Josh Keyes’s “Implosion” Up Next at Thinkspace Gallery

JOSH KEYES
IMPLOSION

August 5 – August 26, 2017

(Los Angeles) – Thinkspace is pleased to present Implosion, a solo exhibition featuring new works by Portland-based artist Josh Keyes. The artist’s first solo with Thinkspace gallery, and his first in Los Angeles in a decade, Implosion offers a fractured look at a dystopian and psychologically fraught post-human universe. This world, in which the remnants of an anthropomorphic past coexist uncomfortably alongside a displaced natural world, is immediately recognizable as Keyes’, a painter who has spent the last 15 years exploring civilization’s final frontier: a world dispossessed and in bleak transition.

Keyes’ unique type of “eco-surrealism” offers a cautionary swan song. In an ostensibly not so distant future, the natural world is caught in a fascinating, albeit tragically irrevocable, death spasm. Fallen, and taxed well beyond our current state of environmental depletion, this world is siphoned, its ecological exhaustion has led to inversion, dislocation, chaos, contradiction, and disjuncture. Water levels have surged, habitats are destroyed, unlikely species commingle, humans are gone, and the world has unraveled to a state of absurd disorder and irremediable loss.

Best known for his diorama style compositions, Keyes’ detailed paintings stage hyper-realistically rendered animals and objects against stark white backgrounds. This compositional device captures moments at a remove, as though they’re segments or cross-sections pulled from natural history museum models.  The animals appear in varying states of distress and deracination as nomadic wanderers in counterintuitive scenes. At times his specimens are on fire or submerged beneath water, at others they appear as partial skeletal remains or are erupting into butterflies, ever present in absentia, however, are the traces of human damage and intervention. There are never human subjects in his works, per se, but our deleterious presence resonates throughout in the form of street signage, urban relics, graffiti, dumpsters, cars, monuments..all of which feel tragicomic in the context of this post-apocalyptic wreckage.

Keyes has recently taken on filling the entire pictorial space, abandoning the white absence of the ground in favor of a more immersive take on his recurring themes and dystopian imagery. Rather than appearing as isolated fragments or decontextualized vignettes, the paintings present whole environments – a holistically reconstituted nightmare. Though he continues to create both types of work, each functions a bit differently – one at a conceptual remove through the use of the diorama device, and the other a fictional, though terrifyingly plausible, environment in its entirety – like a museum panorama or natural history exhibit. His quasi-taxonomies are poetic chronicles of disaster.

A personal psychic dimension also informs Josh Keyes’ surreal works. The recurrence of certain animal characters, for instance, take on cryptic personal significance in their reiteration. This visual mythology of intrusion and disenfranchisement also functions as an elaborate allegorical stage. Though clearly a requiem of sorts for an ecological doomsday, the estranged state of the human condition, not to mention its absurdity, is also at the forefront. Keyes taps into a poetics of loss and alienation through these extended animal metaphors; a space of longing and over saturation familiar to us all.

This implosive world is one in which the absurd reigns and the floodgates of order have collapsed in upon themselves. The laws of the natural world have eroded, and in the wake of this chaos are the traces of a manmade artificiality, tokens of the ruinous legacy left behind by its makers. Despite the clearly dystopian tone of this vision, something beautiful persists in the raw power of the natural world the artist depicts, the beauty of its harbingers, and the urgency of its, and our, vulnerability. Keyes’ intense psychological landscapes force us to reconsider the stability of the very ground we take for granted.

Ken Flewellyn’s “Stay Gold” Up Next at Thinkspace Gallery

KEN FLEWELLYN
STAY GOLD

August 5 – August 26, 2017

Concurrently on view in the Thinkspace project room is Stay Gold, featuring new works by Los Angeles-based artist, and Thinkspace family veteran, Ken Flewellyn. A realist painter fascinated by the intersection of diverse cultures, personal histories, and Hip Hop, Flewellyn creates portraits of women that challenge our assumptions about identity and cultural homogeneity.

Inspired by his lifelong love of Hip Hop and his coming of age as a boy during its golden age in the 80s, Flewellyn’s work has always been about music and its impact on his personal vantage point and outlook on the world. As a cultural form, Hip Hop emerged from a localized cultural moment only to evolve into a variegated and international form that would systemically embrace the freedom of appropriation, and the complexity of multiple voices. This idea of cultural heterogeneity has influenced recurring themes in his imagery and has shaped his belief in the positive power of cultural mash-up.

Borrowing motifs and inspiration from Japanese culture and aesthetics, a visual influence in his home since childhood, Flewellyn often depicts women in traditional Japanese garb, silks, and kimonos. The subjects, however, remain anonymous, visible only by hands, body, and gestures, seldom, if ever, are faces or individuals revealed in their entirety. The subject’s identity, as a result, is relayed by the presence of revelatory objects, tattoos,  and accessories – external clues that point to something beyond the seen and allow for the aesthetic to prevail over individuation or the distraction of specificity. That being said, however, Flewellyn depicts real women based on actual people – friends, and strangers – anchoring his imagery in reality rather than unrealistic idealizations.

The juxtaposition of formal cultural garb and pop cultural accouterments keeps the work fascinating. These tightly cropped compositions are always informed by the presence of Hip Hop imagery, whether in the form of boom boxes, tapes, gold chains or typography. Playful and energized with tactility and detail, they’re both sensual and contemporary – solemn and light. Each painting in Stay Golden is adorned with the sumptuousness of gold and includes hidden Hip Hop references to its golden age throughout, all as an ode to the genre that has never lost its sheen.

 

Entropy Magazine Interviews Terry Arena

Arts and culture magazine Entropy recently interviewed artist Terry Arena who currently is exhibiting a few pieces in our “LAX / DTW: Detroit Hustle II” show at Inner State Gallery. Terry is a talented graphite artist who is able to balance light and shadow within a finite space. We’re excited to be showing works from Terry Arena next month, August 5th, in our office area for her exhibition Swarm.

Find out more about one of the newest members of the Thinkspace Family, Terry Arena on the Entropy website.

Entropy: How would you describe your art? It could be characterized as representational art, photorealistic drawings, still-life with graphite. And, of course, it’s fine art, but your work also delves into conceptual art or maybe even activist art.

Arena: I would classify it similarly. Maybe socially aware contemporary still life. I don’t want to take a strong role in terms of activism, but I want to participate in a dialogue about contemporary issues.

‘UNITED > DIVIDED’ the interactive installation by David ‘Meggs’ Hooke & Miya Tsukazaki – Temple Children

David ‘Meggs’ Hooke and Miya Tsukazaki (together Temple Children) created the evolving and interactive installation ‘UNITED > DIVIDED’ currently on view for Thinkspace curated exhibition,  ‘LAX/DTW: Detroit Hustle II’ at Inner State Gallery now through August 26th.

The immersive installation is a 270 -degree experience created as a three-phase progression, the initial phased marked as the “Divided.” Together Children invited friends, artists, and the public to participate in the artwork’s evolution, painting colorful peace signs and positive messages over the floor on one-half of the ‘X’ (a symbol for division).

In the artists’ words,
“The intention was to create a genuine experience of people working together to celebrate shared creativity, positivity, and sense of community. “A seemingly small gesture of inviting people into our home studio to paint on the floor side-by-side was a humbling experience overflowing with positive energy,” they said.
The ‘Greater Than’ ( > ) phase emerged as a result of the public’s involvement, and in the week that followed, MEGGS and Miya transitioned the installation into its final phase, ‘Unified.’ The resulting colorful peace sign leans on its side, a dual expression of the planet’s wavering environmental state and hope for a resurgence of solidarity. They installed living plants and flowers sourced from Eastern Market, creating a juxtaposition of Detroit’s discarded layers and Mother Nature’s revival.

The underlying inspiration for the artwork was their reaction to President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement and was motivated to highlight what human beings are capable of through unification, continued proactivity, and perseverance from the community level up.”

“The fight against catastrophic climate change begins and ends with us, and we must take responsibility for our own carbon footprints in the name of Mother Earth,” says MEGGS.

‘UNITED > DIVIDED’  was created in MEGGS’ & Miya’s home studio from approximately 90% repurposed and natural materials that the two began collecting in the fall of 2014.

 

For more information on ‘LAX/DTW: Detroit Hustle II’ and Meggs visit the Thinkspace Gallery website.

Interview with Drew Leshko for “The Only Constant”

Thinkspace is proud to present Drew Leshko’s latest body of work The Only Constant’ in our project room. Drew Leshko’s highly detailed sculptural works in paper and wood depict architectures and urban spaces of his beloved and changing Philadelphia. In anticipation of Leshko’s upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Drew Leshko to discuss copy cats, changing cityscapes, and the symbolism of iceboxes and dumpsters.

SH: In our last interview with us your went into great detail about your creative process and technique, what makes you fearless to the “copy cats” or so open to sharing your process in such detail?
DL: Well after this boom of copycats, I find myself reconsidering things for sure….I think that there is more to my sculptures than how they’re made– It’s an ongoing, cultural conversation that is communicated through my sculptures. I guess I’m fearless about sharing because I’m working with some of the best galleries in the world that have already acknowledged the innovation, I’ve been supported by amazing collectors, and am showcased by important press organizations. Copy Cats are inherently unoriginal, and it’s sad to imagine living a life like theirs — void of original ideas, scrapping from the handiwork of others, trying to use that as leverage or shortcut for “borrowed” ideas. Copy Cats are a real problem though. I’ve been working on these since 2005 and can’t believe the amount of people mimicking my work all of the sudden.

SH: What do you think is the role of an artist in society?
DL: Tough question. It seems lately that there are so many conceptually thin works created these days, where the artist is more interested in the bright colors and decorative qualities rather than the works having more to discover and communicate. If you look through the classics, so many of the great works by the masters were telling stories and speaking to cultural issues. For me, i think its important to translate what is happening in the world around you through what you’re creating in the workshop so that painting or object may live as a reference to the past.

SH: You’ve given the advice to young artists not to get frustrated, what has helps you to stay grounded and push forward with your art?
DL: Everyone gets frustrated, but this all comes naturally to me. These projects are something that I want to pursue. If I had to force myself to be grounded and push forward, it would be really tough. It would almost feel like work. haha.

SH: The sculptures document the changing landscape of your city. You’ve said you’d like to document other cities but need to have a sense of the buildings and changing neighborhoods. If you could travel through time, what cities would you want to document and what time periods?
DL: My works now are examining the re-development of the city, as people are repopulating a previously abandoned place. To me, it would be really interesting to create a series that is the inverse of this process, documenting parts of the city after “white flight”, one of the initial cultural transformations of industrial American cities. Let’s say the 1960’s. As for the city, Baltimore would great (i was born in Baltimore), but really any city with a strong heritage of blue collar industry.

SH: How has Philadelphia not only shaped you as an artist but as a person?
DL: Philadelphia is a great place. A place that I’m incredibly proud of. The city has shaped me as a person through the cultural diversity in the community. It’s quite the melting pot. In the last few years, the art scene is really changing here. Collectors seem to be popping through galleries and supporting the community all of the sudden, which is great. But before this trend, the city made me stronger— Those 8 or so years making these works without anyone noticing, without good opportunities. Without Philadelphia incubating me that through experience, I don’t think I’d be able to fairly value what I have built for myself now.

SH: What do you listen to in the background while creating work?
DL: This year I’ve been listening to the “Up and Vanished” podcast (cold-case murder mystery). I listen to music mostly. The Hold Steady, Craig Finn, Tigers Jaw, Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, Dave Hause, Elliott Smith, Conor Oberst, Jawbreaker— A lot of lyrically driven stuff. And also a lot of hip-hop. I’ve lately been listening to a lot of Cam’ron, Dipset, Big Pun, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, and 2 Chainz.

SH: In an interview with Wide Walls, you expressed how the dumpsters and ice boxes symbolize addicts and drug dealers, but you don’t elaborate on this point much. Do the other objects you sculpt hold any additional symbolism?
DL: My favorite band, The Hold Steady, has a song that really resonated with me and encouraged the metaphor of the dumpsters and ice boxes as dealers and users. The song is called “Rock Problems”, but the theme is reoccurring throughout their discography.
“That one girl got me cornered in the kitchen.
I said I’ll do anything but clean.
She wants to know what I liked better
Being a trash bin or an ice machine?”

I like that metaphor a lot, but there is a bit more symbolism too. Not only are the dealers and users being pushed out of the neighborhoods I’m addressing, but the dumpsters and ice machines are being pushed out too. The new versions of the neighborhoods are too polished to have “eyesores” lining the sidewalks. New regulations, laws, and codes are forcing business owners to find new solutions for their trash, and no longer able to utilize their sidewalks, for the ice boxes, as parts of their stores

The beer distributors and cigarette shops are strewn with advertisements aren’t necessarily symbolic or metaphorical. But, they should be considered from a cultural perspective— it seems these type of businesses and advertising strategies only occur in the economically depressed areas. It’s a systemic problem that perpetuates class differences that need to be addressed.

SH: What about another artists’ work excites or fascinates you? Who do you think everyone should look up?
DL: I really like artworks that tell a story. Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time in some of the more depressed parts of the city. I keep coming back to a series of photographs by artists Jeffrey Stockbridge. The photographs are incredibly powerful and the accompanying texts are pretty great. He’s exploring the same parts of the city but from a more cultural anthropology scope. Check out his site! I recommend exploring the “archives” section, where you get a bit of background info per image. https://kensingtonblues.com

 

SH: If you were hosting a dinner party, who’s on the guest list, what’s on the menu, and what would be your icebreaker question?
DL: This question stresses me out. I’m not always a comfortable host.

SH: If your artwork inspired a cocktail or a beer, what would it be made of and what would it taste like?
DL: I’d have to go with a no-frills, Philadelphia classic— the “Citywide”. It is a cheap domestic beer and a shot of whiskey. perfect.

Artist Spotlight: Jolene Lai on BOOOOOOOM

A well-deserved feature, Jolene Lai was recently highlighted on BOOOOOOOM in their Artist Spotlight series. Many of the pieces from Jolene Lai’s most recent exhibition with us, Besides You are featured in the spotlight. We’re thrilled Jolene Lai’s work continues to connect with art lovers. For those who would like to view her work in person, she is currently a part of both of our summer museum exhibitions, Flourish at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum and Juxtapozed at Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

To view all available work by Jolene Lai, visit the Thinkspace Gallery website.

Kisung Koh featured on Creators

Vice Media’s Creators recently featured Thinkspace Gallery artists Kisung Koh. In the article ‘Hyperreal Polar Bear Paintings Are as Sweet as Can Be,’ the site highlights several pieces from his recent exhibition with us, Long Live The Polar Treasure. A nearly sold out exhibition, the third piece featured in the article, ‘Like the Crescent Moon’ is still available at the gallery. Interested parties can contact contact@thinkspacegallery.com if they are eager to add this sweet piece to their collection.