Surrounding Black children with jumbled masses of cartoon characters, doodles, and explosions of color, Chicago-based artist Kayla Mahaffey (previously) imagines adolescent daydreams and an array of playtime inventions. She infuses her acrylic paintings with a longing for carefree summer days, mornings spent watching the foibles of favorite animated characters, and hours left open for adventure, capturing feelings of joy and curiosity.Evoking Childhood Nostalgia, Color and Cartoon Commotion Burst from Kayla Mahaffey’s Paintings / Colossal
Artist Jon Burgerman, whose latest body of work ‘Fuzzy Faces’ is currently on view until October 9th, was recently interviewed by the BBC in a piece that explores the creative power of our innate human desire to doodle.
“Doodling can allow thoughts and daydreams to slip through from our subconscious into our hand through the pen, which can surprise us and reveal stuff about us to ourselves”
“And doodling really celebrates the process. It doesn’t matter so much what the end result is. A lot of doodles are messy and loose and shambolic and that’s okay, because the process of creating it is perhaps more important than the outcome.”– Jon Burgerman
Read the full article, ‘From Da Vinci to Churchill: What our doodles can mean‘ over on the BBC website here.
Thinkspace Projects presents Alex Face’s debut U.S solo exhibition, ‘Scorch and Drop.’
This brand new collection of Alex Face’s newest work incorporates the character Alex Face has become known for, exploring new situations and elements, introducing the variety within his work to a new audience.
His signature subject, a quizzical smoking baby that shares a moniker with the artist himself, can be seen contemplating the future. With a worried look spread across its face, this baby turns an eye to the world around it, an extension of Alex Face’s identity as an artist with a social conscience.
In anticipation of ‘Scorch and Drop,” our interview with Huntz Liu explores his experiences while creating street art, how quickly our world changes, and an artist’s work that has deeply moved him.
For those unfamiliar with your work, can you tell us a little about your artistic background and how you came to work with and know about Thinkspace?
I first discovered Thinkspace gallery on social media a long time ago, as I heard that they’ve worked with several talented street artists. In 2019 I came to America for the first time, traveling to Chicago, Denver, New York, and Los Angeles which exposed my artworks to Thinkspace gallery, resulting in this exhibition.
What is the inspiration behind this latest body of work?
I get my inspiration from the world’s current situation; things like the pandemic, pollution, and the negative changes that the world is currently experiencing. It shows how fragile humans are, and invokes a question we all have to ask. Will the next generation survive? How will humans handle change to the world as we know it? Humans have created things to help make life easier and more comfortable, but those things have to be exchanged for the earth’s limited resources, which can be compared to humans burning themselves in order to step forward, but inevitably our flames will burn out.
You’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from your childhood in past pieces, could you share with us what your childhood was like? Are there elements from your childhood that you want to make sure your own children experience?
I was born 40 years ago in a small cottage, with a stream flowing in front and a rice field in the back. When I look out, the fields seem never-ending. In my childhood, we had no electricity, no automated water, and my only toys were models that I made out of mud and clay. That was how things were in the past, but now my home has changed almost entirely. In only four decades the rice field has been replaced with a highway, multiple industrial factories, and private communities while the stream has turned black. This definitely isn’t only occurring at my home, but in other places across Thailand as well. Every time I see an old photograph, it makes me realize that time goes by so fast. Now, I live in a different house and have a daughter of my own, but I still take her to see her grandparents, to play in the mud and water as I did, even though things have changed.
Do you have any rituals to help you tap into a creative flow? What does a day in the studio look like?
My routine definitely starts with breakfast, coffee. After that, I paint for the rest of the day and night, while listening to music or catching up with the news. Some days, when there is something happening in the city and I want to speak out about it, I would go out and find a wall to paint, which not only gets my message across but also provides a nice shift in my routine.
What is your most favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?
I like the period where the works are almost finished and I can take time to put in small details and perfect the painting. And my least favorite part is when I make a mistake when the time runs out.
Do you remember your first mural/ piece of street art? Where was it located and what did you create?
I remember just writing “Alex” in a bubble style with a white fill-in and red outline on an abandoned old American car that was left on my way home. After that, I was hooked and could never put down the spray can. This all happened in 2002
Is there a crazy story you can share with us from a time when you were out on the street working on a mural? Where were you and what happened to make it a unique experience?
Actually, there is a story to every time I go outside to paint. I usually encounter hospitality, while other times are spent getting chased through the streets. I find it fun though because you never know what type of people you’re going to meet, and I also get to talk about art with normal people, even the people who live on the streets. There was one time when I painted a child’s face on top of a garbage pile, to signify the children who are being orphaned every day. After that a middle-aged lady came up to me and asked me, “why did you paint a baby on a garbage pile?” And so I told her the message behind it, and she was quiet for a moment then suddenly started crying.
What is a piece of art or artist that has had a significant impact on you?
Of course, there are various artworks that I have had a chance to see, from murals on the walls to masterpieces. Out of all the museum trips I made in Europe and America, there is one time where I was so excited I had to shed tears. This was when I went to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and was able to witness the works he left behind and the honesty in making these paintings. Even though Van Gogh has been gone for a long time, multiple people still queue outside the museum to get a glimpse of his genius.
You like to experiment and mix together different styles and materials/ mediums in your work – do you have a favorite unexpected pairing? It could be food, music, really anything – but something that seems like it shouldn’t go together but when paired is a magical combo.
An abandoned place and children are the two main contrasting things in my work because they are two things that I don’t think would go together, but I have actually seen children play in these dangerous places even though they shouldn’t be and that has also given me inspiration. But if you’re asking about something that seems to not go well together, I would say spray painting a wall while humming traditional Thai country songs.
If you could have a dinner party with five people dead or alive; who would they be? What is on the menu? What would be your icebreaker question?
Menu: spiced stir-fried beef and holy basil, served with a crispy sunny side egg
Ice-breaker question: Are there any updates on your lives? It can be your current lives or your after-lives
1. Claude Monet
2. David Hockney
4. Barry McGee
5. Ed Templeton
Thinkspace Projects presents Huntz Liu’s latest solo exhibition, ‘Strata.’
The exhibition features his signature techniques of cutting and layering paper, where he crafts a collection of work that explores depth in a striking way. Each composition is comprised of meticulously cut shapes on different planes, reveling in both the layering of material and the absence of material. By embracing negative space, Liu creates line and shadow, building an image that is so much more than each of its individual parts. The compositions strive for a perfect balance, embracing the chaos of the shapes and colors. As Liu describes it, “this is a reflection of the perfect sphere we live upon and the chaos of the layers confined within.”
In anticipation of ‘Strata,” our interview with Huntz Liu explores our relationship with space, the perspective gained from cataloging art books at the Getty Research center and letting go of perfectionism.
What techniques or themes were you exploring in this latest body of work?
The idea of distance and space was in the forefront of my mind during the pandemic and is a theme present in this new body of work. I was interested in the different scales of distance constantly present – be it the personal, interpersonal, geographical, galactical, etc. This is sort of illustrated in the Eames’ “Powers of Ten” short film, but additionally, I like how the space a distance occupies is its own layer that can have its own distance from others. (e.g. The Pacific Ocean is the space and distance between Asia and North America, but North America is the space and distance between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.)
Where did the inspiration for the title of the show come from?
It is related to the prior answer but more focused on the layers (or strata) present within our cities and countries and planet. “Strata” is also the word for “loss” in Polish, which seems appropriate for this past year and right now.
You’ve shared that you source a lot of inspiration from architecture and interior spaces. Do you have any favorite buildings or architectural spaces?
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into creative flow? How do you structure your time and days while preparing for an exhibition?
Just a morning coffee. And afternoon coffee. And sometimes an evening coffee. And work breaks dispersed in between. haha
The time you spent at the Getty Research Institute helped provide a second education and define your work, what is one of the lasting lessons you learned from that experience?
I saw a lot of work and artist books in their special collections’ vaults, which made me realize the breadth and range of art that has been, is, and will be created. And that however disheartening and challenging it is to find your own voice and make your own space, there is a lightness and freedom in being just a singular artist making work in a singular time.
You did some international travel during the pandemic. Can you share a bit about the experience? How did you pass the time during the quarantine period?
Yeah, I did have the privilege, as a dual-citizen, to travel to Taiwan (where it was largely free of Covid) for some months toward the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021. It was a nice respite from the madness taking place in the US, and gave me some breathing room to focus on work.
How many Exacto blades do you go through in one piece? What is your favorite paper brand, weight?
It varies, but anywhere from a couple to a dozen. I use many different brands of paper and weights, but I like Strathmore bristol paper and some Mohawk lines.
The precision in your work is mesmerizing, would you consider yourself a perfectionist? If so, how has perfectionism helped you? How has it possibly hindered you, and do you have any advice for other perfectionists?
Being a perfectionist was something I would refer to myself as when I was younger. But the older I’ve gotten, the more I feel that the label and the practice of being perfect is sort of just loaded and unrealistic. You have to let go at some point because the space between precise and perfect is infinite.
What is one of your most memorable meals, it could be the people or the food?
More recently, it was having brunch at Zinc Cafe in Arts District, March of 2020, right on the cusp of shutdown… wondering if it was a good idea and also not realizing it would be the last time dining in for a long long while. I would have tried to enjoy it more in hindsight.
If cost and time were not an issue, what would be a dream project for you?
I would love to build my work at a huge scale, horizontally into the ground. Like Noguchi’s playgrounds.
Are your hands callous from accidental paper cuts yet?
Who are the last three musical artists you listened to? Or the last podcast episode you recommended to someone.
On a Britpop bender these days: Suede, Longpigs, Pulp
Thinkspace Projects is pleased to present Huntz Liu’s latest solo show, ‘Strata.’
Using his signature techniques of cutting and layering paper, Liu crafts a collection of work that explores depth in a striking way. Known for using a straightedge and knife to craft his compositions, Liu has taken his study of perception to new heights with ‘Strata.’
“My work deals with the layering and removal of material. It presents a visual language that unflattens two-dimensional forms and gives weight to line and edge.”
Each composition is comprised of meticulously cut shapes on different planes, reveling in both the layering of material and the absence of material. By embracing negative space, Liu creates line and shadow, building an image that is so much more than each of its individual parts. The compositions strive for a perfect balance, embracing the chaos of the shapes and colors. As Liu describes it, “this is a reflection of the perfect sphere we live upon and the chaos of the layers confined within.”
The artist adds “Underlying every piece is the method and medium of hand-cut paper. There is a calm in this process, with its forced tedium + slow/heavy time consumption, that allows me to live in and about the work. Every shape and color, every corner and edge, I was there for. There is no escaping it and, ultimately, there are no shortcuts.”
‘Strata’ opens August 14, 2021 with a reception from 6 PM to 9 PM. On view until September 4, 2021 at Thinkspace Projects.
About Huntz Liu
Huntz Liu (b. 1981) is a Taiwanese-American artist who works primarily with cut and layered paper. He lives and works in Los Angeles, where he grew up, crafting layered pieces that serve as a study on shape and color. With a straight edge and knife, Huntz Liu cuts and layers paper to expose geometric/abstract compositions, creating work at the intersection of literal depth and perceived depth. It is in this intersection that Liu thrives, allowing the contrast to inform his work.