Thinkspace is excited to present Dan Lydersen‘s ‘Plasticene Dream.’ Taking form as a series of absurdist portraits, sentient still lifes and fanciful visions of inanimate objects come to life, the paintings are filled with strange amalgamations of plastic, clay, and various synthetic and organic materials. They present an odd array of characters whose nature and purpose are ambiguous, open-ended, and enigmatic. Everything is anthropomorphized.
Our interview with Lydersen explores his creative influences, how he spends his time outside of the studio, and his ultimate dream collaborations.
What themes were you exploring in this body of work? Did you have a piece that was particularly challenging?
These are the most conceptually abstract, least literal paintings I’ve ever done so the themes aren’t overt. They’re bubbling a little more under the surface. A lot of the imagery is inspired by my time raising two small children and all of the creative play involved with their toys, clay sculptures, and drawings. So childhood and childlike imagination is a theme. I was also thinking a lot about the idea of a future Plasticene epoch, where synthetic materials become so ubiquitous in the environment that they’re part of the geologic and fossil record. So I started creating the work as a fantastical vision of a future filled with weird organisms made up of various plastics. The challenge with all of the paintings was deciding when they were finished. All of them were made through a process of improvisational drawing and lots of editing – adding imagery, taking imagery out, moving things around, etc. When you work like that you could spend an eternity on a single painting so you have to constantly measure whether continued editing will be beneficial or if the painting has reached the best version of itself.
What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?
In the past couple of years all my studio time is at night, staying up late and sacrificing sleep to make art. The lack of sleep is rough but the middle of the night is actually a great time to make art. Zero distractions.
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
Music is an endless source of inspiration for me and I’m always listening to music while I paint. Other than that I just treat art-making like work. I sit down and do it whether I’m feeling creative or not. I find the best way to get your creativity going is to just start making something. A small idea or visual experiment can become a creative feedback loop and lead you to exciting new places.
What is your most favorite and least favorite part of the creative process?
My favorite part is the feeling of infinite possibility when starting a new piece. But that infinite possibility can also be frustrating. There are so many things I want to make that I’ll never have time to. And not just paintings but music, sculpture, animation, you name it.
Who are some of your creative influences? Why do they inspire you?
I love the sheer imagination and weirdness of some of the early Netherlandish painters like Bosch and Bruegel. I love the musical story-telling of artists like Tom Waits and Gareth Liddiard, who paint wild and vivid pictures with words and sound. I’ve also been heavily influenced by live theater which I grew up around and have also worked in recently. Theatricality is always an element in my work.
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?
I’d love to be a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist. I dabble in a few instruments but to be a true expert at instruments like piano, violin, accordion, or even bagpipes would be a dream.
What do you hope viewers take away or experience while viewing your work?
I like art that transports me to another plane of reality, even if only for a moment. Art that instills in me a sense of wonder and that doesn’t hold my hand too much so that I can take my own unique experience away from it. That’s what I’m trying to provide to viewers of my work.
How do you like to enjoy your time outside of the studio? Do you celebrate the completion of a body of work?
I like exploring the countryside on my bicycle, traveling overseas, going to music shows and live theater. My favorite thing in recent years is this silly Halloween band that I play in every October. We make our own masks and costumes and stage props and write funny songs that we perform as ghoulish characters from the netherworld. It’s very fun.
If you could collaborate with any artists in any sort of medium (i.e. movies, music, painting) who would you collaborate with, and what would you be making?
When it’s done right I think that theater is the highest form of art. It has the potential to encompass every art-form into one cohesive piece. I’ve been lucky enough to do scenic painting and animation for some great productions and I’d love to do more of that. My ultimate dream is some kind of pseudo-theater experience that puts as much emphasis on visual art and sound/music as it does acting and narrative. Imagine equal parts black box theater, art-installation, Disney dark ride, and punk rock circus. That’s what I wanna do, whatever that is.
Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the icebreaker question?
Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Ghengis Khan, and Joan of Arc. Just sharing a huge ice cream sundae. I guess I’d just ask them what number I was thinking of.
What was in your musical rotation during the development of this body of work?
Tropical Fuck Storm, The Lonesome Organist, The Damned, TTRRUUCES, The Sloppy Boys, Palm Springs, Calexico, Oingo Boingo, Low, Bob Dylan, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Springtime… and many many more.
All exhibitions are on view at Thinkspace Projects now through September 23, 2023. The Thinkspace Projects compound is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6pm. Please note the Dog House Gallery and our courtyard are only open for viewing on Saturdays.
Many thanks to all of the art lovers and our many patrons who came out to celebrate the opening of our September exhibitions. We just love seeing so many people packing all of our gallery spaces and courtyard to take in all of the inspiring new exhibits on view from our family of creatives.
Yosuke Ueno returns for his sixth solo show ‘Beautiful Noise’ with us in Gallery I. His new series of works are inspired by the reborn aesthetic of the Japanese art of “kintsugi,” which refers to repairing broken pottery by mending the breaks with powdered gold.
Dan Lydersen is also back with an astounding new body of work in Gallery II with ‘Plasticene Dream’, a series of absurdist portraits, sentient still lifes and fanciful visions of inanimate objects come to life.
Floyd Strickland’s new body of work ‘Super Rich Kids’ is on display in Gallery III, delving into the rich tapestry of African American culture, history, and its pivotal economic contributions, marvelously captured within 12 masterful new oil paintings.
On view through September 23. The Thinkspace Projects compound is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6pm. Please note the Dog House Gallery and our courtyard are only open for viewing on Saturdays. Free and open to all.
Thinkspace Projects 4207 + 4217 W. Jefferson Blvd. Los Angeles, California 90016
On view September 2 – September 23, 2023
Gallery I: YOSUKE UENO ‘Beautiful Noise’
In Japan, we have an art of repairing named “kintsugi,” that repairs broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with powdered gold. Not to dispose or hide but make breakage part visible by decorating them with gold, it treats breakage and repair as beauty. In there exists a called reborn aesthetic. Since the ancient times, Japanese people has been admiring beauty in such incompleteness of objects. In other words, this art tells that to being in this world equals to lose and hurt. So, breakage, damage, and noise is a proof of existence.
This time, in all the artworks, I put noise by running brushes. This noise plays as a role of punctuation marks and gives artworks a surge of energy which comes put to be a perfect harmony.
At this point, I am sensing a feeling that I’ve come to where I can say that my artwork reached out to supreme expression. It’s been thirty years since I had my first solo show at the age of sixteen. What I seek for is not to paint beautifully, but to make artwork which can touch a sense of “being exist”. I have always tried to change my painting styles. And here I am so far.
‘Beautiful Noise’ carries creation and destruction, life and death at the same time in it. That’s what I believe.
About Yosuke Ueno: Born in 1977 and currently based in Chiba, Japan, Yosuke Ueno is an internationally renowned self-taught artist. His art is capable of taking the viewer on a magical ride, deep in the worlds that blends between real and surreal, full of symbols of the Eastern philosophical tradition and icons of contemporary media culture, both Japanese and Western.
Ueno’s large canvases are sprinkled with quotes and references to art history that intertwine with the modern perception of the fantastic. Each element of his compositions is actually a symbol that carries a message full of positivity and cosmic vitality. Ueno’s work has been exhibited in some of the most prestigious contemporary art institutions in Asia, such as the Shimoni-Seki Museum and at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo and in international art galleries the world over.
Gallery II: DAN LYDERSEN ‘Plasticine Dream’
The “Plasticene Epoch” is a hypothetical idea that sometime in the future plastics will be so ubiquitous in the environment that they’ll be traceable in the fossil record and will define a new epoch in geologic time. ‘Plasticene Dream’ takes this idea a step further to imagine an outlandish scenario where plastics have entirely merged with organic matter so that the two are indistinguishable from one another.
Taking form as a series of absurdist portraits, sentient still lifes and fanciful visions of inanimate objects come to life, the paintings are filled with strange amalgamations of plastic, clay, and various synthetic and organic materials. They present an odd array of characters whose nature and purpose are ambiguous, open-ended, and enigmatic. The work dabbles in the trappings of traditional portraiture and still life painting but is thoroughly removed from the narrative and allegorical inclinations that define those genres.
Much of this is the result of my experience raising two young children over the past several years and being fully immersed in the idiosyncrasies of their developing imaginations. With children every little object is met with wonder and possibility. Everything is anthropomorphized. Stories about imaginary characters erupt from nowhere only to wander and meander before fizzling away without any narrative conclusion. Over time these qualities worked their way into my own art, as did the countless number of clay sculptures, trinkets, toys, and other playthings that have amassed in my household.
The result is a more refined version of a wild scribble with googly eyes pasted on, or a pummeled piece of Playdoh with pipe-cleaner arms jammed into it. Not an attempt to emulate a child’s imagination but to embrace its adventurous and exploratory nature. To revel in improvisation, free association, and creative musing by dumping
About Dan Lydersen: Dan Lydersen is a visual artist best known for his intricately detailed oil paintings that depict a surreal and darkly comedic view of the American landscape and the humans that inhabit it. Dan’s work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the US and abroad, including four solo exhibitions at Jack Fischer Gallery in San Francisco and a two-person exhibition at Thinkspace Gallery in Culver City, California.
In addition to painting, Dan has performed music in numerous venues across the US with instrumental group The Roots of Orchis. He has also worked as an animation designer and scenic artist for live theatre productions at Capital Stage in Sacramento and City Lights Theater in San Jose. Dan studied art at the American University of Rome and received a bachelor’s degree in fine art from UC Santa Cruz in 2002. He received an MFA degree from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2007 and currently resides in Sacramento.
Gallery III: FLOYD STRICKLAND ’Super Rich Kids’
‘Super Rich Kids’ from Floyd Strickland is his debut solo exhibition with our gallery and features a body of work that delves into the rich tapestry of African American culture, history, and its pivotal economic contributions. Through a collection of 12 meticulously crafted oil paintings, the exhibition artfully weaves together historical imagery and contemporary scenes to illuminate the significance of cultural and financial districts from the past.
The artwork in the show features a diverse array of black children, each depicted with their cherished possessions, offering a vivid narrative of cultural pride and individuality. These visual vignettes celebrate the enduring essence of African American culture, juxtaposed against the backdrop of historical landmarks and symbols.
Beyond aesthetics, ‘Super Rich Kids’ resounds with a powerful message. It underscores how African American prosperity and wealth have functioned as an agent of change, challenging oppressive systems within the broader American society. The show captures the essence of the cultural and financial districts that were pivotal in the past, showcasing their role as spaces of empowerment and resistance.
Through these evocative paintings, ‘Super Rich Kids’ articulates the ongoing journey of the African American community, highlighting its transformative impact on both its own heritage and the nation’s narrative. This exhibition is an homage to the vibrant history and beauty of African American culture, a testament to its economic prowess, and a rallying call for recognizing the importance of preserving and nurturing cultural and financial districts.
About Floyd Strickland: Floyd Strickland, a versatile artist based in Los Angeles, CA, offers an introspective and critical exploration of American culture, particularly through the perspectives of black and brown children. Inspired by his own childhood environment, Strickland employs realistic figures that intertwine with aspects of American cultural imagery, resulting in ethereal and figurative paintings.
Strickland’s artistic journey is a testament to the distinctiveness of his work. Having previously engaged in building and renovating elementary schools nationwide, he observed a troubling lack of confidence in many black and brown children—a struggle he himself experienced during his own upbringing. To address this issue, Strickland embarked on a mission to create large-scale figurative oil paintings that depict the beauty, strength, and untapped potential within these children.
Strickland’s own children often serve as focal points in his artwork, reflecting his deep care and emotional connection to them. He strives to portray them as larger-than-life figures, conveying the immense love he feels for them.
Gallery IV: PRISCILLA S. FLORES ‘Where the Spirit Meets the Skin’
‘Where the Spirit meets the Skin’ is the first solo show of Long Beach based painter Priscilla S. Flores. By drawing from memory and personal experiences with sensuality, Flores converges reality and fantasy of external and internal relationships she has with the world around her. The expression ‘the spirit meets the skin’ is borrowed from the song ‘Living Room’ by ambient band Grouper. Flores associates the expression to connecting the physical body to its spirit as presented in her work. She modified the lyric by adding the word “Where” to specify her relationship to the space the body inhabits. That space is often depicted through a bedroom setting or oceanic landscape. The bird (a symbol for time and flight) takes the viewer to the next memory. Through various paintings and a few small graphite drawings, Flores allows the viewer to gaze into her world.
About Priscilla S. Flores: Priscilla S. Flores (b. 1993) is a first generation Mexican-American painter. She was born in Los Angeles, CA and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. At an early age, she gained interest in narrative as she felt close to her family’s stories of their southern Mexican life. Her work, often presented through self-portraiture, draws from her relationship to the body and sensuality, while embracing her Mexican upbringing and American living. Flores’ current work embraces all ranges of emotions, joy, confusion and humorous aspects of these relationships. She creates narratives based on memory and mementos representing these experiences of identity, sexuality and of the past. Her multi use of vibrant and limited palettes along with her mix of both bold and thin paint strokes, are what create these personal stories. Flores’ interest in narrative painting is inspired by painters: Larry Madrigal, Jennifer Packer, Naudline Cluvie Pierre, among many others.
Priscilla received a BFA in Drawing and Painting from Cal State Long Beach in 2019.
Dog House Gallery: ALLISON BAMCAT ‘Fish Fingers’
Allison Bamcat is a contemporary artist with an affinity for confectionary and phantoms. Through the use of acidic color, her paintings work to elicit feelings of her neon, nineties-childhood in Los Angeles, surrounded by sun-bleached, cheap plastic dolls and doodled-on stuffed toys. A menagerie of animals and creatures serve as avatars for the artist herself, assembling a series of surreal snapshots of her own personal journey, one of beautiful growth and also the simmer of trauma. With her candy-coated landscapes, there is an underlying sense of unease, whether through the piercing gaze of a voyeur parrot or in the melting and sinking of her figures. The loss of innocence and a sense of calm-among-the-chaos are feelings works to depict through the use of stark, flat fields of color against her obsessively-detailed brushwork. The velvet finish of gouache matched with her love of wood and paper leave subtle textures for her images to pop off of. She works to hypnotize her audience through her dizzying use of color and detail in her current body of acryla gouache paintings.