshadow where we’re at today. And then there are more personal pieces: everything from journals full of dick drawings, to unearthed art school videos, to the heartbreaking “Pile of Crowns” for his fallen friend Basquiat.

If Haring’s language was something of a constant, it was a language that whose communicative power he was compulsively, constantly pushing into new territory. Taking in that volume of work firsthand, you get a chance to see just how much he was able to communicate in such a short time. To the extent it’s possible, The Political Line makes you feel like you’ve actually gotten to know someone.

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DAYS AT THE FAIR

DAYS AT THE FAIR

We made the push down to Socal for the 2015 L.A. Art Book Fair

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In an era where many claim print to be dead, I came back from The 2015 L.A. Art Book Fair assured that print is as alive as ever. Now if we’re talking about “traditional” print magazines…it might be bad for you. XXL, US Weekly, and everything else you see right before you buy some shit at the supermarket, are in dire straits. Yes, for ya’ll I believe it’s bad.

Yet for a legion of artists, creatives and independent thinkers, print as a medium for expression is as vibrant, resonant and essential as ever.

The 2015 L.A. Art Book Fair was the proof. Amongst a wash of independent publishers and well-executed outfits, the fair featured an ungodly amount of dope, inspiring, inspirational work. Taking up nearly every wall of the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, the fair featured artists and creatives from around the world, united around their love for print.

There was energy that came across many of my interactions throughout the fair. A kinship of sorts when you find a book so on point, you have to hold back from fanning out. Adam Vilacin‘s work did just that, as his recent series, Dead Wrestlers and Dream Team are just plain amazing. The book fair is a little overwhelming to be honest. There’s just so much to see and dive into that sometimes you have to come up for air. Below you will find a sampling of visuals from the event, accompanied by a little commentary in reference to the work.

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TOTALLY STOKED

TOTALLY STOKED

All-around artist Marilyn Rondon keeps it unapologetic and all the way 100

In a world that tells women to shove it up our twats and shut up, I’m just trying to take up space. It’s a simple mantra, really. One that reminds me, while in a hurricane of rage for all things socially and systemically oppressive, that I’m ready for war. A call to action, if you will: Women! Let us take up space! I wear this mantra daily–in the width of my hips and the volume of my voice and the texture of my hair. I wear it in refusing to apologize for my biology or censoring my talk of vibrators and diva cups. And I’m just out here, really. Living that simple truth one day at a time. Trying not to get felt up on public transportation, or belittled for every expressed emotion, or violently yelled at for politely denying a sexual advance from a car full of dudes on my walk home. But a real win is finding other women putting on in the fight, beside me. And my latest ally discovery is the multitalented warrior goddess, Marilyn Rondon.

Marilyn is a self-made Venezuelan queen with a tatted crown to match, a master of all things creative and of keeping it all the way 100. Since beginning her artistic journey at a design high school in Miami, Rondon has followed her heart and affinity for adventure and authenticity into a layered career involving 35mm photography, zine production, paint, installations, modeling, and writing.

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JASMIN ASSASSIN

JASMIN ASSASSIN

Landscapes and portrait work from a young Oakland shooter on the rise

Writing for Wine & Bowties, I’ve had the pleasure of writing about artists of different ilks, about artists from all corners of the globe. With the accessibility the internet grants the inquisitive mind, it’s easier than ever to lose yourself on the web, scrolling through your personally curated stream of websites showcasing art from the most obscure locales on Earth, should you so please. That being said, with the world at our fingertips, sometimes we lose sight of our own backyards, so to speak. At least that’s how I felt when Jasmin Porter’s photography flashed across my screen.

The 22 year-old Bay Area native’s portfolio is diverse yet concise, a quick glance through the eyes of an artist from our own neck of the woods. Despite the range of her work, where she seems to excel most is with up-close portraits, personal shots wrought with emotion. A photo titled “Nisarah Lewis”, presumably named after the woman in the photo, Porter’s subject, wearing a straw cap looks directly at the sun, eyes closed, clearly prepared to soak it all in. It’s as if the sun had been hiding for weeks and just then, at that very moment, had it decided to shine. Another photo, from Alamere Falls at Point Reyes, depicts a waterfall along a mossy cliff. Immediate, but not quite rushing, you can almost hear the sound of a steady stream of fresh water falling along the rocky surface before finding its new home, a faithful brook down below. Other shots include San Francisco’s Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge at night, familiar landmarks that serve to remind us of the art found close to home…kinda like Porter’s work.

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SWIMMING POOLS

SWIMMING POOLS

London-based Annu Kilpelainen supplies the vibes with some wavy illustration work

Art is about energy, the energy the artist puts into his or her work, the energy that shines through the canvas, the headphones, whatever. Art that survives the garbage bin, the drawing board, the little trash can on your computer’s desktop, it should make the audience feel something, happy, sad, whatever, it should trigger something, anything. London-based illustrator Annu Kilpelainen clearly grasps that concept.

Scrolling through her website, I’m struck by just how much energy is embedded in the blistering blues, the sweltering reds. I find myself wanting to see more of the landscapes, to see what’s outside of the frame. I want to know the stories behind the pieces. I want to know the subjects of her work, so much so that I forget they are two dimensional, that they reside in Kilpelainen’s creative stockpile. The easy, rounded, curved lines so prevalent in her work are soothing and comforting, often despite the hectic scenes they create. A car hits an impossible turn along a cliff, a car nosedives into a sky blue swimming pool, Cleopatra holds a pistol in her manicured hands, scenes that feel like still shots from an art house film. All in all, Kilpelainen’s work houses an illustrator’s mastery of color and landscape and pairs that with the intimacy of a well-timed snapshot. Annu is certainly an artist to watch in the New Year.

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JON FOX AT WHITE WALLS SF

JON FOX AT WHITE WALLS SF

The UK-based artists brings a selection of elaborate pieces to the City

Jon Fox

Shouts out Nastia over at Hi-Fructose for the heads up on a very cool show. Next Saturday, White Walls SF will host Jon Fox and a collection of paintings heavy on maney, colorful conflict. Entitled “If You Don’t Object Then You Must Agree,” the show features a curated selection of the UK-based painter and illustrator’s work. Kings, monks, swordfights, skeletons, tree people, cosmic swirly stuff–Fox’s pieces are busy in the best way possible, little visual feasts that keep on giving.

In a super flowery, but still pretty cool artist statement, Fox expounds a little on what’s going on in his work: “Amid a wealth of swirling, coded imagery and layers of geometric forms, apparitions of characters emerge. Embodiments, or manifestations of my own meditative thoughts and feelings. They often appear entangled within cyclical games and conflict, losing their way, or engulfed a midst the swirling clouds of a larger restless energy.” Word. Some selects from his back catalog below, and slide through White Walls next weekend.

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SUPPOSED TO BUBBLE

SUPPOSED TO BUBBLE

On Houston Rap, and the decade-long project to preserve its history

Houston Rap

When I spoke to author and Houston rap connoisseur Lance Scott Walker last year, he was in New York. A few months earlier, boutique publishing house Sinecure Books had released the second of two books centered around his and photographer Peter Beste’s decade-long journey into Houston’s legendary rap scene, Houston Rap Tapes. Its predecessor, Houston Rap, probably already belongs on a list of the very best collections of hip-hop documentary photography ever compiled, thanks in no small part to the context provided by the dozens of interviews Walker conducted with just about everybody he could reach from the city’s storied rap pantheon.

Tapes, he explained, felt like a necessary extension of the first book, given the abundance of source material, presenting in full his conversations with Texas luminaries like Bun B, Z-Ro, Paul Wall, and just as important, a laundry list of hometown hero types whose names might not register to a national audience.

As we talked about some of those lesser-knowns, I couldn’t help but draw out some of the parallels to the Bay scene. Specifically, I asked him about 2005 and 2006, when both our regional scenes enjoyed a brief share in the national spotlight. Around the same time folks were memorizing Mike Jones’ phone number, E-40 was enjoying his first Top 40 exposure since the mid-’90s. And while “Vans” was tunneling it’s way into rap’s subconscious, Houston’s slow-mo psychedelia was soaking into the genre’s collective psyche even more visibly. Slim Thug, Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, and Paul Wall all charted heavy, while OGs like Pimp, Bun, Scarface, and Devin made the most of their well-deserved new exposure. Zip files of obscure DJ Screw tapes became rap forum gold. “The Strangest Sound in Hip-Hop Goes National,” proclaimed the Times’ Kalefah Sanneh, in April of ’05. By then, Peter Beste had been shooting for over a year, and planning for almost five.

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ON THE BEACH

ON THE BEACH

Fellow traveler Theo Schear captures the vibrant faces of Rio's beach scene

Here at the Bowties, we tend to get submissions on a pretty regular basis. Every once in a while, they’ll really catch our eye, and sometimes, they’ll even come accompanied by some words that help to paint a picture of the ideas behind the work. Recently, fellow Bay kid and multi-medium visual artist Theo Schear dropped off a gorgeous collection of portraits he snapped over the course of a few months hanging on the beach in Rio. Writing to us last week, Theo took a moment to fill us in some on some background on the series, and his approach to portraits in general:

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BEEN ON TASK

BEEN ON TASK

From tats to tags, Jus Ontask walks us through his process, with a little help from our friend Veeej

Jus Ontask

Over the last year or so, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with the very talented Justin Carlisle, known to many as Jus Ontask, on multiple occasions. Justin is a many of many mediums, tackling everything from illustration to digital design, from zines to brand identity work. He’s also just generally a very cool dude, and fun to work with. More recently though, he’s taken the opportunity to channel his creative instincts into a few more forms. I asked him to speak on it a bit, and because I’m a curious cat, I asked yet another all-around solid and talented homie, Valentin Saqueton (AKA Veeejzilla) to tag along and snap some pics. Here’s what they sent me.

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Adventures in Art with Jayson Musson

Adventures In Art With Jayson Musson

The creative mind behind Art Thoughtz debuts a new web series

There is a mastery to how artist Jayson Musson integrates hip-hop into his works of art. The painter, sculptor, and the creator of several successful web series, is adept at using the hip-hop vocabulary to point out the absurdities of the art world and vice versa. His 2010 video series, Art Thoughtz, found him in character as art and rap sage Hennessy Youngman, who compares the self-mythologizing strategies of Joseph Beuys and Jay-Z in building their legend as artists. The forward and funny series managed to be accessible while exploring some of the more inaccessible corners of the art world. Throughout Art Thoughtz, Youngman guides viewers through employing excessive ambiguity or exploiting “Rococo trappings” as keys to making “an art,” all with the bravado of a rapper in his prime. In one particular episode directed at black artists, Youngman preaches the importance of tailoring black art to white audiences using anger and slavery to guilt observers into attention. While he delivers his advice, the message “SLAVERY Y’ALL” flashes in big, brightly colored letters across the screen.

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SPRINKLE ME

SPRINKLE ME

Brandon Tauszik & Cameron Woodward take us inside the creative video production house known as Sprinkle Lab

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It was Brandon Tauszik’s poignant documentation of streetside murder memorials that originally introduced us to one half of the creative partnership behind Sprinkle Lab. A videographer turned photo documentarian, Brandon’s a fixture of the Oakland arts scene, and has popped up here and elsewhere for work that’s stark, deliberate, and no frills in its approach. In 2012, Brandon partnered with his business savvy co-founder Cameron Woodward to form the indie video production house Sprinkle Lab.

Having crafted memorable videos for Bowties favorites like Antwon, Main Attrakionz, and Queens D. Light, and lifestyle campaigns for Levi’s and Mishka, their portfolio is an eclectic mix of art house visuals and for-hire commercial work. A few years in, it seems the future is bright for the duo. Having added a team of creatives to the squad in the past two years, today Sprinkle Lab runs as a lean business with their eyes on developing engaging visuals. Sitting down with Brandon and Cameron in their studio, we spoke to the founders about their early days as business owners, the challenges of entrepreneurship, and the greatness of Beyonce.

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LOWLIFE TAKES NEW YORK

LOWLIFE TAKES NEW YORK

Lifetime shooter and accidental documentarian Scot Sothern brings his brand of Americana to Chelsea

Scot Sothern

A few months back, I had the privilege of chatting with Scot Sothern for an hour or so. Over the course of our conversation, he managed to dig pretty deep into a career spent behind the lens, which has brought him to all kinds of fucked up and wonderful and surreal places over the years. Of course, it’s hard to squeeze that all into an hour, so fortunately, Vice has given Mr. Sothern an outlet to drop bi-weekly reflections on the many strange scenes he’s found himself in over the last half century.

More recently though, the adopted Angeleno travelled East for his first ever solo show in New York City, which opened on Thursday night. Lowlife, hosted by Chelsea’s Daniel Cooney Fine Art gallery, features some of Scot’s better known work, with 25 prints from his book of the same name. The prints, depicting some of the prostitute friends Scot made during repeated trips to some of L.A.’s seedier locales in the ’80s and early ’90s, are one-of-kind, the only ones ever printed. And despite the potentially tidy “this guy took pictures of hookers! edgy!” storyline, Scot’s been pretty consistent in downplaying the work’s sensational side, rather choosing to highlight the fact that his images offer a window into the world of a few “disenfranchised Americans, usually existing under the radar and out of touch.” For those of us who missed the opening, Lowlife runs until February 28th. I highly recommend dropping in for a visit.

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