Interview with JJ Garza

Transcript of video interview with JJ Garza, featured in the current exhibition, Who Are These People?

RAID Projects, Los Angeles, CA, 12/10/2010

JJ Garza, The French Invented Music, 2009, mixed media, 36 " x 36" each

Jason Ramos: What was your earliest art experience?

JJ: My earliest art experience was drawing a little bit better than stick figure characters and airplanes and they would all have ammo straps on them and Rambo bandannas around their head and the airplanes would be dropping bombs and I would draw bullets shooting out of the guns on the jets or helicopters, and I would just go through all my textbooks, and anywhere where there was any void in a paragraph, or a blank page, I would just draw warfare.

JR: So what’s the connection between that, and the pieces that are in the gallery right now?

JJ: Well, I would say, if there was a connection, that it was a complete acceptance of the materials. I wasn’t making something that was going to define young Gerald Garza, or me now. I was making a dialog, or I was communicating with anybody who would ever see it, and that’s what I’m doing with this stuff.

JR: You’re previous work, there’s a pretty well established vocabulary of cowboys and Indians, and Japanese references, things like that, psychedelic cowboy stuff…this is a break from that.

JJ: Yes.

JR: We’ve got Daft Punk and we’ve got a hot dog. Is this where you’re at, is this where your going?

JJ: Absolutely where I’m at.

JR: Describe where you’re at.

JJ: Those references, that vocabulary, that content is very, very necessary in what I’m doing right now. The psychedelic cowboys and Indians stuff is still valid, its very valid, but with this medium, with this technique, with this process, it’s only getting better. It only feels more and more suitable every time I do it. You bring up the Japanese aspect of my former art work, and I had had a conversation with a gentleman named Max Moore, who isn’t a performance artist, but was in a performance art piece, he was performing, and we had started talking about Musashi Miyamoto, who had come up with a theory of being a fantastic warrior, like an epic, historic warrior, but realizing that it was extremely important to master other crafts, or other fields of life, like the farmer would have these repetitious exercises, or a builder would have these repetitious exercises, and everybody’s working with these materials, they would work with dirt, they would work with wood, they would work with whatever they had, if you were a knife sharpener, or a silk maker, if you were the best at it, its not the materials, its not the trade, it’s a diode that clicks in your brain that lets you realize that once your capable of mastering “a craft”, you are capable of mastering anything. So, to answer your question, I’m in the field of construction, I cut OSB up, I cut plywood, I cut two-by-fours up. I put them together. I stress over accuracy, over codes, over inspections, I stress over people’s unreasonable expectations and I make those expectations come true. If I take that out of the element, and I still use the materials, I find myself in euphoria.

JR: But content-wise, or subject matter-wise, why Daft Punk, why hot dogs?

JJ: Because I’m in love with the synthesis of sounds, and I’m in love with encased pork products. There’s no secret in the fact that I love hot dogs. I love big bites from 7-11.

JR: And you are a hot dog.

JJ: That’s well said, sir. Some people paint lost love, some people make punch lines out of their artwork, some people communicate in certain ways. I’m not buttoning up my spats and putting my monocle on with this artwork, this is honest artwork.

JR: Is this “working-class” art work, Gerald?

JJ: No.

JR: You reject that claim?

JJ: No, I don’t.

JR: Do you see how people would come to that conclusion?

JJ: Yeah, I could see how somebody would say, “oh, this is outsider artwork”, or, he’s working with the materials Richard Tuttle is known for. If you think about it I’m making signs, I’m making signs for businesses. I’m making rudimentary imagery.

JR: What about the element of humor in your artwork?

JJ: It’s apparent. It’s very apparent. If you don’t fucking get it, then you don’t fucking get it.

JR: Is the art you like always funny?

JJ: No, not always. But everything is always funny. You just have to be smart enough to know what’s funny about it. Period. I mean, like, everything’s funny. Absolutely fucking everything’s funny.