The Pop Art Photo Show kicked off last night at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica and the showcase, which lasts four days, features works celebrating over 70 years of pop culture. Put on by Limited Runs, one of the biggest independent sellers of vintage posters, photography, art prints and rock posters, the event includes a mixture of works on fashion, music, celebrities and cars.
A few pieces designed by Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda will also be on display. As part of his ‘Post Traumatic’ project (his solo album came out in June), Shinoda’s addition includes three mixed-media canvases, one of which being the album cover. This show will be the first time these canvases have been made public.
“In the beginning, I was just about putting stuff together, doodling on the canvases and just making things almost in a free-association kind of way. And those things turned into doing something bigger,” Shinoda said in an interview about the show.
‘Post Traumatic’, Mike Shinoda / photo courtesy of Pop Art Photo Show / Mike Shinoda
Another celebrated artist featured in the Pop Art Photo Show is painter, printmaker, graphic designer and all-around creator, Jim Evans (a.k.a. TAZ).
Evans had his come up during the ’70s, one minute being a guy in a rock band who loved to surf and the next moment doing comic strips for the LA Free Press to then going on and doing print work for comic books like Yellow Dog to designing rock posters and album sleeves for artists like Alice Coltrane, Neil Young and so many others. He has continued his storied career, creating for acts like Foo Fighters, the Ramones and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, too. He also designs movie posters and is a big fan of film noir and art deco aesthetics.
“I wanted to be a rock star before I got into designing and my first professional job was designing an album cover for Alice Coltrane,” Evans recalls to Sidewalk Hustle.
The California native first got jobs and support from fellow surfer and well-known talent Rick Griffin. It was Griffin who educated him on everything from what board to buy to how to do trim marks and package work professionally. The two came from surfer culture and Evans notes that during the ’70s “there was real change taking place, surfing was influencing skateboarding and skateboarding was influencing surfing” and he helped “bring surf style to skateboarding.” In addition to his iconic work with Surfer Magazine, Evans also worked for Skateboarder—his work appeared in the first edition.
However, Evans soon realized that surfing art was pretty limited and didn’t have as much growth potential so he pivoted to music as “the art of music can be almost anything. It’s really your imagination, which is the only limitation.” As for surfing art, Evans did do some offbeat creations, bits on cowboys and such, but ultimately he got bored of the space and went all music, soon after film, too.
He initially got into art by taking classes in order to avoid the draft. It was there he met his first wife who encouraged him to get more into the art world.
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When the album ‘Legalize It’ by Peter Tosh was released, it had a huge cultural impact – the packaging, the music, and of course, Peter himself. Photo legend @dennismcevoymorris was there and captured a series of images that show Peter at that seminal time. @jimevanstaz_official aka TAZ has collaborated with Dennis to create a unique piece that captures the spirit of the original shot while updating it with an impressionistic take on color and design. Dennis’ iconic shot now becomes something more symbolic, with color that evokes the artistic collaboration between TAZ and the artist @riskrock .
Evans remembers how much focus (as well as lack of digital assistance) was required in his decades past and how today we’re seeing a completely different kind of working mentality.
“When I started I had to come up with an idea, I couldn’t spit like 10 ideas because it would just be an overdose of sketches. I couldn’t really make a decision like that and I always had to deliver in person. There weren’t even fax machines—I’d drive in there and show my sketch,” he explains. “Basically I had to figure out what I was going to do, go through different sketch stages and when I delivered it to the client it was pretty much the idea. Looking back I’m surprised I did as well as I did because I didn’t really have a way out. I had one thing to take in, then had to describe it to them—what it was going to look like—and then I had to go home and paint it and bring it back to them a week later and it had to look pretty much like I described it.”
He credits his power of visualization, which he says is very strong, and that this sense was “greater then than it is now because I had to concentrate so much harder” and now instead of working on a sole project he can make a pile of different projects, assembling as he goes. The power of visualization, for Evans, started young though.
“When I was a kid I would visualize comic books. I always felt like I had a projector in my head. I thought it was a weird psychic ability that things could come down into my head and I could actually see what I was going to draw, but I’ve come to see that’s kind of just being an artist,” he adds.
Evans is not a huge fan of all the filters, Photoshop and software that manipulates true art creation, but he can’t deny that the technology does make it easier to do and the digital age “allows for more freedom.”
“The current nature of creativity allows me much more flexibility to mess with the piece, now whether that makes me better or not I’m not sure. Someone coming up at this point though, he or she would never know the other, older way of doing things. There is no way to go back into that time, now.”
That being said he also notes that younger artists, while they may use more editing software and go about things different, do in fact value authenticity. There are artists still around taking things seriously.
“The artists I hang around with and see their shows, the serious artists, are really about authenticity and legitimately expressing themselves properly and using the right methods to create something that has lasting value,” says Evans. He has his own unique digital printing style too and points to other artists like Saul Bass as inspiration.
“Every great artist will create a style” and Evans notes that Saul Bass did that and “took it right to the end.”
He also notes letter forms and how in the ’60s there was so much experimentation with letter styles on posters, but unfortunately now “people can imitate almost anything to some degree or another” so the art form is being lost.
The work presented will span Evans’ career, all laid out side by side, which Evans says he’s a bit weirded out by. “There’s no possibility that if you lay out all my work over the years viewers could recognize the same person in the art. I consider myself an evolutionary artist and I’ve changed a lot over the time,” he explains.
While things have certainly changed over time, Evans says interestingly nowadays people are often wanting alternative film posters with retrograde looks. The structure of posters he’s creating now seemingly look like those he did in the ’70s.
“I can just go back and imitate myself now, which is weird” he says. “I’ve had to go backwards in order to go forward.”
One of the artists Evans worked with is Canadian legend Neil Young, who showed up to his studio ready to create. Evan notes this was right around the time when Star Wars came out and says he was surprised that Young was “way into Star Wars” and while he expected he was going to get “the full Neil Young After the Gold Rush” he instead got more “Neil Young sci-fi.” He remembers scribbling down rough sketches as Young did a rapid fire brainstorming session. The process was entertaining and random, but “it turned out pretty good” says Evans.
He also did work for Doors’ guitarist Robby Krieger’s solo album. Krieger wanted something etched in mysticism that featured him as a sort of holy man in the desert so Evans took some photos of Krieger standing on a chair holding his guitar, lighting up the background to give a warm glow. He says the two then found a white suit in Krieger’s closet which added to the overall holy effect, soon completing the piece which saw Krieger with a floating guitar in the desert.
Still today it all starts with a blank piece of paper to which Evans begins his journey.
“The paper becomes live to me, I see the corners and where I want to go, I can see things beginning to form,” he details. It then is simply about getting inside a musician or filmmaker’s mind and figuring out what kind of person they are.
“Are they really calm or excitable…do they want something ballistic or abstract?”
Owner of Limited Runs, Pierre Vudrag, got into the art scene through his love of music. After being a born and raised New Yorker, Vudrag ventured out to Los Angeles in 1991, hopping on his motorcycle in New York and driving cross-country to start anew. He had been accustomed to New York’s art scene and while Los Angeles had a scene too, it was not as stemmed in tradition and Vudrag liked that there was room to be artistic in a non-conformist kind of way. It’s this very coolness that he says people will get out of the show.
“You’re going to find photography of musicians you like and I think that’s what’s unique about our show: people walking in will be familiar with the art,” he says. “We’re not imposing anything on people or saying ‘hey this is cool so you have to like it’ it’s more ‘hey this is familiar to you, we hope you like it’. People have been telling us what’s cool and that’s what they’re going to find here.”
For Vudrag, the quest to have art covering walls all over the world is one that is alive and thriving in his mind. He also references the importance of skateboard culture and punk music culture which “are just as relevant in art culture or popular art culture as fashion.”
Another part of the show includes vintage car works, all of which are originals and 95% of the work was designed by artists that worked in Detroit.
The show will also have an on-site gift shop where guests can make purchases.
Concept car by Fomadolli, 1970
Concept car by Bill Michalak, 1960
The Pop Art Photo Show runs until September 30.
Friday, September 28 – 3PM to 10PM
Saturday, September 29 – 11AM to 10PM
Sunday, September 30 – 11AM to 6PM
Photos courtesy of Pop Art Photo Show & Jim Evans