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OUT FROM WITHIN

Ryan Rocha is a thinker, which you can probably tell by the detail in his paintings. In our interview, the Sactown-bred painter and illustrator breaks down his journey, from skating and making flyers for punk shows, to hanging with Grandma, to setting up shop in Oakland.

Category Archives: Art

SUPPOSED TO BUBBLE

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

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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

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

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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

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

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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

The creative mind behind Art Thoughtz debuts a new web series

Jayson Musson

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

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

SPRINKLE ME

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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

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

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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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SCENES FROM VIETNAM

Kris Kozlowski takes us on a journey into the cities and landscapes of Vietnam

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Growing up stateside, our views of the rest of the world are largely defined by the images we see on TV and on the silver screen. In Vietnam’s case, those images are often tragic reminders of a war that left destruction in its wake. Kris Kozlowski’s recent photos from Vietnam, however, remind us that time, nature and people power on. It’s been roughly fifty years since the onset of that war and Vietnam is a different place, a place where modernity resides albeit with a traditional flare, where old and new intersect.

Kozlowski’s work shows a Vietnam with lush landscapes and bustling cities, a countryside where time moves a bit slower, a busy street where resilient cyclists jostle for positioning with scores of cars and scooters. The photoset is notable for its imagery and composition, yes, but maybe more importantly, I can feel the fog’s moisture creeping in on the countryside like a thief in the dead of the night. I can hear the buzz of a dozen mopeds swerving through cramped city streets, the gentle sound of a wooden paddle pushing water back, over and over again. That is photography at its best, when it can transport you somewhere you’ve never been and submerge you into that world. Kozlowski’s sublime skill does exactly that. We reemerge from that world with just a sliver of knowledge of what Vietnam is now, of how its people live, how its cities sound, how green its forests are.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY KYLE PLATTS

Colorful scenarios from this London-based illustrator

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Platt1

I stumbled on Kyle Platts’ work and couldn’t shy away. I mean how could you? I hesitate to say that the London-based illustrator’s work is “layered.” In a sense, that designation rings true, but really Platts lays it all out there at once. There really aren’t layers at all, just a collection of images that could stand alone, but instead work in unison to create a sort of puzzle, one that you can marvel at and appreciate, section by section. There’s a sort of poetry in his work, a sense of acknowledgment of the absurd. It’s easy to see some of his work and chalk it up as juvenile and vulgar, and to an extent you wouldn’t be lying; but there is an undercurrent present throughout that reminds you that the artist is witty, informed and has something substantial to say. Take his most recent work: asked to “create a utopian version of 2015,” Platts, in his trademark style, does exactly that. In one detailed illustration, Platts touches on everything from gun violence to Kobe’s embattled achilles, from a cure to Ebola to peace between Palestinians and Israelis. All in all, Platt’s work is reminiscent of an Archie comic–if Archie comics were made by someone hip, unafraid and just a bit absurd.

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YOUTHFUL KINFOLK PRESENTS: REVOLVE

A meaningful show on the way from the Town-based creative collective

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Over at Youthful Kinfolk’s site, setting the stage for the official preview of their upcoming gallery show, Revolve, is an image of the Oakland protests that shut down 580 last month. In the description below, the show itself is positioned as a reaction–to a fraught political climate, to dysfunctional systems of one kind or another, to what they see as a less-than-inspiring media landscape. With those themes in the foreground, the Town-based collective has assembled an impressive, dynamic group of creatives showcasing work meant to spark new conversations.

As the mission statement tells us, the lineup of artists–anchored by YK members and collaborators like Valentin Saqueton (AKA Veeejzilla), Amir Aziz, and Carina Moreno–“brings together artists that push for an agenda bigger than themselves and are looked at as the “other” within what it is that they do.” Working across a variety of mediums, from photography to graphic illustration to video work, the crew will take over Oakland Terminal this Friday, the 9th, with a selection that promises to be visually stimulating and thought-provoking. Needless to say, we’re juiced to see what our slightly more youthful contemporaries have been working on. Below, a brief selection of work from artists in the show, but for the whole scoop, spend some time with the full preview here.

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MEET BASS COAT

Joshua Fisher and Eda Levenson fuse nail art and music into an immersive live experience

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Joshua Fisher and Eda Levenson are best friends and creative collaborators. After meeting in their freshman year of college at UC Santa Cruz, they quickly connected through their shared interest in social justice work and artistic expression. But when the two entered separate grad schools that put 1,000 miles of separation between them, their bond only strengthened, inspiring the duo to expand culturally and creatively, together.

These days, Joshua is better known as DJ Creelfish, with a residency at The Layover and a stacked Soundcloud, while Brooklyn-based Eda works under her alias Lady Fancy Nails, boasting an impressive collection of nail artwork, and a following of adoring fans. Together, however, they are Bass Coat; a bi-coastal collaboration of audio, visual, live, and wearable art. In fusing their respective mediums, Eda and Joshua manifest as Bass Coat to create eclectic mixes and performance-based events for their friends and following. The latest edition of the Bass Coat mixes just dropped this week, in anticipation of their collaborative event with our friends at Flavourhood, fixing to crack this Saturday night at Urban Stitch Boutique. “It’s going to be multiple forms and ways to interact with creativity,” says Eda. “Like, audio, visual… or nah,” she laughs. To unpack the meanings and makings behind Bass Coat, and their upcoming event, I sat down with Joshua and Eda, who expanded upon their creative instincts, gender politics, and art as a means for social activism.

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FANTASTIC PLANET

Superior Viaduct unearths the soundtrack to a psychedelic sci-fi masterpiece

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La Planete Sauvage

Not that it should surprise us in the least, but Superior Viaduct continues the tradition of reissuing epic, strange landmark albums this month with the vinyl release of Alain Goraguer’s soundtrack to La Planete Sauvage. Originally released in 1973, Planete–or Fantastic Planet to the English-speaking world–is a stop-motion visual feast, a psychedelic sci-fi collab from director Rene Laloux and illustrator Roland Topor that’s surreal and probably vaguely terrifying off a handful of mushrooms.

Gorageur, a former collaborator of Serge Gainsbourg, created a sonic backdrop that’s since become the stuff of lore, a lush 37 minutes of sweeping, baroque prog-jazz slow burners. Woozy funk vamps give way to narcotic Rhodes textures, backed up by big heavy breaks and sweeping orchestral elements. As Superior Viaduct’s description puts it, think psych-era Gainsbourg with a few extra “space-age synth flourishes.” Naturally, OG copies fall into the special class of crate gold that you’re unlikely to find outside of say, Madlib’s personal collection, or on Discogs for something astronomical. Thankfully though, SV’s got us covered, in store and online. Get acquainted below, and swoop a copy now before they disappear.

La Planète Sauvage (1973) from Chaivalla on Vimeo.

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FOTO BOMBING AT OAKLAND TERMINAL

@BAZOOKAFILMS77 and King 157 headline a community celebration this Friday

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King 157

Can’t think of too many places putting on harder for the local artist community right now than Oakland Terminal. Whether it’s hosting weekend turnups with friends like Queens D. Light and Willie Maze, or showcasing Oakland street art history with TDK and TMC, or opening up their doors for Feels II, Terminal has been a West Oakland arts hub for a minute now.

On Thursday and Friday, they’ll be hosting a show headlined by Chicago and San Antonio-based artist and filmmaker Jaime Sanchez, known to the interwebs as @BAZOOKAFILMS77. Known for showcasing the work of street artists through video pieces documenting their process, Jaime is joined here by Bay graf superstar King 157, Lundgren Photography, and a handful of other creatives. In conjunction with the show, Terminal will be putting on for the community once again, hosting a Winter gear drive for the homeless community in West Oakland. If you’re sitting on some under-utilized jackets, scarves, or hoodies, slide through Friday, or holler at OT at oaklandterminal@gmail.com for details. Keep up with the latest from them here, and catch some Bazooka Films selects below.

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ON FROZE

Born and raised in LA, visual artist Brvinfreeze captures some of the city's stranger scenes

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“I like it because it’s very green and still looks kind of terroristic.” Brvinfreeze, habitual shooter and graphic artist, has just sent me a self portrait. He’s sitting in what’s ostensibly his backyard patio, one leg crossed over his lap, rocking khakis and chucks and a black wool ski-mask. In a brief couple of conversations, he’s been anything but confrontational. “I’m nice as fuck,” he tells me in a text, “but also very FTW.” That combination, good-natured humor meets appetite for destruction–comes across in the work, displayed on his Tumblr and Instagram in a well-curated stream of playful anarchy.

Brvinfreeze’s work ranges from graf throwups, to street shots, to collage, and it’s stronger for its diversity. After all, the Eastern half of Los Angeles is a place that allows you to pull a lot into your orbit. BF stitches together the common threads from disparate scenes: perusing his Tumblr, you’ll find everything from late night tagging missions to Ham on Everything parties, from GG Allin to the Basedgod. Recently, he’s had the chance to channel his own based stream-of-conscious approach across the pages of his own print works, publishing his debut zine (RELAX) and book (Colors) through Nighted Life. On the tail end of a big 2014, we caught up with the young artist, and took some time to dig into the archives.

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