An interview with artist Derek Gores
In his popular collage portraits, Derek Gores (b. 1971) recycles magazines, labels, and assorted found analog and digital materials to create the works on canvas. The series showcases Gores’ contrasting interests in the living beauty of the figure, the mechanically angular and abstract design aesthetics of fashion, and a fearless sense of play. Also a successful designer and illustrator for 15 years, clients include ESPN, Lenny Kravitz, Lucasfilm, Kings of Leon, U2, Adidas, Madonna, Harley Davidson, 321 Agency, the National Football League, LiveNation, SEIU, Love Haight Apparel, Draftfcb and JCPenney.
The Rhode Island School of Design grad lives and works in Melbourne, Florida, exhibiting and curating with the bold upstarts there, surrounded by the intellect and culture of the Space Coast. Recent adventures have taken his work to Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Sacramento. Derek was honored to have his work selected for the Manifest Hope DC exhibit coinciding with the Presidential Inauguration in 2009.
His subjects are simply figures and objects in a space, influenced by heroes Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Franz Kline, Rube Goldberg, Max Ernst, and, “those great old long-exposure photos of Abraham Lincoln where you can feel the whole minute inside each image. I love that buzzing stillness. I do reference a classic beauty, but made of raw and geometric and un-designed parts, so I feel it’s a contemporary beauty too. I’m not interested in heavy, conscious concepts- I make something simple and let the elements combine in the head, reacting with each history the viewer brings to the table. When it goes well, I hope to create a real experience, instead of just a picture of an experience. But that sounds a little too huge… really I’m searching for that feeling of having the eyes of a kid, where everything is new.”
Can you tell us a little about your background and where you grew up and spent your childhood?
Born in New York in 1971 somewhere that ends in “-chester” I believe. I grew up in Massachusetts and remember the slate walks, sense of history and good sense to keep McDonalds signs close to the ground. I moved to Florida at age 10. My hometown here in FL is a mix of people either headed to the beach or headed to outer space.
Please tell us a lil’ bit about your creative process and what brought you to collage as a medium.
I start with a photo shoot, play around deconstructing digitally, and then recreate the tones on canvas with aggressive textures from magazines, maps, song lyrics, etc. I was the typical tight artist at age 17 but saw the light at the end of that particular tunnel when I was introduced to swashbuckling painters and talking trees and have been fleeing forward into looseness ever since. I now like tools that are big and clumsy and open up the range of touch, including the process of ripping paper in collage. What I initially thought of as an academic exercise has become heavier and more real than anything else I’ve sunk my teeth into. I started with my love of the figure, the living breathing real thing, and with this fashion/ german expressionist aesthetic I get to mix in abstract art and shape play.
Do you have a favorite place to go and find obscure source material for your collage work?
Very free-association. Lots of google inspiration, digging for things as opposite as possible from the natural beauty of the figure. Man made stuff like schematics and data and junky culture.
What issues and/or ideas are important to your work?
Nothing intellectual. I hope to create a felt experience, where the figure I depict reflects more than just a frozen moment and teases the viewer with fractured references. I like it when I see very stylish and deliberate people come in to a show and turn into kids again as their senses wake up. Most of my pictures are of beauty, but beauty built of chaos and mess and dischord. I like the end result to be positive, and I always depict a strong and individual presence.
What’s the one thing you took away from your time at the Rhode Island School of Design that still helps to define you as an artist to this day?
A healthy battle between the dreamy abstract searching and representational images.
Do you feel there is still a strong division between your more commercial driven art and your fine art?
They’ve always both been fun. It took a while for me to embrace that people seek me out for my particular take on things. In both, I look for an obtuse take on the subject. I steer clear of symbols mostly, preferring instead to just know the subject and then make a quirky and quick piece of art and trust that the connection will be there. I did a very fun piece for Aerosmith recently that I reallly hope they use. Sweet Emotion… cop cars… high heels. Also trying hard to make the new Van Halen album cover.
Your earliest memory involving creating art?
Fake R2D2 made of a 5 gallon paint bucket. It didn’t even beep. Either that or my Dukes of Hazzard portrait series.
What do you do when procrastinating in the studio?
I think up art for other people to make.
Future goals for your art?
Make it faster. I wanna approach the speed of the eye.
What are you working on at the moment?
A collage commission for Rouge Hotel in DC. Also I’m working on opening a gallery / studio, a collaborative thing with some surprises, because the art wants to be seen!
Any advice for folks getting ready to graduate and enter the art world?
Make it personal. As soon as I trusted my daydreams and stray thoughts and made them my process and my subject, it became interesting to the viewer too.
Favorite living artist? Favorite artist from the past?
Living I’ll take Cliffton Chandler, and from the past is easily Egon Schiele.
If you could collaborate with any one artist, who would it be and why?
Tie: Goya and I make Los Caprichos 2, or I help Neil Young make guitar noises while Brian Eno looks on from his chalkboard.
What do you have coming up in the year ahead after your show with Thinkspace in Culver City?
- Super excited about doing the Quentin vs Coen show with Ken Harman in NYC at Bold Hype… met Ken at the Manifest Hope show: www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=112825448794782
- Text show at Parlor Gallery April 23: www.parlor-gallery.com/
- 2 person show at Elltiott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento in November: www.efgallery.com/index.php
- Scheming some fun at the Brevard Art Museum in my own Melbourne, FL. The same town that spawned Robot Love I and II: http://brevardartmuseum.org/
- More stuff brewing for Lakind Fine Art in Santa Fe, and other good stuff later in the year.
- And collaborating with Places Please! Theatre Co in Florida: www.placesplease.org
Gores has been receiving a ton of press lately including recent interviews with The Citrus Report and Juxtapoz along with a nice profile from Hi-Fructose. In addition to our interview above, another new one was just posted on Empty Kindgom.
Check it out here:
Take a ‘Sneak Peek’ at the works for ‘Torn and Tattered’ coming together here:
‘Torn and Tattered’
New works from Derek Gores, Craig “Skibs” Barker, and Liz Brizzi
Reception with the artists this Sat, March 12th from 6 to 8PM
Thinkspace / 6009 Washington Blvd / Culver City, CA 90232