Aaron Rose Interview
Aaron Rose has played a pivotal role influencing and encouraging many of the leading names in the art world as we know it. Having worked on many mediums since being a co-founder of the highly coveted Alleged Gallery, Aaron has gone on to play a pivotal role in the Beautiful Losers initiative along with much more. His latest project, a book entitled Collage Culture excites the eye and makes for a compelling publication. I caught up with Aaron to talk about the book as well as this short film he created for POST NEW celebrating the release.
James Oliver: Can you tell us a bit about your childhood? Where did you grow up and how did it shape you as an individual.
Aaron Rose: I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles in a pretty standard tract community. They filmed the movie ET in my eighborhood. Me and my friends would sneak around the set at night when they weren't shooting. I'm not exactly sure how my childhood shaped me except that it definitely taught me to question the status quo from a very young age. I never felt comfortable in that environment. That suburban fantasy. When I was 18 I pretty quickly got out and moved to New York City. However, after ten years in New York I began to question that status quo as well. I guess you can't win right?
JO: Where are you living now? What is the best thing about where you live?
AR: I currently live in Los Angeles. I've been here for ten years as well. Ironically, I'm still feeling LA. Maybe because there's so much room for expansion here. I rarely interact with the Hollywood scene and if I do it's only for work. There are lots of different worlds here to choose from. The music scene is great, the art scene is giving it a good try, and if you want to make movies, which is what I do most of the time. It's the best place to find people that are willing to get on board with a project and just say, "Fuck it...let's make something!" Also the trees are nice here and I have a fetish for old cars.
JO: Alleged Gallery and Alleged Press is something that brought a lot of attention to what you do. What is your perception of the art world now compared to when you started out.
AR: It hasn't really changed that much actually. The art world is always about selling expensive stuff to rich people. It will always be that way. That doesn't mean I don't love art and artists. I'm a total fiend for art and I create artwork all the time. It's just that the art scene hasn't really changed. It's just the way it is and it will always be that way. It's necessary. Creating art takes a lot of time and energy, so I understand. It's a very strange industry though. This idea of relying on the top 1% of people to support you in your "underground' endeavors. It's kind of ironic right? I've always tried to keep the Alleged projects somehow separate from that equation, however I'm the first one to admit that it's a pipe
JO: Beautiful Losers was another project of great distinction. Can you tell us about what that did for you and your profile?
AR: That's hard to gauge exactly. I don't really think about that stuff. I was in London earlier this year and a 14 year old girl ran up to me on Oxford Street, threw her arms around me and exclaimed that she loves me. I guess that shows some growth in my profile.
JO: What are your thoughts on commercial v independent art? Please explain.
AR: I'm not so sure there's a distinction. Does independent mean that the art's not for sale? If yes, then I would say that independent art is not for sale and commercial art is for sale.
JO: You have worked with some of the most talented artists from around the world, how do you approach each project differently because the diversity is quite evident.
AR: Everything I do pretty much follows the same process. Whether it's an exhibition, a book, a magazine, a painting, a piece of writing, a song or a film. There's a basic process. It starts with an idea or a sketch. Then you gradually start to fill in colorful elements and textures. Once I have everything filled in, I then figure in the "x-factor" and start re-arranging those elements into a new composition. Once that composition feels good I put a title on it. It's fairly simple really.
JO: You travel a lot, where is your favorite place? Please explain.
AR: In my dreams I would live in Berlin. Every time I'm there I feel really inspired to work. However at this point in my life it doesn't really work for me to live there. Still there's an incredible latitude for innovation and improvisation there. It's so far ahead of everywhere else really when it comes to new ideas. Sometimes I just want to slap people in the United States who claim to be making innovative art. They haven't seen anything unless they've spend time in Berlin. That said, I understand that one can only build on what they've experienced and I suffer from that too. I've never been to Africa or india and I'm sure some people from there would laugh at what I do.
JO: Can you tell us a bit about your new book Collage Culture?
AR: The basic premise of the book is that for the last 10 years of the new millennium, creative culture has done nothing but recycle the past. Especially that of the 20th Century. Because of this I feel that we are experiencing a creative identity crisis. The early 21st Century has not been allowed to develop a unique aesthetic because we are too busy bowing down to era's past. I think it's time to kill our idols and change that. That's pretty much the idea behind Collage Culture.
JO: You have made this film for POST NEW to showcase the book, how does it reflect the concept of the publication?
AR: I made the film, but the concept belongs to Brian Roettinger who designed the book. Basically, one of the major points of the book is that because we have access to an endless onslaught of visual references through the internet, we have become lazy in creating things. The visual information available to us has made it much to easy to reference and copy instead of creating our own works. The sheer number of "curated" blogs is a perfect point. I like looking at those things, but too many people are mistaking them for something original. But they are only references!! So the idea behind the film is that we took excerpts from the book, about two thousand words of it, and ascribed a random Google image to each and every word. We even left in the "and's" and "the's". Then I edited it so that each image runs for 1/10th of a second. We set the montage to excerpts from a collaboration we did for the book with the Los Angeles band No Age. They created an original score and we had people come in and read different parts of the book. We're releasing the recording on 12" vinyl. It comes out on Dean from No Age's PPM records this month.
JO: You worked alongside Mandy Kahn and Brian Roettinger. Can you tell us a bit about them and the dynamic of the three of you working together.
AR: The whole idea for the book came from a discussion Mandy and I had at a restaurant one night. Mandy is a terrific writer and both she and I wrote essays for the book. Mandy's essay is called "Living In the Mess" and mine is called "the Death of Subculture." When it came time to get a designer involved we knew that the book couldn't just look like any other book. The design had to match the statements in the texts. Brian comes from a background in record cover design as well as art publications so he seemed like the perfect choice. He did a fantastic job with the book. After Brian
came on board we pretty much all became co-authors. The book has been a real collaboration.
JO: What's next for you?
AR: I've got a bunch of things to finish off before the holidays then I'm going to Australia and New Zealand with my fiancee.
JO: Finally, words to live by?
AR: Never let them see you sweat.