This LA based street artist is about to open his second solo show "The Sweetest Thing" at the LA based Corey Helford August 23rd. We got a chance to ask him about his upcoming show, what it's like to date a porn star, and how he goes about creating new work.
Age? Location? Artistic education? I'm 29, I live in Hollywood California, and I went to USC for Business Administration and Fine Art.
Business Admin? Did you learn anything in those classes that have helped the business side of your career? Any advice in that realm for someone maybe just started out? I think about the business classes I took nearly every day. I'm both an artist and a small business owner. And my idols like Warhol and Murakami have a very strong sense of business. There are lots of good quotes from Warhol, but one that I like is: "Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art." And Murakami said that the contract he signed with Louis Vuitton will be confidential for 100 years, but once its released, it will be the best piece of art he's ever made.
You're show "The Sweetest Thing" opens up on August 23rd at Corey Helford in LA. What can we expect from this show and why is it up for only a week? Why such the short run?
Last year with Corey Helford I did a very ambitious installation, along with a few paintings and prints. This time around, I'm putting all my energy into the paintings. I may or may not do a site-specific mural. I haven't decided yet. I really like this new body of work. I'm excited for people to see how my vision and technique have expanded. As for it only being up for a week, that's just how the scheduling worked out. With all the other details to concentrate on, that's one detail that I haven¹t thought much about.
What's with all the pink? Why do you think you're so drawn to the color? The particular shade of pink that I use is pretty much the best color I can think of. It pretty much addresses all the things I love, and that sometimes come in that color, like girls, ice cream, heavy metal, etc.
Pink heavy metal? Well, the shade of pink that I use is the most heavy metal shade that I could come up with. Metal isn't always black.
What was it that inspired you to take the name Buff Monster and why such a sexually explicit artist name? That's what the ladies call me, and it just kind of stuck.
How much of your work is based on sex these days? I actually don't think any of it is based on sex. Yes, there are nipples and mounds and squirts, but that's not what its about. I wouldn't describe my work as sexual.
Do you have any more porn installation projects in the works like the one we saw in Denver? No. That was the idea of Hyland, the gallery director. It was rad. But all in all, I've moved on from porn. I got in, met people, worked on photo and video shoots, dated a porn girl, and moved on. One of my really good buddies still works at Vivid, but we never ever talk about porn.
Dated a porn girl?! What was that like? Ever get jealous or anything? The first time I got her in bed she said, "I can't have sex with you." And I said, "what?" she replied, "yeah, I don't have sex with civilians. I get tested all the time but you don't." Well, obviously we still did it. Anyway, at first it was totally awesome, and then much like my entire experience with the porn world, it went down hill pretty fast. I have a ton of crazy stories from those 3 months, but trust me, the fantasy is so much better than the reality. So now, I stick to strippers.
Describe your process of creating a new piece. For my upcoming show at Corey Helford, I've taken to mocking up pieces to scale in Illustrator. Each piece is different, of course, but most have a strong central shape. So I draw it in illustrator, and mock up and other main elements, and once I'm convinced that it's the best expression of the idea, I print it out. I cut out the shape and place it on the panel, measuring to make sure everything is centered and even. Then I go about filling in shapes, and silk-screening as necessary. I use lots and lots of paper stencils so that identical elements are as similar as possible. Everything is mocked-up or sketched out to scale before I paint it. I have developed a real surface fetish, so I meticulously plan how the layers will lay down and interact. I have spent so much more time on these new pieces than I ever have before. I might spend half a day just trying to figure out how I'm going to produce one of these pieces.
What materials do you normally work in? I paint in acrylics and silkscreen certain elements as necessary.
If you had to explain your work to a stranger, how would you do it? I'd say that I make happy, fun, ridiculous compositions that are executed with the ut-most attention to detail.
I know you were doing some work with Helio Magazine for a bit but have not seen anything new in a while. What is going on with that mag... Still kickin? The Helio mag was fun project to work on. I was the Creative Director/Art Director/Designer. We got a really good response from the magazine, but I think that it got a little too pricey for Helio to maintain. So after 7 issues, we called it quits. That was like 8 months ago. Hopefully a new magazine will pop up for me to work on soon. I've worked in magazines for like 7 years now. I like putting together magazines.
How long have you lived where you live and what brought you there? I moved to LA 11 years ago to attend USC. After graduating I lived in Santa Monica for a few years, then I moved to Hollywood. I like my place here. It's so close to everything. My friends tell me that I've outgrown my apartment, but the location is so good, and I have so much stuff, I just can't put my head around moving.
What do love most about living in Los Angeles? I can walk to most everywhere I need to go. Which, in LA, is quite a treat. Two years ago when I had a full-time magazine job, I even walked there.
Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Hawaii. It's a weird place. I moved to LA with no intention of returning.
If I came down to LA for a visit what would we do/ where would you take me? We'd probably eat at one of my favorite restaurants close-by, and then get some awesome dessert, and then probably go by Jumbo's Clown Room for a drink. Or to Cheetahs.
Ever feel like you are getting too old for a mullet-hawk? It's massive. Do you think I'm too old? The thought has never crossed my mind.
What are you really excited about right now? I have been so excited about Garbage Pail Kids for the last few weeks. And it's really influenced my new paintings. I just bought a paint rough from the OG artist John Pound, for a card from '87. I bought an original pencil sketch from '86 in 2001 and wanted to have something actually painted by the man himself (Topps has the final artwork, until they put it on ebay). I've recently acquired almost every card from the first 15 series, complete sets of all 7 of the new series, as well as foreign cards, and color negatives from the 1st series cards. I won an unscored proof card on eBay today. I might try to win another one in the next couple days.
What would your Garbage Pail Kid card be like if you were featured? I really don't know. I'm a purist, and I'd like Garbage Pail Kids to be their own thing. I'd love to do a series of cards inspired by them, but with my own style.
When are you the most productive? During the week, everyone else is working, so I have to respond to emails and do things. But 10 to midnight on weekday nights is my favorite time to paint, because Loveline is on. Other than that, weekends and holidays are key! The last holiday weekend we had, I didn't leave my apartment complex for 4 days.
Favorite trip taken? I think I've seen more of this country and the rest of the world than anyone else I know. Too many trips to consider.
Music? Heavy metal, of course. It's pretty much all I listen to. I used to really like European Power Metal, but in the last 8 months, I've really taken to slower, muddier stuff. I guess you'd call it stoner metal or something. I still find Black Metal totally awesome and inspiring. I have a small stack of CDs next to my CD player that always get me in the mood to work: Dark Fortress, Celtic Frost, Hellhammer, Iron Maiden, Fireball Ministry, Dimmu Borgir, Satyricon, Pentagram, Witchcraft. I listen to those CDs over and over. I love 'em.
What were you like in high school? I went to a Top Ten prep school. I studied really hard and did graffiti every weekend. No drugs, no alcohol, no girls. I've still never done any drugs, or even smoked a cigarette. I have maybe 2 drinks a month, if that. I'm committed to a healthy and very productive lifestyle.
Still playing with Vinyl toys? I wouldn't say "playing" but yes, I "collect." Mostly kaiju toys from Japan. I love 'em. And some Western vinyl figures. But, like everything else, I'm really picky. Only if its really awesome will I throw down money on it.
Upcoming projects and/ or upcoming shows, etc...? My show at Corey Helford on August 23rd is all I'm working on. Day and night I'm painting. After that, I might be doing some signings in Asia, but that's not confirmed yet.
"The Sweetest Thing"
Opening Reception Saturday, August 23, 2008 from 7 to 10pm
On View August 23 until September 2, 2008
Corey Helford Gallery
8522 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232
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