An interview with Anthony Clarkson…

An interview with Anthony Clarkson

The art of Anthony Clarkson is a portal into child-like innocence, mixed with troubled spirits, broken hearts and a sense of emptiness. When Clarkson graduated from the Colorado Institute of Art in 2002, he was resolute in his decision to make a living as a graphic artist in the music industry. He was hired as the head graphic designer for a prominent record label in Los Angeles shortly thereafter. Embracing a vibrantly hyper realistic digital photo-manipulation technique, his first published album cover followed shortly after joining their ranks and quickly established a long list of published album covers for several bands on various labels.

Inspired by the continuously evolving Los Angeles new contemporary art scene and growing weary with digital art, Clarkson began to revisit the drawing style of his youth, mixed with the feelings and dark emotions he has dealt with throughout his adult life. In late 2005 he was given the chance to be in his first group show at Thinkspace in Los Angeles, thus providing the perfect opportunity to begin showcasing a completely new direction in his artistic style.

Clarkson’s art has been showcased in several galleries in the United States including Thinkspace, DvA Gallery, Gallery 1988, Cannibal Flower and Copro/Nason. Exhibitions of note include special curated exhibitions that were dedicated to Mattel/Hot Wheels, Marvel Comics (hosted by Stan Lee) and ‘Crazy for Cult 2’ (hosted by Kevin Smith). Clarkson was also featured in the ‘Intersections’ show at the Cypress College that took place during the spring of 2008.

1) Please talk a lil’ bit about the general idea/vibe behind your new series of works for ‘The Silent Treatment’.
The works in this show are more of an overall selection of different themes I do, with future shows I think I’ll work towards more “themed” based pieces around one or two ideas

The title, ‘The Silent Treatment’ has partly to do with the way it sometimes takes silencing the world out before you can hear what you have to say. As far as the advertising and awareness campaign look, it is also a play off the name with my love for the look that old silent movies have.

2) Much of your new body of work revolves around lost loves / innocence lost – care to elaborate at all?
For me, and I think most people, love is the one thing that can make you feel bigger than life, and truly euphoric. However it can also make you feel a bottomless pit of despair. In those moments, as gut wrenching as they are, I think you can find out things about yourself and the kind of person you are. In those moments you are forced to really look inside yourself.

As for loss of innocence… I just notice how people as they get older seem to loose a spark to their spirit. It’s easy to say it’s because we have to live life in the “real world”, but I think there is more to it than that. As kids the world is an unending sea of possibilities, but as we get older we feel forced to compromise things, and then we start to except compromises too much to the point we loose that spark and just become hollow drones.

3) What’s your earliest memory involving art or creating art?
I’ve never known life without art. It’s such a part of me I never thought “ok, I’m going to be an artist… this is my thing”. It was just always part of me.

However I do remember I was maybe 6 or 7 and I made “life size” (remember I was 6 or 7) cutouts of all the Masters of the Universe characters and colored them. I then hung them all up in our basement and charged each member of my family 5 cents to come take a tour. I do remember at that point realizing I was a bit different than most kids. hahaha!

4) When are you most productive / when do you normally work on art?
It really depends on just the mood I’m in. I feel most productive in the mornings, but tend to like to work at night. The night is just soooo much more quiet… and I like the dark, there’s a peace to it.

5) In addition to picking up steam on the gallery circuit, you’ve been approached by a number of toy companies in recent months. I know of the recent Disney custom show – please tell us a lil’ about that and anything else that can be discussed at this point.
The Disney Stitch thing was really cool. I like doing things like that where it’s a special custom piece for a show, or designing something like a Dunny.

As far as with any of my own toys, I’m going to be really picky. I’m very open to hearing ideas companies have for working with me, but I want to make sure they’re done how I would want them and not compromise my vision just to put a toy out there.

6) Do you listen to music while painting/drawing? If so, do you have a current favorite that inspires?
Music is a HUGE part of my life. I either paint with music going or movies that I’ve seen a billion time so I can follow along without watching the screen.

Usually I like to listen to more of an ambient dark soundscape kind of stuff when I paint. I always find myself returning to bands like The Cure, Diary of Dreams, The Sisters Of Mercy, Sigur Ros, Tori Amos, Anathema, Ulver, Switchblade Symphony, The Album Leaf.

If I want something more abrasive I usually listen to something like Iron Maiden, Marilyn Manson, AFI, The Birthday Massacre, Nine Inch Nails, Paradise Lost… stuff like that.

7) If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do so?
I usually just say it’s just dark emotionally driven cartoonish stuff… followed by, “you just have to see it”. haha!!

8) Favorite artist (living or dead) and what makes them special to you?
Michelangelo was my first love of a classic artist, more so his sculptures than his paintings. In fact, his sculpture of the Pieta’ is maybe my favorite piece of art ever and was the inspiration for the main piece used in the awareness campaign for ‘The Silent Treatment’ show called “Together Through Sick and Thin”.

I just love the silent passion of it. So much is said with almost no movement to it. Plus parts of the stone flow like water and that just blows me away.

More modern artist that influence me are definitely Mark Ryden, Michael Hussar, Greg “Craola” Simpkins, and Dave McKean.

9) What have you got coming up in terms of shows and projects after “The Silent Treatment”?
I’ll have one or two pieces at the ‘Idiot Box’ show on April 2nd at Gallery 1988 LA, then I have a show up at Gallery 1988 SF along with 9 others later in the month of April Past that, things are still coming together.

10) You’re releasing your first print in conjunction with this exhibit. Can you tell us a lil’ bit of the back story behind “The Organ Grinder” piece?
It was a commissioned piece, but the buyer gave me total creative control. It was an idea I’ve had for a long time. Maybe one of my more outward social comments as opposed to the more internalized emotional works. But I just wanted to make a pretty blunt comment on the “rolls” that we are suppose to play and how we are put in them and blindly accept it without questioning if that is what we really want for ourselves.

Thinkspace presents:
Anthony ClarksonThe Silent Treatment
Also showing in our main gallery:
Dreamgirls & Ukes Featuring new works, an installation + performance from Amy Crehore

Opening Reception: Fri, Feb. 13th 7-11PM

An interview with Amy Crehore…

Amy Crehore’s debut Los Angeles solo exhibit that opens next Fri, Feb. 13th at Thinkspace will feature a new series of oil paintings of playful, iconic nudes and will introduce some new characters (in addition to her well known cats, pierrots and monkeys): a lion, a tortoise, and large flying insects. Ukuleles will play a role in these new narratives, giving the works musical ambience. Some of these dream sequences will take place in nature, others in curtained rooms.

Crehore has also painted over a dozen antique ukuleles (see below) as part of this special exhibit. Most of these instruments are from the American ukulele boom of the 1920’s. Crehore personally hand-picked a collection that represents a variety of styles and designs including banjo ukes, mahogany and koa ukes, as well as art deco novelty ukes. On these ukes, she will incorporate motifs from her paintings, plus she will be adding creative type and logo design. Crehore’s long-time music partner, Lou Reimuller, is also a luthier and he has lovingly restored each of these instruments. These ukes are all “players” as well as fine art objects.

Crehore has exhibited her work with the likes of Roq La Rue (Seattle, WA), M Modern Gallery (Palm Springs, CA & Las Vegas, NV), Corey Helford Gallery (Culver City, CA.), Ad Hoc Art (Brooklyn, NY), Robert Berman Gallery (Santa Monica, CA.), Applegate Gallery (Santa Monica, CA) and has taken part in the last few BLAB! shows that take place each year at Copro/Nason (Santa Monica, CA). Crehore has also taken part in Mark Murphy’s KNOW exhibits during Art Basel in Miami, FL during 2007 and 2008 and also took part in our special exhibit, Looking Glass, that was part of the Gen Art Vanguard New Contemporary Art Fair that also took place during this past December’s Art Basel.

Following is a special interview Amy took the time to do recently for us… also watch in the coming days for their ’20 Questions’ feature with Amy and be sure to pick up the latest copy of Inked Magazine (also featuring a nice interview with Amy).

1) Please talk a lil’ bit about the general idea/vibe behind your new series of works for “Dreamgirls & Ukes”.
I had been using antique ukuleles as props in my paintings and I wanted to expand the idea into painting on some actual antique ukuleles.The idea evolved as I gathered together a variety of rare ukes mostly from the 1920’s and had a luthier restore them. I have always been into vintage instruments anyway and the music of this period, so it was a natural thing to do. Almost like a tapestry of many colored threads, I wove my vision into a series of works that fit together in a wonderful way. There are 14 paintings and 13 ukes that all relate to each other. My new oil paintings depict dreamy landscapes and rooms full of animals, nude girls w/ukes and pierrots- all interacting with each other. There are many different stories happening here and the characters express different moods. The titles of the paintings also have to do with music. Inspired by the beauty of the design of each ukulele, I came up with motifs to paint on them that are based on the characters my paintings. I made up names for them and designed headstock logos- there’s Demon, Nymph, Peekaboo, Squirm, Tuxedo, Moth, Wasp, to name a few. Hopefully, I have created an entertaining and surreal experience for this show with added elements of history and music. The ukes are all playable, yet also fine art objects.

2) Much of your new body of work revolves around your love for ukuleles, with several works even using old ukes (as commonly referred to) as their ‘canvas’ in your upcoming exhibition with us. Where / when did this love for ukuleles start?

I received a beautiful koa uke from the 1920’s as a gift in my late twenties. A little later, I bought a banjo uke from this same period in a shop in Portland. I like the smallness of soprano ukes, their unique sound and novelty aspect. I like the design of vintage headstocks and variety of body shapes -from round camp ukes to banjo ukes to little guitar-shaped ukes.The history of the uke is very interesting, also. The instrument was used in early jugband music and blues as well as Hawaiian music.
3) Tell us a lil’ bit about the band you have with your husband, The Hokum Scorchers, that will be playing a special set during your opening reception on Fri, Feb. 13th at 9PM.
My husband, Lou Reimuller, who is also the luthier for this show, has been playing traditional blues, jugband, & rags on instruments from the period -1920’s and 1930’s- since he was a kid. He will play a vintage National resonator guitar and a banjo uke in this performance. I will play the washboard. We will sing and play kazoo as well. We used to play at festivals in the Northwest, most notably Bumbershoot and Folklife in Seattle. We will be playing traditional American songs from the 1920’s-1950’s that one can find on Yazoo and Document records.

4) What’s your earliest memory involving art or creating art?

Doing posters in 4th grade for the book fair and taking art lessons (drawing a model) while on vacation in New England in an old schoolhouse. My mom also signed us up for ceramic classes, plus church fairs where I sold painted rocks.

5) When are you most productive / when do you normally work on art?

Most productive in the morning when I am alert. I work all day from early morning until dinner at 7pm.
6) For those new to your work, can you please give us a lil’ background on the meanings associated with some of your recurring characters like your little pierrot, the use of monkeys, devils, felines, etc.
These characters represent humorous and psychological aspects of relations between men and women. I use metaphors and double entendres. I draw them from my head, but if you look at art history you will see these characters recurring throughout. The pierrot for instance, he’s a lovesick fool that was seen in the Italian Commedia Dell’Arte of the 16th century. He is also seen with a banjo on postcards from the 1920’s.

7) Tell us something about yourself that someone would never guess in their wildest dreams.

I was a wrestling score keeper in high school.

8) Are you reading anything right now?

Not much time to read lately, but I have “The Chinese Art of Winning” on my bedside.

9) Do you listen to music while painting/drawing? If so, do you have a current favorite that inspires?
Yes. I have Eddie Lang and Victoria Spivey on the player.

10) Describe your perfect day…

Sunny, mild, painting in the morning, take a hike after lunch up the butte near my house, resume painting until 7 and then go out to eat at the Korean place on the corner.

11) If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do so?
I would tell them these are intuitive and imaginary works based on memories of feelings, dreams and experiences and that I paint the things I like. I also would explain that I do a fully designed pencil sketch first and that a lot of what works about the painting is due to the design and the layering of paint (trying to create a seamless whole).

12) Favorite artist (living or dead) and what makes them special to you?

This is hard because I like so many. I will pick Giotto Di Bondone because he was a unique and innovative bridge between primitive medieval art and the Renaissance which followed. I like the emotional way he uses the human figure and his sense of architecture.

13) What have you got coming up in terms of shows and projects after “Dreamgirls & Ukes”?

My number two Tickler Uke which is finished except for my paint job, a book of my art, and many other things that are not finalized yet, so it’s too early to talk about them.
14) If people walk away with one thing gained from seeing one of your exhibits, what would you hope that would be?
A sense of joy and deja vu.

15) What are you doing right after this interview?

Packing up the rest of my art for the show to ship to you.

Dreamgirls & Ukes
Featuring new works, an installation plus performance from Amy Crehore

Also showing in our project room:
Anthony ClarksonThe Silent Treatment
(NOTE: look for an interview with Ant to be posted in the coming days)…

Sneak Peek of Dreamgirls & Ukes:

Exhibition runs Feb. 13th – March 6th, 2009

Opening Reception: Fri, Feb. 13th 7-11PM

4210 Santa Monica Blvd (near the Sunset Junction)
Los Angeles 90029

Jeaneen Carlino studio visit…

Jeaneen Carlino‘s Moments of Bliss opens next Fri, Oct. 10th alongside Red Forest from Ekundayo and KMNDZ and Assholism from Michael Alvarez.

Jeaneen just shot us over a few shots of her studio and of her working on some of the pieces from Moments of Bliss.

Check out her ‘Sneak Peek’ flickr set here:

Below is her piece “Womb of Man”. This particular work from Jeaneen was one of the first we exhibited from her and helped to start our relationship with her and now resides in our permanent collection. Just love this piece and we wanted to share it with you all since this was from when we first started working with her a couple years back…