Interview with Kevin Peterson for “Wild”

We’re excited to be showing new work by Houston-based artist Kevin Peterson in our main room for his solo exhibition Wild opening Saturday, March 2nd.  Peterson’s hyper-realistic compositions create a fictional world in which innocence and collapse are brought into difficult proximity.

In anticipation of Wild our interview with Kevin Peterson discusses the inspiration behind the exhibition, his dream collaboration, and what kind of ice cream his body of work would inspire.

SH: What was the inspiration behind this latest body of work? Were you exploring a specific theme or pushing yourself artistically in a certain way?

KP: Just growing up, what its like to be a kid and what its like to think about being a kid. How things change over time and how we change. I like thinking about our world in different stages. Seeing how the things we make crumble and decay. Seeing nature take over when it’s allowed to, but even nature is cyclical. A forest burns down, but it grows back stronger, it’s just a matter of time.
The settings of these always have an end of the world look to them. I don’t really believe in an apocalypse type situation, but it is a different world than what we are living in currently. A new phase I would say.  Things are crumbling, but it’s not a reason for fear. It’s a new beginning, a clean slate. It’s important to remember that change can lead to good. It can make you adjust your trajectory, reevaluate your priorities. I suppose the kids in my paintings are a reflection of a hope that I have that people will learn from past mistakes and face the future with a sense of calm reason. Part of that is re-prioritizing what we value. The work is a vision of a new generation of kids that will not rule the world like tyrants but will respect nature and the world we have.

 SH: Is there a particular piece in this exhibition you feel really challenged you? If so, why and what makes you proud of this piece.  

KP: I swear, every time I paint the portrait part of a painting (especially a kids face) its a technical challenge. It always looks like shit in the beginning and for a long time after. I just keep working it and working it and eventually I get it where I want it. It’s always a battle. I used my son as a model for a couple of these paintings and that added a whole other level of difficulty. It being my kid, I found it extra challenging to capture him perfectly. 

SH: How do you approach starting a new piece? Walk us through the process of a piece from conception to completion.

KP: Sometimes I start with a background image I like and sometimes I start with a picture of a model I want to use, it doesn’t always come about the same way. I work pretty closely with my reference photos, but the final scenes are composites of my images. I have tons of images of urban blight or abandoned places that I’ve taken over the years and I also have tons of pictures of models that I’ve taken down at my studio. I use Photoshop to lay out a composition that I will use to paint from. My pieces are pretty well planned out, but the Photoshop composites are never perfect though, they are a framework. The challenge comes in working out all the details during the actual painting process.  My goal is to create a scene that is both implausible or fantastic, but at the same time totally believable to the viewer.  Just technically speaking, my work takes many, many hours. I paint in pretty thin layers, just building up and refining over time. It takes a lot of passes to get everything how I like it. 

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

KP: My paintings are well planned out before I ever start painting. I love every bit of the painting part, but the excitement comes in the planning stage. When I add that element to a certain background or setting that I want to paint, whether it be one of my references of a model or maybe an animal. I can tell the second I put it in there, it fits, its like “bingo!” that’s it.  It sometimes takes hundreds of different attempts to find the right fit, sometimes I never find it, but when I do, its really thrilling and I cant wait to start painting at that point. 

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

KP: I put a lot of time into ideas and concepts for paintings that never actually make it to the canvas. I sometimes feel like I’m so close to something good, but I just can’t make it work in the end and I have to abandon it. It’s like having this sort of vague idea in your head and not being able to translate it to reality. That can be frustrating and it can feel like a waste of time, but its all part of the process.

SH: Is there a piece of knowledge or advice around being a working artist that you wish you knew 10 years ago?

KP: Don’t compare yourself to other artists. It’s a hard thing to do. Also, don’t just art all the time, you gotta actually live your life so you will have the stuff to paint about. 

SH: If your body of work inspired an ice cream flavor, what would it be called and what are the ingredients?

KP: You would take a cone with some pure and perfect flavor and dip it in a vat of dirt and grime and shit. Sounds delicious!

SH: If you could collaborate with any other artist (dead or alive) in any art form, such as music, film, dance etc… what would be your dream collab and what would you create?

KP: I don’t really enjoy collaborating. It goes back to hating group work in school. I love film though. I guess I’d pick a director like Scorsese or Terrance Malick or Spike Lee maybe. I wouldn’t do anything though, I’d just want to watch them work. 

SH: What do you think the role of artists is in society? How does other artwork inform how you move through life?

KP: I think different artists can play a lot of different roles in life. All I know is that when I find something that an artist created that expresses a feeling that I could never have put into words but nails exactly how I feel or have felt, that is a really comforting feeling. Knowing you’re not alone. It’s powerful, it’s rare, but its why I love art.

SH: Favorite way to celebrate the completion of a project/body of work?

KP: I worked really hard on this last show, a lot of long days and late nights.  I’m actually taking it a little bit easy since I shipped the pieces off. Decompressing a little. I’m doing yard work. I actually discovered a few years back that I love gardening, even though Im crap at it and most of my plants die. I really love spring,  just looking around town at peoples yards and at the nurseries to see what different plants I can get to replace the ones I killed over the previous year. 

Join us for the opening reception of Wild, Saturday March 2nd from 6 to pm.

Kevin Peterson’s “WILD” showing March 2019.

March 2 – March 23, 2019

(Los Angeles, CA) – Thinkspace is pleased to present new works by Houston-based artist Kevin Peterson in Wild. Peterson, a gifted hyperrealist painter, creates a fictional world in which innocence and collapse are brought into difficult proximity. His arresting images combine portraits of children accompanied by kindly sentient beasts in a state of kindred displacement. Alone, though together, in strangely desolate, richly graffitied urban scenes, these babes and their benevolent conspirators appear interchangeably as beacons of hope and symbols of dispossession.

Peterson’s works harness a dystopian social hyperrealism through painstaking attention to every possible fraction and detail of the mundane in their execution – every contour is excised, every surface meticulously rendered. The weird crystal clarity of the hyperreal in the depiction of these desolate underpasses and structural ruins provides a starkly strange backdrop for elements of fairytale, like the fantastic alliances proposed between children and animals, and the magical narratives these allegiances imply. A psychologically poignant, if not ambiguous, feeling of transformation and hope lingers in these impossibly arresting scenes of solitary kids. The resilience they suggest is haunting, while the unsettling verity with which these vulnerable fictions are cast strike something in our shared fear of literal and figurative exposure.

Here, a panther provides an angelic little girl with an unlikely guardian; a boy sits alone in an abandoned graffiti-tagged building flanked by a pair of ravens and a gentle fox – a corrugated cardboard crown cast down on the floor beside him like some failed promise of clemency and exemption. In spite of seemingly bleak, if not potentially catastrophic, circumstances, the isolated child protagonists in Peterson’s works, bereft amidst modern-day ruins save for the companionship of their wild, bestial cohort, are calm, peaceful, and strangely emancipated. A feeling of persistence and salvage dominate these visual metaphors for human survival; life, in the end, persists in its way and under the most iniquitous and impossible conditions.

Always in search of poetic tension and compelling contrasts, Peterson alloys unlikely parts: beginnings and ends collide, the young appear in worn and weathered worlds, innocence is forced into experience, and the wild infringes upon the ‘civilizing’ city limits. In Wild, Peterson explores themes of protection and marginalization, staging wild animals, ironically, in the humanizing and civilizing charge of caregivers. Though a recurring suggestion in previous works, the role of the animal in a nearly shamanistic role as protector and watcher appears more overtly in the new. Small children are attended by wild bears, watchful raccoons, gentle fawns, mythic looking ravens, owls, and jungle cats, among others, as they hold a living and protective vigil against the crumbling architectures around them; their guardianship staged like a protective bulwark. The compositions feel more symmetrically staged in these new works, while pairs of animals, particularly ravens, appear as dual harbingers of birth and death, bookending the endless transformations of life in between.

Peterson’s hyperreal paintings are at times uncomfortably close in the pathos of their offerings; they remind us, too, of something uneasily present in us all, a childhood that haunts the posturing of all of our adulthoods. Ultimately, Peterson’s works offer beautifully jarring reminders of the need for redemptive outcomes in a disappointed time.

Frank Gonzales’s “Desert Discourse” showing March 2019.

March 2 – March 23, 2019

Concurrently on view in the Thinkspace project room is Desert Discourse, featuring new works by painter Frank Gonzales. Born in Mesa, Arizona, the artist is currently based in Phoenix and incorporates the desert botanicals and bird specimens native to the surrounding area into his vibrant and detailed paintings. His love of botany and ornithology have sought expression in works that combine both the organic and artificial, the natural and the contrived, to produce what the artist himself has aptly coined ‘artificial realism.’

This balance between life and design is at the forefront of Gonzales’ practice; rarely ever planning a piece with preliminaries before its set to a panel, the artist is resolving the composition in paint as it unfolds in real time and as it’s made. The resulting works convey an organic sense of balance and an internal logic. In this new body of work, Gonzales incorporates looser areas of paint application, using a freer stylization to offset the precise handling of others, while he has also included new geological elements like crystals and geodes.

Amidst beautifully rendered natural specimens – everything from brilliant birds, exotic cacti, lush desert blooms, to prismatic rock – the artist’s surreal stylization prevails, bringing the extant to strange, vibrant, new life. Gonzales’ works are punctuated by moments of graphic mark making and intentionally synthetic motifs in bright, electric hues, providing visual contrast to the tightly rendered counterpoint of the wildlife specimens.

Inspired by the vastness of the desert’s natural landscape and the humbling impermanence it invokes, Gonzales combines the intuitive and the observed in a contemporary take on the Naturalist’s obsession.

Interview with Booooooom’s Jeff Hamada for “Seeing Red”

For more than a decade Booooooom has championed visual artists from all over the world, presenting a unique mix of high and low brow work from both emerging and established artists. Curated by Jeff Hamada, “Seeing Red” presents all new works from a wide array of artists who’ve been featured on Booooooom over the past ten years, and with the spirit of the site in mind, there are legendary names and relatively unknown ones showing alongside each other. Each artist was given the same challenge, to work within a 12×12 inch (30×30 cm) frame and to incorporate the color red into their work. The simple visual theme serves as a common thread connecting all the works—a pathway for the viewer to travel into and out of each piece—and provides a reference point to help understand the way this diverse group sees the world around them.

Andrew Hosner interviews Jeff Hamada…

What was the initial spark that made you want to launch Booooooom?
I’ve always loved sharing the things I discover with other people. When I was younger I was always hunting around for underground hip hop music, and back then it was a lot harder to find this stuff on the internet, I had to use FTP programs and upload several albums all night to get enough credits to download a rare album. The reward for me was playing stuff in my car that my friends had never heard. I think there was a bit of a similar feeling when I started Booooooom, it was another outlet for sharing things that I thought were really interesting and the more obscure or unknown the content was, the more satisfying it was for me. This is part of the reason I’m so interested in emerging artists, people who haven’t had someone vouch for them yet—no stamp of approval—you have to decide for yourself what you think of the work.

I heard that the initial decision to launch the site with 7 o’s was due to the regular spelling of Boom already being taken. As you’ve built the site’s notoriety, any funny stories revolving around the unique spelling you’ve chosen?
The people at the bank used to hate me because Booooooom is actually the business name as well so they would have to carefully count the o’s on things like checks and I would watch them having to re-count several times. In the end I think the annoyance made it really memorable and it didn’t take long for everyone there to know who I was. It doesn’t sound like a serious business so people often ask what it is and it’s an easy way to get to tell someone about it.

Back when you started Booooooom, there really weren’t that many other art blogs of note. Now there are more than one can take the time to list, yet many still only repost the content you and a couple other key sites publish. Curious if you’ve any take on this?
I think we’re actually coming full circle right now where a lot of blogs that I used to look at have either already disappeared or will in the next year or so. So yes there are technically more than you could ever list but how many are still being updated? Tumblr is dead. I actually miss having a lot of other ones around.

I don’t really think too much about who is finding what where, if another site features an artist we’ve featured that’s awesome, that’s more exposure for that artist. Now that we have a membership, I want to always be highlighting the best work from our most talented members so getting them on the radar of other curators, editors, agencies is actually what I want to have happen. Reposting is good, it means they’re watching.

Oddest place you’ve been turned on to a new artist?
My favourite photographer in Vancouver, Vishal Marapon, was someone who served our table at White Spot (a very classic restaurant chain here) many years ago.

Where do you see yourself taking Booooooom over the decade ahead?My main focus over the next bit will be the membership program we started a year ago. It’s growing really quickly and I’m not sure how exactly it will evolve but I know right now we’re only scratching the surface of what it has the potential to be. My passion has always been the community aspect of Booooooom more than the actual art—personally connecting with people and also connecting them with each other. That’s kind of a vague answer but I think when I first started it was purely a visual catalog of art and as time goes on I see it shifting to focus way more on the people creating the art.

Is there an average day for you, running Booooooom?
My day is usually split where I work during the day and take a break and then work again late at night. Yesterday I had two meetings, one at 1pm and one at 1am (on Skype with an agency overseas). So I do have an odd schedule but it is somewhat of a routine. The stuff I’m working on is quite different day to day though  — the variety is probably the reason I haven’t got bored of it.

We’ve always been about collaboration here at Thinkspace and I know you’ve had a strong history of the same. What is it about collaborating in the arts that excites you?
I never like doing the exact same thing over and over so collaborating with different people is a way to make something you’ve already done feel new again. There’s new risks and new challenges especially when you’re working with someone for the first time and I like all of that.

As an artist yourself, if you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead… who would it be and why?
Radiohead. Even if whatever we made together never saw the light of day I think spending time with them and getting to see the world the way they see it for even a short time would be life-changing.

You have only one day to show a visiting artist around Vancouver… where does the Jeff Hamada Tour stop along the way? Please share your hometown with our readers.
It would be a mostly food related stops. Get some sandwiches to-go from Duffins and fill a growler at Brassneck then take some bikes around the sea wall that wraps around the whole down town area. Sushi for second lunch/snack at either Carp or Ajisai. Tour ‘em around Main street to see all the murals from the recent Vancouver Mural Fest. Dinner at a good dumpling spot like Dinesty or Peaceful or skip dinner and do a random activity like archery at Gum Ying in Richmond and then have late night noodles at Deer Garden.

In this day and age, how much does art school really matter?
As art schools become more and more expensive they become less and less relevant. There’s no point starting off your life in such a deep financial hole that you can never get out, especially when there’s so much free information available online. Having said that I do think there is tremendous value in any opportunity for some face to face conversations with really smart people. If I could go back in time I think I would still go to art school for a couple years but maybe not five, and I’d consider taking some business and marketing classes.

Your thoughts on art fairs?
Honestly, I don’t go to enough of them to have an opinion. I don’t really have any personal interest in them.

You’ve interviewed a fair number of artists over the years, anything funny that comes to mind worth sharing?
I can’t think of funny things off the top of my head but I’ve interviewed a lot of funny people who’ve shared some really interesting things with me—some of them are in this show. Julian Glander is one. When I interviewed him I asked him to describe one of his all-time favorite scenes from an animation and he talked about one from Gumby – the basic premise is that they’ve broken a mirror by playing their music too loud, so they try to fix it by playing the same song backwards.

If Booooooom was an ice cream flavor, what would be in it?
Strawberry, chocolate and vanilla in a big brick like the classic neapolitan ice cream.

Best advice you’ve ever received?
When you’re reheating spaghetti in the microwave make a space in the middle like a donut.

Who is your personal biggest influence?
Nathan Fielder

Favorite place you’ve traveled thus far?
Japan, I never get tired of it.

Five artists to watch?
Alina-Ondine Slimovschi, Kellie Orr, Drew Young, Eric Louie, Huntz Liu

Do you yourself have an art collection?
A small collection, yes.

Most memorable moments related to being the chap behind Booooooom?
I think by far the best part of creating the site has been all the opportunities to travel to different parts of the world to either speak at or attend festivals, host art shows or work on various creative projects. In the last few years Booooooom has brought me to Australia, Ireland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Barcelona, Portugal, Vietnam, Israel, all over the US and across Canada.

The worst current trend?
Remakes of movies.

Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica?
Battlestar Galactica.

The Rock or Jason Statham?
The Rock. Jason Statham stands no chance against the People’s Elbow.

Nike or Adidas?