Zes on His Journey From Graffiti to the Gallery| LA WEEKLY

May 02 2012 . 09:10am

 

 

By Shelley Leopold

Zes, aka Zeser, aka Zes AWR/MSK, is a Los Angeles graffiti artist with a feral stare that you might only notice in serial killers or creative geniuses. He’s been one of L.A.’s most prolific taggers for many years. If you look up every now and again, you may have noticed his burners in back alleys or on the ledges of buildings in Echo Park, but until very recently, you wouldn’t see his work in a gallery. And, if he had had his way, you weren’t going to.

It took many years of battling the obsessive-compulsive need to fit his name onto inaccessible surfaces (tops of buildings, viaducts, or retaining walls) and the inner demons that go along with that mindset for Zes the graffiti artist to become Zes the gallery artist. Recently, he has been proving to contemporary art audiences that he’s got chops to hang out inside, and to our surprise, he’s looking forward to doing more. “There were other things going on in my life, besides me focusing in on my art and my talent,” explains Zes. “Now I’ve put aside all those other things that were going on and I feel like good things are coming.”

Currently at Morgan Spurlock’s “New Blood” Show at Thinkspace, Zes is showing work alongside that of another of the distinguished AWR/MSK graffiti crew, artist/activist Saber. Saber chose Zes as his “protégé” for the show in keeping with its mentor-protégé theme. “Zes has one of the most unique and aggressive styles out there,” says Saber. “He has been one of my favorite painters for many years now. On the street Zes has pushed boundaries and limits that will never be matched. His abstract canvas work is beautiful.”

Zes, who still prefers not to reveal his face or his real name, made his art gallery debut in February at Known Gallery on Fairfax, the gleaming white cube of a space that showcases up and coming talent, usually alongside already established artists. Zes’ “Excavated Revelations” shared the bill with Retna, a current art world superstar who debuted some new lithographs — pensive work that is much smaller in scale and detail than his usual murals. Zes credits Retna as an early influence, which may explain their similarly textured styles. “I think when it comes to influence, we grew up as part of the same crew, LTS,” says Zes of L.A.’s Toughest Sport writers, another crew he’s affiliated with. “If you go back in history, if you follow LTS style, you’ll see a lot of that.”

Working with ink rollers of various size, acrylics and even buff paint ( “Palomino Beige,” the color most popular with graffiti cleanup teams), the new Zes work consists of beautifully spontaneous textures and color, controlled only by the uniform panels he chooses to utilize. All his wood panels are the same tall, narrow, 24″ x 60″ dimensions, which provide structure. “Even before I started doing the first painting, I just had a picture in my head for many years and I just went by it,” explains Zes about his all-vertical format. “Actually, you could hang these paintings either horizontally or vertically and they work. That’s how I was making them.

And when it comes to the colors, its really just what’s on hand for me,” Zes continues. “Each piece is its own freestyle. It’s different and interesting because I get to work with tools I haven’t worked with before.”

Zes hides letterforms (like his daughter’s name, Love) within his compositions and actually sets instinctual time limits on how long he thinks each piece should take. He has found he’s still motivated by pressure, but this time there are no cops involved. “Right now, I’m just going for it. It is what it is, like graffiti,” he explains. “In my early years I was just out to prove myself and put a name up. I did it for kids in the neighborhood that didn’t have anything else to look at but gang graffiti. To open their minds to something else.”

Thinkspace presents: “New Blood” Curated by Morgan Spurlock, on view through May 19. 6009 Washington Blvd., Culver City. 310-558-3375, www.thinkspacegallery.com

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New Blood curated by Morgan Spurlock at Thinkspace Gallery

April 24 2012 . 04:46pm

 

 

 

 

Thinkspace is honored to be working with producer/director/writer/collector Morgan Spurlock (The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, Supersize Me) on his debut curatorial project. New Blood aims to showcase artists that Spurlock feels have changed the art world forever and has in turn given each of them the chance to invite a protégé of their choice to profile alongside their own work in this very special exhibit.

Thinkspace’s Andrew Hosner comments “We’ve worked closely with Morgan for a number of years now and ever since I interviewed him for our blog a couple years back I’ve wanted to run the idea by him of a curatorial project. Fast forward a year and one day while catching up via phone I just threw it out there to him and he loved the idea. He came back to us a month or so later with a fully realized concept for the show and a wish list of artists to approach. Morgan has always been about helping out and supporting up and coming artists, so to see his vision for this show come to life has been very rewarding.”

Morgan talks a little about his ‘New Blood’:
“I’m a massive art collector who, by way of my habit formed a relationship with Thinkspace’s Andrew Hosner, and when he offered me the opportunity to curate a show I jumped at the chance. The concept of the show is how the torch is passed from one artist to the next. One opens the door so another can follow. And this show is all about artists who I think have and are continuing to impact and change the art world, and each one of these artists is bringing along an ‘apprentice’ or ‘protege’ who they think we all need to know about, the artists they believe are the ‘New Blood’ of the art world.”

Featuring new works from:
Camille Rose Garcia / Travis Lampe
The Date Farmers / Albert Reyes
Dzine / Jesus Bubu Negron
Elizabeth McGrath / Morgan Slade
Gary Baseman / Jesse Dickenson
Gary Taxali / Adrian Forrow
Jonathan Yeo / Charlie Gouldsborough
Mark Jenkins / Sandra Fernandez
Nicola Verlato / Marco Mazzoni
Ron English / Kid Zoom
Saber / ZES
Shepard Fairey / Nicholas Bowers
Tim Biskup / Patrick Hruby

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