Lowbrow High Art: Vincent Gordon at Grassroots Chicago
Spring is sprung at Grassroots Chicago. Vincent Gordon returns to town for the opening of his show “Lowbrow High Art” in the Movement Gallery. The gallery kicks off on Saturday, March 24 with limited edition prints and artwork for sale along with a slew of new products, including two new dad hats and a snapback that pay homage to his roots and the Chicago Bears. The gallery will be up for viewing March 24th to April 1st.
We sat down with Vincent to discuss Lowbrow High Art, his relationship with Grassroots, Chicago pizza and more.
GRC: Early fans may know about the long-term relationship you have with Grassroots, but can you tell us a little about how and when you started collaborating with Grassroots?
Vincent Gordon: Oh man, might have to do some research on this…so the first hat we did was the Orange Seahorse Party hat, which to this day is probably the most coveted Grassroots hat. People bother me about it all the time *laughs* We’ve actually remixed the Seahorse Party 4 different times, I think. 5 different versions of it officially…
Grassroots approached me 5 or 6 years ago. Ever since we started working together it’s been a family vibe. It’s definitely more of a family atmosphere as opposed to a working relationship. We are all part of the Grassroots movement and I think that’s what it’s really about. But yeah, started off with the hats and since we have been here in Chicago, we’ve been getting more into the art shows and doing more high-bred events together, here in the stores and out in the field. Our collaboration has been growing and evolving, as things do. I think it’s positive and a great relationship on all sides. I think our mutual fans appreciate it a lot. Grassroots fans and VG fans dig it. People get excited, they’re passionate. *laughs*
GRC: In what ways has these collaborations with Grassroots affected your career?
VG: Merchandising my work and making it available to the masses, I think is a huge step. A lot of artists struggle with bringing their work to the masses; Bridging that gap between the studio and the streets. I was well on my way with that before I started working with Grassroots, but Grassroots helped me do that more, helped me diversify my merchandise, helped me diversify my portfolio, reach more customers and clients. Even working together abstractly, doing different things like painting at different events Grassroots was doing. I wouldn’t even be selling my own stuff, just promoting Grassroots, creating the vibe, you know. It has many different sides, it diversifies, brings people together. Cross-promotion is huge. As a whole, Grassroots empowers artists and that’s a big part of what I do.
GRC: Can you tell us some about your background? How and when did you start creating?
VG: I’ve been creating my whole life, you know. As a kid growing up in Chicago, i’d be drawing in the steam in the window at a restaurant or drawing on the napkin, or the bible in church. I’ve been always creating. It’s been like 13 or 14 years that I’ve been living off my art, professionally. Started out slow, grinding anywhere I could just to make ends meet. Now life is a lot more comfortable *laughs* It’s been an adventure, Grassroots is definitely a rock in the foundation that we’re doing, helping the movement stay strong.
GRC: In what ways did growing up in Chicago influence you creatively?
VG: I grew up mainly in the suburbs and spent the summers in the city. I’ve always been an outsider, so I was forced to create my own reality. Forced to create, whether is was creatively or internally. I kind of took on the responsibility for my own creation and I think Chicago kind of forced that on me, cause Chicago will eat you up if you don’t know who you are. If you’re not comfortable with yourself, they’ll take advantage of that. That outsider mentality kind of created my style, cause my style really didn’t exist before this. It’s kind of a bastardization of all the things I love, culture and you see pizza in my stuff a lot cause I love pizza, being from Chicago.
I’m very honest with my stuff, I think that growing up here in Chicago we are pretty honest, tell it how it is. I look at my work as being very honest to who I am. I think that that is a direct reflection of my upbringing here, on top of being interracial and dealing with that. Art was a very comfortable place to relax on, where I could truly be myself. Whereas in society-wise, I didn’t have a true, “you belong here.” I was kind of existing in this fringe, so art was a comforting place to be, to fall back on, judgement-free.
GRC: How did you come up with your style?
VG: Many, many hours in the studio being really honest with myself. I used to always describe my art as a kid spinning around in a field until they fall over dizzy and they’re just looking up at the clouds, laughing hysterically, water in the eyes. Completely ridiculous, you know. It’s not necessary, but sometimes it feels good to do. My style is just about being fun, having fun, paying attention, slowing down. Paying attention to the small details and to the subtle nuances, the relationships between the characters.
Many years ago, before social media was a thing, there was a study done that said that the average person looks at art for about 8 seconds. I was a young artist when I read this study, and it broke my heart. With Instagram and all this shit, now it’s probably about .2 seconds *laughs* So, to capture someone’s attention, to retain someone’s energy in that short amount of time, you know, that’s almost a whole ‘nother challenge in itself. It’s interesting how my work has been interpreted and manipulated through that because if you don’t really take your time to look at it, you’re not going to see it. I’m all about rewarding those who will take the time to look.
I mean it just happened last night, my friends were like, “Hey! Did you know this piece does this in it?” and I’m like “Ah you finally noticed.” Cause I do, did you know? That’s fun to me, it’s kind of an adventure that keeps on going. It’s like a treasure hunt, I’m a Where’s Waldo kid, you know. I was in elementary school and it was reading time and I was pulling out Where’s Waldo, not even looking at it for Waldo necessarily, just looking at all the crazy shit happening. That’s where my head’s at, you’ll see Waldo in my stuff too. Still gotta look for him.
GRC: Does the way other people look at your art, make you look at it differently?
VG: Yeah, there’s definitely people that bring a different perspective. It’s like, oh wow, I didn’t look at like that at all. I try not to dictate a lot. When I first started out, I didn’t even title any of my pieces. I wouldn’t title ‘cause I didn’t want to impose my view on people. Look at it, you tell me. I can tell one story, or there can be a million stories in it that everyone else thinks of. I don’t like to dictate like that. If i had my way, I probably still wouldn’t title them to this day. Do you want the piece to speak for itself or are the title and piece working together to accomplish some greater goal. There’s also different ways to approach it. I love people’s interpretations and feedback. One of the greatest compliments was this kid who couldn’t even talk. He literally came up to my booth and just smiled and started laughing and just ran away. I love that kind of shit. Just elated with pure joy and fluttered away. Art takes me to wonder places and creates lots of opportunities and gives me a wonderful life. That’s the best reaction that you could ask for.
GRC: Do you ever have any creative troubles? What do you do to overcome those?
VG: Sketching is really important and every artist has creative struggles. If an artist tells you they don’t have creative struggles, they’re probably not an artist *laughs* But I think every artist is hyper-critical, their worst critic for sure. Obviously personal life goes into your creative process. Sometimes the harder your life is, the easier your art it, ‘cause it’s that much easier to put your emotions into it. I think creative struggles is just as real as any other daily life struggles. It’s one in the same. Use it. It’s less about what happens in life as how you react it. So, I try to keep my reactions in key more than anything, both creatively and personally.
GRC: Do you have any advice for aspiring creators?
VG: Create, create, create. Get to know yourself, get to know your process. Use yourself as a filter. Anyone can do just a direct copy; put your spin on it. Make it original, make it new, make it fresh. Make it energetically continuous. Find inspiration from your fellow artist; collaboration is huge. Fuck art school. You want to start a business, do you want to start it in debt or start it at ground zero. Work with your peers, educate. Each one, teach one. There are certain skills you have to go to school to learn. You’re not gonna learn by trial and error how to be a brain surgeon. Fortunately, for an artist, we can fuck up a little. Don’t be afraid to fuck up. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Quite the opposite, be passionate about pushing yourself into new things and never settle. Never compromise.
GRC: What’s the latest news with you and your work, anything you are really looking forward to?
VG: I look forward to everything. I’m excited about all sorts of projects. I’ve got a lot of new stuff coming out with Dab Nation, the Rosin Tech crew out in Cali, show industries dudes. Just did a big 35-foot mural out there in SoCal so that’s dope. Obviously Grassroots, we’re always pushing stuff forward. We’re going to be doing a pre-Scamp party here in Chicago. Don’t have a date for that yet, but that’s exciting. Continuing collaborations with High Times. Working with High Times is always a great time and helps bring me in front of a lot of my fans, new and old. Working with Pabst Blue Ribbon still, we just dropped an American Pale Ale, so I just did some poster artwork for promotion for that. You can find that on my IG and Pabst Blue Ribbon’s IG. I’ve been working for them for about 6 years or so. We’ve done a lot of good work together as well, a lot of collaborations, a lot of support. Lots of fun stuff happening. Going to be doing some pretty good tour dates this year. Kush Stock is next weekend, so i’ll be up there. Did up a little poster for those guys. You know it’s always exciting doing a lot more poster and event work stuff. Just getting in where I can fit in.
GRC: Where would you like to see yourself in a few years from now?
VG: It’s hard to see an end to the lifestyle that we live. Even before I was living as a professional artist, I was still kind of living this lifestyle; Seeing music, festivals and stuff. As long as I’m creating art and the family is happy and the friends are healthy and happy, i’m happy with life. Creatively, im pushing forward and growing as an artist. Collaboration is always my goal. I want to collaborate with more people, collaborate with more artists, more companies. Collaboration on canvas is probably one of the most important things to me. Coming together and harmonizing with other people is a beautiful thing. I can’t sing or play music or anything. Dancing on the canvas is how we do it. More enriched collaborations always is definitely my projection for the future.
At this show, we got the Concrete Jungle collaboration dropping with 3RDi, so that’s 3RDi and I’s first collaboration together. We did it digitally, just ‘cause we were having a hard time coming together, scheduling wise and physically. He’s in Cali, i’m out in Denver, but we just did it 100% digital. That’s my first 100% digital collaboration. So that in itself is kind of turning a new page to the future. I was really resistant of the digital stuff. I used to do the digital stuff in the Wacom days when it was very crude. It was like early 2000s, and it really turned me off. There was a huge disconnection between my style and I couldn’t really figure it out. Now, with the iPad and Procreate, these very inexpensive tools that we have access it. I’ve just been really digging it. It’s been a real refreshing new take on the same old tricks. Very excited to be taking advantage of the technological aspects that we have available to us. Any artist that is questioning, “Should I get this iPad?” Yeah bro, get it. Procreate is literally taking something that used to cost us thousands and making it accessible for under ten bucks. They should sponsor me for that shit *laughs* The future is a beautiful thing, you know, it is what we make it. I am definitely looking forward to whatever it brings. One thing at a time. Let the butcher be the butcher and the baker be the baker. If we’re all doing our job, then we’ll be alright.
Next up, the Movement Gallery will host Michelle Wanhala and Blake Jones for “YesYesYes” taking place April 7 to April 14.
After that, we will be celebrating Grassroots Chicago's 2 year anniversary with Cassady Bell on 4/20.