A walk down Haight Street in San Francisco will quickly equate one with a melee of airbrushed accessories. The trend is in full effect and some artists are utilizing this affect. Actually graffiti artists have been tagging up old hats and rocking them for years. Alicia Keys sported an intricately painted pair of designer jeans painted on commission for the cover of The Source last summer. If you’re still fuzzy, just try to recall the puff-paint craze of the late 80s. Local artist Brion Nuda Rosch is taking advantage of this trend by adding his unique touch to ready-made products.
I became familiar with Rosch’s art during a short-lived internship with SOMA magazine. Rosch had left a vintage purse and a matching netted trucker’s hat outside the frosted glass doors of the SOMA office in San Francisco when I came into work one Friday morning in February. Both the purse and the hat were painted mauve, anointed with careful strokes of a black paint pen. Then, in what could be called the spirit of Jackson Pollock, magenta paint was ever so slightly dripped atop it all, composing a layered “cake” effect. As I turned the pieces over in my hands, they were rather out of the ordinary, employing an artistic style that immediately drew my attention. Unfortunately though, no puff paint. A note had been left inside the handbag with Rosch’s name and number, volunteering an interview. So I called Rosch up, and the rest is history.
“Anything can be art,” Rosch said, in the first few minutes of our dialogue. “It’s all subjective, good art is familiar with something new and original that sparks another way of looking at detail.” And when I asked if detail is important to art, Rosch throws up his hands and exclaims, “detail is important to everything in life!”
Those with a keen eye for detail are hip to the continually unfolding trend of “decorated” accessories. If you’ve frequented “Something,”a store on Haight, perhaps you’ve caught a Piece Project accessory, a series of “rebuffed” vintage purses and trucker hats revamped and repainted by Rosch. “But the concept,” said Rosch “has been around for a 1,000 years…it all spans back to cave painting” (which spans back 10,000 years, but who’s counting.)
“Art is marking our territory,” said Rosch “It’s saying I don’t want to look at your Billboard. I don’t want to buy into consumerism’s big money sucker-punch. But on the other hand that Billboard could be beautiful.” Rosch then points to a faux-Prada bag neatly seated beneath the kitchen window of his studio by which we are standing. “Imitation Prada with paint just looks cool. Labels force style. I’m not against consumerism I would go to Diesel and get a pair of jeans if I had $100 bucks.”
Rosch feels there should be more political and social commentary in art.”People look to art in scary times for new fusion. People are a confluence of everything that’s out there. Art has to be accessible, but it’s a selfish thing at the same time. You can paint on anything, a plastic mold Jesus.”
When asked if the Goodwill, a thrift shop, was a museum, Rosch said, “Hell yeah, I found that Jesus nestled between two worn out speakers.” “Searching for the pieces I’m going to paint is like digging for records,” Rosch declares suddenly. “What happens when you combine lost memories with time, something else forced into something else into something else. This whole thing has been done before.”
When we discussed his art as being kitschy he said, “The purses and hats are more a conceptual project for me. I’m doing them with my friend Oliver Halsman Rosenburg. It first started out as hats for friends, and one thing led to another.” When looking around Rosch’s apartment there is barely an appliance besides the stove that hasn’t been amended with or without paint. I particularly enjoy the antique-incense-burning-sewing-machine, composed of a cast iron sewing matching with a stick of incense in its spool cartridge.
“What I like about the trend is that it’s constantly changing, but it’s all similar so people can catch on, brainstorm ideas, but make them hard to find. It’s about sharing and never saying that you invented this or that, but flipping whatever it is and committing to making it stupid fresh…Bam, here I made this for you, do you like it? It’s all a matter of doing it, ” he said. Rosch keeps a consistent pace in his speech, swift and off the wall. There’s definitely a charm to his style; a humor that I can relate to. The smooth hand strokes that adorn everything is aesthetically pleasing if not immediately thought provoking. A familiar lotus leaf pattern can be discerned quite harmoniously in his vase designs, and even manifesting its way into the paintings that line the walls of
Rosch’s studio. When asked if there was anything about the trend he dislikes he said, “Of course, the prices that you see for some of that stuff are so high and there’s so much of it. There’s a difference between commercial and high art, but ideas stem from things that have already happened. So I like boutiques with original objects. And we’re not trying to sell our stuff to every store on Haight. It’s all about the individual pieces. But this also lets me publicize my art and make it functional, literally.”
And the publicity appears to be working. Next month at the 4×4 gallery in L.A., 100 of Rosch’s hats will be given away to participating artists. There are already rows of them lined up near the door ready to go, and even Rosch admits that he’s not totally behind the politics. But Piece Project has succeeded in making his images catchy if not kitschy, so the publicity has worked.