In anticipation of Searching by flashlight, for the bright spots on your brain, and such opening next Saturday, September 12th
Interview by White Walls
Rich Jacobs was once a nomad, drifting with the wind to whatever alpha city beckoned him. Raised on drawing, skating and zine making in Southern California, Jacobs was instilled with a deep sense of creative freedom. As a curator and artist today, he continues to surround himself with individuals who think outside the box. Rich revels in the small moments from which big inspiration can be gleaned and his art is a clear reflection of this.
When we asked Rich a few questions about his upcoming show, he let his unfettered personality shine through. Read on to find out what makes Rich laugh, what skate tricks he can still pull off, and how becoming a father has changed everything.
White Walls: How many places have you lived? Where, when, why?
Rich Jacobs: I was born in Long Beach California, lived there 6 years, moved to Seattle for 6 years, and then Denver for 6 years. So then at 18 years old- right after I left high school – I went to Utah for like 6 months, then back to East LA, and LA County all over for many years. I lived in San Diego, Silver Lake, Los Feliz, then back to San Diego, for like a year and a half then I moved to New York in 2000, lived there about 7 seven years, a little longer, then we moved here to SF.
The day after I got married, Kate and I left New York for San Francisco. I don’t know how many times I moved while living in LA, but it seemed like about every 6 months or every year. For a long time, I used to move all the time.
Which place was your favorite to live in?
I like New York, and LA, SF is good too, home is where your head is I think unless it rains, then you are stoked to have a place to lie down. You know shelter from the elements and so forth. No one likes the cold, but a lot of folks I know don’t like humidity- that New York has a lot of. It would be rad if all my friends from LA and New York lived here, and there was a little more sun here. But really, Spain is rad and South America is rad too. Holland is nice as well. I like a lot of places really…how’s that for a confusing answer?
Do you still skate?
Yeah but it looks kinda funny now. I roll around and sometimes pretend I am rolling down Signal Hill in the ‘70s. I like slappies, and curbs. I like banks too, and kinda ‘80s terrain. I can’t do flip tricks or handrails but those who can probably have fun, except when they spank their heads on the floor. That is never a good time as far as I can tell. I am no expert on it though, as I said I am a dinosaur and have been collecting dust for a good while now. I like skate rock, and skate zines are good.
Have you continued to publish zines?
Yeah I do, I don’t know if they are any good though. When you are young and naive, it is usually better, less jaded, and more open. I try to just do things I am into so I don’t come off a grump or something. I like arty creative zines that look like someone making it fell inside the copier and put a lot of themselves in their zines, earnestness goes far in this area.
I like to see passionate art creators make zines that are not just computer font’s graveyards and real stale layouts that look like lame ‘90s graphic design by a computer expert (that can’t draw). Why even make a zine unless you put something into it and you care a lot about it. If I want to see a computer- never mind, I am getting grumpy I think, oops! Trying to not go there lately. Make zines and have fun, keep it raw, or don’t. If you have to use a computer- use it differently than everyone else, use it as your tool and don’t let it be the only boring way things look. Don’t use a template. Computers are not lame but don’t let them make you lazy or dull. I don’t know about blogs, but some people seem to enjoy them.
Years ago, you curated shows including Barry McGee, Phil Frost, Thomas Campbell, Margaret Kilgallen, and Ed Templeton. Do you still keep in touch with these artists?
I try to, everyone is busy but yeah it’s nice when we run into one another. Everyone is doing their thing. It seems like things just get better, I have always felt so lucky to know and have such good folks around. To see their inspiring work is a treat. I am stoked to hear from anyone I have worked with and been friends with for sure. I like making new friends too.
What do you know how to cook?
Cooking is good. I like making food, I cant bake or follow directions, but I try to make food how I make art somewhat. I just go with what is seemingly an instinct- I like freedom, not really discipline. I am known in some circles as a salsa maker. I am not afraid of spice, not even a little bit generally.
How do you look at the world?
I try to see it as much and as often as possible with new eyes, and careful thoughtful goggles. Kate and I just had Spencer, our new son. He is teaching us a lot already. he has helped change some old perspectives. When he smiles I forget everything I ever thought I knew about things and remember to be grateful, and keep it simple. Not much really matters, unless you let it matter.
I like discovering new and old mavericks, outlaws, weirdos, and musical pioneers. People who aren’t boring and all shriveled up already. I like finding new pockets of energy in unexpected places like basements and backyards, warehouses, side streets, fields, and tide pools. There is a lot to look at, thankfully, out there.
If you knew a long wait at the DMV was ahead, what reading material would you bring with you?
I would try to bring a copy of Wire Magazine, a sketch pad, some weird pencils, and pens and maybe try to make a zine all improv style. Impromptu zine making is underrated. Overheard conversations in line: there is the text.
What makes you laugh?
Absurdity, stress, and certain friends who are…funny. Sometimes Spencer, and Kate.
What makes you cry?
Extreme poverty, harsh vibes, jocks in white turbo SUV trucks/tanks that always pass you going 300 mph. death, drug abuse, people hurting each other and governments who like war more than not war. You know sad things, bad music, bad food, food poisoning, hospitals, no health care, the sex trade, people trafficking, middle class guilt and wasteful ideas… the ‘50s.
What brings out your opinionated side?
Probably political issues that make people hot headed sometimes. Things that seem unfair or unjust still.
How has your art changed since the early days?
Lines change sometimes- they get longer; sometimes you learn which ones to not wait in.
Of all the pieces in your personal collection, which is your favorite?
I like them all the same. But probably something found… I like the way things look.
How has your artmaking process changed since your son’s arrival onto the scene?
Sure everything changes things and what’s a little crying? No seriously, it makes multi tasking so important. It is not an easy feat. But many have done it; we are making some stuff as we speak. We as in me, and Spencer.
Have you ever considered drawing your wife or son?
Just did it the other day when they were sleeping next to me on the couch. He is hard to draw, baby heads are no joke.
What does “Searching by flashlight, for the bright spots on your brain, and such” mean to you?
It has to do with making sure you keep searching for inspiration even in dark, and lame scenarios. Stay open, positive, and utilize a good sense of balance, and humor as well. It incorporates the concept of looking for the good in others, admiring their abilities and talents, as well as yourself. It likes the idea of sharing and being kind, and not fighting wars, or starting them, and not occupying other peoples properties and territories, or umm… countries even. Or keeping them in dark places like prisons, or say detained for 7 years, inspiring more dark places to be in other peoples minds, that once were light.
It has to do with making the best of what you have even when that seems hard to do……I guess these are things I am making up as I go, but I am thinking about these kinds of things as I make the work. I like to celebrate the good along with the not so good, but I want to focus more on the bright spots here.
If your characters could talk, what would they say?
Hmmm? Some would ask for help, some would ask you to go grab a burrito, a glass of horchata, and some chips with them. Others would ask for a breath mint, still others would ask your advice on matters, or tell you a story. Some would say, “Ask not what you can do for yourself, but what art can do for you instead.” (Just kidding.) They are hopefully not that selfish. They might ask others to be more humble, and quiet, or they might ask for better places to walk or skate.
Maybe they’d ask for someone to comb their hair (or comb-overs) and stop making everyone look so wrinkled, weathered and like Ronald Reagan youth. They might ask for someone else to draw them, but hopefully not. Have fun, draw a lot, make stuff, do zines, give away your belongings, go do a good skate or bike roll, breathe in and feel lucky. Life is what you make it, mostly. so try. Thanks.
We hope to see you at Rich Jacobs’ opening on Saturday, September 12th.
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