Thursday, June 17, 2010

Art List Related Interview- Nevada Hill

Nevada Hill is a local artist that has worked in North Texas for years now, making his first splash with a memorable exhibition at The Art Prostitute, all the way back in 2005. His style is so unconventional that I often hear bands remark how confused they are at what their poster says, or is "supposed to be," and yet his work has been used in everything from the grimiest house show poster to the most sacred cow gig announcement. He is also a prolific musician, playing guitar and violin in improvisation-based projects like Zanzibar Snails and Idi Amin, as well as the more harshly defined act Drug Mountain. Hill has also been involved in the layout and occasional design work in each of the three records We Shot JR has put out over the last two years.

Hill has a showing this Saturday entitled, "For Sale: The Creative Droppings of Nevada Hill" at The MeMe Gallery, which is next door to Rubber Gloves. He will be selling his new 20 page "Mass 3" comix, as well as assorted other works. The show is to fund his first international show in Lisbon, Portugal at the Trem Azul gallery for an opening on June 24th, and he will perform music at the same gallery on June 26th. Quite an accomplishment for a DFW-based artist.

Saturday's show is at 9:00 pm and will also include music by Pinkish Black, Atwa, and Dust Congress. Totally loaded questions by Defensive Listening.

How did you get hooked up with your first overseas art show, and this show in Portugal specifically?

I did research about the underground comix scene when I made my first one and was obsessed with Fort Thunder. I found a website named Chili Com Carne and sent the owner comix. I immediately got a response which thus started my 4 year pen-pal relationship with Marcos Farrajota. He would write me every once in awhile to ask me if or when my next comix were coming, when I was not even thinking about it, or thought that no one cared. I had some vacation time and asked if I could come to Portugal just to hang out, and he offered me an art show. It is also during the biggest small publishing event in Europe to my knowledge called Feira Laica.

Your artwork has undergone some noticeable stylistic changes lately. There is more color, or rather a more blatant and bold use of color; whereas once you would have a scratchy-lined mound of dung appear subtly nauseating, it now practically screams at the viewer with a bright toxic intensity. Along the same lines, you are generally doing work that seems more obviously grabbing: big blocks of color instead of mere hints of it around the busy lines. It's almost as if the color has become the "thing." What caused the change and did you feel apprehensive about it so close to your first overseas show?

The change came in the middle of creating Mass 3. I have many theories about why an artist's style changes. It is not a departure from one style to another, but just a focus on a different path that I have not gone down before. The influence that sparked it was randomly finding this 60’s animation on YouTube by a Japanese artist named Tadanori Yokoo. His use of space and form, along with a unique color palate, triggered a sea change in me. I’m trying to use the flatness as just another tool in the box, to mix with the hairy poop style that I have been using since earlier on. I also like the idea of not trying to impress anybody and creating painfully simple pieces that are more about ideas than, "Look at how cool this looks."
At this point in the game I just want to get over there with everything in one piece. I’m also bringing my violin and some pedals to play. So I just hope I remember everything. I’m sure the audience will be accepting, but if not then, oh, well.

I heard that you recently had a comic project get botched due to a cowardly printing place choosing not to print your work based on some vague moral objection. I personally feel that this sort of censorship decision being made at the manufacturing and industry level is one of the worst hindrances an artist faces, even in 2010. What are your feelings about the situation and what do you feel caused the decision to not print your work?

I feel that the printer felt the content to be too much in the way of genitals and poop, along with all the other subversive things that I injected. I do not see these things as "a boob with legs" or "that thing is shitting on that other thing." I see it as just objects interacting, just as you would talk to someone or give someone a handshake. So I was surprised but not shocked when they told me that they were going to pass. These people are not that hard to offend. We are talking about elderly southern Alabama ultra-right-wing people. I just get the printing done cheaper than Kinko's. I felt frustrated at first. Then I said "fuck ’em" and got over it.

You yourself have worked in various jobs where you have to be mindful of social mores or what the mainstream finds to be acceptable. Now perhaps some of it is understandable depending on the setting; for instance, you might not want to have Batman in some of his less proud moments on a shirt made for a four-year-old. Or maybe you do? How important do you feel it is to subvert these sort of guidelines on what is suitable, even in the context of sneaking private parts or bodily fluids in an unsuspecting rock band's poster?

I design licensed billboards for specialty consumers. (I hate to break it to you but Urban Outfitters' and Wal-Mart's tastes are similar. They are not as cool as you thought they were). I make T-shirts for a merchandising company. I gave up on trying to inject any kind of personality in the designs, and leave that creativity for my own work that I will create later. I’m going to let Batman be Batman. As far as gig posters, things were getting way too fuckin’ cute for me, so I’m trying to push things a little by throwing something in to make people ask "What the fuck is that?"

You have participated in FLATSTOCK over the years, and yet you have also performed at SXSW as a musician on various occasions. What are the differences and similarities in playing the game at this yearly cultural meat market, as both a musician and a visual artist? Which do you prefer?

This is a tough question. My experiences at SXSW have been diminishing in excitement year after year. As far as FLATSTOCK goes, all the other what I might consider "weirdo artists" (Seripop, DNML, Sonnenzimmer, etc...) do not participate in the Texas FLATSTOCK because they do not feel it is for them, which I understand. I wouldn't do it either, except for the fact that it is only 3 hours away. So I feel like sometimes I’m the only one there without a Queens Of The Stone Age poster with a topless chick and pot leaves. There are some other great people there: Land Land, Young Monster, Jay Ryan, and Tim Doyle, though I do not feel stylistically similar to them. I always feel that when people get to my booth after seeing the million other posters they are either relieved that there is someone doing something dirty, or they are repulsed by my lack of craftsmanship.

As a musician I have only had one good day show for the past 2 years that I have played shows there. I would prefer not to play them, but I do. I have seen some amazing day shows though.

In continuing with the same subject, who "gets it" more? Music fans or art fans? Which do you find to be more informed, and who do you feel is just looking to party?

I have no idea if anyone gets it. I do not even get it and my interpretation is always different than the audiences'. I get the most requests for artwork from musicians though, and I guess that is why I started doing this in the first place: for music.

What are the advances, if any, that local art has made over your years as a working artist in North Texas? What do you feel causes the whole thing to just decline?

Well it is not as “advanced” as I want it to be. I was hoping that more shops would pop up and it would be a little like Chicago as far as a print community. Besides Pan Ector in Denton, I do not know of any other Independent art shops. What I wanted to happen was for me to make these shitty posters and to inspire someone to say "Fuck you, I can do this better," start their own shop, and put out their own packaging and posters. I do not think it is in decline by any means, because I have consistently met great artists from all over the DFW area.

What has been the most successful show or favorite memory in doing all of this? What has been the worst moment?

My favorite times are seeing people that I respect and being able to trade with them. One of my favorite moments was meeting Matt Brinkman at the Load Records showcase in Austin, and being able to tell him how much Fort Thunder affected my outlook. The worst moments are working forever on something and it comes out shitty. I feel like I’m about to have a nervous breakdown sometimes when that happens. Then going to the show to try to sell, and the venue does not have a merch area or they do and there is no light.

Why are musicians so stupid when it comes to doing the minimal research it takes to find out what they need to finish a t-shirt or poster design? Can you tell us a little bit about why a band should never submit its horrible logo in a Microsoft word file, or what vectoring is?

I do not think bands are stupid for focusing more on their “sound” than caring about how unique their album packaging is. I personally think that good album packaging is huge part of a good album. It will not make a shitty album good but it will boost the listening experience. People who listen to vinyl will stare at the cover while listening, so why not give them something great to stare at? Vector graphics are something that I plan to never use (I may one day?) in my personal work, but must use in my 9 to 5 and I do not have enough time to go off on a tangent about it. I just do not understand why everything has to be flat and clean. Lets just iron out the wrinkles in our brain shall we?

I recently attended the late-period Warhol show that just ended at the Modern and I understand you did as well. What do you think has changed about screen printing since the 80's? What did you find interesting about the prints there?

There are huge changes from the 80’s. Screen-printing posters did not really begin until the early 90’s, according to the "Art of Modern Rock" book, and has grown ever since. So now in 2010 it is a commoditized hobby with the Yudu [home screen-printing system]. In the 60’s, as opposed to today, it was used as another medium to facilitate High Art. It was looked at as avant-garde to use an industrial process to create fine artwork. The great thing about Warhol and his cronies is that they used screen-printing for its imperfections, not for the industrial use of trying to create exact replications for the private sector. The processes of creating the materials for printing were way too complicated for at-home screen-printing, or to print rock posters with. All the Avalon and Fillmore posters are lithography. Just like home recording, screen-printing has given the consumer the power to create what they want. Actually just watch the Yudu commercial.

What is the worst thing about working on layouts for We Shot JR projects, and are we the most incompetent outfit that you have ever been involved with?

The worst part about working for We Shot JR is that I just do not have enough room for all the money that the dump trucks bring to my house. No, We Shot JR is no different than any other client or job.


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