The Eighties Are So Nineties...Today One To Grow On Gallery 1988
Photos by Daneil Belis
Interviews by Nathan Solis
The Uncanny David Chung
*Having the expression of someone who had just been ambushed, David Chung doesn’t come across as a guy who wants fame and fortune. He just wants to make people laugh.
Smashed Chair: Before a gallery like this was even on the market, how would you explain your work?
David Chung: Probably with light humor. Pretty much humor is what I use. No deep meanings, I just want people to smile and laugh.
SC: Are you a child of the eighties?
David: You know what, I’m more of a child of today. I’ll always remain a child - I just don’t grow up. I guess a little bit of the eighties… from then till now.
SC: Making it as an artist in L.A – are you a starving artist?
David: Yes and no. I’ve got a full time job at an animation studio. And I do this at night. So, drinking red bulls and vodka keeping me awake right now. I don’t think I’m starving.
The Incredible Brandon Bird
*Brandon Bird told more people that he was the artist of his work more than he did anything else on the opening night of the gallery. People walked by four Ninja Turtles surrounding a crying Natalie Portman and laughed. Normally, you don’t find the artist in the same city as their work. But Bird was right next to his work, with a big childish smile.
Smashed Chair: What inspired you to put Natalie Portman with the Ninja Turtles?
Brandon Bird: When I was a child, about 3, I was scared – not of gorillas, but guys in gorilla costumes. I knew it was a guy in a costume, but still it scared me. Once I was at an ice cream shop with my family, and a guy in a gorilla suit came in with balloons and I freaked out and ran into the bathroom. My mom made him take off his mask and explain he was juts a guy in costume. So anyway, that’s sort of the way that the idea morphed into. I didn’t want to paint a guy in a gorilla costume, but I wanted it to be like four guys in Ninja Turtles costumes. And I was trying to think of someone who is normally kind of a straight arrow, someone who is unflappable. And I was like Natalie Portman, with four guys in Ninja Turtles costumes.
SC: You met Stan Lee at your last gallery. What was that like?
Brandon: He was complimentary, and nice and a cool dude. That painting (Spider-Man having a pillow fight with J. Jonna Jameson) was meant to be for that show and I got the idea when I was already doing Magneto (Magneto Holding baby chicks.) So, I said I’d hold this off. And I wanted that for that show, because J. Jonna Jameson is supposedly his favorite character.
SC: Did you like the Transformers movie?
Brandon: Transformers movie was stupid and also awesome.
SC: I feel the same way.
Brandon: They made a movie about the Transformers (pause) and that’s awesome.
SC: Right, the producers were Hasbro!
Brandon: Yeah. And the Transformers look pretty cool and they’re walking around and transforming. And also the old cartoon was kind of stupid. Some of the episodes were a little…
SC: A little Go-Bots.
Brandon: I think I still prefer the original Transformers movie.
SC: The uh… Leonard Nemoy.
Brandon: You know, maybe they’ll do a live action version of that.
SC: Maybe a space opera?
SC: Are you a starving artist here in L.A.?
Brandon: I’m sort of a well-fed artist. I mean, I’m making my living off of it, so far so good. And I think that Los Angeles is definitely a place where people can do that. Like where you can find your niche a bit more and where people can buy your art. I come from the Bay Area and no one else had any idea of what I was doing. So, I guess come to the west coast.
The Amazing Ken Garduno
*Didn’t we all doodle as kids – you know, drawing in the margins of our books’? Ken Garduno puts his more moody work aside for drawings he dreamed of as a kid. And then he beats up his childhood limits, like some sort of grown up bully.
Smashed Chair: Is it weird that the eighties is being represented in this market?
Ken Garduno: No, there is resurgence in everything eighties right now. People are really into it.
SC: You have one particular piece, a spy action figure, what was the inspiration for that?
Ken: It’s almost like an idea I had when I was a kid and it all sort of popped back into my head again. Stuff like that, I went back and redid it, because I didn’t have the skill back then.
SC: Would you say that it’s easy to make a living in the L.A. area as an artist?
Ken: Not at first. It’s gets better.
SC: What’s your day job?
Ken: I’m freelance. I do stuff for newspapers.
SC: I just have to ask you, being an adult, do you still have action figures lined up on shelves?
Ken: Boxes and boxes of stuff. I mean, they’re not on my walls, but in boxes.
The Ludicrous Rich Tuzon
*Did anybody really want to be recognized that night? Rich Tuzon, sort of hiding from us, had a smile on his face that stretched from one side of the room to the next. His surprise at the request of an interview only made his cup of Dewar’s in hand all the more artist like and celebratory.
Smashed Chair: Being an artist in L.A. – is it an easy task doing that here?
Rich Tuzon: I moved around a little bit. I moved from Thailand when I was five or six
and then I moved to Chicago and then I moved to L.A. I mean that a lot of my stuff is going to be about the culture shock – east meets west. I’m using the samurai and the cowboy. Sort of like the spaghetti western stuff. That’s sort of present in my paintings.
SC: The eighties and that niche market – don’t you think that it’s kind of weird?
Rich: No way!
SC: In terms of graphic artists and online comics and illustrators and gallery guys like yourself – do you think it’s separate groups or one big community?
Rich: To me it’s just one big community. I just go to shows, and interact. I don’t pigeon holed anything.
The Amazing Israel Sanchez
* Israel Sanchez draws whimsical images with a childlike fairytale feeling. And it makes us wonder why our books as kids weren’t like this. Imagine our shock when we found him not wearing any wizard hat or riding a unicorn.
Smashed Chair: Your work, the whimsy of it all, is it being more accepted?
Israel Sanchez: I think it is being more accepted. There is the Gallery Nucleus, more illustrations work is being more accepted. Work doesn’t have to be so serious now, it’s stuff that people can have fun with.
SC: Is it possible to be an artist in L.A.?
Israel: Yeah. It’s one of the premiere places for people to see artwork and with so many galleries around here.
SC: What’s your day job?
Israel: Freelance. I do stuff for Nickelodeon magazine and a couple of animation studios around here. Whatever jobs I can get.
SC: Getting your name out, what was it like at first and what is it like now?
Israel: I guess it’s really easy that I can get my name out, because I’m doing something that I like and if enough people like that too, will like it too.
SC: Has anyone ever compared you to Samurai Jack?
Israel: Yeah, like that Cartoon Network style. It’s just that a lot of people are working in animation right now.
SC: Are there any online comics that you would recommend?
Israel: I’ve done work at Flycomics.com. Illustrations, but not only comics and it’s a good online community.