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Nerdlocker Artist Interview: Gallery 1988!

And we’re back! We’ve had a lot of exciting art related things going on lately and this interview just ups the ante! I got a press release announcing that Gallery1988 would be opening an Avengers-themed art show coordinated with the movie opening in wide release. On top of that, they were actually working with Disney/Marvel to put the show together! Well, I finally saw my chance to interview the man, the myth, the legend, Jensen! I was stoked! And lucky for me, Disney gave us the okay to interview him about “Assemble,” the Avengers art show!

Nerdlocker (NL): Tell us about yourself. And don’t forget the part where you successfully opened the coolest art gallery devoted to pop culture.

Jensen (J): Wellllll, I do co-own and co-curate Gallery1988, which are pop culture focused art spaces, all centered in Los Angeles. We celebrate our 8th anniversary this week, which we’re really proud of, and we’ve worked hand-in-hand with some pretty amazing companies to create what we call “artvertising” – which is a corny name for molding organic, heartfelt campaigns all around the usage of art and the artists we’ve been working with for almost a decade now. I own the marketing division, which is called “Tyson/Givens.” The coolest thing we’ve done SO FAR, was work with ABC and Damon Lindelof/Carlton Cuse on creating and executing a final season marketing plan for the TV show LOST. To name a few, we’ve also worked in marketing for Hot Wheels, Masters of the Universe, The Fighter, Young Adult, Comedy Central and Disney. And now we’re lucky enough to work with Disney/Marvel to create “Assemble,” which is an opening weekend art event here in Los Angeles, where over 25 artists have created pieces influenced by the film.

NL: What inspired you to open an art gallery? And why one focused on pop culture?

J: My business partner Katie was an Art History major and I had just had a financially successful, yet emotionally unseccuessful run in the music industry, so we got to talking about what our dreams were. She was working at a stuffy, expensive gallery and we’d make fun of it all the time. We saw a major gap between people our age, who had money to spend on their walls, and the galleries that were being offered to them. They didn’t understand a younger demographic, and didn’t even want to try. So we knew our friends would spend a ton on shoes and handbags, why not art? And that’s where the idea came from to focus on younger artists and, in turn, younger buyers. It only took a few months from that point to realize the common thread between all of us was a love for pop culture. So where other galleries in 2004 may have told the artists to shy away from those influences, we encouraged it, mostly because we knew we’d buy it. And that’s basically where the whole idea came from. When we noticed pop culture was speaking to like-minded people, AND they were buying the art, it was a no-brainer that our focus was going to be pop culture, and something we luckily loved also.

NL: What are you looking for when you receive a submission to your gallery?

J: When I look at submissions, I’m looking for a style. I never really like to see work that is already themed. I think the best subsmissions are the ones with paintings/prints/sculptures that reflect his/her personal style more than anything. After eight years, I’ve gotten good at imagining what the artist can do in a certain theme, so I don’t need to see that. I just need to see where someone is coming from and I’m so familiar with the G1988 brand, that’s the easiest part for me. I’m not saying we haven’t accepted themed work, I just think there’s a fine line between “fan art” and what we show. So make sure to let us know you aren’t just creating portraits of your favorite Harry Potter characters. We want to see that you have aspirations outside of the themes for your career. That means a lot to us and we love watching the artist grow, even when it means they move on to other galleries that focus on higher price points. That’s the goal for everyone.

NL: Who are some of your favorite artists?

J: I have a long list, especially of artists we work with. I love NC Winters, Roland Tamayo, Kirk Demarais, Greg Simkins, Luke Chueh, Bruce White, Jeff Boyes, Mike Mitchell, Casey Weldon, Eric Tan, Dave Perillo, Scott C, Nathan Stapley, Tom Whalen and Augie Pagan just off the top of my head. And artists who don’t show here a lot, I adore Josh Keyes art, as well as Martin Witfooth and Tyler Stout.

NL: Tell us everything (literally everything) about the Avengers art show you have coming on May 3.

J: We were approached by Disney/Marvel to create a G1988 experience for the film. The filmmakers are big fans, and buyers, and they love the excitement that seeing artwork about a certain property, and in this case movie, can bring to the fans, as well as the creators. I’ve always wanted to do something where you can go see a movie opening weekend and then go to an art gallery immediately after and see artwork based on the movie. And I’ve always thought putting it in the Arclight or a movie theater was kind of corny. So Disney had some ideas and I had some ideas, and it turned into this: We had three grafitti murals, by top dudes here in LA (Tyke Witness, AXIS and Krush) just pop up on Melrose. Two billboards and a wall. Each artist painted two Avengers and announced an event on May 3rd at 7021 Melrose Ave. It’s cool too because that was the first announcement that we have a new space directly across the street from our original gallery. So now, as we await the weekend, we’ll debut tons of new work, both originals and prints, all on display and for sale, Thursday night from 7-10 PM – then Friday – Sunday 11-6 PM. It’ll be a must-see for Avengers fans AND art fans. It’s a great mixture, especially with artists like Luke Chueh, Scott C, Rhys Cooper, DKNG, Dave Perillo and NC Winters involved.

NL: What posters/art do you have on display in your house?

J: Not too much. I always see it as the bulk of the art I see everyday at the gallery, and I don’t always want to bring my work home. I know right now I have a Greg Simkins painting up from the first Crazy 4 Cult, a Shepard Fairey he made for us depicting the Beastie Boys, the Olly Moss Saved by the Bell from Paper Cuts, a Banksy print and a Nathan Stapley original from his solo show with us last year. I don’t buy a lot of stuff from our gallery, as I actually get more satisfaction from new buyers taking it home, rather than me hoarding it.

NL: Tell us about the coolest annual art show on the planet, Crazy 4 Cult. What inspired that idea?

J: As a film student mysef, since the day we oepned I wanted to have a show where artists pay tribute to my favorite off-kilter flicks. The name Crazy 4 Cult was actually born before the idea was even fleshed out. But I remember Scott Mosier, who had produced Clerks and Mallrats and such with Kevin Smith, was becoming a buyer at the gallery, and also a friend. So we were talking about upcoming shows, and I was like, “Hey, I have a pitch for you,” and I detailed the idea of getting 100 artists to paint movies like Repo Man, Lebowski, Edward Scissorhands, etc. He loved the idea and asked if he could tell Kevin. From there it snowballed. Kevin told Richard Kelly and Edgar Wright, who in turn told Quentin Tarantino, and we had a juggernaut on our hands before we even had an artist line-up. Since then we’ve done it five times and we released a book chroncling a lot of the show with Titan Publishing. It’s been our most successful show and soon we’ll be announcing that it’s travelling to NY (EXCLUSIVE!!!!!!).

NL: Star Wars or Star Trek and why?

J: Star Wars. I had a cousin who was obssessed with Star Wars, so from an early, early age I was playing with the Darth Vader action figure and the Ewok Village. Star Trek had no real chance purely because of how much Star Wars I was exposed to when I’d visit my cousin. I always say I’ll give Star Trek the real chance now at 32 years old, but I never do. And yet, I still buy every piece of crap Lucas does.

NL: What do you do in your free time?

J: I’m a pretty big rap historian. I have a pretty obsessive mind when it comes to hip-hop’s past and future, so I’m pretty engulfed in it. And I have a podcast that talks about that, and a lot of other emerging stuff people might not know about, over at Kevin Smith’s Smodcast network. It’s called Get Up On This, and we have almost 40 episodes now with celebrity guests like Mike Shinoda, Casey Veggies, Mosier, Jonah Ray. I also still write a bunch from my film education, so I’ll produce and write for Funny Or Die a lot, or just focus on still writing jokes through my Twitter account, which is @jensenclan88. It really has no connection to the gallery, it’s just a place I can write stupid jokes like I’m still in college, doing it for class. I’m also a Howard Stern Superfan.

While Ferris Was Banging Sloan

NL: You sent me an interesting link when we spoke earlier (breakinggifs.com). Are you addicted to gifs? Have you thought about seeking treatment?

J: I’m just really interested in what Paul Scheer does. He’s a friend and one of my favorite comedians. We worked together on the LOST campaign and what he’s doing now for Breaking Bad is pretty exciting. It’s definitely worth checking out, then staying with for the next few weeks. And yes, I LOVE .gifs.

NL: Give us a Nerdy secret that most people don’t know about you.

J: Most people know my decade old past as a rapper on Interscope Records, so that’s nothing juicy, though VERY nerdy. But I did write a book a few years with my friend Matthew Robinson, called Just Can’t Get Enough and it’s just funny essays and pictures about ’80s toys. Most people don’t know we wrote it, since the publisher under-produced them, but some are still available occasionally at Amazon and it’s a fun book and VERY VERY VERY nerdy.

NL: What is your favorite movie?

J: My actual favorite movie, as many times as I’ve answered with Apocalypse Now, There Will Be Blood and Citizen Kane, is actually The Burbs. It’s just the movie I love the most. It makes me happiest. I really like light comedy. I can’t avoid it. Early Tom Hanks, Joe Dante, weird suburban plot. Just up my alley. I’ve tried to avoid it in the past, and I just can’t anymore.

NL: What is your favorite video game?

J: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out is my favorite game ever. It just is so good, and the challenge of each boxer meant so much to me as a kid. And being a huge boxing fan, and an even bigger Mike Tyson fan, this spoke directly to me. I still have my NES set up, so I’ll play it every once in a while.

NL: What is your favorite Marvel comic book or comic book character?

J: My favorite Marvel book is obscure, but it’s X-Statix. I read comics as a kid, like Infinity Gauntlet and X-Men, but I dropped out in my teens. It wasn’t until I was around 20, and this book came out and rebranded X-Force, that I was back hook, line and sinker. It was just a VERY different superhero book that had very Indy characteristics and aesthetics and I dug it. I still LOVE it and can read it anytime. It’s sad it had such a short run, but it was way ahead of its time, that’s for sure.

NL: Thank you so much Jensen for all the great answers to our hard hitting questions! We can’t wait to see the rest of the art for Assemble. And of course every other show you have up your sleeves! This is why us Nerds are poor, but absolutely loving it!

To keep informed on all the shows taking place at Gallery 1988’s two locations, visit their website here. Or better yet, visit them at either:

Gallery 1988 Melrose (Assemble will be at this location)
7020 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90038

or

Gallery 1988 Venice
214 Pier Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405

I'm a true child of the 80s from a small town near Cleveland, Ohio. My all time favorite topics are Star Wars, slasher films and Cleveland sports (despite the misery it causes). I narrowly avoided law school, instead choosing film school. I have been accused of being a walking IMDB, but I take it as a compliment!