Aaron Rose has been credited with being somewhat of a pared-back pied-piper of street culture, responsible for providing a platform for street art to sing from in the early 1990s. His gallery, Alleged, helped catapult artists such as Terry Richardson, Barry McGee, Mark Gonzales, Mike Mills and Harmony Korine from underground obscurity into well deserved but previously unlikely worldwide fame. By believing in and championing the artists and their work, through curation, advocacy and his groundbreaking film Beautiful Losers, Aaron Rose turned the art world on its head.
It’s important to remember all this. In today’s world, Rose’s work is well known and the movement he led is one that has helped define popular culture, and it’s hard not to take these notions for granted. But from pop-up retail to the occupy movement, today’s creative and cultural lansdcape was built from a fight that Rose signed up for very early on. It’s just as important to pay our dues as it is to look forward. Rose, right now, continues to write and curate, often collaborating with members of the very gang that started the story, and is in New Zealand for Christmas… once again nailing big time works to makeshift walls and hoping for the best. POST NEW caught up for a chat.
Angela Bevan: Aaron, it’s kind of perfect that you are here because you will – perhaps for the first time in a long time – be sharing these works with a new audience. Is that still an exciting process?
Aaron Rose: Sharing creativity with others is my only reason for doing what I do! Whether it’s something that I’m making myself or showcasing the works of others, they’re both equally important to me. In terms of bringing these works to New Zealand it’s a total honor. Not just for me, but for the artists as well. Even though we are exhibiting editions and not originals, each and every one of the artists involved put a lot of time and effort into choosing the images for this show. They were all aware of the fact that it’s for New Zealand, that’s it’s kind of a D.I.Y. endeavor and that the pieces need to be accessible. Everyone is really stoked on that fact. It’s funny to me actually, because I’m surprised these things don’t happen here more often. We live in such a global culture and it’s so easy now to be tuned into things that are going on all over the world. It’s nice to be a part of that sharing process. So yeah, it’s exciting to show these works in Auckland. I’m excited to see how people respond.
AB: Some of the biggest artists in the world have allowed you to bring this show here and sell prints at crazy prices… this doesn’t make sense. Or does it?
AR: I think it makes total sense! For many years exclusivity was a marginalized pursuit. I don’t think that’s necessarily the case anymore. The hunt for exclusivity is almost the most generic and mainstream thing you can do in this age. Everything is limited edition now! So much so that major big box stores have even caught on to this marketing scheme. For this exhibition I thought it would be cool to go the other way with things…and thankfully the artists agreed. I’m interested in affordable exclusivity. Things do not need to break the bank to be special or to enrich people’s lives. There is no reason why everyone shouldn’t have access to great art. In fact, one of my dream projects would be to curate the art for sale in all the Ikea stores. I absolutely love their art section! It’s amazing. I’ve actually bought art there. For this exhibition I was thinking more about how I used to walk into a cool record store when I was a kid and walk away with an amazing Specials, Bauhaus or Aztec Camera poster to hang on my bedroom wall. That was great art to me!! Believe it or not, I have kept a good load of those old posters to this day just because they had such a profound effect on me. It would be cool if the prints we are showing here could have a similar effect on someone.
AB: In the last few days especially, I’m pretty sure you will have bowed your head and thought about how unfair the world can be. On a certain level, what you have done and continue to do makes the world a little fairer for some people. Why is this important?
AR: This is a terrific question. Yes, you’re right the world can sometimes be incredibly unfair. I don’t know if there was a conscious decision to make an exhibition that was “fair”, I think it just made sense for the venue. It’s funny because a few months back we put together an exhibition in Los Angeles called “Fire Sale” where I emptied out ten years of my storage space into a gallery on Fairfax. We sold all this stuff (zines, prints, sneakers, photos) for really dirt cheap. There were thousands of items, some of them quite valuable, but pretty much everything was under $100. It was an amazing feeling to watch people walk away with that stuff. People had genuine smiles on their faces because the world today doesn’t offer many opportunities for you to get really great things for next to nothing. But it should!! Andy Warhol understood this. He was supremely democratic in his practice and I think that had a big part to play in why he became a household name. I’m not trying to say that art can change the world. There are far bigger issues in contemporary society than whether or not art can be obtained affordably, but maybe each of us in our own way can make some kind of small difference.
AB: What excites you about life right now in terms of what you are doing/ plans for the near future?
AR: I’m very happy to be in New Zealand and to be able to bring the work of such amazing artists to this country. I’m very much in love with my wonderful wife Lucy, who is a native Kiwi and helped a lot with putting together this show. I’m also very grateful for the fact that over the years I’ve been able to cultivate such a loving and talented group of people around me. In putting together this exhibition I hope to spread some of that love to the scene down here. In terms of career, back in Los Angeles I’m very busy working on my first narrative feature film. It is called Case Study and will probably consume the next five years of my life. It’ll be a ton of blood, sweat and tears considering that the final ticket price will be under $20. See a pattern?
A2 opens this Friday 21 December at Public Library, 35B Surrey Crescent, Grey Lynn, Auckland, NZ. For more info, head over here