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September 25, 2014

Alex Gross in Juxtapoz Mag

October 2014 Issue

Alex Gross paints intense images of an ominous future. In fact, the future isn’t so distant, it’s here. And it isn’t full of flying cars or “robot servants bringing us drinks,” as the artist points out in this interview. I caught up with this design-minded oil painter just before the opening of his new exhibition, Future Tense, alongside the release of his new monograph of the same name. This doubly meaningful title is poignant and accurately describes our precarious surroundings for the foreseeable future. The future’s so tense, you gotta wear shades. And if you’re a figure in an Alex Gross painting, those shades are probably Gucci. —Kristin Farr

Kristin Farr: I see why you would parody luxury brands like Gucci and Fendi in some of your paintings, but I’m curious about your interest in representing more arty brands like Volcom, Obey and RVCA. 
Alex Gross: This question gets at some of the ideas I have been working with for the last few years. It is easy to parody expensive fashion brands, and I have done it in many pieces. But, when I think about it, I am actually trying to talk about the larger concept of branding in my work, not just fashion branding, or only mocking brands that I personally think are silly. The entire idea of branding is what I am addressing in my work. What, ultimately, is the difference between RVCA and Gucci? When you think about it, the only real difference is the target audience: a hip, (or wannabe hip, like myself) 20-35 year old urban skater type, versus a rich, more fashion-oriented guy or gal who may be a jetsetter, or just wants to look like one. My point is, it’s all branding, which really means it’s ultimately bullshit. I’m not a skater. I’m not even in that age demographic. But I have always liked to dress that way, and many of my friends do too. So, I like a lot of RVCA’s stuff, but it’s only because their branding has been so successful that the look of their stuff connotes all of these other things—an attitude about life, what music you like, etc. When you really are honest with yourself, a RVCA hat is just a hat, just like a Gucci purse is just a purse. So, I think it’s important, if I’m being honest as a creator, to look more deeply into what I am talking about and to not spare any particular brand just because it might seem cooler than some others. That really is the whole point—getting people to think about how branding affects their lives and their decision-making process. 

Do you ever work with a narrative, or are you more focused on composition, symbolism or other elements? 
I don’t typically start with any concept in mind, but let it emerge as the image evolves. I have many concepts that I am working with, and as time goes by, I have more and more to say in my work. The meaning of the work is extremely important to me, but how meaning begins to reveal itself in each piece tends to be a very unconscious process. I am not especially interested in narrative; it’s a more intuitive, conceptual place that I am aiming for.

* Full interview appears in the October 2014 issue of Juxtapoz Magazine



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