Paul Loya Gallery


DREAM LOGIC :: An Interview with Artist Aaron Elvis Jupin


Cartoons and erotica have much in common—fantasy, desire, an adipose sense of volume. Aaron Elvis Jupin assembles these polarities of play and smut, refracting their constituent parts to form a visual cosmology that crawls over paintings, onto walls, into various vintage ephemera. The results layer innuendo and innocence; a declension of glyphs sticking their tongue out at the fuddy duddiness of words.

His plays with animation references lack deference even to the wild physics of cartoons. His images stop just short of cohering into a picture, drawing parallels closer to dream logic and the lacunae of memory. As Jupin moved away from his early work, daubing on vintage girly mags with escapist titles like Escapade and Magic Touch, his paintings took on more of themselves. They are highly redolent, but ultimately self-referential. Shadows, colors, and lines swell and contract—at once kitschy and academic, redolent and abstract.

A painting in the corner of a shed takes cues from the bleakest parts of beloved childhood classics—the storm scene from Bambi, Dumbo being separated from his mother—but stripped of recognizable elements; there is something universal in its depiction of turmoil. You can read it without knowing jack about Bambi or Dumbo.

We chatted over iced coffee in his Boyle Heights studio, on cartoons and Catholic school, cultural consciousness, and viewing art through a socioeconomic lens.


CHRISTINA CATHERINE MARTINEZ: Does your work always refer to specific stories/cartoons? It’s hard to tell.
AARON ELVIS JUPIN: As personal as I try to make the paintings, I’m distancing myself from the work at the same time. I’m taking my hand out of the work but then putting it back in. So much of early animation is about the hand, but it’s so repetitive it diminishes the hand, too. It’s not The Artist’s Hand. It’s the hand writ large.

The abstract idea of the hand in service of a visual language, and no one really has authorship over that.
Yeah, nobody owns thick to thin—meaning the line quality! We look across scattered paintings, some extremely sparse, with just a few elements—a table leg, a pushed up corner of rug—floating on the white plane.

So much of painting is just knowing when to stop. The paintings kind of mix this idea of the anonymous hand of animation. That thick-thin line is still there, along with painterly elements that are definitely the hand of an individual.
Actually, a lot of the more painterly-looking elements are airbrushing, which is another kind of anonymous hand technique. Anyone can learn to airbrush, you know? And I’ve discovered a lot of painters airbrushing right now. When I first saw that I thought, I’ve been airbrushing since I was a freshman in high school! I sold airbrushed T-shirts to kids. I never thought it was art. And now it’s in the art world proper. I had no idea.



Art has a way of appropriating vernacular techniques and, doubling back on itself, taking things in the world for itself.
The art world is such a weird place, but it has fads and trends like any other part of culture. I’ll go to art fairs and suddenly one year everything is printed on lenticular. At Art LA (Contemporary) this year I think I counted nine booths with all lenticular prints.

“As a kid, I went to Catholic school and never went to museums or galleries… Then I would go home and watch cartoons. This was my earliest exposure to ‘art.’”

And we grew up thinking lenticulars were toys! I do like this idea of fine artists using airbrushing or animation technique, which are styles associated with being, I don’t know, working class? Because they are concrete skills with commercial applications? But you combine them in a way that echoes academic paintings, or studies.
It’s funny that you say working class. As a kid, I went to Catholic school and never went to museums or galleries or anything like that. We didn’t do those kinds of field trips; there was no art class. We made stations of the cross illustrations, or put on a play about Jesus. Then I would go home and watch cartoons. This is was my earliest exposure to “art.” And I lived right by Disneyland. Going to Disneyland was like going to an art museum for me. All of this stuff is real, it’s designed, it’s fabricated—I was obsessed with going to Disneyland as a kid.



But you did go to art school, eventually.
Yes, after high school. I was exposed to the art world for the first time and I felt so out of place. I had no knowledge up until that point. I didn’t know who the major artists were. I remember seeing that Beautiful Losers exhibit curated by Aaron Rose and it blew my mind. I was making stencils and shooting black and white photos. I was a skater. That’s what I did. Then I went to art school and met people who could draw a nude. That kind of life-drawing, rendering, painting drapes and fruit or whatever, was just not something I did before going to art school. The first time I took a life-drawing class I realized, here I am in front of this naked lady and I have to draw her and I have no idea how to draw. I came into it with a completely different conception of what a drawing to a painting even is.




“What I learned in school is to trust my own frame of reference.”


But that goes both ways. Someone who grew up going to galleries or looking at “real” art wouldn’t think to use airbrushing in this context, and what that might mean. Your paintings are almost parodies of painting studies.
What I learned in school is to trust my own frame of reference. For a while I was trying to make paintings that I just couldn’t make. I can’t paint the fucking bubble. I was trying to be realistic, or painterly, but really I was into a lot of lowbrow stuff. I loved Shag and Tim Biskup and Anthony Ausgang. Those guys are what excited me. And learning to marry that to everything else I was learning about art history.

You become aware of how cultural consciousness, especially during formative years, can be tied to class or socioeconomic status.
For sure.

Then you go to art school and broaden your horizons… but those roots are still a part of you.
And if you’re not reflecting on that, or you pretend it was never a part of you, what are you really making?


IMG_9312 Follow Aaron Elvis Jupin on Instagram @jupescoops

Aaron is currently in a group show called HEAT at Paul Loya Gallery (2677 S La Cienega Blvd) through August 21, along with artists Sterling Bartlett, Ryan Schaeffer, Kingsley Ifill, James Ulmer, Brian Montuori, and Chas Shroeder.

Photos by Graham Walzer.



In the studio with James Ulmer


Interview by Christie Kim, Photographs by Brian Willmont

Greenpoint Terminal Gallery: Your drawings are mostly focused on people and their movements. What fascinates you about people and how do you come up with these characters in your drawings?

James Ulmer: I have always been interested in drawing figures but most of the time, my drawings are not based on real people or real references. A lot of it is comic book influenced. I, also, have a collection of toys and cartoon references. I will often recycle my own images; blow-up drawings from my sketchbook and make larger versions based on them.



GTG: Most of the characters in your drawings, like in “Men with Hats,” are in a continuous motion or performing repetitive gestures that seem to require a lot of meticulousness and patience. Do you worry that you might have OCD? Do you spend countless hours people-watching? How does your creative process work?

JU: The drawings are defiantly not perfect, so I don’t think I have OCD. There is a lot of variation between each character so it keeps me interested in the drawing and keeps it fun. I don’t find myself people watching much, people are not usually my main source of inspiration for my drawings. My creative process is pretty simple, I don’t plan much out before hand. I might have an idea of what I want to do but most of my drawings are done free hand with some parts of the composition measured out. This allows me some structure but I can, also, be spontaneous within the drawing.



GTG: Some of your drawings remind me of Chris Johansons paintings of people. Did he have any influence in your work? Any other artists that inspired your drawings?

JU: Chris is a super important artist to me. Recently, I have been learning more about Saul Steinberg and Dubuffet.

GTG: You were a part of an artist collective called Space 1026 in Philadelphia. How did you get involved with Space 1026 and how was that experience?

JU: I became involved in Space 1026 through a friend. I think it was a really great and important experience for me. I became exposed to so many different artists and met some of my best friends there.


GTG: How is the zine culture in NYC and how is it different from Philly? Ive been to the zine fest in Chicago and Portland and they were very different, from my memory. Chicago seemed more fast-paced whereas Portland zine fest felt like it was more like a friendly, small gathering. 

JU: In New York, there are more places and events to buy and sell zines. I’m not sure if I’ve even been to a zine fest in Philly but there are a lot of people making cool things.



GTG: Two years ago, you and Kris Chau did an art showing at a laundromat. Can you tell me a little about this project and do you plan to do more projects like this in the future?

JU: The show was actually in south Philadelphia in 2010, I think. That was a really fun show, people were dancing on top of washing machines. Kris and I were selling drawings out of dryers, it was great. I would love to do that again.


GTG: What upcoming projects or collaborative works do you have planned for 2014?

JU: I will be having a show in Philly at the Synderman Works Gallery in February.








Tom Fruin’s Watertowers Transforming the Brooklyn Waterfront // MASTER DYNAMIC

Working in the building on top of which one of your more seminal pieces of art is displayed is a rare perk not afforded to most artists. But Tom Fruin is not most artists.

“If you guys are interested, we could go up to the roof,” is one of the first things Fruin says to us upon our arrival at his Dumbo studio. “You can see it better from there.”d30ab73e080f81168fed8ec7b9238365019de160_blog_tomfruin_01

The “it” Fruin is referring to is Watertower, the contemporary artist’s first in a series of public sculptures that have appeared along the Brooklyn waterfront in recent years: one here in Dumbo, one in Brooklyn Bridge Park, and a third in Greenpoint. Made up of steel and salvaged plexiglass, Fruin’s brightly colored, stained-glass-like water towers were made for the public eye.

“I’m not looking for an ‘art’ audience,” Fruin says. “I really just want to reach everybody.”


A look at the inside of Watertower. Photo by Robert Banat

So why water towers?

“Being sort of a New York transplant, [the water tower] is a symbol, I thought, of New York.” Fruin is originally from Los Angeles, and moved to New York City in the ‘90s. “It’s casual, it’s cool, it’s made of wood, it’s round—I got drawn to it. It seems like a place for humanity within the urban environment.”


Inside Fruin’s Dumbo Studio

And that urban environment is incredibly important to Fruin and his work. “The city’s my thing,” Fruin enthuses. This comes through not only in the form his work takes, but also in the materials he chooses to use. “If I were in the country, I’d probably be making stuff out of leaves or whatever.” Instead, Fruin has chosen materials that are easy to come by in a place like New York. “For me, there’s no canvas, no paint; everything that I use generally is because it’s free. I’m pretty scrappy. I’ve become the guy—the sign guy, the plexi[glass] guy. People just deliver it to me. They don’t know what to do with it, so they leave it on my door and I find it. I’m making things out of what I know.”

When asked what his advice would be for up-and-coming artists and creatives, Fruin says, “Wake up early and just hit it hard. It’s mostly about luck; I mean, that’s probably the unfortunate reality. But if you wake up early and hit it hard, then you’ve got a chance. Keep going. Most famous artists are not that talented necessarily; they’re just persevering. I noticed this even as a youth. People [who would] keep working, keep pushing. And that’s what I do.” Given we’re a blog who took our name from the theory of The 10,000 Hour Rule, we can definitely relate.


Fruin’s work-in-progress

After spending some time in Fruin’s studio, we take the artist up on his offer to see his nearest Watertower up close. “I’m a rooftop guy,” Fruin explains in the elevator on our way up to the roof. “Like a cat. I like to go on the roof and see what I can see.”

On this particular rooftop, there’s a good amount to see. We clamber over a rail, walk along a ledge, then climb up a ladder until we’re standing right across from the first Watertower, which is impressive in and of itself. Add in the sweep of the Manhattan Bridge, the East River, and the Manhattan skyline behind Fruin’s sculpture, and it’s a view that really can’t be beat.


Fruin in front of his Watertower

What’s it like getting to go to work and see your own art right there, every day? we ask the artist.

“That’s the coolest thing,” Fruin says. “I actually get a lot of emails and posts on Instagram, people on the subway, going across the bridges, saying, ‘that’s so meaningful to me, that your thing is up there’.”

There’s no doubt that Fruin’s work has changed the Brooklyn waterfront and New York City as a whole for the better. So what’s next for the artist? “I have a piece I want to make for Detroit, which is a smokestack. Then I have a piece for L.A. which is going to be a billboard. It’s what you don’t notice that’s emblematic of a place. And what you don’t even respect. It might be a dumpster, or a mailbox—who knows? But I think there’s a way to celebrate that.”

2nd Preview of HEAT // Sterling Bartlett


Sterling Bartlett has worked as a commercial illustrator for the better part of the last decade. Working primarily in the arenas of music and action-sports, the bulk of his output was rendered in graphite depicting cultural in-jokes and visual pun. In what has been called “a recent about-face”, Bartlett’s practice shifted into color with a more narrative approach. Hand-drawn portraits juxtaposed against literary quotes gave way to luminous renderings of the domestic architecture found in the working-class neighborhoods of Eastern Los Angeles, where he lives and works. His paintings (a mix of monoprint and traditional brushwork embellished with charcoal) are pulled from photos taken with his iPhone; and while these new images eschew the direct subcultural jabs of his earlier commercial work, writer and critic Christina Catherine Martinez notes, “the tenor of his worldview remains seeped in the paper, darkening the candy-colored acrylics with mere shadows of meaning.”








1st Look at HEAT: Aaron Elvis Jupin in Amadeus Magazine

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When Aaron Jupin was a kid, there was little separation between the animated world and reality. Having grown up in Disneyland’s  backyard, better known as Orange County, and consuming cartoons like The Simpson, for which his uncle was an animator, Jupin not only had an early introduction to animation, but also became absorbed in the colorful two dimensional world.

“I remember I thought that the WB characters actually lived in the WB water tower at the studio, “admits Jupin, as he sits in his Boyle Heights studio. “Thats was real to me then, and I remember my family and I would always drive past this water tower by my house and every time I was like, ‘Thats exactly where the Animaniacs live’. There were probably a thousand other water towers in the area, and the studio isn’t even in Orange County, but to me that was the one.”



Jupin’s early interactions with classic animation provided an alternative understanding of what art was and inevitably laid the groundwork for his now complete infatuation with the seeping hand-drawn lines in movies like Bambi and Fantasia , and the faint smears and blurry frames he catches in old cartoons that only come from the slight of a human hand. For Jupin it’s all about the hand, the visible involvement of the animator.

“My parents never took me to any museums even though I’m sure they wanted to, so when I would go home, I would watch cartoons and would think, That’s art!” says, Jupin. “Watching cartoons was my my first introduction to the art world. I think that’s why I kind of put…this is so corny to say, but I put classic animation on a pedestal. Everything that goes into it all done by hand, that is art, that is true beauty, that is magic to me.”



Jupin’s longstanding fascination with classic animation now predominates his own practice. Through abstraction and manipulation, he takes recognizable images from the cartoons he was brought up on and twists them into a new context; one that inevitably reflects his exploration and understanding of how these familiar images resonate with him. Delicate back line-work and background details., rather than main characters, come to the forefront in his pieces, creating something abstract yet eerily rooted in a visual language familiar to anyone acquainted with early animation.

It can be as simple as a staircase background in the movie Cinderella, however the color of the carpet or the staircase’s steps, or even remembering what happens in a specific scene of the movie, will trigger a sentiment or memory that deeply resonates with him. When Jupin sees something that he likes and has a strong connection with it, he’ll immediately paint it, letting the images unfold like a never-ending sketch.


“I’ll paint this background from Cinderella that sticks out to me, then look at the painting and I’ll remember something else from the movie, and include it. It’s almost like I’m creating a narrative, but with images abstracted and put together,” says Jupin. “I want the viewer to recognize these images, but mot immediately know where they’re from. Through their own memories they have this attachment to the piece. Whether they know it’s from Cinderella or not, they’re still like ‘Oh I know this. This is familiar.'”

IMG_9563 Daisy Duck’s beak, Bambi’s legs droopy white flowers, planks of wood and rope all make repeat appearances in his paintings. Whether standing alone, pieced together or painted on top of existing imagery – like on the covers of his abundant collection of pocket pornos – Jupin interjects classically animated imagery on to the canvas that evoke his strongest memories and most prominent feelings. Otherwise whimsical imagery reveals Jupin’s darker thoughts and undertones, a visual depiction of what he’s getting out of each cartoon.

“My paintings are just myself dealing with my emotions,” says Jupin. “I’m putting myself into these cartoons and images good and bad sentiments that these cartoons and images remind me of. I’m not painting all willy-nilly, like, ‘This is cool, let me paint’. If I paint something, it’s because I have particular feelings, and now I’m painting it.”



Jupin is continually working through new ideas, most recently inserting new colors to his pieces, and almost always referencing imagery that serendipitously pops into his personal life and warrants a connection with his memories and feelings.


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