We first got turned on to Robbie Simon when we started seeing the amazing art direction and posters for the much talked about Allah Las. It wasn't long before we discovered the man behind the art, and his talents go beyond that of the Las. Robbie currently works with legendary artist, Geoff McFetridge, at his Los Angeles-based Champion Studio. As if that isn't inspiring enough, Robbie is also one part of the rotating DJ collective, Reverberation Radio - who release new eclectic mixes weekly on their website and have started to play plenty of live gigs, including last year's and the upcoming Cosmic Creek. We can go on about Robbie's range of talents forever, for now just enjoy the interview and photos we captured during our visit to his Highland Park abode. Oh, don't forget the opening of his solo show "Mold", opening this Saturday, January 30th at Blind Gallery in Los Angeles.
Interview by Keegan Fong
Photography by Kenny Hurtado
Los Angeles , California
And what do you do?
Graphic design, art and just about any other thing I can make a mess of. I will happily paint your car tires or design you a totem pole. Waiting patiently for someone to ask for my assistance on doing a Hockney type mural on the bottom of a pool.
What have you been up to?
Striving to take better care of my garden and attempting to cure my dog’s bad breath, also impatiently waiting for the NBA season to begin. OKC gonna ball. Work wise I’ve been doing a lot of book design and first attempts at developing Wallpaper. Getting my publishing empire, Feeling Physical, back on track. Got books of drawings from Tim Presley and Geoff McFetridge just about ready to go to the printers.
Can you give us a little background on your art and how you got started?
I think my gateway drug was a pirated copy of Photoshop I got in high school from my sister’s boyfriend who was a renowned master at swapping teachers’ faces onto porn. Great guy. I never had his ambition or dedication to a specific craft but any excuse I could find to use it, I would. It was a revelation to the kid whose drawings of a horse closely resembled a mailbox could still be artistic and produce decent work with this one tool. I don’t have one of those families, that exist in LA/NYC, that go to see the new Mapplethorpe exhibit at MOMA and finger paint interpretations of Guernica after dinner instead of watching TV. Which is ok! Graphic design just seemed like a safe balance of what I like to do and how I can get paid to do it. I find that graphic design is very much a harbor for highly creative pragmatists. It took me many years before I really accepted making art for art’s sake and not needing a client or purpose to validate my impulse to create. But damn, life’s been much more fun since I figured that out.
How’s it working closely with Geoff McFetridge?
Well, it’s really great. The state of my work and goals from when I started to where I am now are miles apart and I have his influence to thank. It was just exactly what I needed. I had been drifting through the creative world without any direction or idea where i wanted to go. Working at hilariously awful companies that were born to fail, just to get a paycheck. But Geoff has a work ethic and efficiency that I had never seen and do my best to keep up with. I mean, I sincerely wish for anyone developing a specific trade and skill the opportunity of working with someone who is a master of their craft.
And the Allah-Las boys?
Those guys are just my life partners. It’s a very rare and functional, symbiotic relationship that I think has been so fruitful it’s had ill effects of my dealing with other clients. I’ll work with other bands or companies and end up confused as to why it’s difficult and tedious? I have total creative freedom as well as a very well synced aesthetic tastes with them. As a bonus we know each other so well we can communicate freely and constructively and they trust me to deliver no matter if it’s a poster, a record, a video or live projections. Also, to their credit they value aesthetics and control over their image in a way I admire and see as rare these days. They work hard on their music and they work hard that it’s accurately portrayed through visual outlets. We’re not in the age of radio where the sound of the song is all that exists, the internet is rich in all forms of media but it’s first and foremost a visual place. They are clever enough to be vigilant in their efforts to explain their music in images and sound. I feel like any artwork of quality will come from a diverse and dense place of ideas, mediums and experiences.
Can you tell us a bit about Reverberation Radio?
Reverberation is a small music collective that releases a 30 minute mix each Wednesday. It’s made up of about 10 of us and has been going on for a few years now. It’s actually grown into something pretty special and well beyond my expectations when I joined in way back when, with a much greater reach and influence than I would have ever predicted. Last spring three of us were even flown to Barcelona to headline a small music festival playing records, It was just as easy and fun as that sounds. Seems like we’re in a time in where curators and culture collectors are revered and celebrated even greater than creators... which I do not think is healthy but I do think we (Reverb) do a good job with what we do. We don’t have any pretense that we’re doing something extraordinary or groundbreaking, just enjoying the fact it’s resonating with folks.
What’s your favorite medium?
House paint on anything and Construction paper on construction paper. General hobo art supplies.
How would you describe your art and it’s influences?
My goal is essentially creating attractive minimal abstract graphics. Shapes and strokes that are nothing important before and nothing much important after but together form an image that has it’s own merits to exist. It’s very aesthetically driven in composition and color and I optimistically hope that when it works, people who it appeals to, have a unique feeling and meaning from it. That’s the essence of what I love about abstract art, that it’s deeply democratic. When it works and resonates with someone it’s a completely unique feeling to them as an individual based on their feelings and experiences singularly. Now of course that’s true of anything across the board but when I’m creating an image devoid of identifiable shapes or subjects viewers can make absolutely what they want from it and I really like that. It may also often be the case that someone feels nothing from a piece or maybe they just think that looks cool. I’m very much okay with those scenarios as well, haha. I think Alexander Calder is my favorite dude these days. His work blew the minds of both children and philosophers, I can’t imagine a better measure of success. There’s a quote about him from an old ‘Art’s and Architecture’ article describing his work that really warms my heart and frames my philosophies on creating. It goes something like Calder’s work “is created in a carefree spirit of playfullness, of feeling his way along as he twists, tears, or bends a piece of wire or metal. Whatever he is creating -- grows out of his job of living.” Beyond him I really am loving Stuart Davis, Ken Price and Paul Jenkins right now but always with the neverending awe of Miró rand Matisse.
Did you go to art school?
I didn’t. Went to San Francisco State University and rambled through their design program. I didn’t learn much, but I had a pretty good time.
Do you surf?
I do surf. I love it more than most things. I often tell people the only downside to surfing is surfers. It’s perfect and heaven on earth in every other way.
Music that gets your juices flowing?
Favorite genre is Pop Music Made By Weirdos , Yoko, Ariel [Pink], Young Thug, Martin Newell, R. Stevie.
Got any upcoming shows?
Sorting out details for a show in LA this winter. It will be exclusively paintings and the first time I’ve ever showed paintings. Also, happens to be the first time I’ve ever made paintings...hoping it works out.
More info on Robbie's solo show "Mold" can be found here.