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Home FEATURES Josh Keyes Interview

Josh Keyes Interview
Written by Trippe   
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 13:28
5 years ago we first learned of Josh Keyes work - not sure how, but when we saw it, we loved it. A studio visit later and we were certain. Josh's work is brilliant, precise, thoughtful and timely. We've kept up with his successful career, showing across the US and beyond, as the years passed. He's a master in his own time, and we're very pleased to open his solo show Magician's Garden @FFDG on April 7th (7-10pm). If you're unaware, here's a little taste to fill you in on what you've been missing.

Writhing - 30"x40"

Writhing (detail) - 30"x40"

What can viewers expect from your upcoming show at FFDG in San Francisco opening April 7th?

The four new paintings and graphite drawings I am working on for the show touch in a satirical way on the delicate and controversial subject of genetically enhanced and modified plants and organisms. The subject raises serious issues about the long term implications of corporate modified products intended to both enhance and streamline products designated for mass consumption. Monsanto along with other companies are producing both products and organisms that have already been introduced into the environment and are causing major disturbances in ecosystems worldwide. The fear is that these genetically engineered plants and organisms will have a devastating and irreversible effect on the natural balance in these living systems. I have taken a few of these ideas to an eco-surrealist and absurdist extreme.

Waking - 30"x40"

Studio

Your work obviously focuses on the juxtaposition of the decay of modern society/ its potential demise and the animal world. What are your feelings toward our society as of now? Do you foresee a collapse? Are you frightened or concerned about an environmental or man made end of our societies and/ or man?

I have mixed feelings about the state of the world and our future. The balance between our ability to sustain or destroy all life on Earth is a condition and mindset we have adapted to since the invention of the atomic bomb, and now with the threat of catastrophic oil spills and what has become very clear the dangers of nuclear power. I think the crisis in Japan though originally caused by the tsunami is a loud awakening that there are certain technologies that we are still learning to control, and in this case it seems clear that we should step away from the path to reliance on nuclear power. At the root is the power of corporations, driven by profit and not by that which is both good for the environment and in this instance safe for all living organisms. The film Gas Land touches on this very well. I am speaking about alternative environmentally safe sources for generating power, like solar, wind, and water. I have serious doubts if we will see this kind if change happen in the US anytime soon, as we are witnessing the rise of the right wing and the growing influence of the tea party movement, and the fall of the power of individuals and the rights of unions. I am terrified, just today the federal funding for NPR was cut, all I can do is try to pay attention, be active where and when I can, and vote. Though they make me mad as hell, I do find listening to progressive left wing radio stations both liberating and encouraging, and that there is a large majority of people out there who want to see a real change in this country and not towards the extremist right.

Getting back to the point, in reality the world will die with the sun, I am sure by then we will have found another planet or two to call our new home. In the meantime, with the environmental crisis escalating and civil wars breaking out all over it feels like the world is having a mid life crisis. This could just be the fact that the Internet and viral sharing of information is at a level the world has never seen or witnessed before. The ripple effect is stronger now than ever before, its like the video footage of birds swarming and flying in undulating masses, that’s a metaphor for the virtual world mind, it flows and moves and is directed by emotion. It’s the cerebral cortex of the world, and its beautiful, seeing the exchange of information and thoughts on a global level gives me hope. Except for the viral buzz surrounding Charlie Sheen, someone should help him unplug and get onto the therapists couch. So when a catastrophe occurs we are virtually enveloped by it, it is amplified and then the news stations quickly turn it into a Hollywood production and mythologize it. This is the structure of how future events will play out in the public sphere. I find it interesting to compare different news stations and study how they deliver and filter the same information. That is why again with the attempted muffling of NPR we cannot allow FOX News to emerge as the sole source of world news. I tend to listen to a lot of audio books while I work and have been turning more and more Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Naomi Klein and others who address issues of the adverse effects of the balance of power related to profit, progress and production. At the moment I am both horrified and ecstatic about the events in the world, revolutions, uprisings, natural and man made disasters, on and on. I keep waiting for a moment to catch my breath but I think those days are gone. I am however hopeful on the level of the green movement, and civil, and workers rights, there is a sense of coming together on a global level, and it will be interesting to see if the human population can organize and work together to influence and change the way certain governments and corporations operate to serve the interest of the many instead of an elite minority.

Cerberus - 30"x40"

Writhing (detail) - 30"x40"

You moved up to Portland from Oakland a year or so ago. What instigated the move and how do you like living up North?

My wife and I were sad to leave the Bay Area, but at the time we were living in a tiny apartment that functioned as studio living room dining room and guest bedroom all in one space. We had been there for about ten years. We wanted to find a place that would give each of us more room and a proper studio space, and looked around at places in the Bay Area but they were out of our price range. My wife’s sister and husband moved from Oakland to Portland about a year earlier and really loved the area. We visited a couple times and fell in love with Portland. If felt a lot like the Bay Area with one big difference it rains a hell of a lot up here! So when the blankets and buckets pour we wonder if we made the right decision moving up here. But the spring and summer are amazing, and the people are just as hip and cool as the folks down yonder, they are just a bit paler. The new location has put me back in touch with the change of seasons. I noticed them in the Bay Area, but up here you really see and feel the changes and for me I soak it in, sometimes literally, drenched.

Writhing (detail) - 30"x40"

Waking (detail) - 30"x40"

Someone mentioned that you incorporate and mimic the tags and graffiti from local artists in the cities you show. What are your interest in graffiti and have you ever attempted it?

I got thrown into a paddy wagon in high school for vandalizing private property, lets just say I was not keen on a repeat experience. Graffiti was never a hip thing as it is now, back in high school my friends and I would sometimes go out and with a sharpie or two do some very crude imitations of Pushead skulls on the side of a sad 7-11. We tended to decorate the side of converse shoes and paint on the back of leather jackets, the focus was directed more on personal identify back then, instead of large public statements. I think some of the best street art or guerrilla art from the eighties was with Survival Research Laboratories and their public performances. SRL’s founder Mark Pauline who for me is a huge talent in terms of street related art, and if you don’t know his work check out some of the videos of the performances. I think the way street art has evolved is amazing. Look at the footage from Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya; there is graffiti and slogans all over. It is the sign of the people, and I think any architect out there should darn well incorporate some aspect of design in future buildings that are specifically designated for public graffiti. Some of it is ugly and some is really cool. In my work it is a nod to street art and possibly a reality that I don’t have the balls to do it out on the streets myself, so I do in my work. It is a device I use to convey a certain idea or add text to my work, and it’s also a great way to jazz a painting up with line and color strictly from an aesthetic point of view.

Josh Keyes sculpture

Writhing (detail) - 30"x40"

You incorporate many different animals in your work. Is there a favorite you enjoy painting and if so, why?

I have some favorites, deer, bear, bunnies, and elk. There are certain animals that for me fit an archetypal representation. There is something about the animal, the antlers, the gaze, there is something that I believe strikes a chord with the collective unconscious. It is a stag and yet not a stag, it becomes something more or stands for something else. The scrub jays and crows are more prevalent in my recent work mostly because they are right outside my studio window. Any given moment I will look up and see a massive flock of crows swarming outside and cawing like you wouldn’t believe. Same with the jays, there are a couple families that like to hang out and hide seeds in our neighbor’s gutter and roof tiles, I love em. I have ideas for branching out and introducing new animals and characters. In this show there is a new beastie who I am really excited about and it was great fun to paint.

Studio shot

Studio shot

Who are some artists you're excited about these days?

Good god John, I wouldn’t know where to begin. For those of you who still have an active facebook account and are in the art community, you know how many amazing art and artist posts and link are on there everyday. I have never seen so much art and cool art. It’s like flipping as fast as you can through the coolest contemporary art magazines, one after another after another wow! Lately some of the cool things I have seen aren’t especially interesting in terms of art but they involve new technologies that are mind blowing, like the video projections on buildings or MIT’s swarming LED robots, it really does feel like the world has been pushed into a science fiction novel, and moving close to Snow Crash velocity. Returning to my point, If the art and artists are the point of interest I would have to say that for me it is the online virtual infrastructure through which these artists and websites are selected. It’s the viral sharing of information that to me is fascinating and a work of art in itself. We are witnessing the gradual decline of the “established” art critic; the ivory tower has disintegrated in pixels, and has been replaced by the hive mind. Now it is what the people decide what is “in” or “out” or “liked” or tweeted that established the status quo. I think its fascinating and also like riding a roller coaster, where is this taking our culture, is it having an effect on our psychology? To be honest I already feel outdated, I am one of those people who wrote either college essays on typewriter with white out and a thesaurus and dictionary, we didn’t have no google. Hang on tight is all I have to say, and for me these three things keep running through my mind, Marshall McLuhan’s the medium is the message, Tuesday is Soylent Green Day, and double plus good. We do live in interesting times.

Studio shot

Waking - 30"x40"

Josh Keyes was born in Tacoma, Washington. He received a BFA in 1992 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in 1998 from Yale. Keyes is drawn to the clinical and often cold vocabulary of scientific textbook illustrations, which express the empirical "truth" of the world and natural phenomena. He infuses into a rational stage set many references to contemporary events along with images and themes from his personal mythology and experience. These elements come together in an unsettling vision, one that speaks to the challenges of our time. Keyes currently lives and works in Portland Oregon with his wife, graphic designer Lisa Ericson.

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Magician's Garden
Josh Keyes solo show
April 7 - 30, 2011
@FFDG, San Francisco, CA.

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The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


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"Portrait of a Slugger 19" by Hiro Kurata

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"Veins of Octulen" by Curiot at FFDG

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contact FF

"Arrangement" by Michelle Fleck
Friday, 18 April 2014 10:23

This morning we take a closer look at this beautiful painting by San Francisco based Michelle Fleck now showing at FFDG.

Arrangement measures 24"x30", acrylic and aerosol on panel - inquires: info(at)ffdg.net

Michelle Fleck is a painter living in San Francisco. Her work focuses on the relationship between man and the landscape, and the marks we leave on it. Influenced by everyday life in the city, her paintings serve as snapshots of an ongoing intersection of the natural and man-made world. She strives to make work that has a sense of relevancy in a culture driven by a need for change and newness.

 

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010 16:39


Nychos Friday @Fifty24SF
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SAN FRANCISCO --- You've seen the murals pop up around town the last week from this Austrian street artist as he prepares for his solo show at Fifty24SF opening this Friday, 4/18.

GET THE SHOW DETAILS --- a bunch of NYCHOS

 

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Wednesday, 25 April 2012 10:56

 

Banksy's Mobile Lovers
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I love you, dear.... Huh? Wut?

 

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Check photos from his last San Francisco solo show in 2012, and mark your calendar for August as his next solo show opens at FFDG.

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Think how high those throw ups can be now.

 

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Have you been to the Headland Center for the Arts in the Marin Headlands?

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This Sunday's Open House runs 12-5pm - FREE & DETAILS

 

Is It Curtains For San Francisco's Art Scene?
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We all know that San Francisco is going through aches and (growing?)/ shrinking artist pains these days as San Francisco property values sky rocket due to the tech infestation going on around the entire Bay Area. Maybe you work in tech and love it, but since this is an art website, we're interested to how this is affecting artists trying to make ends meet.

Some galleries have been forced to close due to 300% rent hikes. Many artists have fled to Oakland, LA and NYC in search of affordable housing and a more vibrant art scene... But we wanna know what you think of how it's going here in San Francisco. How are you making it work? What's your take on the art scene or lack there of? Do you think things are on the up and up or down and out here in San Francisco? Are artists a bunch of complainers and every thing looks great or is it curtains for San Francisco's artistic community? Thoughts

The Rena Bransten Gallery is packing up their 77 Geary space to make way for tech company MuleSoft

 

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Wednesday, 25 August 2010 11:50


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Jeremy Fish at LA's Mark Moore Gallery

San Francisco based Fecal Pal Jeremy Fish opened his latest solo show Hunting Trophies at LA's Mark Moore Gallery last week to massive crowds and cabin walls lined with imagery pertaining to modern conquest and obsession.


John Felix Arnold III on the Road to NYC

Well, John Felix Arnold III is at it again. This time, he and Carolyn LeBourgios packed an entire show into the back of a Prius and drove across the country to install it at Superchief Gallery in NYC. I met with him last week as he told me about the trip over delicious burritos at Taqueria Cancun (which is right across the street from FFDG and serves what I think is the best burrito in the city) as the self proclaimed "Only overweight artist in the game" spilled all the details.


FRENCH in Melbourne

London based illustrator FRENCH recently held a show of new works at the Melbourne based Mild Manners


Henry Gunderson at Ever Gold, SF

Ever Gold opened a new solo show by NYC based Henry Gunderson a couple Saturday nights ago and it was literally packed. So packed I couldn't actually see most of the art - but a big crowd doesn't seem like a problem. I got a good laugh at what I would call the 'cock climbing wall' as it was one of the few pieces I could see over the crowd. I haven't gotten a chance to go back and check it all out again, but I'm definitely going to as the paintings that I could get a peek at were really high quality and intruiguing. You should do the same.


Mario Wagner @Hashimoto

Mario Wagner (Berkeley) opened his new solo show A Glow that Transfers Creativity last Saturday night at Hashimoto Contemporary in San Francisco.


Serge Gay Jr. @Spoke Art

The paintings in the show are each influenced by a musician, ranging from Freddy Mercury, to Madonna, to A Tribe Called Quest and they are so stylistically consistent with each musician's persona that they read as a cohesive body of work with incredible variation. If you told me they were each painted by a different person, I would not hesitate to believe you and it's really great to see a solo show with so much variety. The show is fun, poppy, very well done, and absolutely worth a look and maybe even a listen.


NYCHOS Mural on Ashbury and Haight

NYCHOS completed this great new mural on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco on Tuesday. Looks Amazing.


Sun Milk in Vienna

With rising rent in SF and knowing mostly other young artists without capitol, I desired a way to live rent free, have a space to do my craft, and get to see more of the world. Inspired by the many historical artists who have longed similar longings I discovered the beauty of artist residencies. Lilo runs Adhoc Collective in Vienna which not only has a fully equipped artists creative studio, but an indoor halfpipe, and private artist quarters. It was like a modern day castle or skate cathedral. It exists in almost a utopic state, totally free to those that apply and come with a real passion for both art and skateboarding


"How To Lose Yourself Completely" by Bryan Schnelle

I just wanted to share with you a piece I recently finished which took me 4 years to complete. Titled "How To Lose Yourself Completely (The September Issue)", it consists of a copy of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine (the issue they made the documentary about) with all faces masked with a sharpie, and everything else entirely whited out. 840 pages of fun. -Bryan Schnelle


Tyler Bewley ~ Recent Works

Some great work from San Francisco based Tyler Bewley.


Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery

While walking our way across San Francisco on Saturday we swung through the opening receptions for Kirk Maxson and Alexis Mackenzie at Eleanor Harwood Gallery in the Mission.


Jeremy Fish Solo Show in Los Angeles

Jeremy Fish opens Hunting Trophies tonight, Saturday April 5th, at the Los Angeles based Mark Moore Gallery. The show features new work from Fish inside the "hunting lodge" where viewers climb inside the head of the hunter and explore the history of all the animals he's killed.


The Albatross and the Shipping Container

Beautiful piece entitled "The Albatross and the Shipping Container", Ink on Paper, Mounted to Panel, 47" Diameter, by San Francisco based Martin Machado now on display at FFDG. Stop in Saturday (1-6pm) to view the group show "Salt the Skies" now running through April 19th. 2277 Mission St. at 19th.


The Marsh Barge - Traveling the Mississippi River from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico

For some reason I thought it would be a good idea to quit my job, move out of my house, leave everything and travel again. So on August 21, 2013 I pushed a canoe packed full of gear into the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Lake Itasca, Minnesota, along with four of my best friends. Exactly 100 days later, I arrived at a marina near the Gulf of Mexico in a sailboat.


Flavio Samelo's Downtown Sao Paulo Murals

Our buddy Flavio Samelo down there in Brazil does all kinds of great work including this recent mural project in downtown Sao Paulo in front of one of the most important modern buildings of Oscar Niemeyer from the 60's, THE COPAN.


John Trippe, FFDG and Fecalface.com Founder, Stepping Down From Daily Operations

John Trippe, founder, owner and curator of FecalFace.com and the Mission District art gallery FFDG, announced today that he will stepping down from daily operations of the two ventures to seek new career opportunities.


High 5s - Get Your Feet Wet

I purchased one of the first digital cameras when Fecal Face went online in 2000. It was a massive Kodak with 2 mega pixels


"Touching Base" by Schuyler Beecroft

San Francisco based Schuyler Beecroft emailed over the great new series of paintings he's completed entitled "Touching Base", 16x20in on mounted wood panel. Like them.


Flume - Space Cadet (ft. Ghostface Killah & Autre Ne Veut)

Buddies Jay Howell & Jim Dirschberger did this great video produced by Forest City Rockers.


Fire Shelter for Papay Gyro Nights 2014

Last year we posted photos from another one of Simon Hjermind Jensen's Fire Shelters he's made in Copenhagen. This time around the Copenhagen based artist/ designer created one for the Papay Gyro Nights 2014 way up in on the Orkney Islands in Northern Scotland.


"Portrait of a Slugger 19" by Hiro Kurata

Beautiful painting by NYC based Hiro Kurata now on display at SF's FFDG through April 19th as part of the group show "Salt the Skies".


"Veins of Octulen" by Curiot at FFDG

"Salt the Skies" opened on the 21st at FFDG and features this great piece by Mexico City based Curiot (Favio Martinez) whose sold out 2013 show Age of Omuktlans ran at FFDG. His forthcoming solo show is slated for March 2015.


Rome's Alice Pasquini ~Mural+

Rome based multimedia artist Alice Pasquini emailed over a recent mural completed in the historic working class neighborhood of Rome called Tufello.


Project M/3 in Berlin curated by NUART

BERLIN --- Project M is a temporary art project with the objective to improve the neighborhood, to push creativity and to connect people. At regular intervals Urban Nation with director Yasha Young invites a group of internationally reclaimed contemporary urban artists to re-design the facade and shop windows of a prominent residential building in Berlin, while it is being reconstructed.


John French with Hasselblad by Lola Dupre

"John French with Hasselblad", photo collage/ hand cut paper on wooden panel, by Lola Dupre which will be part of tomorrow's opening of "Salt the Skies" at FFDG in San Francisco. 2277 Mission St. (6-9pm) - RSVP here.


"Salt the Skies" at FFDG Opening Fri, Mar 21st

FFDG's spring show "Salt the Skies" is set to open on Friday, March 21st (6-9pm) -- Featuring works by Brett Amory, John Felix Arnold, Mario Ayala, Jud Bergeron, Curiot (Favio Martinez), Christopher Burch, Lola Dupre, Michelle Fleck, Matt Gonzalez, Hiro Kurata, Marty Machado, Mark Mulroney, and Nicomi Nix Turner


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