The guys sat down for a longer interview in the days leading up to the show. Here’s what they said about their collaboration and work.
First off, both of you are from Puerto Rico. How has that influenced the work that you do?
Juni: In my case, it’s obvious that the lifestyle of Puerto Rico has a great influence on my work. The climate is also a great influence in the sense that it lends itself to being outside, going to the beach, the rivers, the countryside. See, I live in the city, and so that influences me a great deal. But also when you go out, so see a ton of color. And since I am a painter, that lifestyle has influenced me a lot. I’ve noticed that I am really influenced by all things tropical, life at the beach, that type of thing.
Chris: I think for me this influence is not as evident. But perhaps artists traditions, like the strong graphic tradition in Puerto Rico has been important in my work. I have been exploring it in different ways. In this case I have been working with serigraphs. But beyond doing a print with ink, I have been developing it more as a drawing, which is very present in my work. Also the use of graphic images for tattooing, that has also influenced me a great deal. But not an influence that is very obvious, at least not one that I observe.
Juni: But also, even though we are Puerto Rican, with respect to our political condition and in other ways we have become more Americanized. We have access to lots of information, and I think that allows to be more like a hybrid. Yes, we are Latinos, but we are also a combination of things. We are constantly discovering ourselves, and in a process of self-exploration, and seeing who we really are.
Chris: And it is not that we don’t have an identity, because we obviously have one. But to have this status of a colony, because really we are the oldest colony in the world that still exists. But as Juni says it puts us in a situation where we are influenced by several places, and we are somewhere in the middle.
Why were you interested in collaborating and how has that translated into this residency? What are you doing in the space?
Juni: Well the initiative really came from Mario [Ybarra Jr.]. And it worked out quite well because Christopher and I have worked on exhibits together, but we had not had the opportunity to collaborate in this way and create a project starting from nothing, and coming from both of us. It has been super productive, because ideas have come out, and we didn’t expect it to happen this way. In just one day we came up with the exhibition project. We had some idea of what we wanted to do and in what direction we wanted to go, you know the music Scene, the propaganda or advertising put out by bands…all this stuff. But being here together is when everything became clear.
Chris: And like Juni says, yes we had collaborated a bunch of times before, we have been friends for a few years thru the music Scene and exhibitions. But when the invitation came from Mario, we were like oh damn, how cool we’re going to collaborate. And all kinds of ideas came to mind, ideas that were concretized here, so yeah, super productive.
Juni: And from this we hope to take advantage of it and do it again in other places and contexts, unifying music, with the underground Scene with bands, integrating this whole [music] world, which really unifies us more, than perhaps even the art world.
Chris: It is more specific.
Juni: It has its groups and gives you the opportunity to meet interesting people that contribute super great ideas.
What is the story behind the title, “War Spectacle: The Last Paradise”?
Chris: In reality, this took a bit of time to figure out. In a practical sense, we said in this collaboration you will have a part, and I will have a part, and that it should be something that sounds concrete and makes sense. But in part because we were using the music influence, the departure was this idea that it should be a song title, or be influenced by a song.
Juni: Exactly. Or even like a concert. Instead of an art exhibit, the idea was that it should like a concert and we would make references to bands we like. So the title really came out of trying to name a band-based music event. They [the bands] don’t exist, but still it is an event inspired by the advertising with the use of flyers, that type of artwork.
Chris: The words “War Spectacle” came from a real song, right Juni?
Juni: Yes, I was listening to a band that I friend lent me and I began to bring together different references [in my head], and that’s how it came about.
Chris: And the “Last Paradise” also more or less comes from a song. But also in thinking about an idea to connect the space, the way it happens in shows, a type of paradise in the sense that everyone has come together behind this one cause, the music. At these types of music shows, this type of an environment is very obvious in the mosh pit, for example. The mosh pit is very interesting, and it is something that I am still exploring. Everyone is united, there is internal rules that it is ultimately for fun, to enjoy the moment of the concert. I mean there are always fights too, and that’s where War Spectacle comes from.
Juni: So there is also a war, but a war that just stays amongst us.
Chris: It’s almost utopic, or not exactly, but still a moment where everyone is united.
Juni: You feel free. So it’s a type of war, but a creative war, not one used to harm anyone.
How has it been being in Los Angeles, and how has that translated to the elements you have put in the gallery.
Juni: It has been, surely for both of us, a really great source for the creative process. Mario and Karla gave us a tour through the city, and it was parts of the city that if we had come on our own, we wouldn’t have encountered. And these types of routes, which aren’t the typical ones, activate things in your mind. This influenced us a bunch. And meeting Mario’s friends! And obviously Mario’s work too, he becomes like a community explorer and he integrates all of those elements.
Chris: I agree that also helped us a lot in the creative process. It is the first time I came to Los Angeles, and not knowing L.A. well what you think of is well, the beach, Hollywood, what attracts tourists.
Juni: Plastic boobs.
Chris: So what have seen is the real Los Angeles. And the graffiti culture which is considerably old. The graffiti exhibit [at MOCA] too.
Juni: If you notice, we are doing printmaking, painting, redimex, so in reality what influences us is the full context.
Chris: Yes, of just being here, of being with people, Mario’s friends…we went to a street show as well.
Juni: We have met MCs, singers, and that is what we really came to do. It has been a real organic process, without it being forced. Everything has sort of just appeared before us.
Are there any pieces you would like to talk about that are currently in the show?
Juni: The bottles sculpture. What we noticed is that here you can’t drink on the street and everyone is worried about getting a ticket, that the police will see them, etc. We also saw that one way that people camouflage this or are more discreet is by putting a paper bag on the bottles. Which has a name right: “brown bag?”
Chris: And we’ll use it in the title. But it is also something that happens in Puerto Rico, but here it’s more…[severe].
Juni: Yeah, because L.A. is supposedly the place that has more police, that invests more in protection. But also while we have been working here, we have been drinking beer while we work. So what we have been trying to do is really take advantage of everything we are experiencing, and make it part of the project. So we decided that we would keep all the bottles of the beer we have been drinking and make a sculpture with the bottles. Really using everything we have consumed while we have been producing the work.
Chris: The graphic prints [with the show title] are inspired by how important advertising is in music events, these flyers made to announce different events. More than the viewers simply looking at the print made from the wood cut, I want people to do their own rubbings and take home their own posters. With the geometric line piece I was approaching it from previous works that I have done to incorporate visible and invisible spaces in established architecture, in a space like this for example. There is a native space within a space, spaces like those that hold these types of music events.