Tonight, May 2nd, is the opening of Sam Flores' major solo exhibition, 'Ego, Addiction, & Other Bedtime Stories' at Subliminal Projects in Los Angeles. Ripo got a chance to ask him a few questions about dark and light, traveling, artist branding, and guacamole. Read on for the full interview.
She's Lost Control Again. acrylic and aerosol on canvas
Ripo: Feel free to introduce yourself however you like.
Sam Flores: Hello, my name is Sam Flores
I am half Irish half Mexican
I think I'm allergic to alcohol and I can't speak Spanish!
But lord knows I try!
R: Your new show at Subliminal Projects focuses on the contrast of dark and light, both metaphorically and aesthetically. What sort of works (formats, media, etc) will you be focusing on in this show and how will they approach the theme?
SF: I'm creating paintings and drawings illustrating my ideas, thoughts and feelings, in a dark, very honest, portrait of everything I see around me in life. But with a storybook illustration feel to it.
R: You've mentioned before about creating 'whole worlds' with your artwork. What are your plans for the Subliminal Projects space and this show?
SF: It's a deep stroll through people's (yours and mine) fears and passions, demons and struggles and where beauty is lost and found, the balance of light and dark and where the in-between goes when we're not paying attention.
Self Reflection. 36"x48" Acrylic and spraypaint on canvas
R: A lot of your work has a very Asian influence throughout it. What was it that sparked you to begin working with these traditional Asian images and style?
SF: I've been traveling a lot over the last nine years, a lot of places in Asia; I pick up a lot of things, styles and aesthetics. I'm infatuated with the beauty and architecture in all the places I've traveled - the lines and attention to detail of everything. In this show I've sort of fused children stories with an Asian/Victorian twist shaken-up - add dragons, rainbows, happiness and nightmares.
Creation (where beauty comes from). 36"x42" acrylic and aerosol on wood panel
R: As an artist who whose style is so recognizable and has worked for various commercial projects, how do you judge the blurry line between an artist building his or her own style as opposed to building a 'brand'?
SF: Well, I think its always more important to be true to yourself and build your own style and voice. Once you've found your rhythm and style, develop yourself, if you decide to start making a brand and products, have fun, do what you like. But nothing will work, and especially last over time, if you haven't developed an honest foundation of your own style and rhythm first.
R: How does that line get even fuzzier when the artwork becomes used in commercial ways and to create mass-produced products and merchandise?
SF: It depends on what you're in to. I don't have a huge opinion and a need to debate this topic. I just feel if you want to make things, go for it, but you do YOU. Of course, some things feel better when they stick to their roots, where they came from, instead of super mainstream, but bottom line do you. And if you can sleep at night, good for you, not everyone can sometimes.
Control Lost. 36"x48" acrylic and aerosol on canvas
R: The fine art world has been disputing this topic since Pop Art and it continues to raise controversy with art critics. Artists like Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami have made millions from their shows that very directly attempted to bring this debate to the table. Should there be more intelligent commentary, thought, and debate about 'art as commerce and commerce as art' within the younger urban art scene as well? Especially with the fact that so many artists have built them up from doing commercial projects and then crossed into the gallery world?
SF: I don't really care too much about huge debates on this topic, I just say do what makes you happy. The people that get too caught up in worrying about that should be putting their attention towards other things and being happy. Go make something, and if you don't feel like making anything plant an avocado tree in your yard, everyone likes guacamole!
R: When you moved to San Francisco the graffiti scene there was blowing up but there still weren't as many galleries and brands that were focusing on it as an art movement. Do you think it's tougher for artists starting out nowadays because of the level of competition? Any advice to anyone trying to get his or her work out there?
SF: Yeah it definitely was a different time, definitely harder nowadays, there are so many levels of everything that has been done, so much that it's hard to find your voice or anything that's original. My advice is don't try. When you try too hard to create yourself, it doesn't work. It’s too forced and contrived and it shows. I know this sounds like a cheesy fortune cookie or something, but you can only find you when you stop looking, when you're just being true and not trying that's when you start to develop who you really are.
Sam Flores and Saner in Mexico City
R: I got to see the work you did this time last year in Mexico City with Saner. The marketplace you painted looked great especially with that massive piece on the roof. As you saw the scene there is quickly growing. Do you find it refreshing to visit cities and countries where things are still relatively young and still developing in new ways?
SF: I do, I love it. The kids out there are really hungry and talented it's a huge nest of talent and imagination!
R: Of other cities and countries you've visited do you have any favorites, artistically speaking?
SF: I'd have to say Mexico City and Japan.
R: Thanks for taking the time to answer. Any famous last words?
SF: A-B-C.............Always Be Creating!!
White America. acrylic and aerosol on canvas.
All Images Courtesy of artist and Subliminal Projects Gallery, Los Angeles
Portrait photo by John Dragonette
Mexico City photos by Ripo
Be sure to check out Sam's new show in Los Angeles. It will be up through May 30th.