- Update from NYC 07/10/2013
- SGCNY Interview Series 07/07/2013
How did your collaboration with Volcom come about ?
Volcom helped produce thousands of socks for my XOS|SOX exhibiton in New York last May and we pretty much designed the Fall ’13 line around that exhibition. It’s insane to think we’ve worked together for over a decade! It’s a good relationship since our ideologies overlap.
I still remember, the first magazine that made an impression on me as a kid
was Taboo magazine arriving in the mail instead of Big Brother mag!
My high school years involved a lot of
battling brain cells
Now I get to work with
Geniuses of course!
I have a crush on
I now live in
too many places!
You have been doing this for a while, it seems like you saw the future of technology addiction before us ??
I’m still waiting to thrift store shop virtually with a drone camera online!
What do you think about social media ? Over saturation or an outlet?
Personally, I loosely enjoy it. I was recently offered to have pictures posted for me off a database but that would take all the fun out of it wouldn’t it? But overall Instagram’s a bitch! & Facebook’s a whore! We are entering an inexcapable box… nice knowing you! :=
Can you compare yourself to a man of the past?
An old man in an undeveloped seaside town with a passionate art practice and dear family.
If you could leave us with one thought, what would it be?
Ever been arrested?
- Nylon Magazine 5 Questions 07/05/2013
Since 1999 LA-based artist Skullphone has been sketching, pasting, painting, posting, and, well, basically putting his iconic image on everything everywhere. This weekend the artist is releasing a capsule collection created in collaboration with action sports giant Volcom, which includes a button-up, tees, [denim], and socks. The whole thing is gonna kick off this Saturday at the Pac Sun on Broadway right here in NYC where the artist is going to be giving away his art, screenprinting stuff, giving away stickers and buttons, all kinds of rad stuff. Thanks to Skullphone himself we got ahold of some of the tees and socks ahead of time and we’re stoked to screenprint some of our own stuff this weekend! We caught up with him to chat about taking the train in LA, listening to Operation Ivy, and the Sex Pistols and a bunch more. Check out our five questions below and click HERE to get ahold of a couple of pieces from the collection that have been made available early.
What was your favorite cartoon/TV show as a kid?
What was your favorite cereal?
Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
What was the first record you bought?
I stole The Damned’s Smash It Up LP from my brother in 3rd grade.
What was the first live show/concert you went to?
Def Leppard on the Pyromania Tour.
What posters were hanging on your bedroom wall in High School?
The Operation Ivy Energy poster, the Pulp Fiction poster, you know the one with Uma Thurman.
- Skullphone X Volcom Fall ’13 06/18/2013
- The Standard 06/07/2013
- W27: The Art Issue 04/03/2013
Interview by Fernanda DeSouza
Original Post: March, 2013
FD: Was there a piece of art that you encountered that made you stop and say “Wow! This is what I need to be doing?”
S: When I moved back to Los Angeles in 1999 I was inspired by the size of hand painted advertisements circulating monthly on Buildings. Los Angeles has a 50 year history of impressive large murals but the large graphic advertisements of the time inspired me most. Now the ads are even larger and more disposable – digital prints on mesh or plastic and wrapped around anything. As an art form, I like the idea of weaving in and out of indoor and outdoor spaces and not being limited to preconceptions of art or advertisement. This sensibility was somewhat unique in 1999 but is quite adulterated now.
FD: Do you feel that the art scene has drastically changed since being part of it?
S: Of course. It’s constantly changing – specifically with the context of “street art” being defined in our current mass culture. I’ve also become more aware of the art business gears which are a bit of a turnoff really. It’s quite an unregulated corrupt industry, but it supposedly always been. The thing changing most is my understanding of it – which determines what I’m buying into and what I’m creating.
FD:You had a very bad injury during your trip to London last summer for your show. Can you explain how you overcame that and how it affected your creative process and ability to put out work?
S: Yes I broke both of my feet in London in July. I’d been working with casts of my feet during the prior 6 months – working toward the New York show in May and London show in July. I jumped off a wall and broke my feet two nights prior to the London opening. As artists we each follow some sort of creative emergency which is only truly understood by ourselves until it is all said and done. I’ve entered 2013 with a renewed intuition trust.
FD: Has social media impacted street art in a positive or negative way and has it posed as a threat in maintaining your identity a secret?
S: Well I’m not concerned about keeping my identity a secret really. It’s a choice I made 15 years ago as cellphones and internet became prevalent – working against it, behind the scenes, as an art form. This overall model challenges common practice as an artist since artist characters are celebrated far more than any singular art piece. I’m not completely dodging the bullet tho since I use a recognizable moniker. @skullphone likes social media.
FD: I got to help you at your studio when I was in LA two months ago. Has the idea of the “artist studio” changed and how do you distinguish the difference between your actual studio and the streets as your studio per say?
S: My studio has been a work in progress for 10 years and I just closed a chapter of working within the solitude of my studio for five years. The urgency of the street art movement is over. Anyone who has been part of it knows the feeling of rushing to get it done. This is why it is called a “movement”, right? I’m not saying that street art itself is over, but there is a refocusing – Now what? This hit me in 2008 and I decided to create a formal body of work that anyone could appreciate without a “street art” narrative. The spirit of my work is the same, and it is a linear progression, but you could literally drop acid and love the show, or bring your grandparents in. The work encourages varied interpretations conceptually and visually without any footnotes.
FD: Street art is still illegal and it will probably stay that way for a while. Does the illegality of it make your job more exhilarating?
S: Technically street art is illegal when it’s on uncommissioned outdoor spaces. So much of what we see now is a grand endorsement from the corporate and privatized business world at large. Street artists generally spend large amounts of time and money getting up on walls that then get buffed so we’d prefer to work on walls with green lights from the owners. So there is a new sick business model where we are offered or request legit walls with our own production cost. It takes advantage of the artists under a normal capitalist umbrella since normally a “muralist” would be paid for supplies and time. But within the street art bubble it make sense. Anyway, legal walls aside, yes, I still practice uncommissioned outdoor art with my own rationalizations, which is essentially why I haven’t emerged from a cake.
FD: Do you notice a lot of different styles between East and West Coast street art or do you see the same influences behind the works to be about the same?
S: I notice blank spaces more than anything else. And, in L.A., who’s claiming the four blocks of my hood.
FD: Your artwork touches upon things we do/see/use in our day to day lives—billboard ads, religion, the Digital Age. Can you say you pull inspiration from average day life and how are you trying to get your message across from the work you produce?
S: I’ve described my art as painting a mirage.
FD: As a street artist, how do you define “success?”
S: Well I don’t work in a vacuum nor am I fed with a silver spoon. I partially define success by the amount of cold hard cash in my pocket, and the amount of checks I cut with “gift”, “donation”, or “studio assisting” written on the notes line. I don’t think anyone can ever clearly grasp their reach into the world. It’s ever changing. But the balance I have is as artist and as art business. It’s quite a balance if one cares. Otherwise you’re a puppeteering puppet, going through the motions alone.
FD: Define “Skullphone” in one sentence (what is the essence of Skullphone).
S: Open 24 hours.
- 10 Years of Wooster: Skullphone 03/25/2013
Original Post: March 25, 2013
As we celebrate our 10th Anniversary of the Wooster Collective website, we asked a group of artists who we showcased in the beginnings of the website the following question:
What’s the one thing that you learned in the last decade that you had wished someone had told you 10 years ago?
The following response comes from Skullphone:
Educations cost you money. Learn and move on.
Saying “Fuck Off” is Zen in the right situation
Success is Audacious even when wrong
Hard work driven by mass validation is unimaginative
Friends that do not say “I’m sorry” or “thank you” are not friends
We learn best the hard way, so don’t always solve their problems
Helping someone secretly feels so good. They’ll never know.
Prune for proper growth and let your gut do the cutting
You know yourself better than anyone else, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise
You give best when you give to yourself first
If you are too pure you will never fly, drive, or physically go anywhere
It’s all corrupt, so don’t worry about it.
The writing is usually on the wall.
Answer your wakeup calls
If you’re alive, things can always be worse
- I & B Talks: Skullphone – Standards 12/03/2012
I & B TALKS with Skullphone. About life, art and Miami.
original post: 12/02/12
Skullphone as an image describes us people really well. And since 1999 when it first appeared on the streets of LA, we people have not really changed or just got worse probably. Honestly, are you one of those who is addicted to his phone or any kind of gadget?
Hahaha… totally. I’m not pointing fingers at others, I’m pointing at myself. How else will I hash through the work appropriately.
On your website I read an interview with you and a question stood out asking what is your motto, you replied “TGIM”. Does everyday kick ass for you?
Yes pretty much every day kicks ass for me. Especially Mondays.
While you were in London for your exhibition you broke both of your feet. Do you still risk jumping from walls?
Oh God. I looked over my shoulder two days ago and said, “holy shit! I just walked 10 blocks”
You are showing in Scope Miami with Ivory & Black. Tell us your top 5 favourite spots in Miami.
Mmmmmiiiiiaaaaammmmmiiiii. Lets see, Beach Scooter Rentals at 1341 Washington Place is the first stop to pick up cheap and easy transportation for South Beach. A common day is leaving hotel around 12pm, in the sun, with a t-shirt on, and returning at 5 am in the rain saying WTF am I thinking? The main attraction, Art Basel, the actual art fair is interesting. You should go. What else. Swimming, stretching, running along the beach is always good but never done enough. Watch out for thousands of jellyfish - and there were “killer amoebas” in the water 2 years ago which you wanted to keep away from your ear canals. If you are a west coast California circa 1960 art fan you might want to check out the Miami Dade Library for Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go. And you can pretty much walk up to any party on the beach if you swim in. The Soho House Miami is a great starting point, from which you will be returning in the rain, on a scooter, with a t-shirt on at 5 am.
You live in LA, which is for outsiders really an either love or hate place. You leave your trademark on the city, how do you feel about living in LA?
I dig it.
Where does your technique come from for your dots works?
There wasn’t a formal painter I could reference for the technique, that I knew of. I worked for a year on the panel and paint combo that would give the desired reflective optical effect – I knew what I wanted. Some solutions were full circle, some were left field.
Can you tell me more about American Standard? It comes from Ideal Standard, which is a sanitary brand.
Yes, American Standard is a toilet and sink manufacturer, and is the Western equivalent to Britain’s Ideal Standard. Or vice versa – I don’t know which came first. The American Standard logo was appropriated years ago… since America is going down the drain, which is said tongue in cheek, but it is really isn’t it? It was then inserted into one of the Digital Media series, and figured I’d document working & traveling in the UK with the Ideal Standard response. #pisshere @skullphone #callandresponse #american #ideal #standard #digitalmedia #DTD
- Standard 08/27/2012
interview by D.Meyer
What’s your current state of mind?
So the Olympics, talk about the ultimate cluster fuck in global, national and corporate marketing … how do the games sit in your head, so-to-speak?
Haha, well, my work documents our world within my own understanding that technological advancement edges us closer to technological destruction. I wasn’t taking a show to Britain to criticize it or the games. The Olympic games celebrates mankind’s ability to go “faster, higher, stronger.” London XX12 was assembled to document the UK in 2012 and my presence as an artist traveling there immediately prior to the Olympic Opening Ceremony.
How are you feeling about the new show? There’s sculpture? That’s new yes?
Yes, the ceramic foot multiples were new for this show. I’d been working on them in between painting. I wanted the finished pieces to look oil-slicked and burnt and decided on a form of Raku for the final firing. Most of the casts were trashed in the process. After months of focusing on my feet and finalizing the gallery installation, we all were surprised when I literally broke both my feet, a day before the opening.
You broke both of your feet in London? Can you describe that?
Yes, jumping off a wall. It all made sense in retrospect.
You said that the ideal place to be an artist is isolated in a cave. Why is that? Don’t you think being inspired by the world around you is an important part of art-making?
My Digital Media paintings are literal depictions of outdoor advertising and foresight into a more comprehensive future connectivity with outdoor scapes. The paintings wouldn’t be possible without walking down the street and breathing it all in. Once artwork is created, however, there are expected art dealing idiosyncrasies. I would prefer to be ignorant of “what happens next” in a cave far far away - but that’s impossible, isn’t it. I think the quote you referenced is when I described my first gallery shows and I accepted the artwork on the street no longer being the end-all. This is currently translated with my referencing the literal image of “skullphone” as “advertisement” – albeit in the gallery, as a painting.
How do you feel about going from the street to the gallery? Do you find the formality of the process, deadlines and nosey gallerists helpful, or hindering?
All the new work is created to mess with people within the gallery similar to how art outdoors is seen quickly and subconsciously while driving down the street. We didn’t have smart phones back in 1999, when I first started working outdoors, and people were left to guess motives. Moving forward I didn’t dream of working within the gallery in the same fashion as outdoors. The pieces come together and fall apart visually,something that can’t be easily photographed or viewed comprehensively online. You have to be there in person. The aluminum panels I currently create are buffed into mirrors prior to the dot painting process, so in the end, viewers see themselves.
Technology… you weigh all the pros and cons… in the end, more good than bad? More bad than good?
Well I’m not a “doomsdayer”. My crude drawing of a skull holding a phone was reporting a then-new widespread gesture. We didn’t have portable phones generally around us prior to the mid/late ‘90’s. With this sketch I was pointing a finger at myself. I too am learning how to adjust to everything everywhere all the time. So, yes, of course I do feel like we as a culture are fighting against idiocracy.
What hangs above your sofa?
A window with a view of downtown Los Angeles and neighboring hills. My studio has an art storage so I can rotate art seasonally, or yearly throughout my home. Years ago I moved out a Lichtenstein “interiors” poster from the ’99 Chicago MOCA show, which I liked because, well, it’s beautiful, and the woman is on a telephone, and it’s an exhibit from the same year I drew the original “skull on cellphone” image. I’ve just brought back an oil painting I dumpster dove for in childhood which is a storm oversea. An Evan Gruzis watercolor was just brought in as well, a painting which I interpret as a layering of text in the sky. I properly function with inspiring art around me. This encouragement changes as life changes.
What were the last three things you googled?
“Toby Damnit Spirits of the dead”, “Nino Rota sheet music”, and “lowest common denominator”
What’s your motto?
- Hypebeast 07/30/2012
Skullphone “London XX12″ Exhibition @ Ivory & Black Soho Recap
by Gweneth Goh
Original Post: 07/28/12
The illustrious LA-based Skullphone made his big British solo debut last Friday July 20 at the esteemed premises of Ivory & Black Soho. Unsurprisingly, his “London” XX12 exhibition was very well received by the Londoners, along with several limited edition releases including socks, tees, iPhone covers and silkscreen prints. “London XX12″ showcases Skullphone’s signature digital media paintings and a sculpture installation featuring a ceramic piece cast from his foot, which in true Skullphone fashion offers barbed social commentary on the upcoming games and human rat race in general. The show will run until August 21.
Ivory & Black Soho
94 Berwick St.
W1F 0QF, London
- Arrested Motion 07/16/2012
Upcoming: Skullphone “London XX12″ at Ivory & Black
Original Post: 07/15/12
Next Friday night (July 20) in London, Skullphone will be opening his latest solo show entitled London, XX12 at Ivory & Black. The new body of work centers around his hand-painted digital media series (which mimics his digital billboard takeovers on the streets) and a sculpture installation, cast from the artist’s foot no less.
- East Village, NY Times 05/06/2012
Want Free Socks? A Man Named Skullphone Wants to Give Them to You
By DANIEL MAURER, 20 Cooper Square
Thought the Hole’s indoor garden was wild? Fuse Gallery may just give it a run for its money when its latest exhibit, “XOS / SOX” opens May 2. Skullphone, the Los Angeles-based street artist last seen purdying up construction containers on East Fourth Street, is piling 1,000 “custom produced” socks in the gallery behind Lit lounge, for everyone to take. Street-art inspired footwear sure is a thing lately. Is this going to hurt business at Sock Man and Sox in the City? Dunno, but we’re definitely snagging a pair to toss in the drawer with those pink tiger-print aNYthing socks…
“XOS / SOX,” opening reception May 2, 7 p.m.; through May 30, Fuse Gallery, 93 Second Avenue, (212) 777-7988
- Hello-My-Name-is.TV 03/30/2012
- Icon #106 03/09/2012
- VCO 01/04/2012
VCO Co-op out now. Photo: Ian Campbell
- Graffiti 365 01/03/2012
by Jay Edlin (and Monica LoCascio)
Unidentified to date, and pathologically wary of cameras and interviewers, the man behind the iconic Skullphone image remains a mystery. Skullphone is known to carry fake identification and allegedly uses up to three pseudonyms at any given time, never giving his real name at an event or on an art-show flyer.
Based in Southern California, Skullphone has been wheatpasting, stenciling, and stickering his stark image of a skull talking on a cellphone for almost a decade. Skullphone was also responsible for a series of stickers and posters that appeared around New York, advertising a gate-installation service and bearing an 800 number that delivered the caller to a mystifying voice recording. Skullphone moved into billboard liberation and high-stakes installation in 2008, when he hacked ten Clear Channel billboards in Los Angeles and placed his name into the series of ads that flashed on the screens.
A classically trained painter, Skullphone has recently been branching out into oil painting, spearheading a new labor-intensive style of imagery that utilizes the color pixels found in LCD screens to create the deceptive effect of an electronically glowing painting.
-Ed Koch photo by Jay Edlin, 2011
- Mobile Hack Days 01/02/2012
- Daily Dujour 11/14/2011
Original Post: 10/23/2011
Pure Logo, a group show curated by Skullphone, opened on Saturday evening at New Image Art. The show offers several takes on the concept of concise visual communication from Evan Gruzis, Curtis Kulig, Takeshi Murata, Cleon Peterson, Paul Wackers and Hugh Zeigler.
- Refinery 29 11/13/2011
Holy (Sh*t) Here’s a Prada Cross
By Kristian Laliberte
Original post 09/30/2011
We wouldn’t say no to raiding Madonna’s late ’90s closet for all those Galliano and Versace cross necklaces. Remember that trend? But when it comes to the real thing—crosses that is—we think that perhaps the best place for this religious symbol is a chapel, not the latest issue of Architectural Digest. Or, maybe not. Cutting-edge Chelsea gallery Mallick Williams & Co.’s newest exhibit, “Scripture,” (the first documented collaboration between Curtis Kulig and Skullphone) will feature Skullphone’s “Prada Fall/Winter 2011″ that’s basically a giant,
three-foot-tallsix-foot-tall Prada cross. Though it looks like it’s plugged into the wall, the piece is actually a Skullphone signature, a pointillist painting meant to resemble LED lights. The artist’s incorporation wasn’t random; Skullphone identifies Prada as “a brand that reaches the masses and yet still esoteric in concept….it’s at the seam of the vulgar and educated.” And, of course, Italian, especially fitting as the cross is a major symbol of Catholicism. We’re not sure how well this will go down in the Texas mega-churches, but we think the Pope will dig it—it’s been said that he wears Prada loafers, after all.
“Scripture,” Thursday, October 6, to Tuesday, November 8, 2011; Opening reception Thursday, October 6, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Malick Williams & Co., 150 11th Avenue (near 21st Street); 212-929-4137.
- Art Observed 11/12/2011
AO On Site – New York: Skullphone and Curtis Kulig at Mallick Williams & Co. Through November 8, 2011
Original Post 10/29/2011
photo: Tanley Wong
Over and over again, the two words, “Love Me,” are repeatedly scrawled on the canvasses of Curtis Kulig, the street artist best known for emblazoning this simple cursive ‘throw-up’ all over New York City. Viewed next to the faux-LED crosses and blatant consumerist imagery of his long-time friend and supporter Skullphone, they begin to take on a hint of desperation, a plaintive plea in a world inundated with brand-names and electronic simulacra. While the two artists have supported each other for over 7 years, Scripture, now showing at the Mallick Williams and Co. Gallery in Chelsea, is the first documented collaboration between the two artists. Regardless of the precedent, however, the installation sees Kulig and Skullphone pursuing techniques that the artists have explored in past work.
In the first room of the show, Skullphone pointillistically mimics the red, blue and green lighting arrays of LED screens is shown through a number of black aluminum crucifixes and circular discs, using the colors to create a mix of biblical and consumerist imagery (Prada, Mobil Oil, Smiley Faces, the Crucifiction, etc.) that devolve into a grid of dots as the viewer gets closer. Running in parallel, the images also interact with each other, with some pieces ominously reflecting the stark outline of crosses behind the viewer while foregrounding the skeletons and brand-names portrayed. A large end-piece reflects the viewers in the gallery, effectively reflecting the gallery on a large screen.
Similarly, Kulig continues his on-going use of the ‘Love Me’ tag, using his loopy handwriting and stylized, heart-shaped ‘M’s to create enormous, textured patterns on his canvases. This approach is repeated in a number of color combinations, with Kulig taking his commentary on mass-producible art to the next level, keeping the enormous canvases shrink-wrapped and piled in one corner of the room. The casual visitor is left to wonder if the works had arrived late, or if they perhaps were not supposed to be in the second room to begin with.
Taken as a whole, the dark, pleading nature of Kulig’s pieces, almost hidden away in the backroom, creates a dialogue between the clean, efficient advertising imagery Skullphone presents up front, exploring the nature of symbolism and identity in American consumerist culture.
- Skullphone Strikes Again 07/22/2011
Original post: July 14, 2011
The name Skullphone is basically eponymous with LA street art. And while he’s best known for the now iconic image of a skeleton on a cell phone we love the evolving direction of Skullphone’s work. Last week he took over both The 6th Street Mural at The Standard, Downtown LA and The Box at The Standard, Hollywood with two different digitally inspired pointillism installations.
Tell us where Skullphone comes from and what the name/work represents.
Skullphone is an image I started posting around Los Angeles in 1999. As a frame of reference I was called “the guy who puts up that skull on cell phone image”, which I eventually condensed to my moniker “Skullphone.” Interpretations of this rudimentary image are left up to viewers regarding technology, social systems and every day sort of stuff.
You work in a variety of media, is there one you go to more frequently? How is each unique?
My time is now spent hand painting thousands of dots on aluminum panels. These pieces are made to intrigue within an indoor setting the same way outdoor art impacts commuters. I still use standard tools for outdoor work: stencils, posters, etc. The two worlds are linked with outdoor imagery working its way into the dots and the dots now working their way outdoors.
Do you have a favorite piece or project you’ve worked on?
The digital billboards in Los Angeles back in 2008 impacted my current trip the most – it bridged me over to painting RGB dot patterns. I also enjoy the text messages every December when the hollow glass Skullphone baubles hang on Christmas trees. They have an insane craftsmanship since they were produced at the original glass ornament factory in Poland. They’re very fragile. (Note: a very limited quantity of Skullphone’s ornaments will be available for purchase at The Shop at The Standard, Downtown. Run don’t walk!)
How do you approach projects like the mural at The Standard, DTLA and the vitrine at The Standard, Hollywood differently?
The downtown mural is made for people walking and driving past it, so it’s not necessarily made to be seen from a direct view. The Hollywood Vitrine piece is visible from far away but falls apart as it is approached. When standing at the reception desk it hopefully will be abstract nothingness. Of course the Hollywood vitrine will also have a Digital LED with information overload. Welcome to The Standard, Hollywood…
We see your work all over LA – where else can we find Skullphone?
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, SocialCam, Google Suites, Myspace, Bebo, Friendster, Zorpia, Netlog, Habo, Yahoo Messenger, Live Profile, Convore, Postman, LiveShare, FreeSpeach, Crowdstory, Ditto, hi5, Groupie, Honestly Now and Skullphone.com.
- Taschen 11/20/2010
Trespass: Looking at the History of Uncommissioned Art
by Susan Michals, photo by Paul Redmond
Original Post: November 18, 2010
Last night at the Taschen bookstore in Los Angeles, Ethel Seno, critic and Senior Editor of Paper Magazine Carlo McCormick and Marc and Sara Schiller of the Wooster Collective came out –- along with over 300 eager fans — to celebrate their take on the new rebels of the art world in their book Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Art. The tome is a collaboration celebrating the global phenomenon of graffiti and unsanctioned art and a historical retrospective of sorts and discusses the methods behind the art of spray painting and the impact the genre had on the art world for nearly four generations. Featured works include pieces by artists including Guerrilla Girls, Ron English, Skullphone, Shepard Fairey, and Banksy.
- Vision Magazine (China) 09/01/2010
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.
- Status Magazine 08/01/2010
interview by Toff de Venecia
For our readers who aren’t familiar with you, describe yourself and what it is you do
I make art tailored to outdoor spaces, a practice whose line dots into the gallery. I sign my work as “Skullphone.”
How did the name Skullphone come about?
The first image I started placing on city streets in 1999 was an image of a human skull holding a cellphone. It’s a cellphone circa then, which is chunky. In conversing, the phrase “this is the guy who does that Skull holding a cellphone image you see posted around town” condensed to “that’s Skullphone.” It worked well since I was evading the law and appreciated the anonymity. Now I like the moniker at a time when we, as a people, enjoy all information at our fingertips at any given second.
Where or how do you draw inspiration for your art?
I am inspired by Los Angeles slash Calfifornia at the moment. I was raised in Southern California, so the landscape and the people are deeply rooted (yes that is possible in So Cal). There was a decade when I was in New York months out of every year, but I now have a fully functioning compound in California and less disposable cash due to that, so I can not travel as much. And appropriately so. There is lots to do and say here, as we are consolidated globally. Saying something here is saying something here and there.
Though it was proven later on that the “hijacked” ads were paid for, what was the supposed intention behind your 2008 initiative in L.A. that spurred conversation and controversy? In short, why the “hack” did you do it?
I’m somewhat distracted by what blog you received your information from. But I never claimed to have hacked anything, nor have I claimed I didn’t. The process of getting Skullphone on the digital billboards was indeed shady and involves a brick of laughter, but whose details were never meant to map out. Online it became a “how” rather than “why”. This is understandable since we are conditioned to street artists saying “here I am .” How about “here we are.” It was shocking to see a handful of digital billboards in fall 2007, and I took a leap as to how our landscapes might change and what it means for outdoor artists, and what it means for Los Angelenos as a whole. With the Digital Billboards, Skullphone was placed as an anchor, or what I described then as a Stigma or Stigmata. It was meant to be seen outdoors, with a broad viewpoint. The closer you get the less it all makes sense. You have to stand back to get it. This is true with my painting process as well I suppose.
You’ve transitioned from street art to a more polished form of art in your recent Digital Media exhibition in L.A. Where do you see your craft going in the next five or so years?
I work outdoors, and I do so as art. Moving into my compound is logical, and yet making art for indoors doesn’t strictly translate from the street. That’s cool for me as a museum lineage, but as a working artist it must be something more. How do I inspire within a room indoors?
Have you touched based with the likes of Ron English? What can you say about this brewing art “liberation” movement happening in various pockets of Corporate America?
What is it that you hope to achieve with your art?
I am painting a mirage
Finally, any projects coming up soon? What can we look forward to?
- Los Angeles Times 07/01/2010
Connecting the dots in a digital world