SlamXHype caught up with Los Angeles artist Carlos Ramos to chat about some of his favorite things. Look for his upcoming solo exhibition, “India” opening at Corey Helford Gallery on August 15.
SXH: Can you tell us a bit about where you are from?
CR: I was born in Burbank, California and raised in North Hollywood and by high school was going to Fairfax High in Hollywood where I got into most of the shenanigans that I think formed my personality and tastes. My friends and I felt like if we were going to the same school Guns n’ Roses and the Chili Peppers met we should learn to play instruments and get into trouble…we never really got good at playing anything.
SXH: What did you want to be when you were a child?
CR: All I wanted to do for most of my childhood was draw for Mad Magazine. I knew nothing of New York but would constantly tell my mom I was moving there as soon as I was 18 and get a job at Mad. She would say, “No, no! Too dangerous. You’ll starve as an artist. Become an architect” but I wouldn’t hear it. In my high school years William Gaines, the original editor passed away and the mag went totally downhill and it really crushed me ’cause I think a big part of me believed I would do that.
SXH: How did you get your first breakthrough?
CR: My first breakthrough?! That’s a big question. I think film shaped me artistically more than anything. In Jr. High I started getting obsessed with filmmakers like Kubrick, the Coen brothers and Sam Raimi. I really saw great art in how meticulous their shots were and so wanted to do something that exact. In college artists like Dan Clowes, J. Otto Seibold and Miroslav Sasek had a major impact on me visually. Again, their preciseness is what always caught my eye. By my third year in college (I got a BFA in Character Animation from the California Institute of the Arts) I think I had my own artistic ‘breakthrough’ with a short I made called, ‘Day of the Monkey’ where my style really came through and I felt like I knew what I was doing. And MTV ended up buying and airing it which really blew me away. Years later I started an art auction with Time Biskup called ‘The Burning Brush’ and dabbled in painting and over the years started doing more group shows and the pieces had really great responses especially on Jon Gibson’s ‘I-Am-8-bit’ yearly group show. The rest is history I guess.
SXH: Where do you find inspiration and influence on a daily basis? why?
CR: I find tons of inspiration in music. It feeds my brain and when under severe deadlines certain bands really get overplayed. Deerhunter (probably my favorites right now), Destroyer, Aphex Twin, Wolf Parade, Make-Up, The Unicorns and ofcourse stand-by’s like The Beatles, Bowie, Beastie Boys and Ween. Music is what feeds the beast and if you know me I wear an iPod shuffle tacked to my shirt and have speakers in every room of my house. It’s oxygen for me. A bad mix can ruin a piece for sure. Also movies, I have a minor fixation with listening to director commentaries on film when I’m painting. Just like music the right director can really fill your head with ideas and ways to problem solve your art. I’d have to recommend David Fincher talking over Se7en, Wes Anderson on The Royal Tanenbaums and Irvin Kershner on Empire Strikes Back (he’s like fuggin’ Yoda on that one -good stuff). Anyways, other than some sparse images on my computer monitor I rarely ever put much reference around me when I work. I really don’t want other’s images impacting what I do. I also rarely plan much before I start painting. Maybe a sparse doodle on a Post-It that looks like a doctor’s note. The sketches rarely look like the finished product.
SXH: Anyone you desire to work with/for?
CR: I’d really love to see how my stuff would translate into live action film as far as art direction. Somebody like Chris Cunningham (Aphex Twin’s video director) would be the absolute boner fest of a lifetime. Again, I keep thinking about music -maybe do a video for Deerhunter? Trying to translate my stuff to CG would be a blast with the guys at Pixar as well. I went to college with so many of the director’s there but always had my head and heart in flatter more Hannah Barbera-type styles that are better served on Saturday morning television so after all these years I wonder if there would be a way to merge those things. It wouldn’t look like anything else in production that’s for sure! Also working with the people at a video games house like EA would be so much fun. I’m obsessed with bringing back side scrolling games (like Mega Man or Mario Bros). A flat style in a 3D world would be killer. That was like four answers.
SXH: What’s the best thing about the city you live in? why?
CR: I’m a Los Angeles kid forever. It’s all I know or ever want to know. It’s a city of instant gratification. If you want anything it can be in your hands in 30 minutes -Greek food made by a Greek family, a discontinued DVD of Mystery Science Theatre, a leather pair of velcro Converse, a teacup Boston Terrier?! It’s all here. I find visiting most places I get itchy for home after a week. Anywhere you travel to it’s the same thing day in/ day out whether it be food, types of people, bars etc. LA’s got anyplace beat as far as I’m concerned (except Japan -whoops). AND other than Mexico it’s the only place you can get Mexican meals which is basic survival food.
SXH: Where is the best place to eat? why?
CR: I live in Silvelake which is food central. It’s got killer vegan places everywhere. I eat meat as well but mostly stick to the meat-free stuff since the hippies can make anything outta soy now. For the sake of my show I’d have to say India’s Sweets & Spices (3126 Los Feliz Blvd). It’s 6 bucks for a meal fit for two -take THAT recession. And the best chai tea. They also always have Bollywood films going which is always tons of eye candy.
SXH: Best Shop in your city? why?
CR: Amoeba Records on Sunset -the greatest music and movie store in history! It’s the size of a Costco and is filled with really nice people that know alot. AND anything you buy can be returned within a week for 70% store credit. I wish I was there right now.
SXH: Best Gallery in your city? why?
CR: Well, ofcourse my gallery- Corey Helford. I’ve always kinda dreaded going to gallery shows, then I met Jan and Bruce. They have such a warm quality and really do love the art and treat their artists with respect and really make us feel special and not just comodities that eb and flow based on who’s hot. I’ve seen red carpets layed out, pornographic installations, people in bear suits, cute girls serving milk and donuts and Zooey Deschanel singing. They’re really the best and are constantly raising the bar on presentation and class in a time when other galleries are freaking out and cutting back.
SXH: Favourite place to visit? why?
CR: Little Tokyo. The perfect night? Some serious beef eating at the Shabu Shabu house, sake at the bar across from it. Shooting guns at the LA Gun Club and then getting some Iced Coffee and Pocky at the market before singing at the Miyako hotel where the waitresses wear red Playboy bunny-styled bikinis over the holidays. If you were asking outside the U.S I’d have to say the real Tokyo -which has all of the above minus the guns.
SXH: What do you think of the current climate of the art scene? why?
CR: I love it! I honestly love the entire art/film/animation scene right now. The recession has put a desperation and immediacy to everything and in times like this artists are hit hard and they hit back. Almost like in the 70’s when film studios were folding and they had no choice but to turn to longhairs like Scorsese, Lucas, Copolla and Speilberg to save them. I think the powers that be have to start taking more chances which allows more freedom for an artist to do what they do. Times like this really trim the fat and allow those with a vision to shine.
SXH: What artists are changing the way we think at the moment?
CR: Well, it’s amazing that Shepard Fairey was able to create an image that won the hearts and minds of the country and helped get a Democrat back into the presidential seat. On the trail where I run every day a homeowner took it upon themselves to blow the Obama image up to 30 feet and illuminate it on their lawn. It made me really happy for Shepard. I really can’t think of anybody rocking it harder than him right now.
SXH: Any artists that perhaps we should look out for? why?
CR: Well, I’m currently obsessed with Superjail (created by: Christy Karacas <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Jail#cite_note-THR-0> , Stephen Warbrick and Ben Gruber) on Adult Swim. It’s produced out of Aaron Augenblick’s studio in New York City. He also did all the animated shorts for Wonder Showzen. As far as animation, art or characters there is absolutely nothing like it. It’s like if Mike Judge, Friends With You, Jordan Crane and the original 9 old men from the Disney Studios made an animated project together. The show’s basically about a Willie Wonka-esque warden who runs a jail for the world’s worst criminals. Every episode ends with a battle of hundreds of characters turned to bloody corpses. I can’t recommend it enough! <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Super_Jail#cite_note-THR-0>
SXH: Where do you see the art scene in 10 years time?
CR: Hmm, I think it’s interesting how much the corporate world and the art world seem to be coming together more year after year. I think more artists are figuring out better ways to market themselves and get their names out there so it’ll be really interesting to see how all that explodes OR implodes. Honestly, I don’t think we could ever predict where art will be in 10 years. Some 13 year old genius in Arkansas will be reading this and think, “What a hack. All these guys suck” and will create something we can’t predict or expect ..and I can’t wait to see it!