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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.

CREW LOVE

Lauren Crew on her photographic career and shooting "ideas, not things"

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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.

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THIS IS IT

Alan Watts and the birth of psychedelic music

THIS IS IT

Alan Watts

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.

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BLACK ARTISTS ON ART

Oakstop brings a legacy of black art to Oakland for First Friday

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Black Artists on Art

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.

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THE POLITICAL LINE

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

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Keith Haring Political Line

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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LOSING A LEGEND

Remembering The Jacka and a Bay rap legacy cut too short

LOSING A LEGEND

The Jacka

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.

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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

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

Marilyn Rondon

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

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

Jasmin Porter

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

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

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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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OH DANG DUDE

SF's Odang Udon serves up freshly made noodles, inspired by a strong tradition

Odang Udon

About a year ago an Instagram account popped up in my follow requests by the name of odangudon. Off top, I thought it was some sort of random udon appreciation account judging by the first picture it posted: a modest looking bowl of udon with the caption “Odang! First bowl!” I fucking love noodles, so I got curious. A couple of weeks later our homie Ben Falik popped up on the odangudon account and things started to make a bit more sense.

Turns out, Odang Udon is a food truck (a trailer technically) that serves up on-the-spot freshly made udon dishes, both traditional and eccentric. A collaborative effort between longtime friends Matt Palley and Ben Falik, Odang is one of very few spots in the Bay Area that makes noodles fresh to order daily. It all started when Matt was visiting his girlfriend’s family in Hawaii. A popular udon spot in the area was known for serving up fresh noodles on the spot, in a specific regional style, and attracting massive lines daily. After a little background research, Matt traced the lineage of that particular udon, the Sanuki udon, to the Kagawa prefecture of Japan.

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YOUNG L’s FINAL FANTASY

Albany's own based legend returns with a 7-song suite

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Young L

Not a lot of folks who have had a more unusual rap trajectory than L. In the near-decade since “Vans”, L has kept his own strange and erratic orbit around the center of the rap universe, surfacing periodically to drop off new collections of music that consistently predict larger trends. Maybe by design, his visibility is dwarfed by his influence. He’s covered The Fader and helped found a streetwear empire, and yet a huge proportion of the kids rocking $34 Pink Dolphin tees probably wouldn’t recognize him on the street.

Though the exposure has fluctuated, the music hasn’t slowed up, or stopped evolving. Since the Pack days, he’s gone from high-tempo hyphy spazz-outs, to 8-bit monster jams, to sprawling, digital psychedelia. “Automated Oceans” to “Convulsion”. Over time, he’s let his music turn gradually weirder, more unhinged, but not without an appropriate dose of heavy slap. The best cuts on last year’s MVP channel heavy flexing and isolation at the same damn time.

His latest, Final Fantasy, dives heavy into that same headspace, taking that moody vibe to its logical extremes. “$ugar Ray” moves in mournful, reflective slow-mo, while “Doors Open” and Basedgod-assisted “Slam Dunk” are all sinister, chilly intensity. Mostly, Fantasy‘s 7 tracks bounce back and forth between those poles, riding the same lonely-at-the-top (or wherever it is he’s at) vibe that’s made his last few projects so consuming. It’s the kind of songwriting that finds existential emptiness in strip club ballouts, hinting at some kind of deeper conflict even when the subject matter stays surface-level. It’s all delivered with the confidence of a dude who’s probably not relying on rap money to pay his bills. Or more specifically, a dude who’s never had to be the center of attention to stay relevant.

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JON FOX AT WHITE WALLS SF

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

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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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