Brent Rollins Interview
What were your original inspirations at a younger age.. how did you first become interested in drawing/art etc?
My earliest childhood memory was the graphics from the box of Good N Plenty candy. I was 2 or 3 years old and that’s my earliest memory. Swear to God. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have a multi-talented father who exposed me to art at a young age and taught me how to draw.
Alot of people draw and have talent at a young age, what helped you make the transition into this becoming your career as an adult?
It’s a matter of being exposed to things and knowing what your options are. Knowing that there are practical applications for doing what you love is a tremendous mental advantage. My high school had a graphic design class that opened my eyes to Milton Glaser. Saul Bass, and later Neville Brody, Jay Vigon, etc. That class meant a lot to me.
Alot of streetwear people know of you from your work with Supreme and your instalation at Undftd’s Santa Monica Store.. tell us about how these projects came about?
It’s nice when people don’t even know me but the works speaks for itself. James Jebbia of Supreme admired the graphics in our "ego trip’s Book of Rap Lists" back when it came out, and he contacted me to do some tees. So I go to his office… he’s got the illest art, man. Nice furniture. Mad taste. Dude is a connoisseur. I’m thinking "You want ME to do some tees? No problem!" James later recommended me to Eddie Cruz from Union/Stussy LA, who was still formulating his concept UNDFTD. Eddie liked the Blackalicious "Nia" cover and I told him that I was given free reign on that cover. He knew I wanted to do stuff on a large scale and gave me free reign to hook up the walls of the Santa Monica store. He knew I wouldn’t be resorting to whatever graphics style was fashionable at the time. He wanted a unique, masculine environment. He was like "UNDFTD’s thing is gonna be sports and art." For my first public mural, his confidence was very empowering.
How would you describe your style of work and how it developed?
I’m all over the place. Lately though I’m starting to focus more on my visual "language"– monochromatic image collages. Old school printing aesthetics. I gravitate towards a particular color palette. Particular choices of typography, etc. In the past I’d have my personal imprint, but jump from style-to-style. It was about trying to learn different approaches and ideas… Like some warrior training! Creatively, a good "designer" should be versatile, whereas an "artist" usually has to repeat himself in order to have a career. But then after a while people often get sick of one style and move on the next guy. To stay relevant I might incorporate some trends but I’ll try not to be straight up trendy — I don’t want my work to be stuck in one era. I don’t need to be the brightest star and flame out quickly. I want to be the one that burns the longest.
Are you a big art ‘fan" what other styles and artists do you admire?
I geek out. Recently me and a friend were battling about our favorite contemporary architects… googling up images online. Dissing Frank Gehry for fun. Just geeking out. I used to go to 24 hr magazine stands
at 2 in the morning to look at all the latest creative publications. There’s tons of people that I admire man. Tons of people doing crazy fresh work. Particularly creative people who are more interested in
their craft and not the attention. I admire the originals, not the biters. There’s a lot of sharks out there…
Tell us about this show? Your first solo show? Whats the inspiration.. if one?
The show at HVW8 Gallery is called Fly Girls and it’s literally a maiden test flight, my first solo show. I just wanted to see what I could do. It’s like when a musician drops an EP before putting out the full album. The inspiration isn’t deep. It’s just about females and how fly they are. It helped to keep my attention while working on the pieces! I was also driven to not do what everyone else has been doing
in recent years. No paint drips or bubble clouds or 80s color schemes. No speakers or boomboxes. No sneakers, or cute cartoon characters drawn in heavy black outlines. There are guys who are straight up masters of those styles, but the clones man, they’ve just devalued the whole scene. And I like that both dudes and females responded postively. Girls seem to be shut out of the audience.
Your work is famous within the streetwear culture, are you interested in this industry?
If there’s a place for me, then awesome. I’m down. If not, it’s all good. But yeah, there are some really dope brands out there, large and small that I admire. Unfortunately at the same times there’s 10x more
garbage to filter through not to mention there’s all the hype and people competing for popularity as opposed to setting standards for quality. It happens with everything though, I guess. Bandwagon jumpers just ruin shit. I personally preferred the quality of things and the "culture" maybe 7-10 years ago. I think overall stuff was more discerning, more exciting, more passionate, and the key people involved probably had more active roots in actual real street culture. Not internet culture.
Can you tell me a little about ‘Rap Pages’… some of us are too young to remember, but from all accounts this was a groundbreaking publication.. how did your involvement come about in this?
Heres the Short version: Pornographer (Larry Flynt) publishes fly-by-night rap magazine to make a quick buck and the people who are hired to run it end up really caring about what they’re doing. I met the editor at a house party and on the strength of some past logos I got the job with ZERO experience in computer layouts. It was my first art directing gig, and looking back, the design is weak, but the photography was tight, and I still like our covers. I was trying to be like George Lois (old school Esquire art director), and I think the covers made an impression to people at that time. Particularly when compared to the other rap mags of that era. It was good learning experience… and great place to
op free porn. For my friends, of course
Make sure you check out Brent’s exhibition ‘Fly Girls’ at LA’s HWV8 Gallery.
Photos from ‘Fly Girls’ by Elijah.