Interview with Carlos Ramirez for ‘A Faster Hallelujah’

Thinkspace is pleased to present A Faster Hallelujah featuring new work by Carlos Ramirez in our project room.

This exhibition perfectly illustrates Ramirez’s evolution as an artist. His oeuvre remains alluring and magical while simultaneously offering satirical commentary on political and social issues on behalf of the oppressed.

In anticipation of  A Faster Hallelujah our interview with Carlos Ramirez explores his inspiration for the exhibition, artistic influences, and an album cover he wishes he could design.

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and how you came to meet our curator and co-owner Andrew Hosner?

CR: Initially, before working and coming to Los Angeles, I lived and worked in the Coachella valley. It’s where I was born and raised and became a self-taught artist. I eventually ventured out and began working with galleries in Los Angeles like New Image Art and Ace Gallery, Jonathan Levine Projects in New York, and a few in London like Pow.

I believe the first time I met Andrew was around 2005. We eventually worked together, when I took part in an exhibition at Thinkspace Gallery titled ‘New Blood’ in 2012 curated by producer Morgan Spurlock .

SH: What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work?

CR: The inspiration for my latest work – I think is inspired or compelled by an internal and personal dialogue or discussion, I think most of us are having around this social and political climate. The American fabric seems to be forced into fraying by its own doing. America finds itself forced into drawing social and even racial lines in some unfortunate cases, and those lines become more defined the longer it goes on.

 I have a sense of duty as an artist, and for me to not say or question anything – for me that would be almost sinful.

SH: Who are some of your creative influences?

CR: There are so many it’s hard to narrow down, but some of my earliest influences were from people I didn’t even know. Early influences came through prison letters sent to family members containing some of the most amazing art I had ever seen. Then later on in life artist like Francisco Toledo to Ai Wei Wei … there are just too many.

SH: Did you have an art mentor at the beginning of your career?

CR: Unfortunately besides my 8th-grade art teacher not really, unless you can consider the hood mixed with a little reality as a mentor.

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

CR: My favorite part of the creative process would have to be the learning experiences and the journey’s they’ve created. Not that it’s bad, but my least would have to be staying disciplined and approaching it like an 8 to 5 .

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you?

CR: Yes there is a couple but it’s a smaller piece that challenged me emotionally ‘Your Hood’, for some reason that piece kept pissing me off. I think the fact that the subject matter is still relevant in 2020 just blows my mind.

SH: If you could make an album cover for any musical artist, who would it be?

CR: I’ve already worked with some awesome people in the music industry like Primus, Joe Jonas, Brant Bjork formerly of Kyuss , John Garcia, and a few others but I think even though he’s no longer with us, and if I had a choice –  it would be Gil Scott-Heron.

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

CR: Where is the power source .

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

CR: Even though it might be a lil scary to know what animals think of us, I’d have to always go with the animals. 

SH: If you could have dinner with 5 people dead or alive, who would they be and what would you be eating?

CR: With my semi twisted thinking I would have to say Ghandi, Richard Ramirez , Dr. Kevorkian , Nostradamus, and John Lennon to compare notes and we’d be eating THC edibles.

Interview with Huntz Liu for ‘Subtraction’

Thinkspace is pleased to present Subtraction featuring new work by Huntz Liu in our project room.

Liu’s compositions are comprised of shapes that sit on different planes, creating literal depth, while the composition itself creates a perceived depth. It is this intersection of the literal and perceived that informs the work; where the absence of material reveals form and the casting of shadow create line.

In anticipation of Subtraction, our interview with Huntz Liu expands on our previous talk with the artist and dives into Matrix downloads and where he would take Bruce Lee to dinner.

SH: In our previous interview with you, you had said that you source a lot inspiration from architecture and interior spaces. Can you tell us what some of your favorite buildings or spaces maybe?

HL: Of buildings I’ve been: Salk Institute, Bauhaus Dessau, Getty Center, Musée d’Orsay.

SH: Do you buy your colored paper in bulk for multiple works to be made at the same time or just the paper you need for one piece? Can you share with us a picture of how your paper is stored/organized?

HL: I buy and store paper in bulk. My studio can definitely pass as a paper store.

SH: How many exacto-blades do you go through in a month?

HL: I would say roughly 50 blades.

SH: Did or do you have an artistic mentor?

HL: No, I’ve never had one.

SH: Are you a coffee or tea person? How do you prepare it? Do you have a favorite brand of it?

HL: Coffee for sure. I just burr grind and brew with a basic machine. Not too picky about coffee roasters.

SH: If you could make an album cover for any musical artist, who would it be?

HL: Probably Beck.

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

HL: I would download the skill of being able to maintain a consistent meditation/mindfulness practice. Maybe that’s just discipline.. is discipline a skill?

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

HL: Read people’s minds.

SH: If you could have dinner with 5 people dead or alive, who would they be and what would you be eating?

HL: Bruce Lee, Kanye, Nefertiti, Elliott Smith, and Duchamp.. getting our hands dirty at a Boiling Crab.

Studio Visit with Carlos Ramirez in anticipation of “A Faster Hallelujah”

A studio visit with Carlos Ramirez for his upcoming solo exhibition “A Faster Hallelujah” that will open on Saturday, April 4 via our website and blog for online viewing.

Ramirez’s work is a multi-cultural mix of old and new, layered with socio-political ideas, street aesthetics, and pop iconography. After many years of collaborating and receiving international recognition as one half of The Date Farmers, Carlos is continuing to forge a new chapter as a solo artist and we could not be more honored to be working with him.

Video courtesy of Birdman

Interview with Andrew Hosner of Thinkspace Projects in the debut issue of PAINTGUIDE

Excited to have our curator and co-owner Andrew Hosner featured in the debut issue of PAINTGUIDE Magazine.

Find out more about this new art and culture magazine below:

We, at PaintGuide, and the digital world have a complicated relationship, as much as we love social media, we also find a tangible magazine to be incredibly liberating yet somewhat (some may say) spontaneous. Unlike our conventional styles of meeting you online, PaintGuide will be taking you offline into an alternate dimension into the creative arts with even more diversities in styles, mediums and perspectives. Shinning the spotlight back to the arts behind the artworks, bringing you behind the scenes on what happens with players of the arts industry.  PaintGuide Magazine Volume 1 will be presenting you two amazing feature artists: Kaili Smith and Amy Sol, both figurative yet intrinsically unique in their styles and background. Bringing our take-overs offline, we ask a series of Smith and Sol’s inspirational artists their insights on their artistic careers – from artistic duos TelmoMiel, Portugese street artist Nuno Viegas, complex wire sculptor Spenser Little, illustrator Kristina Collantes, to contemporary British painters Chloe Early and Jake Wood-Evans. Alongside, these amazing artists we introduce Mat Tomezsko to share his insights on bringing art off the walls and introducing a new series ‘Inside a Gallery’ with the co-owner and curator of Thinkspace Projects Andrew Hosner.

 Available now for $25 each plus shipping at: https://www.paintguide.space/pgmagazine

Interview with James Bullough for ‘Parallel Truths’

Thinkspace is pleased to present Parallel Truth featuring new work by James Bullough.

Bullough is a technically accomplished painter who creates with a staggering degree of detail. He begins with figurative imagery, disjointing and levitating its fragmented parts impressionistically to build dynamic surfaces that read with startling affective resonance.

In anticipation of Parallel Truth, our interview with James Bullough discusses what piece challenged him, his advice to fledgling artists, and what skill he would download into his brain.

SH: For those that are not familiar with you and your work, can you give us a brief look at your artistic background and how you came to meet our curator and co-owner Andrew Hosner?

JB: I started my art journey a bit late in life.  I graduated from college with an Art Education degree and eventually went on to be a middle school art teacher just outside of Baltimore.  Studying to be an art teacher is much more about being a teacher than being an artist.  I took a few art classes but nothing too serious, it was mostly about teaching.  After 4 or 5 years of teaching kids how to be artists, I figured I might give it a go in my basement in the evenings after work.  A few years later, after a lot of experimenting and a little guidance from a local oil painter, I figured I knew enough to quit my job and go full time.  Obviously I didn’t, but I sold my house, my car, and pretty much everything I owned and moved to Berlin with the unrealistic goal that I’d be showing in galleries within a year.

It took me about 3 or 4 years in Berlin to find my own voice artistically and develop my skills.  Right around that same time I met Andrew Hosner at an event for the Urban Nation Museum.  I invited Andrew and Shawn to come on my newly formed podcast, VantagePoint Radio, and from there we hit it off.  He took a liking to my work and invited me to show some small paintings in a couple of group shows and before long he asked me to join the roster for the first Vitality and Verve exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art. That show ended up being a huge deal and the piece I created for it really stood out and made people take notice.  I’ve been working closely with Andrew and Thinkspace ever since.

SH: What is the inspiration and themes you explored for this body of work?

JB: As is the case with most of my work, my inspirations and explorations are mostly technique-driven.  I like to push myself with every painting to make something more interesting or complex or just different than the last painting.  It can be simply pushing the design and composition further, or working with more complex photos or more interesting models or just doing a better job with the actual painting of the image. 

For this show ‘Parallel Truths’ I am actually presenting three different bodies of work which I’ve been developing over the past year and a half.  The first is my traditional fractured portraits but pushed a bit further in terms of composition and delicacy of the painting and level of detail. The second is my peeling portraits which give the feeling of the painting peeling off of the wall or the wall peeling away and revealing the portrait underneath.  The third is what I’m calling ‘hidden words’ which is a spin-off from the peeling portraits but instead of revealing a portrait underneath the peeling wallpaper reveals a hidden word which you really have to work to find.  So for me, this body of work is all about trying new techniques and pushing what I’ve been doing for the past few years into new directions.

SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you?

JB: If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece. One of the larger paintings in this show is called ‘Morning Light’ and features a new model I’m working with named Polly Ellens from London who is one of the most interesting looking people I’ve ever seen.  I actually passed her in the Philadelphia airport and couldn’t resist walking up to her and asking if I could paint her.  I’d never done that before and haven’t done it since but Polly just had a look I couldn’t let go.  Unfortunately, the look that she has is quite tricky to paint.  She has ice blue eyes and an explosion of freckles on her face which highlight the brightness of her fiery red hair.  The combination is absolutely stunning.  She is also covered in tattoos which I left out of the paintings because, in the end, they were distracting from everything else. Painting a face with so many freckles is really challenging.  First I had to try to see her without all the freckles and tattoos so I could paint her skin as it is underneath.  Then add the freckles on at the end without making them look painted on.  It was really tricky and technically over my head but if I didn’t get it right I would have had to start the whole face all over again.  In the end, it worked out really well and is probably my best bit of oil painting I’ve ever done and that feels really good.  It’s going to be a hard painting to let go of when it sells.  

SH: What is your favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?

JB: When I come up with a new idea for a painting or a new technique I want to try I am always faced with the reality that I can plan and design all I want to ahead of time but I’ll never really know if what I want to try will work until the painting is finished.  My paintings take weeks or even months to design and paint so that uncertainty can be really crippling.  I have had to grow a thick skin and trust my instincts but also trust that if what I’m going for starts to seem like it’s not working, I’ll be able to wrestle it into something that does work.  My least favorite part of the creative process is that floating feeling when I’m not sure if things are working and how things will be received.  But the flip side of that is when I get toward the end of a painting and start to realize that the idea I had half a year ago is really going to work and this piece is going to knock people socks off when they see it.  That’s my favorite part.

SH: If you could make an album cover for any musical artist, who would it be?

JB: My favorite genres of music are hip hop and drum and bass (a kind of slightly aggressive sub-genre of electronic music).  I don’t really think my work lends well to those types of music, although there are a few exceptions that come to mind.  My work would probably better suit some kind of indie rock band like Death Cab or LCD Soundsystem or something.  Maybe if Postal Service got back together and put out a new album my painting ‘Colide’ from this upcoming show would be a cool album cover.

SH: A Netflix movie is being made about your life, who would be cast to play you (the actor does not need to look like you, more be able to capture your essence) and what kind of movie would it be? Try to describe it with similar movies.

JB: Wow!  I could take this question in a million different ways.  Jonny Drama from the show Entourage, unfortunately, might have to play me because people have said we look similar before.  I’m not happy about it but it might just have to be a fact.  

As for the story, it might have to be some kind of Forest Gump or Benjamin Button kind of movie because I’ve always felt like I lived my life out of order and every 5 or 6 years I’ve completely shifted gears and done something totally different than before.  In college, I was pretty heavy in the rave scene and was a club Dj but had never really left the northeast coast of the US.  Then after graduation, I spent a year traveling the world and doing any insane thing I could think of like an out of control teenager.  When I returned to the States I got a job teaching at a suburban middle school for nearly a decade, basically living the life of a 45-year-old during my entire 20s. When I couldn’t take that anymore I moved to Berlin in my 30s and fell in with some graffiti/street art guys and next thing you know I’m hanging off an 8 story roof at 3 in the morning with a roller in handwriting a name I made up for myself like some drunk 20 year old.  

Last year I turned 40 and had my second baby in two years… so finally I feel like I’m living the appropriate life for my age for the first since I was in primary school.  Unfortunately, I look and feel like I’m in my 50s so who knows, maybe I’ve still got it all wrong.

SH: If you could download any skill into your brain, Matrix-style, what would you want to instantly learn?

JB: I’d like to be fluent in German.  I’ve been living in Berlin for almost 10 years and speak just enough to get by.  I studied full time at a school in Germany for over a year and on and off for years after that but my brain just isn’t built for learning languages.  It may sound like a cop-out and maybe it is but I was never good at school and languages are just a mystery to me. It’s definitely one of my biggest regrets knowing that I can’t truly be myself and relate to people in the country I live in the same way I do with English speakers. 

SH: Some of the advice you give to other artists is to commit to consistency, and the honest self-realization of when one starts to think they are getting pretty-good it’s still not that great – so keep going. How long did it take you to develop your style, and then how many additional years to really hone your skills?

JB: I feel like I was one of the lucky ones who sort of figured things out rather quickly and even then it took me about 10 years to really find a voice and a skill set that people responded to and got excited to see.  I had been working on my craft (painting) that whole time while I experimented with lots of different things so, by the time I developed the fractured portrait style that people know me for, I was ready to really go for it.  

It’s natural for young artists to want to do many different things, and in many ways, it’s completely necessary to figure out what you want to focus on and what you’re good at.  But at some point, in my humble opinion, you need to be aware enough to notice when that “thing” comes around and then grab it and go hard with it until you are undeniably good at it and nobody else is doing it quite the way or quite as good as you are.  You can always expand and experiment later, and you definitely should, but if your goal is to get noticed you’ve got to be focused 

SH: At the beginning of your career, how many hours a day did you spend painting? And now how many hours a day are you painting?   

JB: When I first started painting in my mid 20’s I was working full time as a middle school teacher so the only time I could paint was for a few hours in the evenings. I was quite dedicated to it and painted as much as I could but it was definitely just a hobby then.  When I moved to Berlin in 2010 is when I started to take is seriously and considered painting as my job.  From then I was painting all day every day and as I started getting a bit of interest in my work and was invited to shows I was painting between 9-12 hours a day 6 days a week.  Eventually, my wife had enough of my crazy hours and now we’ve got two little girls so I keep pretty normal work hours these days but I had to hire an assistant to keep the workflow from falling off.  

SH: Would you rather be able to talk to animals or read people’s minds?

JB: Definitely read people’s minds.  Although that seems like one of those powers that seems better than it actually is.  I bed you’d want to lose that ability pretty quickly after realizing you have it.

SH: If you could paint a mural anywhere in the world, where would that be and why?

JB: My favorite part about painting murals is the family vibe between all the artists in the scene and painting alongside of all my friends.  Painting a commission wall is great and pays the bills but painting at a mural festival is so much more fun.  Any time you get 20 or so people at the top of their field together and give them a week to do what they do best and share thoughts and experiences and good times you’re going to have a super fun and creative experience.  So for me, the answer to the question is not really about where would be the best place to paint a mural but rather with whom?  If I could invite all of my mural buddies and a bunch of others who I respect but haven’t met yet and given us a week or two in a small town that would be the most ideal situation for me.  Bonus points if there’s sun every day and a beach and no wind.

Join us for the opening reception of Parallel Truths Saturday, February 29th, from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.