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.
A talented shooter with a keen eye for composition, Lauren Crew has turned her photographic instincts into fulfilling work. From lookbooks and commercial work, to poignant personal projects, Lauren walks us through her approach, and her journey so far.
From tats to tags, visual artist Jus Ontask takes us inside his creative process in a couple different mediums. Luckily, the homie and OnTask family member Veeejzilla was around to document, giving us a step-by-step look at these pieces coming together.
Ladies and gentlemen, FEELS II is in the books. Much love and many thanks to all the folks involved in bringing our first art and music festival to reality. Bringing together a host of musical artists, from Kool A.D., Teebs and Kreayshawn, to visual artists like Ryan Rocha, Bud Snow and more, FEELS II was one to remember.
On the heels of some exciting new releases and a Feels II collab, we caught up with indie zine gods Nighted Life and its founder Nick Garcia. He put us up on Nighted’s origin story, the back catalog, and which shooters to look out for in the 2015. Also included, some thoughts on tall tees and “knowing better, doing worse.”
Meeting Ryan Rocha makes you wonder how many budding artists are standing behind coffee counters around the world. It was a simple interaction at the coffee counter that led to our initial conversation. My $5 Yeezus Tour tee always a grand conversation starter. Our conversation about music, led to a conversation about art, and a conversation about art introduced me to his work.
Raised in Sactown, with relatives in the Bay, Ryan’s work serves as a road map into the mind of a critical thinker. Drawing much from his experiences and relationships for inspirations, Ryan cites his grandmother as one of his primary influences.
As one of the visual artists from last November’s FEELS II Festival, we thought it only appropriate to check in with the mixed media artist. After recently publishing a collection of drawings, writings, and paintings entitled “Four Piece,” Ryan spoke with us about life in Sac, the meanings behind his work, and his beloved Vava.
Once upon a time, we used to throw up a gang of new music downloads here every few weeks. Back when Hypem reigned supreme and personal music blogs had a little more pull, bundling up musical selections for my friends was damn near my favorite thing to do. It was an innocent time. KanyeUniverseCity was poppin and the most divisive issue was chillwave. We were willing to believe Wale and Cudi were people with interesting things to say about the world. I think we’re still trying to wash our hands of some things from that era, but there was a certain optimism in the air, and that felt cool.
My outlook on the digital “culture” media landscape in 2015 is a little more cynical. The whole inglorious end of the Carlessaga feels like an omen of a gloomy and boring future full of scalable content. The process of consolidation, the gradual convergence of the music hype cycle into an increasingly smaller pool of opinions and buzz artists–it’s all happening. It’s definitely not not happening.
And yet, there are still things about the internet that are great and worth not taking for granted. There may be less blogspots serving up 320 vinyl rips of weird prog and jazz oddities, but the YouTube rabbit hole is still real as fuck, and you can still mute your computer when Taco Bell ads pop up. There are also lots of labels reissuing tight shit and plenty of individual humans making cool shit in their rooms on computers. Lots of them have Soundcloud pages they update regularly. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s still pretty fun to go digging, as long as you’re looking in the right places. So in that spirit, here goes some Bowties-approved music from pon di interwebs. There’s some South African funk, some Rich Homie, some John Carpenter horror themes, some grimy house, some Willow Smith space soul. In other words, hopefully something for everybody. Who knows, maybe this’ll become a tradition again.
Gotta say, this creative community we have here is a beautiful thing, and like Marshawn, I’m thankful for all the crews and collectives doing good work and cultivating their lane. One such squad doing just that is the Malidoma Collective, the multitalented supergroup of musicians, photographers, filmmakers, and other artists “projecting a spectrum of the female vision and voice,” and “rekindling the spirit of reciprocity” here in the Town.
On Saturday, Malidoma hosted the second iteration of its Mating Dance, so Max, Jasmin, Kev and I made moves out to Oakland Terminal to soak up the scene. Borrowing the wall-to-wall celestial backdrop provided by current visiting artist Joshua Mays, Malidoma celebrated all things “euphoric and seductive”, with guest performances from Queens D. Light and Rayana Jay, slaps courtesy of Shruggs, Spencer Stevens, Jjaahz, and Nono, interactive art pieces, and a scene-stealing burlesque show from D. Faust, silhouetted against a full-wall anime projection. As usual, all good folks, all good vibes. Here’s to the next one.
Matthew Nelson is an artist from Fort Worth, Texas who believes in himself so much, that he devised a plan to traverse the Northeastern and Southern United States playing free DJ shows for which he does not get paid. Belief: that’s the central tenet of his musical tour, called BIYDIY (for “Believe in Yourself, Do It Yourself,”) on which he’s embarking with his longtime friend Blue, Anthony Blue, Jr., sometimes called Stonie.
Matthew, 29, known by his moniker, “American Matthew”, currently lives with his business partner Wayne Wilson in San Juan, Puerto Rico—a jewel of a place, one that he says is lit up with clear waves, blonde beaches, palm trees—the kind of stuff you’d see on a faded poster in a travel agency. But from today ’til February 28th, American Matthew will be stateside, playing shows in cities including but not limited to: Philly, DC, Miami, Houston and Denton. The latter is a city in Texas that he pronounces with a marked twang, Deyntin, home to the Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, and the only place in the Lone Star State to ban fracking. Blue’s middle brother (also named Blue, which gets confusing sometimes), has a residency at a bar in Denton, and while Matthew and Blue were home for the holidays, they threw a party at said bar, then another one at a warehouse the very next night. Back to back shows, and they pretty much killed.
DJing those two nights ultimately planted the seeds for what would become BIYDIY, what Matthew calls an independent DJ show. Money: that’s the other essential aspect in this series of performances. Matthew’s what you might call a bohemian. But in actuality, he’s more political than that. He says everything has a financial implication, and that there is always a money conversation happening. He moons over things that won’t cost him much, because he says cash is complicated.
There’s a unique crispness to the photos of Magdalena Korpas. Born in Gdansk, Poland, Magdalena’s love for photography has taken her all over the world, from Amsterdam to Paris, to her current home in Los Angeles. And while her acting endeavors have provided her with some considerable recognition in the field, Magdalena’s passion for photography reigns supreme.
Magdalena describes her work as an effort to quench her curiosity around the complexity of human behavior. Whether friends, family or strangers she meets along her travels, Magdalena takes to her subjects with an honest lens, capturing individuals authentically, and as they are. Fortunately for us, Magdalena’s work found our inbox. Hence the words, and the accompanying photos below.
Duck Down Music, founded by Black Moon member and Brooklyn underground legend Buckshot, has been home to some of the borough’s most rugged hip hop since its inception 20 years ago. Along the way, it has housed 9th Wonder, B-Real, Heltah Skeltah, MURS, Pharoahe Monch, Sean Price, Smif N Wessun, and Statik Selektah. And aside from the signature dungeony boom bap we’ve all come to expect from those artists, they’ve got another thing in common. They’re all dudes.
Enter: Chelsea Reject. The 22-year-old Bucktown native is the most exciting new addition to the label’s roster in recent memory. She has made the seamless transition from spoken-word artist to emcee, bringing to her live performances an intimacy and vulnerability that belie her age. Set to release her debut, CMPLX, in Spring 2015, Duck Down’s only female artist has been busy, performing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg alongside Talib Kweli in December. With upcoming performances in Cambridge, New York, and Philadelphia, Chelsea has already worked with the likes of Buckshot and Pro Era members CJ Fly, Nyck Caution, and Kirk Knight. Today, she drops a new video for “Go,” which features T’nah Apex & CJ Fly.
Lauren Crew sits across from me in the too-loud Oakland coffee-shop/hipster mecca where we both feel slightly out of place. Technically, we hella belong. We fall perfectly within the 23-35 age bracket that recently populates the ever-gentrifying neighborhood we’ve picked to meet in, though we’ve both known Oakland from our youth. Then there’s the fact that we met through a blog and have shared walls in local art shows. But Lauren’s not your average. Her handful-of-years head start out the womb on the rest of the coffee shop kids is transparent every time she opens her mouth to speak in witty, thoughtful prose. Lauren’s pigtail braids, gold name necklace and thick rimmed glasses might have you thinking she’s 10 years younger than she is, and her relatability flows effortlessly with every excited hand gesture and sarcastic remark. It’s that ease and humility that keeps reminding me of her experience on this earth and my adoration of her. And her work.
Lauren takes pictures, but not just any pictures. She takes pictures for large-scale installations, jewelry campaigns, fashion lookbooks and, just as importantly, for personal growth. Back in undergrad, when she picked up a film camera while abroad in Ecuador, she really didn’t think anything of it until folks started to take notice. Since, Lauren has developed her skill for capturing hard-hitting concepts and visual texture into a viable business and undeniable presence in the local arts scene. With nearly a decade of shooting, framing, hanging, installing and slanging under her belt, Lauren has become plenty well versed in creating work and the art of presenting it.
I think the first time I came across Alan Watts, I was in a record store, which is a little odd since music wasn’t really something he was known for. He was, however, known for plenty of things, including a certain kind of pop Zen philosophy that found its roots in Buddhist thinking and branched out into epistemological, psychological, and sometimes psychedelic ideas. If you put the dots together though, it actually makes perfect sense that a record store would be the place to bring us together. After all, one of the big reasons I keep walking into record stores and blowing paychecks is because it’s a cool way to connect to the past. And in Berkeley you don’t have to dig too far to find relics of a more psychedelic, more new agey, and maybe more optimistic past.
After growing up in England and becoming an Episcopal priest, Watts relocated to SF at age 30, following a burgeoning fascination with Eastern religion to the American Academy of Asian Studies in SF. Soon after, he went freelance, publishing his own philosophical works and hosting a radio show at KPFA in Berkeley, which attracted a loyal cult following. He dropped the now-canonical Way of Zen and dipped his toes into the psychoactive substance pool pretty heavily. Over the next ten or fifteen years, he hit his prolific peak, releasing about a book a year–on life, death, consciousness, cybernetics, ancient zen teachings, you name it–until his death in 1973. Along the way, he secured his place as one of the spiritual progenitors of the psychedelic ’60s, along with Ginsberg, Burroughs, Leary and Huxley.
Today there’s a pretty deep trove of his work to dig into, including a few lesser known recordings pressed up on vinyl in the ’60s. One of those recordings, 1962’s This Is It, according to the reissue gods Numero Group, represents the birth of psychedelic music:
“Psychedelic music all began with the tiniest possible bang: a minuscule pressing of a self-produced LP by Zen Buddhist scholar Alan Watts. In one cosmic flash of inspiration and group improvisation, the next two decades of musical innovation was pre-supposed: psychedelic rock, spiritual jazz, and even new age. As this micro pressing barely made it out of the ashram, it was his writings that actually spread his ideas, usually through osmosis: he was profoundly influential on the beat poets and the subsequent counter-culture.”
The press release for Numero’s reissue goes on to describe the beautiful cacophony of This is It: free-flowing, repetitive, nonsensical chants, paired with some rudimentary experimentation with a few instruments. “Love You,” the first piece of the collection available on Soundcloud, watches that phrase dissolve into babble over piano and percussion, before devolving all the way into growls. Whether you’re ready to swap this out for Revolver, I don’t know. But it’s a crazy artifact, and a solid opportunity to connect with Watts’ legacy. So to that end, I’ll turn to YouTube, for some OG Watts insights. Numero’s reissue drops February 16th.
This Friday, February 6th, the creative coworking space Oakstop will be celebrating its first anniversary and opening its gallery doors to welcome Black Artists on Art: The Legacy Exhibit. Oakstop is the dream of founder Trevor Parham, a longtime friend of the ‘ties and art curator. You might remember him from last year’s Town Business group show, which aimed to celebrate Oakland’s timely artistic current. Since, he has transformed that very emphasis into a more permanent spatial presence. Sitting just above 19th St. BART, Oakstop functions as a shared work environment, event space, and art gallery, that, as their mission statement reads, “fosters collaboration, professional development, and economic sustainability for creative entrepreneurs and local businesses.”
The Black Artists on Art exhibition is based on a book series of the same title, created by Dr. Samella Lewis in 1969, that showcased actively producing black fine artists in light of the disregard they often experienced from mainstream art institutions. Lewis’ grandson, Unity Lewis, is working to continue the legacy of the series through a revival, and publishing new books for the series that include contemporary black artists. Friday’s exhibit will serve as a launch for the broader campaign to recruit over 500 new black artists for the series, by showcasing work from 36 original and contemporary contributors for a three-generations-deep display of black fine artists. For a sneak peak of some of the iconic art included in the show, peep the images below. The event will be held upstairs at Oakstop’s 1721 Broadway gallery space, and runs from 6pm till midnight. It’s about to be legendary. See you there.
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.
There have been far too many deaths in the rap community as of late, and this one in particular hurts a whole lot. If you came of age in the Bay Area during the ’00s, then you’re more than likely familiar with The Jacka. You may have smoked some weed while looking at the Bay view and slapping his music, or seen one of his shows at the Fillmore or the Catalyst, or even got introspective while playing one of his many classic albums from start to finish in your headphones. Whatever your experience was with the music of the man who was born Dominic West, and passed away Monday night as Shaheed Akbar, it is clear that as an artist, and a human, he was an extremely powerful force.
As I walked and biked and drove around a city far away from my home in Oakland today, all the while listening to The Jacka, it struck me just how much he spoke about death in his music. He rapped about a life that many folks in this country are forced to lead–without glorifying the violence or trauma, but instead viscerally emanating that pain in the most vivid pictures. He rapped about hating the oppressive world he was born into, but he also rapped about loving the carefree, beautiful moments that life has to offer. Though he never gained the notoriety he deserved while alive, he consistently took the Bay sound to new heights and, for many including myself, defined a sound, a place, and a time. And for that, we are eternally grateful.
Below you can find some choice Jack selections, and check here for a classic 2009 interview he did with the Bay’s own Murder Dog magazine.
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.
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.