Tag Archives: eddie colla

Conception Vs Reception

I’ve been asked why I chose to make the above piece regarding racism. I didn’t exactly. I made a piece called “The Residue of Arrogance” which was mostly about my growing discontent with the United States and my choice to spend most of my time abroad. That decision had a lot to do with the direction in which my country has moved post 9/11. Certainly racism plays a role in those objections, but it was a much broader view of many consequences.
The thing that I find most interesting about the piece is what it has shown me. Many people have concluded that the piece is about racism. I imagine it has to do with my choice of using an African American model. Had I used a white model, I assume people’s reading of it would be different. However, based on people’s reactions, it is entirely clear how most people view the United States. Juxtapose an American Flag and an African American and the conclusion many people will make is that it is, of course, about racism. That’s how connected the image of the United States is to racism, it’s something people assume. What I was trying to convey was an erosion of freedoms and self censorship in a post 9/11 America. However, even in 2017 (which is when I made the original piece) the simple addition of a different skin color leads many people to assume an entirely different meaning. So, in it’s conception it wasn’t focused on racism, but in it’s reception it has become very much about race. This is how the piece talks back to me about it’s context.
As an artist, you begin to see the complexity of representation. In my mind the figure in the piece was simply an individual, an American. Yet because the figure is African American, to many people, the “individual” becomes a representation of an entire race of people. Isn’t that exactly what racism is? When people’s individual identity is eclipsed by their race?

Mural from Kings Spray festival with Streetarttoday in 2017

The Dafen Experiment

  As an artist I have always been fascinated with knockoffs. In the 90’s I would peruse the stalls of Canal Street in lower Manhattan sifting through piles of fake Rolexes in search of the best watch $10 could buy. In the 2000’s I would stock up on knockoff Calvin Klein underwear in Hong Kong for $2 a pair versus the genuine article at $22 a pair. In many cases I liked the knockoffs better. For example, real Calvin Klein underwear came only in a few select colors. The knockoffs, however, came in every color you could imagine. The fake Rolexes were available with these cool flex wristbands that Rolex never made. My fascination was with how often knockoffs also evolve. Copying is not just copying, it is also the doorway to creating.

    In 2018 I spent two months at Jardin Orange, an artist residency in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen is China’s Silicon Valley, and most likely where your iPhone or laptop were manufactured. It’s been at the center of the ongoing battle over intellectual property theft between the U.S. and China for the past couple decades.

    In the 70’s, Shenzhen was little more than a fishing village. Then in 1979, it became one of five special economic zones in China, their first experiments with market capitalism. By the early 2000’s it was manufacturing 90% of the world’s electronics. Today, it is an international hub of tech innovation. It’s difficult to comprehend a city that has transformed itself at breakneck speed for the past four decades. Part of my job as an artist is to attempt to understand the places I travel to, and bring that understanding into my work, but Shenzhen was surreal to me. I am from Oakland, CA. I watched for 24 years as the eastern span of the Bay Bridge was replaced after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake – 24 years to replace half a bridge! In that time, Shenzhen had gone from a city of 647,000 to a city of 10,873,000 residents. By 2020, Shenzhen based companies like Huawei were outselling iPhone, and positioned to dominate 5G technology. Tencent had become not only the world’s largest video game company, but one of the largest social media platforms. Just 10 years ago, Shenzhen was more infamous for it’s “Shanzhai”, or counterfeit electronics; cheap knockoffs aimed at markets that could not afford the Western originals.

   Shenzhen is also home to “Dafen Village”. Dafen is a painting village. An urban village, or neighborhood, in the middle of the city. It is the place where, at one point, an estimated 60% of the world’s oil paintings were being painted. Hundreds of shops, usually with 2-3 painters working, line the labyrinth of the small streets. Painters overflow into alley ways, stalls, and onto the sidewalks. The surrounding streets have art supplies, framing, and canvas stretching services. It is a biosphere for painting.

    Much of what you see strolling Dafen are copies. Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso – even Keith Haring and Warhol copies sit alongside Chinese favorites Yue Minjun and Chen Wenling. Another big part of what you see is what I call lobby art. The art you see at hotels and office buildings; generic landscapes, florals, abstracts, elephants etc. The art you never notice, because it’s designed to be completely unobtrusive. It only exists because it stands out even less then a completely bare wall. Lastly, there are custom portraits. Wandering through Dafen, you’ll see 40 painters a day staring at cell phone screens, painting wedding and family portraits. I was amazed at how efficient and accurate many of then were. Considering many of them have probably painted 10 hours a day for the past 15 years, it would stand to reason. Painting there seems to be treated more as skilled labor and a source of income than it is as art. The painters range in talent from pretty awful to damn near masterful. The painters at Dafen are like the “Shanzhai” of art. Creating inexpensive knockoffs for a market with more limited budgets.

    I decided to do an experiment at Dafen Village to help me better understand Shenzhen as a city. I brought a poster I had designed to Dafen and hired a painter to copy it. It was a poster I had designed years ago, and as a street artist, I had wheat pasted on countless walls around the world.

I chose the poster for specific reasons; first, it had been created on a computer and had never actually been painted before. Secondly, it was mass produced on a web press, an inexpensive printing method generally used for newspapers. The evolution of knockoffs usually takes something of a relatively high quality and reproduces it in a cheaper or lower quality manner. My experiment was the opposite. I took a cheap mass produced poster and commissioned a hand-painted oil painting on canvas. The mere act of copying it in this manner would create something new.

    I chose a small painting stall at random from the hundreds of shops in Dafen. Inside was a man in his early 20’s. I showed him the poster I wanted copied. Let me preface this by explaining that I speak zero Mandarin, and these painters, for the most part, speak zero English. However, this was 2018 and technology had already solved this problem. WECHAT, the most popular texting app in China, has a built in translator, so here’s how it works: you walk into a shop and display your wechat QR code on your phone. The shop owner scans it, and you become “friends”– now you can talk. When you type the shop owner a message, they can read it in Chinese, and when they reply, you can read it in English. It’s an odd interaction. You’re standing 18 inches from someone, both looking at your phones texting back and forth. It may seem impersonal, but 20 years ago we would not be able to communicate at all and this entire experiment wouldn’t be possible. We agree on a price of $55 USD to make the painting. He tells me it’ll be done in about a week and he’ll text me. Five days later I get a message. The painter boastfully tells me he is finished and the effect is PERFECT! 

   It was better than expected for $55 and the cheap poster was now an oil painting on canvas. By copying the cheap poster, we had actually created something of greater value. The evolution needed to continue though. I walked about 2 blocks, picked another random shop and handed the shop owner my newly received painting along with my phone displaying my QR code. “Can you copy this?” I text. He nodded and quoted me a price. The second painter was now making a copy of a copy. I did this for 7 weeks, picking up each subsequent copy and turning it over to another painter. The third painter copied the second version, the fourth painter copied the third version, and so on. By the sixth painting, I had something very different than what I started with. Even when the goal was to produce a facsimile, we unavoidably, either through miscommunication, artistic license or bad technique, had moved far from the original.

    A friend in China warned me that if I took work to be copied at Dafen it was likely they would continue to copy it. That seemed unlikely to me. I responded, however, “Wouldn’t that be great? The image would continue to evolve and change in ways I would never have considered”. The artist in me appreciates the philosophy of the “Shanzhai” because within it exists the core understanding that imitation fosters innovation. Imitation is a cornerstone of learning, particularly to anyone who’s studied art. My time in Shenzhen forced me to examine these ideas both in art and in the discourse about intellectual property. At the core of both, there is merely an idea. Ideas should not be heirlooms tucked away and preserved or only occasionally observed. Ideas, should be more like children. Something we give the best of ourselves to and send out in the world to change and grow in ways we never imagined. When we look condescendingly upon the forger, or the counterfeit object as a desecration of the original, we are ignoring the possibility of evolution or innovation. We are ignoring that as individuals, or as a generation even, we have finite resources to cultivate an idea. For any idea to continue growing, whether it be cultural or technological, it will need to be taken up by the next individual or generation and fed a new source of perspectives, skill sets, and inspirations.

Shenzhen and it’s Shanzai philosophy are often debased by Western culture. Partially because, in my opinion, it audaciously stands as the apprentice positioned to surpass the master, in part, because it understands copying is the doorway to creating, if you choose to walk through it.

Eddie Colla

New Salvage cans

New salvage cans go on sale January 8th at 9am PST HERE. I made this series of cans when I was in China last year. I had been waiting for supplies to arrive for to start working on larger pieces. The residency where I was had kept all their empty spray cans. I started making these small pieces from the used spray cans. It wasn’t anything I planned, I just had an unexpected amount of free time waiting for my materials to arrive so I worked with what was available. I often make pieces from recycled materials for many reasons. First off I like that I am using material that would otherwise be discarded and end up in a landfill. Also there is a previous history to these objects. A purpose and a separate life that existed before they, by chance, ended up being used to create something new. Their discarded quality mirrors some of the characters i create in the Salvage portraits. It makes more sense to me than a piece of white canvas.

These are 15 individual pieces. They are not editioned multiples. Each is hand done and there is only one of each. They are signed and dated on the bottom of the can.

Street Art City – Lurcy-Lévis, France

In July, I traveled from Paris, with Nite Owl, to Lurcy-Lévis in the center of France to participate in Street Art City. Street Art City is a complex of buildings that were once some kind of training facility for the phone company (or something like that), and has long since been abandoned. About 3 years ago the new owners started inviting urban artists to come to the complex and make murals, do installations and create a room at hotel 128. Hotel 128 is an old dormitory type building containing 128 small individual rooms on 4 floors. Every room has been taken over by an artist. Below is mine.

I worked, as much as possible, with existing materials from the room. Shower doors, broken sinks, clusters of light bulbs. An important aspect for me was to reapply sections of the removed wallpaper over areas of the portraits. I didn’t want these to feel as though they had been installed, but rather that these images were always there, under that veneer of wallpaper. I wanted the images to feel as if they perhaps predated the buildings utilitarian phase and were now, after all these years, uncovered. That idea runs parallel to the idea of the salvage portraits. Presenting not an evolutionary change, but a regression. Presenting atavisms. Traits in people that had long been dormant, strands of DNA that still exist is us, but have become obsolete in a post modern civilization. Traits that still exist under the facade of civilized society, which can be reawakened, given an extreme environmental change.

On the radiator in the room I wrote “Entering a period of consequences” as a sort of warning about the fragility of all these structures we have grown dependent on.

It was an interesting week, surrounded by these images in this tiny room, in an abandoned building miles from anything.

Lurcy-Lévis is centered in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Getting cigarettes was a 90 minute walk round trip. Surrounded by Corn and Cows, an ironic place to showcase urban art. It offers many artists a place to work free from the distractions of ordinary life, urban life; it’s peaceful. That said, places like this scare me, rural places. I am not a country person. It’s too quiet, it gets too dark at night- it’s too summer-camp slasher movie for me. It took some acclamation on my part. But being outside of your comfort zone is always a good thing.

I got to spend some unrushed time with the homies Nite Owl and Rachel Riot. Also got to know a few solid guys from Barcelona Sebastien Waknine, Simón Vázquez and Zeso. Making art is obviously the reason I travel as much as I do. The thing I value the most about that travel is the people I meet, the stories they tell and these unlikely little places like Lurcy-Lévis that I would have never seen if I wasn’t making art

Ambition – Etched Metal Plate Release

As a Pow Wow Hawaii Alumni I was asked to be  part of  1xrun’s Pow Wow Hawaii Print Series this year. I decided to do an edition of the piece I did at Pow Wow 2012.

PW-2012-1

I produced 2 versions of the “Ambition” image as chemical etched metal plates. Each plate is .030″ and 16×20 inches They are available in stainless steel, edition of 100 and Brass edition of 15. Each edition is signed and numbered and comes with a certificate of authenticity from myself and 1xrun. These drop Monday, February 22nd at 12noon PST. The brass edition is available HERE and the stainless steel edition is  HERE

ambition-Combined

The etching process gives the surface an engraved or intaglio of the image which is then filled with paint. I choose this process to give the pieces some weight and dimensionality and create an object more than a print. eddie-colla-ambition-18x24-gold-1xrun-05eddie-colla-ambition-18x24-silver-1xrun-05aeddie-colla-ambition-18x24-silver-1xrun-06a

 

“Can’t breathe The Sky” Print release

Can't-Breathe-the-sky.jpgThis Print drops Tuesday Jan.19th 2016 @10:30am PST. You can get it on Derbby.com HERE

Derbby has a unique model for sales. The print retails for $149, however at the beginning of the sale the price starts at $25 and rises based on the number of sales. Meaning if you get to the site early you can get it for $25-30.

New Print Drop at Derbby.com

I am releasing this new print “No More Prayers to say” tomorrow Dec. 1st at 10:30 PST.  You Can find it HERE

Eddie-Colla--No-More-Prayers-to-say

Derbby has a unique model for sales. The print retails for $149, however at the beginning of the sale the price starts at $25 and rises based on the number of sales. Meaning if you get to the site early you can get it for $25-30.

This piece is a continuation of a body of work called “atavisms” which deals with survival, strength, and adaptability.
All of the pieces in this series are portraits designed to engage the viewer in a very direct way and to reflect upon inner strength.
The text “no more prayers to say” is about wishing away certain inevitabilities. It is about crossing the threshold from a period of danger to a period of consequence.

 

Paris

There is very little to be said about Paris that has not been said before. It is a city of stunning beauty created out of endless care and pride. Rather than attempt to describe it adequately I’ll sum it up in one story.

At the recommendation of my friend Steven Ballinger I had lunch at Musee Jaquemart-Andre. It’s a beautiful place to have lunch. However, at the end of the meal I ordered desert. It was some kind of rose flavored meringue thing. Actually I’m not sure what the fuck it was, the menu was in french and I don’t speak french. What arrived appeared to be more ornamental than edible. It was this beautiful pink and gold sculpture, so beautiful that it seemed wrong to plunge a fork into it and destroy it. I do though, derive some pleasure from doing things that seem wrong. Keep in mind, I am not a foodie in any way. I consider 7-11 a restaurant.  With the first bite still in my mouth everything became clear. I thought “holy shit, if I could bake something like this, I too, would look down at America”. It was that good. It was a fucking pastry that negated 200 years of American exceptionalism. Paris gets things right. Period end of story.

 

Thailand with D Young V and Eddie Colla

Last December D Young V and I decided we would go to Thailand. There wasn’t any real reason for this, but there wasn’t any real reason not to. Bangkok is hot. It’s hot in December, it’s hot at 3am. Bangkok also never stops. It’s busy at noon and it’s busy at 3am. It’s one of those cities that doesn’t require you to have any energy, it has it’s own current. All you have to do is step into it and you’ll get carried along. To that extent the trip seemed less like 16 days and more like one really long day punctuated by intermittent naps. That was 4 months ago. I would describe all the things I did and saw, but it’s a dense kind of  experience and honestly, I don’t remember a lot of it. There is this sort of high humidity fog over that part of my memory and I do remember some things that may not have actually happened. We’re very isolated in the U.S., something I never really cared for. For a few weeks while Dave and I were in Thailand the world was big again. Really big and really strange.

Eddie Colla – “BLNT” Limtited edition boxes and originals at 1xrun.com

I am releasing a new edition at 1xrun.com this coming Tuesday July 22nd at 9am PST. “BLNT” is an edition of 35 wood cradled boxes 10×20 inches. The boxes are treated with and iron based reactive paint and screen printed. After the screen printing is done they are put through a chemical process to rust them.BLNT-2upAngle-2SQ

Each box has an individual brass plate with the title and edition number engraved in it. Each plate goes through and acid bath to crate a unique patina on the brass. Stamp-and-Plate-2 Back

The Back of each piece is has my logo burnt into it with a branding iron and there is also a small note that gives some context to the piece.Detail-SqDue to the organic nature of the rust the pieces vary quite a bit and no 2 are the same. This edition is definitely the most elaborate edition I have done. There are about 9 different processes to go through with the various elements before they are completed. 20140620_120817 20140628_165736 20140701_163750 20140702_142104 20140702_171418 20140702_172908 20140620_120823In Addition to the editioned boxes there are 3 originals that will also go on sale with this drop. Escutcheon-1 Escutcheon-2 escutcheon-4These pieces were the first time I printed on metal. Each image is made up of a series of 11-15 individual prints on aluminum that are screwed together on a latticework.

Everything goes on sale Tuesday July 22nd at 9am PST.

Here’s the link: http://1xrun.com/runs/BLNT_-_Hand-Painted_Multiples_Original_Artwork