There is a balance to symmetry in human forms that is curious. Too little and things seems awkward, deformed, perhaps even ugly. Too much and things seems synthetic, cold, artificial even. We have a very strange relationship with perfection. There is almost certainly a sweet spot of the “right” amount of variation from our left to right sides. This piece is an examination of that embedded sense we have. Our sensitivity to that balance should not be underestimated. It can be the difference between repulsion, attraction or alienation. It is a core part of how we see the world and respond to things.
The odd price, $68.79, for anyone who is curious is simply a numerical analogy. 6:8 :: 7:9. In keeping with idea of things being symmetrical and/or analogous
Each can comes with a numbered, embossed steel dog tag and is also signed and numbered by hand on the bottom of the can.
Archival pigment print on 300 gr Moab Entrada Rag Matte Fine Art Paper
edition size 50
Signed and numbered
“Sign 1” HPM Edition of 5
11×14 inches (28x36cm)
Archival pigment print on 300 gr Moab Entrada Rag Matte Fine Art Paper
Hand worked with iridescence acrylic, pencil and prisma color
edition size 5
Signed and numbered
Sometimes I make an image that I am always referring back to. This is one of those images. For as many times as I have tried to describe what it is that haunts me about this one, I have never been able to adequately describe why. These are the ones I never let go of because for me personally I can’t really ever unravel the draw. In my opinion, on a very basic level that is what art is for. To communicate something or evoke something that you couldn’t otherwise express with words or by some other means. I’ve never been able to translate this piece into a coherent explanation. It is solitary experience . Which is what makes it meaningful to me.
In the Spring of this year, when there were massive PPE shortages among frontline COVID workers, I started contacting friends in China, Hong Kong and Cambodia to see if I could buy masks and supplies to donate to some of the hardest hit areas. While the United States government dragged its feet, unable to offer even basic protection to health care and other essential workers, I, as an ordinary citizen, was able to purchase around 1000 masks and distribute them to hospitals in need. It wasn’t particularly difficult, this administration simply lacked the will to protect the very people who were keeping us safe and risking their own well being. I spoke with hospital workers at the time who were reusing disposable masks for 4-5 days of 12 hour shifts. The very people who risked their own health everyday to keep us safe could not even be provided with the most basic items to allow them to perform their work safely.
This print “Forsake” is in response to that experience. “After forsaking you, they will call you hero in their speeches” is written across each image. It’s indicative of the sanctimonious gestures of this administration and politicians in general. While the essential workers were little more than an afterthought, their efforts are co-opted as public relations campaigns for leaders who failed to lead.
1Xrun and myself will use 100% of the purchase price of these to procure PPE and distribute it this coming Fall. Many in the medical field have suspected there may be a second wave of COVID this Fall. If I have learned anything from the Spring, it is not to assume this administration has any sort of plan or is even moderately prepared for this. Together, 1xrun and myself would like to be out in front of this and help. Should there be a second wave, the funds from the sale of this work will have created a small stockpile of PPE that we can quickly distribute to the facilities that need them most. That is the very least we can offer in appreciation of the relentless efforts of frontline workers.
By purchasing this print you are actually purchasing PPE to keep these workers safe and helping us stay prepared for the coming months.
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?
“Without Excuse” is a piece I made while I was at the Jardin Orange artist residency in Shenzhen, China in 2018.
I spent a lot of time in Shenzhen, roaming around abandoned buildings collecting old signs and posters and billboards. I don’t read Chinese, so I had no idea what was written on any of these things. I also never asked anyone to interpret any of it until pieces were completed. What I was trying to do was tell something about a place through what was discarded or left behind, while also juxtaposing that with some of my salvage portraits. Much of the material in this piece came from an abandoned office building at the beginning of August 2018. By the time I left Shenzhen, the building was well on it’s way to being apartments. Things change fast in Shenzhen.
The original piece is 50×66 inches (125 x 168cm) on a section of vinyl billboard I found being used as a tarp in the abandoned office building. The title “Without Excuse” comes from the line of small text just to the left of the figures head which literally says “Refuse to accept excuse” which was pinned to an office wall. The large main text in red and blue translates as “wonderful exquisite life”. Additional pieces collaged onto the piece read “Crane for rent”, “Make more money”, “Good business and prosperity”, and there is even a small newspaper headline about “President Xi”. In some ways these discarded things do describe the ethos of Shenzhen. Shenzhen was China’s first Special Economic Zone, an experiment by China with market capitalism. It is literally a manufactured city. In 1979 in was little more then a fishing village with a population of 60,000. 40 years later, it is a city of 13 million and the manufacturing center of the world. Shenzhen is at the center of China’s exponential economic growth. It is a boomtown like no other. In many ways the random text I collected illustrate the dream that Shenzhen presented; hard work, wealth, business development. In that sense, it was my most successful experiment in telling the story of a place by combining random discarded things. Things whose meanings were only told to me after the piece was finished. The addition of the Salvage portrait makes the piece a cautionary tale about the fragility of that unbridled growth. The age old boom to bust scenario that we never really seem to accept as more than coincidental or circumstantial.
Each of these prints have been hand painted and contain the number of the edition in Chinese characters at the bottom right corner. Near the left edge, the edition number is also painted into the existing background in English. Making these 40 variations was one of the most enjoyable studio projects I have done in recent years.
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.
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
These pieces go on sale May 14th at 9am PST. Cacophony is 18×18 inches laser cut 3/4 inch acrylic stacked in 3 layers. GFL-5 is an 18×18 inch print on 290gsm Moab fine art paper. They are available HERE
ABOUT THE PIECES
The Goldfish girl (who is the same
character as the bike girl) was created almost a decade ago. I often
revisit it, and she has been longest continuing character I’ve
created. I often write back stories for these characters to help me
create the pieces, but they are generally never shared with the
The Goldfish girl was born in mainland China, and raised mostly by a single father. Her mother passed away when she was 18 months old from cancer. She was often very ill as a child, and was eventually diagnosed with a compromised immune system disorder, although a precise diagnosis was never given. However, something even as harmless as a common cold would escalate to further respiratory complications or pneumonia rather quickly as her body had no defense mechanism against these things. This is the reason for always wearing the mask and gloves. She was hospitalized often and resuscitated several times as a child. As a result, she could not attend school with other children and was home schooled by her father.
Her father bred
Goldfish for a living and taught her that trade as a kid. They worked
side by side and rarely had visitors because of her condition.
Goldfish rarely occur in nature, and are actually a result of a
genetic mutation in silver carp. Because of their beautiful color and
rarity, they began being bred and sold about 1500 years ago. They
are, for the most part, a result of steering the hand of nature.
Often being extremely ill and also losing her mother made her childhood difficult. As most children do, she tried to find a reason for her misfortune, a reason for why all this had happened to her and her father. Eventually, she believed that her illness and her mother’s cancer were a punishment by nature. A curse for toying with nature by breeding goldfish. Her family had toyed with nature, and she believed that now, nature was toying with them. She never shared that thought with her father because she felt it would indirectly place the blame for all this misfortune on him.
When she was 11 and
extremely ill and hospitalized, she asked her father “Why don’t I
just give up? This is too hard. I think we need to accept that this
is my fate; it is my fate to die” Her father became angry and
replied “Fate? Do you know what fate is? It is the result of a life
unattended, it is what happens when you do nothing” He needed to
give her a reason to keep trying, a challenge. He continued “We can
cheat fate, create our own fate and all you have to do to cheat fate
is live another day. Every day that you do that, you have won, not
That was the conversation that shaped
the rest of her life, that was her mission, to survive and deny
nature its punishment.
Eventually, her father passed away as well. Needing to make a living and also to taunt fate she illegally immigrated to Hong Kong. There is a famous goldfish market in Mong Kok on Tung Choi street, but it’s commonly called goldfish street. With a compromised immune system the most dangerous thing to her was other people. As a challenge to fate she moved to one of the most densely populated cities in the world. She got a stall on Tung Choi street. This is her challenge, to taunt fate and win, becoming the master of her own fate.
These images are vignettes of her life in Hong Kong. I’ve never given the character a name. Often the pieces are accompanied by the text “I have a name, but it doesn’t matter” That phrase is to express her belief that life is not about who we are, life is about what we do. She is pictured always alone. Sometimes she is on a bike as crowded public transportation poses to big a risk. Sometimes she is pictured with a boombox because music becomes a central companion to her mostly solitary life. In the piece Cacophony I wanted her to literally be surrounded by the city. There are many more specifics to the story, but I wanted this character to be a vehicle for ideas about self determination, finding meaning in life and playing the hand you are dealt even when it’s a piss poor hand. In some way I think I tried to create a character that embodied a lot of traits I aspire to. To remind myself.
Radio Yau Ma Tei is my newest that I created specifically for release at 1xrun. After talking with Jesse at 1xrun we decide we wanted to do something different from a typical limited edition. These print started out as giclees on 300lb acid free water color paper. After that there were really embellished in a lot of different ways. Every print was drawn on with pencils, markers and mop pens and part of the image were overpainted with acrylics. They were then tea stained and airbrushed in 6 different colors. At this point the prints were distressed using sandpaper and steel wool and the text was screen printed onto the image. The test roughly translates as “I have a name but it doesn’t matter”
In addition to the 20 embellished prints there were an additional 3 prints made with the text gold leafed in 22kt gold. This print will be released on 1xrun.com on April 25th. You can see it here