Originally in about year 1999, you created the image “a skull holding a cell phone.” What was your consideration? Why was it a skull and a cell phone? What’s the relation between them?
I drew Skullphone as a self portrait. I drew an image of a skull holding a cellphone and I immediately felt I had captured how I felt at that time. I was communicating through a cellphone for the first time in my life, which was a relatively new technology for the American masses back in 1999. Overall there was a major push with technology on a consumer level, with the internet really kicking in around 1995 and my first cellphone being purchased around 1998 as a young adult. I liked that showing the skull on a cellphone was fun, and yet somehow demystified the greatness of technology. The image is very roughly drawn, not so much like outsider art but more like a cavepainting, and the skull’s slight smirk is a nod to Mona Lisa, all these things which were drawn quickly and subconsciously. It’s amazing that we still use cell phones and that this image is still somewhat relevant.
Then you placed the works on city streets. What initiated you to do this?
The same month I drew Skullphone I placed images of it on a dancefloor. When people left, they took the prints with them. But it was raining out, and when the prints got wet, they simply stuck them to the wet walls of buildings outside. When I saw this I had a new calling in life.
Tell us something about the process of making these works. And which materials or technique you use?
Making work for the street is usually begun by silkscreening or painting onto paper, or by cutting an image for stenciling outdoors. For posters that are over 12 feet tall, you definitely need to hand paint them since it would be much too expensive to silkscreen an image that large for the street. The largest silkscreen I make for the street is 6 feet tall. Usually the pieces are made with a specific outdoor location in mind. For example, If I put an image on a run down car dealership or boarded up gas station I’ll twist skullphone into an image about car culture or gasoline or something about modern living like that.
Digital media is different from transitional arts. Can we include it into new media art? How would you definine it?
My new work is actually paintings of Outdoor Digital Media. The imagery is painted with Enamel on mirror polished black aluminum panels. The painting technique is painting with a dot pattern inspired by the LED dots on an outdoor digital billboard. The painting technique is a form of pointillism. These paintings follow a distinct personal linear path from my initial work on the streets, to placing imagery on the Digital Billboards that popped up along Los Angeles’ city streets back in 2008, and now painting in an outdoor digital media pattern. It is my way of documenting what is disposable and ephemeral with digital media, specifically with this work at this time outdoors. And perhaps not necessarily what is prolific with reprogrammable digital media currently, but what will possibly be. There is not a term set in stone yet for what I am doing since it is relatively new. This work has roots in the street, and is optical, and is pop. But all those terms are used, abused, and dated. My new relativity has yet to be defined.
Now you have brought your works into gallery spaces? Why? As we all know, street digital work can be seen by many people where they cannot avoid it. But by going into a gallery to see the work could restrict people seeing it. Don’t you think?
I have yet to think of a major artist that does not show work in a context of trying to generate money for the next work of art. It is somewhat inevitable if you want to continue to create on a daily basis that you need to figure out a way to survive. What this has meant for outdoor artists is the creation of an event where artwork is sold. Regarding what I am doing now, I still work on city streets, The difference for now is that when I do an art show I’m not taking the artwork from the streets and directly illuminating it indoors. I am currently letting the art made for the streets stay outdoors, and if you want to see it up close you should hop a fence and go look at it. The art I make for the gallery is now made specifically to inspire on those indoor walls. This allows me to make a piece of art that takes a lot of time and patience to make, and show it as such. I am not opposed to showing the street art directly indoors, but currently I enjoy reworking it specifically for an indoor wall. It is appropriate for a museum to show a lineage of outdoor work indoors, but as a working artist I am pushing it further within the gallery.
Which new elements or materials have you brought into these new works?
The new works are very clean since they are aluminum panels which are mostly black and polished to be very reflective. They look like mirrors. I paint on top of that with my dots. These pieces are nearly impossible to photograph without a reflection of yourself in and a reflection of the indoor surroundings in them. In person the pieces have a life force upclose that the outdoor pieces have viewing from far away. It is all relative to where you are.