In anticipation of our print release of "Afterdeath" by Brian Viveros, we sat down with the man himself in order to discuss exhibiting internationally, what his art represents and most importantly of all; food.
Static Medium: This piece was a part of your Bulletproof series for the Moniker Art Fair with Thinkspace Gallery which debuted in London this past October. Was this your first time exhibiting in Europe? If you could show your work anywhere in the world, where would you choose? Does showing in a different country/culture affect your inspiration or what you decide to create?
Brian: This was my first time exhibiting a NEW full set & body of work in the UK. I actually started out showing in Europe in Switzerland doing a show with H.R.Giger and then went on to have my first solo in Switzerland in 2005. Man I sound so old now. >;-)
If I could show my work anywhere in the world hmmm, I think Dislandia, it's a very small dirty place hard to find, HA just kidding maybe not but really I'd like to show in Switzerland again where I had my first solo exhibition. Be nice to return and give some love back to where I started.
Yeah, sometimes it can. I may want to incorporate colors from that country or certain vibe but for the most part I try not to think to much about it and focus on giving a powerful body of work.
Static Medium: This exhibit featured several firsts for you including a double portrait, some larger full-bodied works, and "Afterdeath" in particular didn't include your signature cigarette or cigar. Was there a conscious decision from the beginning to create the piece without a cigarette, and does the exclusion of one symbolize anything in particular to you?
Brian: When I was creating AFTERDEATH I really was just focused on a softer tone color palette for my signature skull helmet wearing muerte queen. It’s really weird how that one came together the way it did. So soft and powerful that when I got to the mouth I felt like a smoke or cigar would be forced and she didn't seem to need it so ya go with it. I think sometimes there's more to tell without the smoke and it shows my growth as an artist; that it's still a Viveros piece even without the cigarette.
Static Medium: Speaking of exhibits, you have an exhibition coming up this November at Spoke Art Gallery NYC. Can you share any juicy details on what we can expect, or is all still under wraps?
Brian: Shhh If I tell you, I’d have to kill you HA! Still under wraps but it is the BIG Apple so have to go BIG!
Static Medium: Your pieces often feature strong juxtapositions and stronger women. Life and death depicted through blossoming flowers, skulls and war. Strength and beauty in the form of women overcoming injury and facing challenges head on. As their creator, can you tell us a bit about the women you paint?
Brian: My entire Dirtyland world is all about the POWER of WOMEN inspired by the positive depiction of women: their beauty, their strength, their power, their resilience; the Dirtyland is kind of an ass-kicking matriarchy! In my world, the women I create are never victims, they've been through it all, they're always the ones standing tall, standing VICTORIOUS!!
Static Medium: We saved the most important questions for last. I know you're passionate about your Mexican food. What's your go-to meal when you're ordering something to eat, and do you have any favorite spots in the Socal area?
Brian: Ah, I've been waiting for this one brutha>-) I keep it simple at first, I always start with the tacos. You can tell a lot about a mexican restaurant from their tacos. If the tacos are good then I order more food. I love me a good chile relleno and a carne asada burrito but what's most important is you have to have good hot sauce. It can be red or it can be green but it better be fuckin good! Nothing makes me more angry than a bad salsa or hot sauce to ruin your meal. I'm hoping to explore more mexican food joints in LA when I'm out that way with my homies from Static but in my old hood of Riverside I loved the carnitas tacos at Tios Tacos on Mission in Riverside. Homemade tortillas and the meat was incredible. Not to mention it's crazy outdoor museum type place you can explore and eat with giant dia de los meurtos skeletons on bikes and giant figures made of beer cans and bottles.
Stay Dirty Static Medium and thanks for another kick-ass print!
Static Medium: Thank you so much Brian! Also, a huge thanks to all of our readers and fans. "Afterdeath" will be available in our shop Saturday, April 21st at 10:00am PST.
Static Medium: The original painting of “Fall” is quite massive at 72” x 33”, though I know it’s common for you to work at twice this size or larger. How long does a piece of this scale take, and how many pieces might you be working on at any given time?
Martin: The length of time it takes me to make a painting isn’t dependent so much on its size as the amount of stuff that’s happening in it. When I’m working on a series I tend to rotate through a number of paintings at the same time, so gauging the length of time I spend on each tends to get muddled and lost in the process, but I’d say as a general rule I never spend less than two weeks on a piece, and rarely more than two months.
Static Medium: The color palette in this piece is gorgeous. When you’re working on a painting what’s your process like, if any, as far as accumulating references for both the subject and the environment?
Martin: I source out quite a bit of reference for each painting I plan out. In this particular instance my main inspiration was a painting from 1881 by Lowell Birge Harrison called “November". His initials are carved into a tree in the piece, as an homage. Following that I gathered photos from the landscape, leaves, and trees in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York - where I live and work most of the time. The reference for the fox and snake was largely composed of various images I found online.
Static Medium: Can you share a little bit on how this particular piece came to be, and what it means to you?
Martin: The painting belongs to a series called The Archaic Revival. The title is a reference to a theme developed by psychedelic philosopher Terence McKenna, who posited the idea that there is a resistance to the status quo cultural framework and ideologies underway in the form of a renaissance of sorts: that of revisiting and applying ideas, practices, and symbolism of our ancient past to counteract the sense of dis-ease many feel residing inside the structures of the industrialized, commercialized, militarized age. In exploring this idea I read a lot of Alan Watts, Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, and other thinkers who have pointed to the ever-present manifestation of archetypes, and what stories and myths from the past that address these archetypes might have to tell us about our contemporary situation. In “Fall” I was interested in taking a look at the concept of the price paid for a pursuit of knowledge, the seeking of wisdom. I wanted there to be a bit of a play on words, harkening to the original “fall” as envisioned in the Adam and Eve story of the western mythos: the loss of “innocence” and “purity" in exchange of waking up, and in this endeavor to risk judgment, persecution, inquisition. The snake from that old myth could in essence be regarded as the first liberator of the human consciousness: the initiator of a dialogue with the self-aware inside of us. Maybe the fox in my painting is the powers-that-be, seeking to suppress this impulse. To the systems that want to uphold a bottom line, the freedom to ask questions - to seek alternate truths - is a threat.
Static Medium: Lastly, I’ve got to ask. Is the snake venomous? Is the fox going to be ok?
Martin: No one here gets out alive.
Static Medium: It seems as if the characters in your paintings are on always on the brink of making a decision or are preparing to explore the unknown. A sense of uncertainty is often evoked in the viewer of your pieces. Would you say these are feelings within yourself when you begin a painting, and if so is there a sense of resolution to these feelings when you complete a piece?
Aron: I think you're right, there is a parallel between the characters and starting a painting, and having all that potential of a blank canvas. My paintings are subject to changes right up to the end, so there is a lot of uncertainty. By the end all those potential paths are reduced to one. It’s nice to have a finished painting, yet the resolution is a let down in that sense. I prefer to be at the beginning, as you said, “preparing to explore the unknown."
Static Medium: I enjoy the fact that the viewer can easily interpret the figure in “Bonny Doon” as either running towards something, or away from something. From your perspective, does one of these hold more true?
Aron: I think she is running away. I was thinking about Renaissance paintings of Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. Masaccio's painting in particular is very expressive, one feels the distress in the body language of the figures.
Static Medium: What was your process for creating this painting?
Aron: I had the environment first. The environment was really good, and it seemed like I could put almost anything in there and it would work. I tried out different things and figures before ending up with the woman running. When I put her in, it was like “okay, that’s it!” The environment is very still and static- all vertical and horizontal shapes. She’s the opposite- kinetic and angular, which is what it needed.
Static Medium: The title “Bonny Doon” fits this piece like a glove. How do you go about naming your paintings, and what inspired this particular one?
Aron: Where I grew up, in Santa Cruz California there is a very small town nearby in the hills called Bonny Doon. It was the source of a lot of local urban legends that I remember hearing, about witches and devil worshipping and stuff like that, and the actual town does have a mysterious quality. It’s literally very dark there because it’s nothing but giant redwood trees. It felt like an appropriate place for the painting.
Titles are not that important to me. A title can expands the story, but It shouldn’t add too much, in my opinion. It can easily distract from the visual information.
Static Medium: Do you have any upcoming projects or shows that you’re excited for and are able to share a little bit about?
Aron: I've been starting a lot of new paintings. To me it's the most fun part, just making stuff without editing.