Interview with Huntz Liu for ‘Dissolution’ | Exhibition on view October 29 – November 19, 2022

Thinkspace is excited to present Huntz Liu‘s solo exhibition “Dissolution” in Gallery IV.

Using a straightedge and knife, Huntz Liu cuts and layers paper to expose geometric/abstract compositions. These compositions are made up 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 creates lines. Furthering his work, Liu has incorporated recent study of the collision between imaginary space and real space, playing particularly with shadow.

Our interview with Huntz Liu reveals the curatorial aspect of his creative process, his personal foundation, and the artist’s most recent art adventure.

You have 19 pieces in the show that were carefully selected for this exhibition. How many pieces lay in your studio unfit for showing, and why were they cut?

About 6 pieces were left out. While creating, an evolution occurs in the work that either binds or separates from the theme of the exhibition. The ones that deviate are left out. It’s similar to a musician writing songs for an album. Oftentimes, fully realized and beautiful tracks are left out for not fitting the identity/concept/sound of the album (see: “Ship in a Bottle” left off of Beck’s Sea Change).

You created two figures with faces in this exhibition, Dylan and Joy. Could you provide more insight into what inspired this evolution?

It was a bit cathartic to break from full abstraction with some of the work in this show. I wanted to see what that will open up and what the work will be harbingers of in the future. Interestingly, while creating these pieces, I felt an immediate shift in my relationship with the work and the process. Again, back to music analogies, it felt like adding lyrics/vocals to what has been strictly instrumental music.

“Dylan”
“Joy”

Are there other artists who work with paper that you admire and we should know about?

Kara Walker… Thomas Demand.

What brings you back to your work and studio after an extremely difficult day or streak while working on a piece? Have you ever wanted to throw in the exacto knife?

Haha nice. In these moments, I lean on the routine and discipline that I have built and fostered over the years. They are a good foundation to bury beneath all the reasons to quit and to lay upon all reasons to keep going.

Coffee is pretty essential to your creative process. Do you have a favorite brand and preparation?

My daily driver is Dunkin’ Donuts original blend. My weekend fancy goto is Stumptown beans. Both with a standard drip machine.

Is there a movie, documentary, or book that you feel illustrates and reflects what the creative process feels like for you?

I watched the 1998 Cuaron-directed Great Expectations in the theater when it was released, and it has since been an odd source of insight into the art world and being an artist.

Do you or did you ever find it difficult to refer to yourself as an artist? What does being an artist mean through your personal cultural lens?

“Artist” and “art” are two of the most loaded labels in our lexicon… so, yes, I sometimes find it difficult to refer to myself as an artist, though it’s the easiest word to use. Artists really are just conduits for the work (where the meaning should exist).

You’ve traveled to many places and visited many museums, can you tell us a few of your favorite institutions of art and exhibitions?

I recently traveled to Houston, an underrated city for art. There’s the Menil Collection, which houses a lot of impressive Surrealist work. A standalone building that’s part of the Menil Collection, houses the Cy Twombly Gallery (one of my favorite painters). The Rothko Chapel nearby is Mark Rothko’s magnum opus, where he in a welcomed heavy-handed manner, shows you how he wants his work to be experienced. The new Kinder building at the MFAH is also great, both inside and out.

You’ve shared that you let go of the idea of perfectionism, acknowledging that you need to let go at some point because the space between precise and perfect is infinite. It’s a very philosophical reflection; what has been your biggest insight gathered from this past year? Or a rumination that has become more clear to you over this last year.

I read about “Postel’s Law” in a design book that is actually a principle from software development that states: “be conservative in what you do, be liberal in what you accept.” In a programming context, it essentially means being specific in output but flexible when receiving input (e.g. date & phone number formatting). I have, however, been using it as a loose guiding principle in my life as a reminder to be more intentional and consistent in my actions/work/values, and being more open/accepting of others in whatever capacity they present themselves.

Exhibitions on view October 29 – November 19, 2022

Interview with Abigail Goldman for ‘Instincts and Indulgences’ | Exhibition on view October 29 – November 19, 2022

Thinkspace is pleased to present Abigail Goldman, showing her newest die-o-rama sculptures in her solo exhibition “Instincts and Indulgences” in Gallery III.

Goldman creates intricate die-o-ramas rendered in 1:87 scale. The diminutive size of the works is in contrast to the tableaus of gore and mayhem rendered within. Often both humorous and grotesque, the detailed pieces are a wholly engaging product of Goldman’s life-long fascination with crime and the dark side of the human psyche.

Our interview with Abigail Goldman discusses rage and violence in America, how she jump-starts her motivation to work in the studio after a long day, and a bit of macabre history.

Can you share a little about your background and how you first heard of Thinkspace? 

I was born in San Francisco and grew up in the Bay Area. Today, I live in Washington state, so far north that it’s practically Canada. I work as an investigator for the Federal Public Defender. I have two small kids who are still too young to grasp the messy projects I’m always working on are gory little murders. It will be an interesting detail for their therapists someday. 

I’ve known about Thinkspace for so long that I’m not sure where I first learned of the gallery! But if I had to guess, it was either an art-savvy friend that clued me in or the all-knowing power of Instagram’s algorithm. 

What is the inspiration and themes you were exploring in this latest body of work? Can you share your process for capturing the ideas that lead to these pieces? 

I’m preoccupied with the idea that many of us are privately seething under the surface, and that American culture has become an escalating feedback loop of rage and violence. It’s a frequency running in the background, so omnipresent that violence has essentially become banal. It’s the theme behind this show, and really all my work. I feel successful if I’ve made something both troubling and amusing. For some, maybe there’s a kind of catharsis in it, or a mirror into our collective psyche. Or maybe it’s just plain black humor (which I’d argue occurs as an outlet for that same rage and violence). 

The process for capturing the idea usually starts with me building an empty room or building. Then I slowly fill details to approximate reality while the idea churns in the back of my mind. Typically, by the time I have an unpopulated scene complete, I’ve got the human drama ready to model in my mind. 

What was the most challenging piece in this exhibition? How did it help you grow as an artist?

Ooof – they are all challenging. But if I had to pick, I’d say larger works tend to be the trickiest, just because there’s more that can go wrong. Dieoramas with interior lighting elements are technically difficult, as are dieoramas that show a scene with multiple rooms. I am always striving to increase the complexity and detail, and working in my ultra-small scale, it gets painstaking. But I’m always learning – better supplies, better ways to approximate real life in 1:87 scale, better technique. 

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

Because I have a day job and two kids to keep alive, I now primarily work in the late evening – I call it the night shift. This is also precisely the time you want to lie motionless on their couch and disassociate with doom-scrolling. So, I find that if I start with some mundane, non-creative chore, like cleaning paint brushes or organizing supplies, I can build the momentum I need to tackle bigger projects. The ideas kind of churn in the background. And once I get started, then I invariably stay up too late working in the end. 

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

My favorite part is seeing the narrative of a dieorama come together – all the details that add up in each scene to tell a story or convey a mood. It feels almost cinematic, like pausing a movie at your favorite frame. It’s also extremely fun to meet people at shows and enjoy the instant bond that comes with sharing questionable interests. 

My least favorite part: Photography. Hands down. Effectively capturing extremely tiny things just isn’t easy. Then you add in the glare from reflective plexiglass? Nightmare. I’m on the hunt for a professional photographer, but it’s been a challenge in the small town where I live. 

Did you watch the Angelyne mini-series? What inspired you to create a piece honoring this Los Angeles icon? 

I did not watch the Angelyne series. In fact, it wasn’t until I was searching around for some photos of her billboards that I even learned her story had been made into a show. I had an existing association with her as this very local, very Los Angeles icon. Initially, I was contemplating making a dieorama with the Hollywood sign, but then I realized Angelyne was a better symbol – more of a wink or inside joke. 

What would be your anecdote to violence and rage in America? 

There’s a lot that needs to be done: Education. Intelligent news coverage. Gun control. Taking measures to halt the spread of disinformation online. Increasing wages. Universal health care. Decreasing the cost of college and student debt. More parental leave and affordable childcare. Employers who embrace telecommuting or the 4-day work week. Ending food deserts, corporate tax loopholes, gerrymandering, cash bail, corporate money in politics, three strikes laws and mass incarceration. Cutting military spending, funding early education and taxing billionaires into oblivion. I could go on, but I won’t hold my breath. 

The dioramas transmute violence through absurdity. Why do you think there is a human desire to look (and laugh at) gruesome violence? Do you ever think about where the line is of where it goes from healthy dissociation to unhealthy detachment? 

People like to brush up against death. Or be confronted with the blow of mortality now and again. In 19th century Europe, executioners made a side profit by selling cuts of their used hangman rope to people in the audience. Today, we have entire TV networks dedicated to crime coverage – coverage I contributed to as a former newspaper reporter. Acts of gruesome violence are a direct route to the animal in us, and when the veil gets pulled back, it’s hard to look away. There is absolutely an unhealthy detachment, and it’s metastasizing. We’re no longer completely safe sitting in a movie theater, or sending a kid to school. That’s the background rage again, humming and getting louder. 

If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?

Languages. Even one additional language would feel like a miracle to me. I’ve tried, but to my great shame, never really surpassed the communication skills of a demanding toddler. 

Photos by Birdman

Interview with Brian M. Viveros for his upcoming exhibition ‘Mania’ opening Saturday, October 29 at Thinkspace Projects

Thinkspace Projects is thrilled to present Brian Viveros’s ‘MANIA‘. The CA-based artist best known for his highly detailed paintings of anti-pin-up doe-eyed ‘Woman of Power’ and his Dirtyland universe brings an entirely new body of work to the gallery.

MANIA is a tribute show, it’s a personal show, and it’s a bit of a journey taking viewers back in time to the things Viveros obsessed over as a kid, the things that ultimately drove the MANIA inside of him.

Our interview with Brian M. Viveros reveals stories behind the work, covers reflections on his artistic career, and provides a recommendation for the perfect spot to kick off a taco tour in San Diego.

MANIA pays tribute to the cultural influences that you obsessed over and inspired you in your youth, pulling references from various objects within your life – can you share any memories or anecdotes that directly tie to one of the pieces? 

Shhhure. One story that comes to mind is with the Conan the Barbarian tribute piece I did for this show entitled ‘Barbarian.’ It’s kind of a messed up story, but funny – here it goes. I was 8 years old, and Conan comics were a big part of my life and my dad was a collector of Conan and everything  Frazetta.  I remember being in class & being called to the office, which at that time was a scary thing (push play on scary music theme now HA!) but back then, when you got called to the principal’s office, it was not good. They had told me a family member had passed away and that my father was outside waiting for me in the car. When I got to the car, I was kind of sad and confused and asked my Dad, who passed away, and he said, ‘nobody,’ we’re going to see Conan the Barbarian it opened today, and I was like…. hell Yeahh!!!

This show was an exercise in pushing yourself out of your comfort zone; what did that look like for you when developing this body of work? What new techniques did you develop? Were there any valuable failure moments? 

Good question my friend; it actually had a lot to do with the size of the new location of your gallery. I felt this need and urge to go big and try new things. Sometimes space will do that to you. For me, I tend to plot things out in my mind and hold onto ideas for shows and hopefully, they’ll come to fruition. I’ve had this idea for a while about doing a MANIA show that would be a bit of a tribute show, and throwback to things that really moved me or I obsessed on as a kid. I even went back to using and incorporating some older mediums like spray paint for backgrounds and doing a set of pieces in gouache and watercolors. A lot of your readers may not know this but straight out of high school I opened the first graffiti hip-hop shop in the IE (Inland Empire) I was into spray painting and selling all the gear at that time in 93’. Anyhow, I brought back the can and cutting stencils for patterns, and things I use to do is now full circle with this set. As an artist, you grow and make mistakes in creating, its a good fuck up, and try something different & see what happens. Sometimes its a happy accident and sometimes it’s not, but you learn from it and move on

People feel extremely connected to your work, getting tattoos and dressing up as the women you paint for opening exhibitions. Has there been a fan experience or collector encounter that has really stuck with you? 

I think it was the last show we did, ‘Tougher Than Leather’ a friend of mine, Christina Preiss, showed up in a  full-on detailed head-to-toe Dia de Los Muertos Day of the Dead costume, and it just looked so RAD in the gallery. It created this awesome energy that night in the room. Something I’ll never forget and the people loved it

MANIA is your 7th solo exhibition with Thinkspace. Does this exhibition feel different, or do you have a similar emotional experience ahead of any show? 

Feels a little different for me this time around just because the work is on a different level now. Thus far, with my  DirtyLand ‘Woman of Power’ pieces, all the ones I’ve done throughout the years, it’s been about letting the viewer tell the story about these characters I’ve created. With MANIA, I’ve taken the narrator role, steering the Dirty-ship and taking you, the viewer, on a very personal journey.

When first developing your artistic voice, you wanted to ensure you had a distinct style that made it so if anyone saw one of your pieces; they immediately would know it was a Viveros – over your career, have you found the choices you made in the initial development to have been limiting or liberating? 

In the initial development, I was focused on just the smoking thing, and the red rose thing and giving my girls a certain signature look with the eyes and teardrop tattoo and this anti-pinup Dirty world I was creating where all the girls would be tough warriors, survivors sporting helmets & headgear.  I feel liberated in the sense that it’s no longer just about that. You still know it’s a Viveros without those specific elements. I’ve been doing it so long, and early on it was all about just the smoking with helmets, but it’s progressed –  I’ve progressed. The DirtyLand no longer needs cigarettes and red roses for you to know it’s a Viveros. It’s like my audience has grown with me and I’m always thankful for them and their support and growing with my art.

If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?

That’s an easy one for me – filmmaking, and that’s where I’m headed

If you could collaborate with any artists in any medium (i.e. movies, music, fashion), who would you collaborate with, and what would you be making?

I’d love to collaborate with Guillermo Del Toro or Alejandro Jodorowsky on a film. We would be making a surreal revenge film with a twist of sci-fi and horror. The main character would be a kick-ass chick, of course>;-)

Who are some women from cinema, pop culture, or literature who you think embody the qualities of the women in your work? 

Some kick-ass women that come to mind that embody the qualities of my women would be Ripley from Alien, Sarah Connor from Terminator and Furiosa from Mad Max Fury Road, Spanish Flamenco Dancer Carmen Amaya, Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Blondie

What are qualities of significant women in your life that you admire and wish came more naturally to you?

Being a little more grounded for sure. I tend to be off in DirtyLandia land all the time. My mind is always racing and thinking, and now in my forties, I’m trying not to overthink shit so much and care so much. I think that happens in your forties HA!

You’re a big fan of tacos. If you could take 5 people, dead or alive, on a taco tour, who would be on the guest list, where would you go, and what would be ordered?

TACOMANIA!!!!! The five people I would take out for tacos in a taco van with a painted taco mural would be H.R. GIGER, The Beastie Boys – does that count as three ha!, Mike Dirnt he loves tacos like I love tacos, Picasso, and Bjork maybe that’s more than five we would drive to SALUD! in San Diego & few other hole in the wall spots in SD and sample all the tacos they offer. Always gotta try every places’ carnitas taco because they’re all so different. Then we’d all get drunk and have a break dancing contest on the street with LC DJing in the van Ha!

Opening on Saturday, October 29, from 6 – 11 pm with DJ’s Venice Beats, open bar + free drinks from Liquid Death, video projections from Digital Debris, installations from Balloonski, a vape bar from our friends at Timeless, live painting from Allison Bamcat, photo op props from GoopMassta, Day of the Dead stilt walkers, grub from The Roll N’ Bun + a Halloween costume contest with $500 top cash prize + loads of runner up prizes!!!

FREE poster commemorating ‘MANIA‘ given away to the first 200 patrons through the doors!

Exhibitions on view October 29 – November 19, 2022

Photo tour of ‘Perspectives’ featuring Zeinab Diomande, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Chigozie Obi, and Bianca Walker along with Yumi Yamazaki’s ‘Moku’

Thinkspace presents a photo tour of the opening reception of “Perspectives,” featuring new work from Zeinab Diomande, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Chigozie Obi, and Bianca Walker. Along with Yumi Yamazaki’s “Moku” showing in Gallery II.

All exhibitions are on view at Thinkspace Projects now through October 22, 2022.

Continue reading Photo tour of ‘Perspectives’ featuring Zeinab Diomande, Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, Chigozie Obi, and Bianca Walker along with Yumi Yamazaki’s ‘Moku’

Interview with Ayobola Kekere-Ekun for ‘Perspectives’ | Exhibition on view October 1 – October 22, 2022

Thinkspace is pleased to present Ayobola Kekere-Ekun, showing work from her “She and I” series in group exhibition “Perspectives.”

Ayobola Kekere-Ekun is a contemporary visual artist who attempts to unravel the connections between the self and identity and how they interface with individual and collective memory via her art. In creating the paintings that make up this body of work, she toys with the most wholesome of ideas/experiences: childhood. Seemingly random and benign scenes of existence are shadowed by objects that become breadcrumbs of the artist’s attempts to understand her own trauma and beyond.

Our interview with Ayobola Kekere-Ekun explores the malleability of memory, her creative process, and words of advice for fellow artists applying for grants.

Can you share a little about your background and how you first heard of Thinkspace? 

My name is Ayobola Kekere-Ekun. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. I moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2018 to study for my PhD. I’m a mixed-media artist, and I really enjoy working with paper and lines. I first came across Thinkspace on Instagram a couple of years ago. I remember thinking they ran a visually interesting program, and it could be pretty cool to work with them.

In your body of work “She and I,” you are exploring your own childhood memories or the awareness that there are memories you’re unable to reach/unlock. What are some truths about your childhood, or even what you know of yourself now, that ground you in that mining for information as you build your pieces? Will there be pieces from that series in this exhibition?

All the pieces in the show are from the She and I series. They’re actually a continuation of the first piece I created in the series, where I realized my memory of my mother and I swimming couldn’t possibly be real. I think for me this process of reclamation has been incredibly empowering. When I realized how big the chasm I was dealing with was, I’m not sure I even have the words to even describe how soul-crushing it was. Something had been taken from me, and there was no way I could ever truly get it back. There was a moment when I knew this was either going to kill me or be a catalyst to do something interesting. I chose to do something interesting.

What does your creative process look like? Can you walk us through a day in the studio?

My day usually starts with a cup of tea. I’ll wander around the garden a little bit and hang out with whichever neighbour’s cat is visiting that morning. I’m not sure if it’s the bird feeder I put out there, but they really seem to enjoy the space. After tea, I’ll run through my emails and general admin and figure out what needs to be prioritized in that regard. Only then do I get down to doing something creative. That varies a little from day to day. It could be working on existing paintings or planning new work.

Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?

I’m not sure I do, to be honest. I’m rather obsessed with my work, and It’s quite literally always on my mind in one form or another. I suppose the upside of working in such a time-consuming style is that I’ll never be able to keep up with ideas I’d like to explore. There’s always something I want to try, and that keeps me going.

What do you have playing in the background while you’re in the studio – music, movies/tv shows, podcasts? 

It’s either music or a TV show I’ve already seen, so I can watch it in my head as I listen to it.

Do you have any advice for other artists who are looking to leverage grants to help pursue their ambitions?

Learn to process rejections because there will be a lot of them. Don’t take them personally; there are a lot of variables that go into those types of selections. Apply to everything you might be even remotely qualified for, and don’t be afraid to reapply. Creating a solid application is a skill, and like all skills, it requires practice.

“Perspective” is a group exhibition along with three other talented artists. Could you share with us an element of your fellow exhibitors’ work that inspires, challenges, or intrigues you?

I have a lot of admiration for the other artists in the show, and it is such an honour to be sharing space with them. I have to admit I have a particular soft spot for Chigozie Obi. I’ve had the pleasure of watching her work grow over the past few years, and the sensitivity she handles her figures with is something I’ve always found beautiful.

You’ve shared in interviews that you are an avid reader of what you like to call “bubble gum,” just fun reads – nothing too taxing. Can you share with us what some of your favourite tropes are? 

I really enjoy reading romance novels. I find the guarantee of a happily ever after very comforting. I am a sucker for historical romance in particular, and depending on my mood, I tend to lean towards tropes around rejection and miscommunication, betrayal, enemies to lovers, plain janes, wallflowers, heiresses, and jaded, morally ambiguous characters.

If you could have any skill downloaded into your brain, what would it be and why?

This might sound very mundane, but I’d learn how to swim and drive. I think I’ve put them off so long they’ve become these insurmountable hurdles in my head.

If you could have a dinner party with 5 people, dead or alive, who would they be? What would be on the menu? And what is your icebreaker question?

This is a tough one. I’d invite Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Gustav Klimt, Artemisia Gentileschi, and my grandmothers. We’d have a hot pot.