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Robbie Simon’s show Feeling Physical opens on November 21st 2014 at Gravel & Gold and will run through Friday, December 19th.
The show will include paintings of India Ink on craft paper, collage, as well as a variety of garments hand customized and illustrated with fabric marker, bleach and India Ink. Also produced exclusively for the show will be two small books of black and white photography as well as a third Risograph book of drawings, printed by Colpa Press . A Screen printed poster composed from two of the paintings will also be available for sale .
Robbie’s spent the last decade mostly playing in and working for bands, designing promotional fliers, posters and videos, photographing bands and designing the occasional stage show. This is his first art show and as long time admirers of the guy, we are more than stoked to host him during this pivotal moment. Below is a collection of some of the work he’s done for bands and a conversation I had with him about it what it’s like to shift from designer to artist.
Tomra: Most of your graphic design work has been for music promotion (album covers, show posters, music videos). How has this kind of work become such a large part of your output?
Robbie: Music was my first real outlet for design and creating. I was always in bands and everyone I knew was as well, which easily afforded me an opportunity to insert my work and invaluably provided a reason to create, something I certainly needed. Everyone’s gotta have a friendly place to start and explore and make a lot (!) of bad work before they can figure out where they’re headed. Fortunately for me (less so for them) my own bands and those of close friends were my dartboard ! I’ve never strategically kept myself resigned to the music world but it’s still such a big part of my life and it’s where all my best opportunities to work still come from. I love it , though ! I feel comfortable in the music world, a scarcely attended Wednesday night bar show is much more my zone than an art opening where everyone looks like a walking tumblr page. Although, there’s way more free beer at those things…
Tomra: What has inspired you to transition from graphic design into fine art?
Robbie: It’s something I’ve been gravitating towards for a while but also just wanted to see if I could pull it off. At this point the majority of my design work is based entirely on imagery or drawings I create which would in a lose definition simply make it art with advertisements on it. But the creative process gets much more interesting when you take that advertisement and therefore purpose for its existence away. Design is very easy at a base level as it’s built in with purpose for existing. Even if the imagery is terrible or lazy, if the message is conveyed in a design, it’s a success. Art doesn’t have that luxury which is something I’ve taken as a big challenge in this process. Asking myself often, “does this need to exists?” and often feeling the answer is “No” but then eventually leaning towards a “Maybe????” Also for the record, this perspective is neglecting the value of art for arts sake. Nothing in this world needs a purpose if it makes someone happy, but I’m figuring if I’m hanging this stuff on a wall, in someone’s lovely establishment and expecting friendly faces to come look at it, I better not be framing boogers.
Tomra: You’re from Southern California but spent a lot of years in San Francisco. You recently moved back down, to Los Angeles. How have you developed artistically throughout that transition and resettlement?
Robbie: I developed dramatically and hugely for the better, to be blunt . The epic cultural change that’s occurring in SF doesn’t need to be explained to anyone at this point and that was certainly a part in my leaving, but It’d be a lie to say it was all of my motivation. I was in a pretty deep rut personally. The clock was ticking on my 20’s and I had essentially retired for a few years content to wallow in unemployment, pissing away savings on froyo and tall cans. If I ever saw the amount of money I spent at the liquor store below my apartment, I’d barf. But shout out to Slater on 16th and Guerrero ! Hope, he’s doing ok. So the move was a huge refresh on life in general and I was able to shake off my malaise to feel creative and invigorated again. My home in LA is essentially a giant art studio where I can work on ten different messy things at any time of day. The freedom and space I have here is now essential to my progress and my process.
Tomra: What inspires your work other than music?
Robbie: More than anything else these days I’m inspired by people who apply creativity and expression to all aspects of their life. I don’t want a trade, I want outlets ! Just a dedicated lifestyle of making things and trying things and putting you’re own stamp on something . I see these sort of efforts as giving life to the world around them. I have a day job working for an Artist and Designer named Geoff McFetridge, he’s really good at this sort of thing. He bounces between projects and mediums, hi-brow and low-brow, all with an ease, grace and confidence that I aspire to achieve .
But to name a few visual artists I’m eternally inspired by and often “borrowing” from would the likes of Alexander Calder, Matisse, Miro, Keith Haring, Paul Jenkins, Barney Bubbles, Wallace Berman…
Tomra: That makes sense – your medium varies constantly – you’re always exploring. In this show you have collage, paintings, books, and clothing. What other mediums are you interested in pursuing? What’s your dream project?
Robbie: “Exploring” is really exciting word to hear in regards to my own work. I wish I felt that way internally ! Part of it is that I’m way more excited about trying something new vs. refining a singular concept or mastering a craft. It’s a good and bad trait, I think. Good part being I don’t see any real difference between approaching a painting or drawing on a pair of shoes or photographing a band. They all come from the same creative place and vision. I see the mechanics of producing something as entirely separate from the vision it’ll take to make it interesting. The mechanics are learned or you just make them up as you go and never let them stop you from trying something if you feel compelled. I’ve also always been attracted to the raw qualities in art or music that come from someone who has vastly more conviction than they do ability.
Portrait of Vuokko by Juliana Harkki.
for Marimekko is what is best known by most. In 1953, the year she joined the company, she designed the stripe “Piccolo.” The print is comprised of one or two passes of stripes that can overlap to form a third color. This approach takes brilliant advantage of large-scale silkscreen printing, which she helped Marimekko to develop (and we now do, too). Smart minimalism and flexibility of design have been at the center of her work since.
Vuokko’s stripes were an immediate sensation. In 1956, Marimekko introduced the iconic Jokapoika (“Everyboy”) shirt as their first garment for men. Over the years, Vuokko has designed more than 300 colorways for “Piccolo” to be used for the shirts, from her original Mediterranean-inspired palette to black on white and everything in between.
On the right here is Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko, in the late 1960s, out playing the model in one of the zillions of Jokapoika striped shirts she made. She, like many ladies, had no trouble borrowing from the men’s department. Though “Piccolo” was also used for garments intended for women, such as the Kivijalkamekko dress, designed by Vuokko and shown here with Ilmari Tapiovaara’s egg sculpture in 1957.
Bouffanted visitors to scorched mediterranean locales who still always pack an umbrella, grumpy teenagers also expecting rain, kiddos–everybody!–got a great striped something.
Here is Vuokko completing an installation of Marimekko goods at a gallery in Stockholm, in heels, in 1958. Bang story!
Vuokko designed other patterns and shapes for Marimekko as well, including–I was surprised to learn–Iloinen takki, that dress with patch pockets that Marimekko first made in 1960 and still makes and adult women still wear. Vuokko intended the wee pockets to hold surprise gifts for the wearer’s beau, and that’s about the extent of adult sexiness I can imagine associated with this garment.
However, her signature spare, geometric style were evident from the beginning, as you can see in her split color wool blouse of 1956 and her Ritsa apron with “Raituli” stripes of 1959. And now, these are questionably sexy body obsfucating garments I can stand behind, absolutely.
In 1964, Vuokko left Marimekko to found her own company, Vuokko Oy, which she ran until 1988 and still runs a version of today. Left to her own devices, the body obliteration + spare geometry were turned up to full force and the vibe got super hot!
and office/studio in Helsinki was designed from top to bottom in 1970 by her late husband Antii Nurmesniemi (who also designed, for example, the Wärtsilä coffee pot for Arabia). It is open except for the bedroom with big views of the sea. Four mezzanines, including the swimming pool level which I have not seen a picture of but would love to see a picture of, stacks of Vuokko’s floor pillows and a heated floor = heavenplace.
Portrait with plants by Anna Huovinen.
-We stock the Marimekko book at the shop, and it includes a bunch of images and information about Vuokko and Marimekko overall. It is, hands-down, the book we consult most when trying to forge through a new design.
-Apartamento ran a wonderful profile of Vuokko in Issue #07, featuring an interview with her and shots from her home, including the first two I posted in the series, and “I got rid of most of the seams and pleats. The Japanese say ‘Vuokko set women free.’ See, my design always starts from the fabric. I want to give the patterns a lot of solid surface, which often affects the shape of the final dress, loosening it up” and other gems. Track it down!
Yellow and Grey Sculpture on Wood, 2011
Green Sculpture with Painting, 2011
Orange and Tan Wall Sculpture, 2011
Familiar Places, 2013
Dag, Stacy Fisher! Doin’ it! Check out: stacyfisher.net
We’re hiring a part time sales associate!
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Excellent exercises and attitude available from Deborah Rozman, Meditating with Children, also 1975.
Wake Up to Yoga by Lyn Marshall, 1975. And you know it really is Lyn Marshall by the strong LM patch she’s got on all of her rainbow leotards.
Blessings on Tom & Deborah, Tomra’s parents, who are renewing their vows after 35 years of marriage! Let us enjoy 35 tracks in their honor.
I am grateful to Leigh Patterson for inviting me to share 5 THINGS I’m into right now on Alldayevery. Please enjoy!