Found a few minutes to post some stuff..
I did a small friends and family preview of my upcoming show last week (The Chung has his account here). Turned out awesome with people coming from L.A., SD, O.C., and of course the I.E. I had about half the pieces up on my studio walls hung salon style, and the next day I ended up reworking many of the pieces I thought were finished.
I’m almost done with my show, still painting but not too far behind now. My intern Aaron and I just finished building the giant crate to hold almost everything for my NYC show. It went pretty smoothly, we built it in a few hours, and my schematics actually worked out. It’s pretty big, we’re naming it “Tha Muthaship”. I’ll be posting a few preview images in here before the show opens Sept. 8.
I’m also in a show curated by Marsea Goldberg (of New Image Art) in London’s Leonard Street Gallery. The show is called “Those Bloody Yanks” and it’s a group show coinciding with The Date Farmer’s solo show. Some of my favorite artists are in this show, I wish I could get out there. London looks awesome. Maybe a good city for my next solo show....
Here’s my painting for the exhibit-
“California Dreaming” 18” x 24” acrylic on wood panel, 2007.
Aaron Mason has been making the news lately with his art and the shows he’s been working on. Here’s an article from the Press Enterprise. Him and Jason Gallo are curating a show called “Give Me 5 on the Downlow” where each artist has 5 pieces and everythings priced at $100. For more info read the article. The kid’s getting some good press, click to make the image bigger:
Last, here’s an interview I just did with getunderground.com. I usually don’t post interviews but thought, what the hey, there’s some stuff in here that’s relevant to my newer work.
Jeff Soto’s Incredibly Strange Creatures
07.31.07 - by: Matt Dukes Jordan
You're one of the established Los Angeles lowbrow/pop surrealist artists and yet you're relatively new on the scene. I admired your work when I saw it at La Luz de Jesus gallery in LA. When did you begin showing your work and where?
I don’t really feel like I’m new to the scene out here. In fact sometimes I feel like an old guy in a sea of new talent. It’s been about seven years since I first started showing my work in L.A. at places like La Luz and New Image Art. When I think back, Camille Rose Garcia and I were hung on the wall next to each other at a La Luz group show and for both of us it was our first introduction to L.A. galleries. That was 2000 and then she went on to her first solo show at Merry Karnowsky. I always think that’s cool that an artist I respect so much got started in the same show on the same wall. But yeah, after that I started showing a lot in L.A. and had my first solo show at New Image Art, a couple days before September 11, 2001. So I feel like I’ve been around for a while.
Before the Los Angeles galleries I did what everyone else does to get experience- show in local spots and coffee shops and send out samples to galleries. I’d been doing that since 1993 so I’ve been actively showing my work for the last 14 years.
When was your first show at Jonathan LeVine in New York? And what was the reception like in New York?
My first NY show was in February 2005 but I’d been working with Jonathan for a few years before that when he was still in Philadelphia. The New York reception was pretty crazy, I’d taken a year and a half off from art shows to help with our newborn and had no idea what to expect. I thought maybe no one would show up. I got there 30 minutes before the opening and there were people lined outside the door. A lot of people turned out even though it was a very cold night. I was really happy the way everything turned out.
Your primary form seems to be painting, but your work lends itself to installation works and sculptural pieces. What appeals about other forms and how much do you see yourself moving in other directions and into new formats?
After my next show with Jonathan in September I’m going to take some time off from painting. I do plan on making some sculptural works, I don’t know if they’ll ever be seen, I just feel like I need to expand a bit and try some mediums I’m uncomfortable with. I have a page-long list of ideas and projects to work on after September. I need to experiment and try some new things. hopefully some good work will come of it. I might start work on a giant installation. I'm going to try to keep things free and unfettered.
Ever think about doing animation work? Have you been approached about doing that?
Yeah, I want to do something with animation, either on my own or with a studio. I've been contacted, I just haven’t had time to sit down and brainstorm lately. I would love to see some of my visions come to life, in fact I can picture how everything moves while I’m painting them. It’s just time, I never seem to have enough of it. But it's one of the things I want to work on in 2008.
What kinds of more purely commercial work do you do and what got you into that? And -- does it pay the bills or does fine art? And do you find yourself being overly directed and having to tone things down and change things to make them more acceptable and appealing?
Right now I’m not taking any commercial jobs because luckily my paintings and prints are paying the bills. I don’t mind illustration work, I was trained as an illustrator, but I prefer to work with my own ideas and deadlines. Most of the commercial work lately has been clients that want to use my fine art and include me in the project somehow rather than just hiring me to paint an image. Seems like that’s the trend lately, to use the artists’ vision and then include their name and a profile on the company’s website. It’s sort of like an endorsement, which could be good or bad depending on the company. Some companies offer you less money because they say you’ll get “exposure”, which is just a way for them to pay you less. Companies are shady man, always trying to get what they can for as cheap as possible. So I try to keep some integrity with where and how my artwork is seen. But on the other hand, if they have a nice budget and it’ll pay my bills for a while, I am more willing to bend. I just did a big job for Extra gum that will pay all our bills for the next 6 months, and I didn’t have to bend much at all. It was art directed of course but they know what I bring to the table and worked out pretty good and it was fun. Overall though, I’m doing more of my paintings and drawings, and supplementing lost illustration income with selling screenprints and giclees of my work..
Your work often includes images of civilization gone awry -- especially industrialized civilization. Where does this vision of the world come from?
I think growing up with the threat of global nuclear war with Russia really freaked me out as a kid. It was a big concern; I can’t tell you how many nights I went to bed wide awake listening for missiles launching or B-52 taking off from March Air Force Base which was nearby. I also grew up with movies like Red Dawn, Nausicaa, Terminator, cartoons like Thundar the Barbarian, and I read a lot of books as a kid- there was this one called Swan Song that really had an impact on me. I was both fascinated and terrified. I think some of these fears come out in my work, and in a lot of ways they’re still real world possibilities. It’s not that far fetched that sometime in the next 50 years (maybe even 10 years) that a nation will use nuclear force. It could be us, it could be North Korea, it could be anyone crazy enough or desperate enough. Of course a more urgent problem could be global warming which eventually will have some severe impacts on our planet. Either way, I see some bad shit going down on Earth unless we collectively change our ways. I try to include these things in my work because I feel as artists we are responsible for change. My work is not overly political, but it’s in there and I hope to help make a difference, even if it’s just a few people looking into things further. I'd like the world to be a better place for my daughter.
You live in LA. What part of LA? And how does that influence your work.
Actually, I don’t live in L.A. really. I’m about an hour’s drive due east in a city called Riverside; to me it doesn’t matter though, it’s all a big urban sprawl. I’ve sorta grown up in the shadow of L.A., I’m out there all the time but have never lived in the city. It’s definitely had an impact on my style- early on it was seeing cholo graffiti and then the hip hop variety. We used to make pilgrimages to L.A. to paint graffiti and take photos. Of course when the whole “lowbrow” scene started happening I took all that in too. I remember when La Luz was still on Melrose. That place used to creep me out. Many of us artists have influenced each other, and it’s great to be in an area with so many people connected to the scene. There’s openings every weekend, sometimes too many to see them all.
You attended Art Center Pasadena. Who were some of your teachers and how did they influence or teach you?
I had some excellent teachers including Jason Holley, Rob and Christian Clayton, Alex Gross, Maria Rendon, I could list five or six more that helped out. College isn’t for everyone, but Art Center was good for me, it helped kick start some things that I’d been struggling with. Before Art Center I’d been at community college for about 6 years, trying unsuccessfully to get illustration work and show in galleries. I was mostly showing in coffee shops, and doing artwork for t-shirts and bands. I felt stuck in a dead end so decided to apply to a real art school when I was 24. I came in as a pretty strong painter thanks to all those community college art classes so I concentrated on learning to be a professional artist and expand upon what I already knew. The teachers I had there, they helped me with the business side of things, they helped me meet the right people, helped get me in shows. Stylistically, it’s impossible not to be influenced and I’m sure I was unknowingly seeing what they were doing and taking bits and pieces. And I think that's okay when you're a student or fresh out of college as long as your work evolves into something original eventually.
Still in touch with your teachers?
Yeah but not as much as I’d like. Everyone’s so busy. I thought being an artist I’d have all kinds of leisure time but I work 7 days a week.
What other interests do you pursue beyond art? Sports? Retro culture? Collecting? Hot rods? Vintage toys?
I have a lot of different hobbies but I never really get deeply into anything these days. I have a nice cacti and succulent collection, but it takes a lot of upkeep and I’ve been bad at it lately. I used to collect: marbles, rocks, Garbage Pail Kids, comics, coins. Now I collect mostly fine art prints, some original paintings, some vinyl toys. I like watching baseball. Angels are doing pretty good this year. And I like to bird watch.
Will humans last or will the species become extinct and a new species arise to replace humans -- perhaps some kind of humanoid lizard or insect? If so, will they ever be able to play rock music?
Haha, I have no idea. I like the insectoid-human idea. Rock music has too much funk for insects. They’d play more Yanni type stuff.
What is your favorite kind of music?
I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately and I don’t have the answer. I grew up in the 80’s so I like everything from rap to rock to punk. I probably have pretty bad taste in music.
Lowbrow -- hate the term? What do you prefer? What past art movements make sense as movements? What if you were Reginald Marsh and someone called you part of the Ashcan School? Would it bug you? How about being called one of the Hairy Who?
I don’t hate the term, I understand where it’s coming from but I’m not sure it’s the right label for this entire movement anymore. I think lowbrow fits in with some of the earlier pioneers of the genre, they weren’t being accepted or respected by galleries of the time; they were the opposite of highbrow. It’s a different atmosphere nowadays. Art that would be labeled Lowbrow in the past is selling in those same high brow galleries for big bucks. Look at Barry McGee, Banksy, Takashi Murakami, no one can say they’re Lowbrow. I think there's a broad movement going on here but I don’t know how to classify it or what it’s boundaries are. The influences started out as surf culture, hot rods, and comics but has spread to skateboarding, hip hop graffiti, tattooing, anime and pop culture in general. The thing that holds it all together is that most of the artists work in a narrative and make representational imagery. There’s probably about ten mini-movements. But in a way it doesn’t matter at this point. I think it’s too early. Most of the artists involved are still young, everyone’s work will be different in a decade. I don’t know where I fit in and it doesn’t worry me. Some group me in with the street artists but I haven’t done graffiti for seven years now. I’m not into tikis or hot rods, I’ve never done a rock poster and sometimes I could care less about my work being made into a toy. Am I lowbrow? I don’t know. I just feel very lucky that I can do my thing and get paid for it. I’ll let the art critics figure things out twenty years from now.
Plans for the future?
For now my entire future is focused on September 8th. I'm working hard on pieces for the show and so far I'm proud of what I'm doing. After September there are a lot of unfinished projects and ideas to jump back into. I’m thinking about working a lot bigger, maybe doing some murals if I can find the right walls. I also want to start showing overseas. I’ll probably take a break for a year or two from showing in U.S. galleries and see some of the world. And we’ll be working on kidlet #2 in 2008 so that should keep our hands full for a while!
Matt Dukes Jordan is the author of a book that offers a comprehensive history of the lowbrow/pop surrealist movement-- Weirdo Deluxe: The Wild World of Pop Surrealism and Lowbrow Art, Chronicle Books, SF, 2005. Contact him at Dukesink@aol.com