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Episode 11
Artist Vincent Valdez

  • 2 min read

Episode Description

00:57 - A conversation with artist Vincent Valdez. Valdez produces beautiful large scale paintings that tackle issues of justice and equality. His work has been either exhibited or collected by some of the nation’s top institutions, including LACMA, Mass MoCA, The Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and The National Portrait Gallery.

53:06 - The week’s top art headlines.


Craig: [00:00:09] This is Art Sense, a podcast focused on educating and informing listeners about the past, present and future of art. I'm Craig Gould. This week, I spend the hour in conversation with artist Vincent Valdez. Valdez produces beautiful, large scale paintings that tackle issues of justice and equality. His work has been either exhibited or collected by some of the nation's top institutions, including LACMA, Mass MOCA, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery at the end of the episode. I'll be taking a look at some of the week's top art headlines. But first up, Dreams of a Better America with Vincent Valdez.

Craig: [00:00:56] Vincent Valdez, thank you for joining us this week on the arts in this podcast. Vincent, you know, a lot of times when when I welcome somebody to the show, you know, kind of given the opportunity to tell people in their own words what their work is like. If you're at a dinner party, someone walks up to you, they don't know you and they've never met you before. You know, they say, What do you do? I'm an artist. How do you describe your work to someone who's never seen your work before?

Vincent: [00:01:21] I make pretty pictures, the end. That's the best I got.

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Craig: [00:01:28] And that is that's awesome, you know? No, it's great because I've been following your work for years. You know, when I was preparing questions for you last night, I was kind of reconsidering your work. One of the realizations I came to is that your pictures are rendered so beautifully that it's almost like you're asking a viewer to stop and fall in love with how beautiful you've made something in an attempt for them to stay longer and contemplate the message you're trying to share.

Vincent: [00:01:59] Sure. You know, I totally agree with that. I mean, I think that for me, when I was, you know, I started doing this at an extremely premature age, you know, I was drawing by the time I was three or four, I was painting by the time I was eight as a young muralist. And immediately I knew that being an image maker for me was my way of communicating with with others. You know, I wanted not only to be able to translate what I was observing and witnessing in the world around me, but I wanted this work to be of service in some way to others. And so what I mean by that is that when I think back to those early years of just sitting and trying to contemplate, like, what does the impact of an image have on the viewer? Well, I the thing that the format that was most relatable to me was the movie screen. And so I would sit in a movie theater and I would watch movies like Oliver Stone's Platoon. So it's not a film that's, you know, a nine or ten year old should be watching. And but somehow my father convinced my mother to take the whole family on a Saturday night, and I will never forget this epiphany.

Vincent: [00:03:29] Like this one early experience that just shattered me in every way possible, and it changed the rest of my life. I'm convinced. And so I remember my mother looking over to me and my siblings before the movie started, and she said, If you need to close your eyes, don't be afraid to. And immediately, I did the opposite in my eyes, just enlarge. And I was like, What could be, so what is she talking about? What could be so traumatizing that I will have to look away? And so I spent the entire film not only paying attention to what was on the screen before me, but I spent potentially more time observing the audience and I thought, This is it. This is what I need to figure out how to do. I want to make images that are so seductive and yet so powerful and impacting that even when they're difficult subjects to look at, you cannot turn away. And I'll never forget the death, the deafening silence in that movie theater. It was a packed house, but everybody was so hypnotized by this image on the screen and I thought, This is it. I will forever devote the rest of my life to trying to committing myself to trying to provide this experience for others.

Craig: [00:05:01] Wow. And you're 10.

Vincent: [00:05:07] Yeah, you know, my poor parents must have been so disturbed. But there was already something rooted within me. My great grandfather was a painter. It was a damn good painter that I never met, but I knew him only through the canvases that still hang to this day in my grandparents house in the south side of San Antonio. I didn't have access to museums and galleries and art books. So I go in to grandma's house every Mother's Day on the weekends. I was excited to go there, not because I could be running around outside, playing with my cousins and siblings. I would sit in this dark hallway right outside of the entrance of the bathroom, and they had his largest canvas in the house. It's still hanging on that wall. And. It was a V10 in Guadalupe oil painting painted in 1934, with Christmas lights blinking around it, wrapping around the canvas, and I just was obsessed. Wow. I remember sitting there with my school notebook paper and a pencil and getting so frustrated because my skills were not up to par with his and I. I remember telling myself angrily, Someday I'm going to learn how to do this. I'm going to be as good as he was and maybe even a little bit better. And and it's been an amazing thing to to be to have these images. His works passed down to me as I as I begin to get older,

Craig: [00:06:35] You know, the path of your career. They're all pretty pictures, right? But there's a social commentary, there's a message, and it's a message that's tied to, you know what? What, what adjectives would you say? I mean, is it a social inequality injustice? What is what's the thread that, in your words, ties your work together?

Vincent: [00:06:57] You know, I would simply and sincerely say it is. It is the thread of the experience of being human, right? Because what we what subjects like art and history remind us all is that we are not alone in our human experience. We are all threatened by our experience of pain and suffering of joy and beauty. You know, of all of these all of these experiences that condition us as human beings, we are in the 21st century. We have as much in common with human beings that Diego Velasquez was putting on a canvas right in in regards to the way that we shape ourselves and shape and shape the world around us, right? And so I think that for me, these works have or have always intended to serve as instruments that probe our human history. Right. They really are my way of documenting a testimony, my own personal testimony. This is my way of testifying about this time and place that I that I witnessed, you know, for a very short amount of time. And I think that essentially in the end, it was my purpose of making images was to serve as a chronological timeline of my own life and all of the individuals and stories that I encountered throughout my time in this life. And you know, yeah, I as much as I have an ability to kick and scream in the studio because these are the very practice of image making can drive me absolutely nuts, but it never ends, especially on the scale that I choose to work. But while there really is no other experience like it for me, I just I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. And as I have begun to, you know, continue to mature both as a human being and as an artist, you know, the the practice of making images gets no easier, you know, and I. But wow, what a what an opportunity to be able to have something to say and to and to put it down as documentation.

Craig: [00:09:57] Well, you know what? For like me, the viewer, your images stick with me. A few weeks ago, I was in L.A. and I was staying in Pasadena and going to an event, the L.A. Convention Center, back and forth for a few days. And I kept on driving down to 110, and every time I passed Dodger Stadium Way, I thought of Chavez Ravine. I thought of your work in the injustice around that particular piece. Can you talk about that piece a little? Because that was a collaboration with another person, but it was specific to a dark page in L.A. history, right?

Vincent: [00:10:32] Sure, sure. I began the Project El Chavez Ravine as a collaboration with musician Ry Cooder. Ry Cooder is somebody who's highly regarded as an American musician because of his ability to cross over into various genres and subjects. But the thing that? I really respect most about working with having the opportunity to work with Ray was we in some ways had the same kind of thinking caps on, you know, we use our own sort of mediums as a as a means of telling a story. And so when I first approached me about this project, I was immediately all in because I was so ignited by the opportunity to tell any race piece of American history. And I think at that time in 2004, there was a few other images and projects that I had tackled that were of a similar sort of approach where I was utilizing a contemporary lens to speak about both the past and the present. But with a subject like Chavez Ravine, what really captured my attention was the was the fact that it had to do with a lost Mexican-American Chicano community in early Los Angeles. So in a nutshell, the Chavez Ravine the history of the Chavez Ravine unfolded for about a decade in the in the 1950s. It was a dominantly Mexican-American working class and poor community. And as we all know, not only in the city of Los Angeles but in all of the United States, property and real estate is king. And so when developers and old Walter O'Malley, owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers, announced that he was looking for a new home for his team, the City of Los Angeles, welcomed with open arms, said We have this free land that was not being used.

Vincent: [00:12:53] You know, they they described it. City officials described it as a a few empty lots that had a few squatters on the property. That was probably about two thousand five hundred families living and working in their homes. Those schools. And so by 1959, the city of Los Angeles forced them out under the guise of socialism. They we have to also, you have to keep in mind entities that were tactics that were being used at that time in all of America, like the Red Scare, right? And the fear of communism. And so the politics that really unfolded told of a much bigger tale that was occurring in America at that moment in time. This is what caught my interest. And so I spent two years painting in oil by hand on the surface of a nineteen fifty three Chevrolet good humor ice cream truck. The idea was that the ice cream man, like the mailman in America, crosses all barriers between social and economic classes, right? And yeah, and you know, so the entire tale unfolds on the driver's side, which is sun rise. And then as you walk around to the passenger side front of the truck, it ends in twenty four hours from sunrise to sunset.

Craig: [00:14:18] The first time I was exposed to your work, the the first pieces I saw were The Strangest Fruit, which you know again, I think it really kind of epitomizes what we were saying earlier about here. You see a beautiful painting and it's beautifully rendered. There's a curiosity about the poses, but then once you start asking questions, the answers are incredibly uncomfortable. Right? So can you explain to folks about that project The Strangest Fruit?

Vincent: [00:14:50] Sure. So I began the strangest fruit series in 2013, and I think that, you know, it goes hand in hand. After speaking about a project like that. Chavez Ravine might be my intention as an artist, right? As both an artist and as citizen is to combat the social amnesia that infects all of America. And there is no denying this anymore. I'm often reminded of a quote by American author and critic Gore Vidal, who once stated, We are the United States of amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing. And that couldn't be more true or today. And so to tell a story to approach a subject like the lynchings of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the American Southwest, here is an already dark and sinister chapter of our American history. The irony is that it goes even further in much deeper and darker than we can even imagine because. None of us are aware of this. Why hadn't I as a Mexican-American growing up in the state of Texas? Why had I not been taught about my own history, right? That couldn't be more interesting. The reason couldn't be more apparent than today. And so what was important to me was to take this subject, this loss history of these thousands of lynchings that occurred in the state of Texas, primarily in the state of Texas. But I think that this is where the story of not only America, but the role that Texas has played in shaping the rest of America really becomes fascinating for me.

Vincent: [00:16:43] I grew up in the city of San Antonio, right home of the Alamo. And so I couldn't help but remember while I was working on a project like Strange Fruit, my very first field trip in the first grade, it's sort of a rite of passage. Or at least it was in the 1980s for public school attendance to get in a school bus and drive to the Alamo. And I remember walking into the Alamo and being confronted by this massive canvas. And it was one of the it was probably the first oil painting on that kind of a scale that I had ever encountered, and I was blown away. And so while all of my friends and teachers walked ahead, I stayed behind looking at this dramatic unfolding tale of the siege of the Alamo. Wow. I mean, what an exciting image, right? Like the cannonballs and the rifles and the bodies. And after staring for about 10 minutes, I was I finally stepped back and I thought, Wait a minute, why do I look like all the dead guys on the ground, right? Why do they look like my brothers and my cousins and. And I thought, What is wrong with this picture? Why am I the enemy, right? And it really messed with my head.

Vincent: [00:17:56] And so the idea in a project like this strange is fruit was to tell this history to make sure that this history does not get entirely erased. But it was important to do it through a contemporary lens because the idea is the goal is to have the viewer potentially walk away questioning what is a subject like this have to do with my life today. Right? How has this subject affected where I grew up, or how does it affect me or my community? Or furthermore, has this subject has a subject like the news, the threat of the news and what it represents the symbol of the news? Has it entirely disappeared, you know, and so I couldn't help but think about and relate a subject like this to a contemporary spin. You know, I can't. You have to consider agents like mass incarceration, right? Border policies and immigration policies in this country. The war on drugs or on education. War on poverty, broken justice systems, the military industrial complex and so forth. The idea is that these individuals that are dangling from these invisible backgrounds on these large canvases, although like the bodies of the past, the more that they, the more that they struggle to break free in America, the tighter that invisible noose will choke. Hmm.

Craig: [00:19:37] You know, I guess it was five years ago you were gracious enough to let me come by for a studio visit and you were just finishing The City. 

Vincent: [00:19:47] Oh man.

Craig: [00:19:47] And and so, you know, you were in at that point you were in San Antonio and a converted firehouse and just the sheer scale of of that work. And I remember having you know what in retrospect for me is really making some embarrassing comments because I was like, Vincent, you know, I know there's still institutional and systemic racism, but are there really people out there that are so bold to be, you know, wearing hoods? And I mean, you know what that was that was like a year before Charlottesville. And I just look back and I was like, man, I was, I was I just naive or just blind? I just feel like these topics are just so timely that you have been creating work, unfortunately, lockstep with what what's been going on in our nation, right? And can you describe that piece, The City?

Vincent: [00:20:43] Sure. So the city I began in the summer of 2015, it took me approximately three hundred and sixty five days to complete. Never had encountered before a subject or a work in the studio that began unfolding in real life outside of the studio doors while I was creating it, and so I would be in the studio working on this 40 foot painting of a night scene with a huddled group of hooded Klan members, men, women and child on an obscured hillside overlooking the city. Right? And the city became the title of the piece. The city became this larger than life symbol for me. It became the epitome of what this piece represented. If this could be any city in America that, as again, as artist, as citizen, as a person of color, from a community of color. For far too long, it couldn't be more clear to me that America has convinced itself or that these that a scene like this was relegated and isolated to those kinds of people in those kinds of places far away from the rest of us, because that's not really who we are. And this was my creating a theme like the city actually contradicted that notion. It was my attempt to say Shame on you, America, for being for prematurely being or for being so eager to call yourself a post-racial society on the heels of your first black president, because what I was seeing was a much different picture in 21st Century America. This the, you know, I was never interested in the agency or the presence or the organization, the history of the Ku Klux Klan that had nothing to do with it, really.

Vincent: [00:22:46] I merely used it as a symbol for a much bigger threat, which is white supremacy in this country and the power structures of white supremacy. And so the beauty and the truth, as always for me, is hidden in the details. So when I'm I'm more concerned with the hidden symbols that most of us as Americans living and working in 21st Century America don't even really realize we don't. We're not conditioned in this country to inform ourselves enough about enough to be aware of what really is at play in Daily America, right? When you think about the power, the powerful symbols of advertising icons, iconography in this country and how they almost always lead back to the fundamentals of nationalism and patriotism, that in turn can become agents for racism, discrimination, sexism and so forth. So there's floating around in that canvas. These hidden symbols like the think about you mentioned Charlottesville. Mm hmm. Every time I think about of being recently completed with that painting and then watching the scenes of Charlottesville occurring and then all these other scenes that started began erupting around the country and over and over, I quickly began to recognize that there was one symbol that kept that just stuck with me. And it was the symbolism of that of these trucks that were being used as as symbols of aggression, right? And so when I think about so when I divide the composition of the city, there's one light source, one main light source, almost. It creates a chiaroscuro like effect. And as the headlamps of this brand new souped up Chevrolet truck this becomes. 

Craig: [00:24:50] The heartbeat of America, was their tagline.

Vincent: [00:24:52] There you go. So I compositionally as composition, as a compositional strategy. I made damn sure that that cross right? It becomes like equated with like the burning cross. You know, the Ku Klux Klan is the symbol of the past, a symbol of terror and how that's, you know, that can quietly be viewed in very, very different manners, depending on who you are and where you are in America. And so that's slogan. The heartbeat of America became everything for me. The Nike, the baby Nike Air Jordans that are laced on the feet of the toddler who's in a Ku Klux Klan hood who's pointing at you like Uncle Sam, I want you. Here is the next generation that is learning these methods and these ways that have been passed down for generations and centuries in this country. There is the metropolitan city down below, and if you follow the traces in the mud. Oh, and the tire tracks and the footprints, they lead you down like a golden brick road from Wizard of Oz down into the Golden City. That could be anywhere in America. And what does that tell the viewer? It says. It suggests it. These aren't people that are again isolated into these, you know, forgotten community communities. They're in your classrooms tomorrow morning. They're in the courthouses, they're in the medical systems, they're in the police force, they are part of. We are all part of this community. And the idea that these forces exist in the shadows right and out in the open more than we like to admit is a very real concern and threat in this country. And so this was my way of confronting the elephant in the American living room.

Craig: [00:26:53] And you know, when I when I think about that work, I think of the courage on your part to dedicate a year to tackling that issue kind of head on with the knowledge that you're making a work that's so big. I mean, the piece is maybe what eight feet tall and 30 feet wide given, right? Something so big, you know, that depicts something that's such a pariah for the majority of America. I mean, it's not like you're making work with an individual collector in mind. You're you're actually were you thinking about the fact that this was really intended to find its way to an institutional collector when you were done? Was that part of your thought process?

Vincent: [00:27:37] No, not at all. I mean that never. That never is. And I, you know, I like to safely assume that every piece that I'm about to begin in the studio will never find a home. And it's for me. And that's good enough, you know, and and it's something that is on my mind and something that I feel is important to tackle as a subject. And so that is enough to just ignite the peace and the existence. And so I was preparing for an exhibition at David Shelton Gallery in Houston a year after, I think, but by 2016, I'm sorry, twenty seventeen. And I brought David Shelton in and I remember talking to him before he walked into the fire station to. I said, Look, I just I have the idea, but I'm I'm telling you, brace yourself. It is really powerful. I'm extremely excited about it. I feel it burning in the pit of my stomach every morning when I wake up and I run down the stairs and I just I can't wait to start painting, but I understand if it's too much for you, I'm going to do it anyway. But I'm warning you, right? Like, if it if it's not going to work, we'll have to figure something else out for the show later because I have to do this piece.

Vincent: [00:29:06] And David walked in and he stopped. He made it literally two steps inside the door and stop in his tracks. And he stayed silent, and I really thought he was going to turn around and walk out. And he said, Let's go do it right. And so it was an amazing, you know, David's an amazing supporter and you know, and there's not many individuals, much less galleries that really will put their entire faith and belief behind an artist trying to tackle a subject like this. And so, you know, as far as it's selling, I could care less. The important thing was to get it out into the world, to get it seen and to just to put it into existence. And I, you know, when it when it started, when it began, it started off as one canvas. And I got so excited about the idea that two days later, I added a second canvas that put it it. Probably, I don't know, 13 feet and before I knew it, a year later, it was at thirty eight feet. I just kept going and going. And so now that that that single piece sparked an entire evolution of paintings that I'm still working on, today's already got five years later, I it quickly.

Vincent: [00:30:30] By the time I put the finishing touches on that City painting, I didn't take a break. I got it out of the studio and I ran back and I started what was then chapter two of a series that was now being titled The Beginning is Near Chapter One: The City.  Chapter two was the response the aftermath. It became a call and response between the city and Dream Baby Dream. Consisted of a series of seven, I'm sorry, 11 paintings depicting speakers on a national podium. The the idea was that here was 21st Century America standing, staring each other down in a face off at these podiums. Nobody was speaking into the mix because nobody knew what to say. And now I am currently breaking ground on the final chapter of the new Americans, which I'm extremely excited about. This is my way of ending. The sequence of the beginning is near as a series, and so the new Americans, the first five new Americans, will premiere at Art Basel this coming December. Sure. Someday, it's my goal to be able to show all three chapters in a single setting. I'd be

Craig: [00:31:50] Awesome. So the Dream Baby Dream was part of the Suffering from Realness exhibition at Mass MOCA. Right? Yeah. And you had an opportunity to work with Adriana. Can you talk about Requiem and in how you guys kicked off that exhibition? And I know there's a documentary floating around out there about about that work, but can you kind of describe it for us and what that process was like?

Vincent: [00:32:19] So, so after I completed Dream Baby Dream, I worked with Denise McConnachie, a curator, senior curator at Mass MOCA, for a an exhibition Suffering from Realness that she premiered in 2018, I believe. And what I did was, you know, I work, I I work, and I see. So three dimensionally anyway, in the drawing and the painting on a 2D flat surface, it's it has always been my dream to to put an attempt to sculpture. And so my twenty seventeen, I finally set out to achieve this, and I began working on a large, collapsing, gasping American Eagle titled Requiem Requiem. With my way of of countering these nationalistic patriotic icons and symbols, you know, I started thinking about, especially in America, right? Like, we are so familiar with these nationalistic symbols, right? The American flag, George Washington's portrait American eagles from dollar bills to coins to monuments, etc. But what happens if you just for a second allow yourself to reconsider the meaning behind these symbols, but you think about an American eagle that in all of its glory is always entirely depicted as only being victorious emboldens brave, aggressive, dominating, forceful, adventurous all of the above. What happens if you flip that and just think about the reality of this country and all of the hardship and the brutal realities that we that have long been denied, right? What happens if you think about for a second American society, collective society as being more vulnerable and fragile than we think? And so here is this eagle that is on the verge of collapse.

Vincent: [00:34:36] And for the viewers, it really pay attention. They notice that it's inflicted with wounds across its flesh, across its chest, its wings. There is no outside threat. There is no visible boogeyman. The wounds are self-inflicted. And so eight hundred and fifty pounds of clay on this armature, this project took me two and a half years to complete from start to finish. I worked with Adriana, who is a tremendously powerful artist as well as my partner and Johanna, and I turned around and we we asked we wanted this project to be collaborative and to serve as a platform for others. And so one of the things that the idea behind this was it rarely in America, especially post-9 11, rarely are we ever given the chance as a collective society to reconcile not only with ourselves, but with. Among others, right with this country, rarely are we given a chance to speak up and to be heard, and rarely are we given a chance to heal. When you think about the the sheer violence in this country, from mass shootings to police brutality to the economic violence in this country, it is a it is a plague of of psychological warfare, in my opinion on our population. And so here was our way of reaching out and collaborating with two hundred and forty three various Americans, both citizen and non-citizen. Two hundred and forty three representing at that time, the age of the American Republic of Ghana would contact these individuals, whether it be a phone, email or in person, and we asked them to contribute a shared personal piece of their own history as Americans, right? And so one of the things that we found was that people really use it because they remained anonymous, their testimonies.

Vincent: [00:37:12] We found that people used it almost entirely as a confessional. And there was some almost every one of these contributed texts for so impacting and really shed light on a lot of trauma on a lot of very personal stories that reflected their own, their own views of what it means to have an American experience. And so we took these inscriptions, and Adriana handwrote each one of their there contributed texts out on paper. She handed those or she took those. Each one of those papers reduced them to ashes. She handed over the ashes to me and I mixed them inside of the casino that it was later applied to this eagle. So when you look at this ash and black, charred screaming eagle collapsing on the floor, how what an amazing way couldn't have been a more perfect final note to producing this piece because it was the voices of people read a people's history that really gave the final the final effect of what this piece represented. And so it was really an amazingly powerful project for the both of us. That project is still out there circulating in the world that is just about to open and is being installed literally as we speak at the Arizona State University. Their art museum for an exhibition about mass incarceration in this country titled Undoing Time,

Craig: [00:39:02] You know, isn't there like an Ali reference in Dream Baby Dream? Like, it's never like an association to like his funeral, just the diversity of people, how he kind of crossed all these strata of of people, of all colors and faiths and religions.

Vincent: [00:39:17] And yes, here here I was painting this image of the city and tackling and confronting white supremacy while watching on the screen unfold before me, Ali's funeral. There's not many people in my lifetime that I would use the term or apply to the term Hero four, but he was definitely one of them. Here was this schizophrenic Jekyll and Hyde America dealing with what was unfolding politically with the presidential election with Charlottesville. All these instances that we were all witness to while at the same time celebrating a Muslim American black male right in the twenty first century. One of the few individuals who has who stood up to and defy the American government. And here we were, praising and celebrating this individual. But even while watching his speakers at his funeral give their eulogies. I felt like it became a representation for something much larger at play. It was a curtains on the stage, lowering knowing what was looming on the horizon that was hovering over all of us, and it would affect all of us as a nation. And so while I remember getting chills just thinking like, Well, this is what a strange moment in time.

Craig: [00:40:53] So I remember. Talking to you and you described a residency that you had done in Germany, like a printmaking residency. Do I get that right? And I'm wondering, you know, did your time there in that residency? I remember part of it kind of examining kind of a post-World War II environment in Germany. Did any of that experience of processing that, you know, early on in your career kind of help inform the way you think about some of these things moving forward?

Vincent: [00:41:35] Sure. I mean, definitely in some ways, you know, I can't help but think about my time in Berlin. I was there, probably for about four months. And you know, for me, I think that being able to bring the stories that I was bringing bring working on these subjects and sharing them with a German audience that was probably the most interesting aspect for me was hearing responses about some of the about some of the subjects that I was, that I was putting down on paper and on canvas. It was important for me to also really, I think in a way, we recognize the way that other parts of the world have dealt with their own histories, right? And but I got to say it really, I couldn't help but feel that it only further helped me to to pinpoint and recognize how far behind America it really is in regards to understanding and embracing our own truthful histories. And aside from that, I think that one of the between between these kinds of experiences and the experience of just for the first time ever being able to walk into an institution and a museum and being surrounded by the historic artisan painters that for me have been the closest I've held them.

Vincent: [00:43:21] There's only a handful of painters that I really feel I share a similar language with. And coincidentally, these painters are individuals like Otto Dix, George George Groves, Christian Shad, Rudolf Schlichter, these individuals. Cathy Coates. This is their this is their region. This is where they were. Their experiences were documented and where they were born. And and so to be able to walk in and see this work firsthand and try to understand my own relationship to to them as painters. I think that was everything for me, right? Here you have these, these these artists that were straight out of the Weimar era that we're talking about nineteen thirties, right? Right before the Nazi or the Third Reich comes into play. And so it really opened up my eyes into helping myself understand what it is that I've always seen and understood in their work, you know, in regards to their social political elements that really, really fueled or was at the root of what they were trying to do and say.

Craig: [00:44:52] So you talked about the the trilogy of like the City, Dream Baby Dream and then this new body of work that's going to kind of going to be a little bit more hopeful. Will we see a return to more color or you know?

Vincent: [00:45:08] Yeah, you know, I after I completed my stood back and I looked at, you know, I reflected on the city and I reflected on Dream Baby Dream, too. And I thought, You know what? It's not, and I cannot stop here, not only for myself, but for the viewer. There has to be something a little bit more motivating, something to look forward to, something hopeful. And I and I mean, that is not a not a political way at all. I think for me at a moment like this, what it really comes down to is. Trying to remind ourselves that there are still people fighting the good fight out there, that there is something still worth fighting for, even in the midst of all of this chaos, noise distortion. And so it's important for me to return to a full color palette. I think for because those first two chapters were entirely in black and white, this color becomes, well, just that that the ignition that fire four of the human spirit, right? And I think that at the end of the day, I'm not attempting. So with the new Americans is, is these monumental scaled portraits? Twenty one Americans in the twenty first century who are fighting in their own unique ways, scattered around the country, hidden in their communities, not celebrities, don't really have wide platforms of power.

Vincent: [00:47:00] These are individuals who are regular people, common people fighting for each other, right? They are. They have to be monumental in scale because they stand like our pillars, right? Holding up a crumbling society. And so, for example, I have one of the first portraits is depicts a young guy out west in Santa Monica, California. Give them a shout out. Mr. Cheney goes by name Mr Checkpoints. I would highly encourage listeners to look him up and see what he's doing. Founded the hashtag Always film the police. Here are individuals who have committed themselves to helping others, and I think that this couldn't be more crucial at a moment like this, when it is so easy to forget that we are all in this together. You know it. At the end of the day, my goal is to reach twenty one individuals, and I'm not looking to attempt to create a who's who this like Time magazine feature. These are simply story individuals and stories that have helped him inspire me, motivate me and encourage me to get up the next morning and keep on pushing.

Craig: [00:48:33] Well, it sounds like a collection of works that would make a great exhibit like the National Portrait Gallery someday. And so hopefully. So hopefully we have the opportunity to see that. So, Vincent, if folks want to keep track of you and your work, how's the best way? Is it your website or Instagram or

Vincent: [00:48:52] Both the website and Instagram? I'm not so great at updating because I'm always in here working, but I try to do my best to sprinkle in a few updates here and there. But I I think that right now I'm at a moment where I'm really hunkering down in the studio, working to build up the next body of work over the next year and a half. But I'm very excited about how how quickly the work is now changing. It's really evolving and mutating into many different ideas and formats. My biggest challenge right now is being limited to one hand and a clock. And so it's it's I've got so many different stations moving daily in the studio, and I try to just divide up my time between drawing the painting now the sculpture and then always the print making sure.

Craig: [00:49:57] And if somebody was in the Phoenix area, they would be able to see requiem. You said that Arizona State pretty soon. Is that right?

Vincent: [00:50:06] Yes. And that opens, I believe, next week on September the 10th, and it's up through the fall. In the near future, I will be working with a contemporary art museum here in Houston to mount a, which is pretty terrifying to me. And now twenty about a twenty year retrospective survey show. Actually, we won't use the word retrospective just to you. Yeah. So it's going to be a collection of works from the moment that I graduated from. I mean, it really has been a race for me to just spit these ideas, flesh them out and get them out into. World and share them with others, and so I'm looking forward to that. And yeah, there's a few other things in the work that are lined up. But for me, it's just a matter of staying focused in here and staying on track and trying to get this work done.

Craig: [00:51:09] One last question. Do you play the trumpet every day?

Vincent: [00:51:14] You know, I really go in spurts. I'm finding I. I will go once when I'm intensively devoting a few hours a day to exercising the chops and and just playing on my own. I'll jump in and out of bands when I have the time and go on tours when I have the time. And then when I get so tied down with a painting, I just forget to pick up that horn. But right now, I just picked it up again after a few months hiatus and I'm trying to get the chops back. I really love playing the Hornets. It's such an important and amazing way to completely pull the plug on the visual stuff and just switch gears a bit.

Craig: [00:52:05] Vincent it's always a pleasure to talk to you. And I really believe people are going to connect with your vision for our country and our society and what you're trying to shine a light on with your work. I can't say thank you enough for being willing to spend this time talking about your work, man.

Vincent: [00:52:22] Oh, of course, Craig, any time and it's really great speaking with you and sharing with the listeners. I yeah, I think that just as a reminder to people out there, keep your heads up, keep up the fight. Even when we know the fight might be fixed and the rig it might be in, you've got to get back up. Just keep fighting. It's still worth fighting for.

Craig: [00:52:48] I really appreciate it, Vincent.

Craig: [00:52:50] And now the news.

Craig: [00:53:06] It's September, and it's art fair time in New York, once again, the Armory Show is back and with the ability to see work from some of the world's top contemporary galleries live and in person at the Javits Center, what feels like a return to form there are over 130 galleries from around the world participating, as well as curated spaces and a venue for live discussions with art world heavyweights. The show runs Thursday through Sunday, with Thursday catering to VIPs only from 11 to eight. General admission Sixty five dollars but there is a Saturday happy hour that costs only $35. For twenty five dollars. You can purchase a one hour guided tour of the fare, as is standard practice on the art fair circuit. There are a number of other fairs in New York this week hoping to share in the buzz. Among them are Cleo Art on paper independent and Spring Break post-COVID. The Independent has moved to the Battery Maritime Building on 10 South St. The historic building promises to be a compelling venue. One feature that particularly interested the fair's organizers is a sizable second floor outdoor terrace that runs the length of the building, which will allow the covered careful to do a little more. Mingling inside visitor ticketing is being reserved with a specific time in hopes of controlling traffic, minimizing crowds and guaranteeing better one to one interactions.

Craig: [00:54:29] For more information, you can check out Independent HQ. On Tuesday of this week, artworld looted or Banksy announced on his website his first NFT offering. The image appeared to be a Banksy response to CryptoPunks. The auction closed later that day, with the high bidder paying three hundred and thirty six thousand dollars for the asset. The only problem is Banksy says he was the victim of a website attack, which resulted in the buyer actually acquiring a Banksy like NFT from a hacker, not Banksy. That buyer was an avid Banksy collector and vocal member of the Banksy Twitter community, who goes by the handle pranks. According to Prexy, the hacker has since refunded the money that was lost, which would have pranks breaking even if it weren't for the fifty thousand five hundred dollars transaction fee on the platform where the NFT was purchased. Well, if you know much about Banksy, it's not long before you start questioning all the details of the story and whether the whole thing is a ruse to get free publicity. Or maybe he wants to make a comment about the irrational exuberance around NFTs and CryptoPunks in particular. Maybe it's one more of many jabs by Banksy at art collecting in general? Or maybe he's just a victim who knows.

Craig: [00:55:48] A 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat titled Equals Pi has bubbled up in the media this week as part of a dialog about the artist's intent in how he would feel if he were still alive about the work being branded by Tiffany and Co.. The debate stems from Tiffany's Knew About Love campaign, which recently featured a photo that included Jay-Z sporting a very Basquiat like quaff, seated next to his spouse, Beyoncé, who is channeling Audrey Hepburn's iconic breakfast at Tiffany's look. While sporting a one hundred and twenty eight carat diamond necklace. Some might complain about glorifying the racist and inhumane history of diamond mining. This week's debate is about the painting in the background Basquiat's equals PI. The painting had not been seen in more than 30 years, but here it was in an ad campaign for a luxury brand. How well Tiffany and Co. bought it for what is thought to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 million earlier this year. Why? Because the image is predominantly composed of that Robin's egg blue that Tiffany actually trademarked in nineteen ninety eight. The debate started when Tiffany and company assured the public that Basquiat had Tiffany and company in mind when he painted the work. Well, that let loose a storm of responses from those who knew him most personally.

Craig: [00:57:13] Partners, assistants, acquaintances have all weighed in, including Larry Gagosian, who rose to fame representing Basquiat. In a recent New York Times article, Gagosian agreed that Basquiat did love to shop, or Basquiat was known to paint in Armani suits. But the thought that he was making an ode to Tiffany and Co. was a stretch. Gagosian said It's a very evocative color. He probably just liked it. You can check out images of the campaign in the painting online, or you can visit the painting in its new home in the Tiffany Co. showroom on Fifth Avenue. That's all the time we have for this week. You've been listening to art since you can find the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher Radio, Spotify or your favorite podcast app. If you've enjoyed this podcast, be sure to subscribe. And while you're there, please rate the show and leave a quick review. Your feedback is the key to other folks finding us. If you'd like to see images related to the conversation, read a transcript and find other bonus features. You can go to Canvia Art. And click on the Podcast tab. If you'd like to reach out to me, you can email me at Craig at Canvia. Art, thanks for listening.

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