Interview with David Rice for “Hanging Valley”

Thinkspace is proud to present Portland-based artists, illustrator, and designer David Rice’s upcoming exhibition Hanging Valley in the project room. As a realist painter, Rice composes a juxtaposition of elements to create a visual universe that is a fantasy and experiment.  In anticipation of Hanging Valley, our interview with David Rice discusses the shows inspiration, his creative process, and post-show rituals.

Join us for the opening of “Hanging Valley”, Saturday, June 2nd from 6 to 9 pm.

SH: Tell us about this show. What is the inspiration? What were you exploring in the work?

DR: My new show, “Hanging Valley,” was a chance to expand on ideas and narratives that I have been building over the last few years. Each painting in this series represents a piece of my own introspection, portrayed through various subjects. These paintings cover a wide range of themes: self-doubt, confidence, the way we experience time, and other elements that fill my head on a day to day basis. I wanted to explore these themes through different lenses, while also giving the viewer something they may not expect to see from me.

SH: What 3 websites do you check every day or people you follow on social media?

DR: I don’t know if I have an everyday website routine, outside of just checking my email and watching Netflix. I do love to periodically check in on a few of my favorite art blogs:,,,,

SH: What excites you about your work / creative process?

DR: What excites me about my work is the broad range of subjects and themes I choose to paint. Although I may be categorized by some people as an environmental painter, I try not to put all my focus on one subject. Instead, my work covers many different ideas, landscapes, and characters. This leaves me free to paint whatever creeps into my mind, not being held back by an audience that expects me to stick to one thing.

SH: What frustrates you about your work / creative process?

DR: I get frustrated by just about every step in my creative process. I am constantly evaluating every decision. As much of a dream come true it is to create a body of work, it can be extremely difficult to translate your ideas down on canvas. Every element – size, color, etc, has an effect on the impact of the final piece. It is a lot of trial and error, emphasis on the error. I put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. It’s something I am still working on, but it is getting a little easier to ignore the self-doubt and keep pushing through.

SH: After a show what do you do? Do you take a long break, vacation, a particular ritual? Tell us.

DR: After a show, I always plan on taking a few days to regroup and relax, however, I usually put off so many other projects while I am doing the body of work for the show, I have a stack of things I am already behind on. I will get a break one day (fingers crossed).

SH: How do you plan out your compositions?

DR: I usually start with a photo I have taken as the jumping off point for my compositions. Then I just start to think about what I would want to see in the picture. I have always been a big daydreamer, so my mind just naturally starts playing out little narratives. I then will bring the photo and other references I have gathered into photoshop and illustrator and start to set up the composition. I usually have the piece 75% thought out before I start painting. If I waited till I had it 100% thought out, I would never get anything started. I then paint what I have planned, and let the painting direct the course it wants to go for the final touches, ie. colors, patterns, little additions to help balance the piece.

SH: How often are you in the studio, do you work on the pieces daily or do you have creative spurts with concentrated efforts of work and then long periods of not working?

DR: I am in the studio pretty much every day. I like to do my sketching and designing at home, so I am there about one day a week and the studio the rest of the week.

SH: What do you eat when working on the show? Are you a 3 square meals kind of person, or have snacks on hand?

DR: I usually have a big meal before heading to the studio. Then I just snack while I am there, trying not to take too many breaks while I paint. Then usually a small meal when I get home at the end of the day.

SH: If you were to collaborate with a band or musical artists to create a music video inspired by your artwork, who would you work with?

DR: Oh man, that is a tough question. One of my favorite bands is Alt-J and I feel like their music is on a similar trajectory as my work. They can’t really be put into one category and you never know what their next album is going to sound like.

SH: Has there been an artistic catalyst in your life? Something, someone, some event that made a significant impact on you that has lead you to where you are now.

DR: My family has been incredibly encouraging of my career in art. Since I was a child, my parents have been nothing but supportive of my artistic endeavors. My older brother Andrew was a huge influence on me. He is an artist as well and growing up, I just wanted to follow in his footsteps.

A large turning point for me was when I met up with artist Blaine Fontana in 2013 and began an intensive internship with him. I had never really painted before I met him, and over the next year, he threw me into the fire. Blaine is a true Jack of all Trades, and together we worked on gallery pieces, large commercial paintings, murals, sculptures, design work, and a ton of other projects with varying mediums. Blaine was an invaluable resource in helping get my career off the ground and I am extremely lucky and grateful for the lessons he passed on to me.

SH: What’s in your toolbox? AKA what paints, brushes, tools would we find in your studio? What do you wish was in your studio?

DR: I mostly work in acrylic. I like Golden paints, but there isn’t just one brand I am loyal to. The colors I use the most are titanium white, mars black, yellow ochre/oxide, raw umber, burnt sienna, raw sienna, cad red, primary cyan. I destroy brushes fairly easily, so I try not to get the super fancy brands. I have a few nice flat brushes and varnish brushes, and then I will often buy the cheap pack of six small brushes from the art store for like $8. They usually last me two paintings.

I share a studio with two other artists so together we pretty much have everything one would need. Maybe a beer tap in our kitchen area would be a nice addition.

SH: You have a time machine, and you could do anything / go anywhere for 24 hours, and would not interfere with the space-time continuum. What would you do?

DR: f I had a time machine for a day, I would either go way-way back and spend the day with some dinosaurs, see how close our depictions of them are. Or, I would go into the future and see exactly when we can expect to get our hover cars.

David Rice’s “Hanging Valley” Coming in June to Thinkspace Culver City

Hanging Valley
June 2 – June 23, 2018

Concurrently, on view in the Thinkspace project room is Hanging Valley featuring new works by Portland-based artist, illustrator, and designer, David Rice. Inspired by the potential of unlikely pairings, Rice pushes the limits and boundaries of the physical world through his imagery, accessing a lawless surreal in which patterns merge with physical spaces, human and natural worlds intermingle, and the scale of site and place slide.

A gifted realist painter, Rice’s works combine beautifully rendered flora and fauna with references to cityscapes, architectures, graphic motifs, natural phenomena, and patterns. The juxtaposition of these elements transforms Rice’s visual universe into one of fantasy and experiment. Things that shouldn’t coexist together plausibly do, and the viewer is offered new entry points into otherwise familiar objects and spaces, invited to see them anew through a less restrictive framework and encouraged to forge new relationships to the subject matter.

Rice’s creative free association supports these subtle, and at times not so subtle, shifts in reality. Protean and expansive, his environments are close enough to the real to feel familiar and far enough away to feel transporting and completely unknown.

DREW MERRITT’s “Slaying Idols” Coming in May

Slaying Idols
May 4, 2018 – May 25, 2018

Concurrently on view in the Thinkspace project room is Slaying Idols, featuring new works by Los Angeles-based artist Drew Merritt. Known for his hyperreal rendering and darkly stylized painting aesthetic, Merritt creates sparse works set against nondescript areas of negative white space. Primarily figurative in focus, Merritt’s pieces rely on intense shadow and regions of lightlessness to create a feeling of dramatic contrast.

A talented painter and muralist who began his art career as a graffiti artist, Merritt’s compositions often convey a level of human discomfort or unease through figures staged in contorted poses or through imagery posited through slightly distorted vantage points to impress a feeling of visual tension. Often capturing vulnerable or mysterious moments in some larger narrative arc, his works feel ambiguous and poetically saturated. Hoping that his work speaks for itself, Merritt resists the tendency towards excessive explication, preferring that it resonate with the viewer directly unmediated in its delivery.


April 7, 2018 – April 28, 2018

Concurrently on view in the Thinkspace project room are new works by Texan-born, Los Angeles-based artist Michael Reeder in mOMENt. A contemporary portraitist who uses figurative distortions and symbolic dislocations as a vehicle for the expression and examination of identity, Reeder’s controlled chaos is as evocative as it is strategically unsettling. Looking to the depiction of the figure as an exteriorization of the internal self, Reeder’s graphic and stylized works oscillate between moments of reduction and surplus.

The artist’s imagery is loose enough to encourage projection and tight enough to direct association by tapping into the subconscious, and its surreal recesses, as a limitless visual resource. By recreating a single subject multiple times, Reeder discovered the poetic potential in seriality and the subtlety of incremental difference: each iteration of the same producing profoundly different results.

Moving from flat graphic expanses of space and patterning to more realistically rendered areas, the portrait is positioned as a dynamic, shifting entity, a composite of competing forces colonized by often conflicting imperatives from the realms of the personal, political, and social. As something finite and circumscribed, the figure just like the self is, nonetheless, undeniably infinite as a locus of unwritten potential.


March 3, 2018 – March 24, 2018

Concurrently on view in the Thinkspace project room is Tokyo, featuring new works by French-born, Los Angeles-based artist Liz Brizzi. Known for her evocative mixed-media works on panel, Brizzi is drawn to derelict spaces and forgotten city recesses. An avid urban explorer constantly in search of abandoned relics and trace history, her works begin with in-depth photo documentation and physical exploration. Among her favorite destinations and recurring visual resources are LA’s Downtown core and endless suburban outskirts, in all their surprisingly beautiful imperfection. In her second solo exhibition with Thinkspace, Brizzi has traveled to Tokyo, Japan, transforming its urban textures into beautifully saturated and surreal composites.

In search of an imperfect peace, Brizzi’s works are thoughtful and meditative, spun from quiet observation and creative reconstitution. She is always in search of the redemptive presence of histories, particularly those found in unlikely seclusions or empirically ‘unbeautiful’ places. This profound feeling of excavation persists throughout her work, conveyed visually through their mysterious pause, like an active seeking and uncovering. The poetic suggestions of isolation and philosophical loneliness are palpable somehow, in spite of Brizzi’s lush choice of palettes and highly pigmented rendering choices. Devoid of human subjects, her works focus on the remnants of human intervention, preferring instead to capture their relics and remains in the structures and delinquent architectures.

Her works begin with the photography she’s taken throughout the course of her urban excursions and international travels. Select images, or fragments, are then transferred to panel and painted into and over with multiple layers of diffuse acrylic pigment. The effect is surreal, otherworldly, and somehow closer to the real than the real itself, charged in part with the sensory impact of memory. At times, her compositions are direct representations of actual existing places and scenes, and at others, surreal composites assembled from splinters of several different places, moments, and observations. Though fundamentally familiar, once transformed by Brizzi, industrial urban vestiges, mundane cityscapes, and unassuming architectures become uncannily beautiful visual arrests.