Eyeone

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Eyeone – a man whose run-in with a miniature tall-ship is forever emblazoned in his monicker, is a deep and introspective artist and writer born in Mexico City, and raised just about everywhere else. His work is unique in its application and execution, taking its cues from the various subcultures that were forming in the early 1980s. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. He was kind enough to take the time to respond to our questions about his past, what inspires him, and where he’s going next.

“When I was about 4 years old, I pierced one of my eyes with the end of a model boat. It was one of those Spanish galleons with the long battering pole in the front made out of metal. All I remember is my eye shutting immediately.”

Format: Can you describe who you are and what you do?
Eyeone: My graffiti name is Eyeone. I paint walls and other surfaces, indoors and outdoors.

Format: What is the meaning behind “Eyeone” ?
Eyeone: When I was about 4 years old, I pierced one of my eyes with the end of a model boat. It was one of those Spanish galleons with the long battering pole in the front made out of metal. All I remember is my eye shutting immediately. When I got taken to the doctor, they forced my eyelid open and I saw the brightest light I have ever seen, like staring straight at the sun point-blank. I had to wear an eye patch for a long time. I thought I’d be one-eyed for life. Miraculously, when the eye patch came off I had perfect vision. Still do, three decades later. I had to do all these crazy eye exercises as a kid; I think that strengthened my vision, literally and metaphorically.

Format: So, how did you fall into graffiti, and at what age did you do so? You said that you were inspired by the work of Mandoe and Neo Mak in your neighborhood, how exactly did they “itch” you? What neighborhood was this?
Eyeone: I fell into graffiti quite typically I think. I was scared for the most part by neighborhood scrawls; however, in elementary school I copied things I saw on the walls in my notebooks. When I saw the movie Beat Street, something clicked. I wanted to be like one of the main characters, Ramo, painting colorful messages on the trains. We didn’t have trains in L.A. at the time, so I started noticing graffiti on the walls. What stood out the most to me were tags by Mandoe and Neo’, which had a flow unlike the gang stuff or the Beat Street stuff. It felt alive. Their productions, which I later found out were basically illegal, also amazed me, especially one in the Echo Park/Temple area on Alvarado. It was an unfinished mural with some crazy fish characters. They also had painted a gas station in the Wilshire area where the colors seemed to float off the wall. I wanted to figure how they did it.

I actually moved around quite a bit in L.A., but MAKs work seemed to pop up in all the different neighborhoods I lived in or near: Virgil, Rampart, Temple, Echo Park, Angelino Heights, Wilshire/MacArthur Park. When I moved to the northeast, specifically Atwater, my friends and I encountered a piece by Krenz on our way to school, and that was the last straw: I grabbed a can from my Grandmother’s garage, and along with Modem and Gloze, hit the L.A. River in Atwater/Los Feliz/Silverlake/Griffith Park.

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Format: Using the word like “itch” is really interesting to me. What does getting the “itch” mean to you – do you you still have that same today or has it matured?
Eyeone: I still have that itch. It’s like a search to scratch out the perfect letter-forms from my mind and translate them on a wall. The itch has also led me to try to capture the city in my art work, so in that sense it has led to a progression and maturation my artistic search. I see this as a life-long process. The band Adorable put out an album called “Against Perfection” and I feel that applies to me and my work. I see expression as a constant search; if I think I have achieved “perfection” and the itch is soothed, I’ll feel that my creativity has stopped. I want to always have that itch.

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Format: What is your relationship to Seeking Heaven?
Eyeone: I am one of the newer members of the crew, and I strive to do work that merits being a component of SH.

Format: Would you say that this early inspiration carries on to today – or would you say that you eventually grew out to embrace your own style?
Eyeone: I think a little bit of both. MAK and Krenz were my earliest inspirations, but I have grown to embrace the whole of L.A.’s visual culture as nurturing my own work. Seeking Heaven has also directly influenced me; that still applies today, and I feel it will always apply. I can’t tell if I’ve developed my own style in terms of graffiti. I think that’s for observers to notice. I see myself as still seeking.

In my artwork, I think my earliest influences and inspirations are pretty obvious: Käthe Kollwitz, León Chávez Teixeiro, Leopoldo Méndez, Posada, Chinese and Japanese woodblock printing. These still inspire me, along with things I find as I continue exploring. I’ve embraced a very personal style, but I also do find clear connections to work by artists I admire.

Format: You were born in Mexico city, lived in LA and traveled around at other times in your childhood. How has this effected you in your life, and specfically your graffiti?
Eyeone: In life, moving around has made me really treasure permanence. When things I think are permanent break apart, it really is a shock to my system. Travelling, on the other hand, always fills me with new energy and inspires me to do more stuff. In graffiti, moving around the city exposed me to styles and names of many of L.A.’s freshest artists, so that has always been really inspiring and influential.

Format: It seems that your interests are pretty wide – you have a BA in Literature from UCLA, and a Master of Fine Art – what direction did academia take you?
Eyeone: I’d say my interests are fairly wide; I chalk it up to just absorbing things since I was a kid. As far as literature, I’ve been reading all kinds of things since I could first differentiate letters, anything from cereal boxes to Pablo Neruda to The Incredible Hulk. Kids thought I was weird for reading so much! My MFA came about because I wanted to get a formal education in the field I was already practicing. Academia took me in a few directions. First, it made me appreciate all the learning and experiences I had accumulated outside of school. At the same time, it forced a certain discipline in the way I work. My degree is in Design | Media Arts, which focused and relied heavily on digital technology for the creation of art and design. I think this pushed me to figure out ways of working both in traditional, analog media as well as incorporating new tools and technologies in my methodology.

“In life, moving around has made me really treasure permanence. When things I think are permanent break apart, it really is a shock to my system.”

Format: Your talents also extend into graphic design, and mentioned how you got into it by making posters for straightedge and hardcore punk shows. Where were you making these posters and what direction did the punk scene take your design?
Eyeone: My first serious stint at flyer making for shows was from 1992-1996. I designed most of the flyers for shows at a spot called Macondo which was located in the area now known as Hel-Mel in East Hollywood at the corner of Melrose and Heliotrope. I started out cutting and pasting photocopied images and using rub-on and sticky letters. I think the fact the flyers were always in black and white really impacted my use of those colors in my artwork. The grit and imperfection of photocopies and cheap paper also influenced what I would develop art-wise. Much of my artwork still involves stark high-contrast black and white images.

The punk scene also taught me the DIY approach to making things: do it yourself with any means at your disposal. Sort of like graffiti.

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Format: Often it seems that the graffiti scene is populated with those who evovled out of the hip-hop or punk scenes – music is intensely important to the medium. What is the importance of music for you?
Eyeone: Music has always been important in my life, so much so that I currently cannot listen to much music. I don’t want to bore your readers with details, but I recently underwent a life-changing experience which has put a block on my listening to most of the music I value.

I know writers whose musical tastes vary from Johnny Cash to Pedro Infante and anything and everything in between. I think music is part of life in general, as is art.

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Format: What are you working on right now and what can you tell us about it?
Eyeone: ‘m working on some pieces for a Michael Jackson tribute show at Tradition (www.shoptradition.com) that opens this weekend. My blog got wiped, so I’m working on bringing that back up to speed (www.eyelost.com.) I have a self-portrait in the Scion Self-Portraits art tour (www.scion.com/installation) that has been touring the U.S. and will end here in L.A. later this year. I am also brainstorming for the next phase of my ‘zine Lost.

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Daniel Joseph

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