Sixty Inches From Center’s Exchange Partnerships are our chance to spread the word about others who are writing about and documenting art and artists in Chicago, and doing it so beautifully. We have been longtime fans of our friends at Gozamos.com and their coverage of Latino art and culture from here to Milwaukee and are happy to have them as a partner. This week Gozamos writer Terry Carlton interviews Jeremy Fish about his work and recent show at Rotofugi.
Positioned across the street from Delilah’s and two doors down from the Republican campaign headquarters, Rotofugi sits on the corner of Lincoln and Racine (and has for the last two years since moving from their Ukrainian Village location on Chicago), unaffected by the hubbub and perfectly content slanging toys and living toy culture. Roto stands for the type of Western toy design-evolved from the traditionally Eastern Sofubi and Kaiju styles-found throughout the award-winning and internationally known store. Fugi stands for the owners’ dog, who you can find running around the store at any given moment.
Hanging on their walls inside is a mini-exhibit from the one and only Jeremy Fish, who was kind enough to shed some light on his work, his inspirations, and why silly pink bunnies matter…which made this loyal fan a little giddy.
Terry Carlton: How was the opening reception at Rotofugi for Wild Kingdom? What was the response like there?
Jeremy Fish: It was pretty good. People seemed happy.
TC: How did you come up with the concept for this show?
JF: This summer I have been making smaller bodies of work based around story lines for some possible book and or animation opportunities. This particular story or work was inspired by Marlin Perkins and The Wild Kingdom Show, Steve Zissou, and Jacque Cousteau. A wild explorer hunting down the beasts that live inside my head.
TC: Tell our readers what they can expect to see and what you’d like them to take away from this collection in particular.
JF: Expect to see funny creatures that live in the back corners of my mind, and hope to leave with a smile on their faces.
TC: Do you have a favorite piece from this show?
JF: I like the Snackalope the best, mostly because I gained 20 pounds snacking in Chicago.
TC: What did you get into while you were in Chicago? Any favorite places you visited while here? Things that stood out in your mind?
JF: My favorite thing to do in Chicago is The Untouchables Gangster Tour. I love mob history, and Chicago is drenched in it. I also took the architectural boat tour on the river, which was super informative. I focused a ton of time and energy drinking beer and eating hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and lots of heavy pizza. I really liked the Green Mill Bar for its history, and Kingston Mines for the late night blues. I caught up with an old skateboard buddy i hadn’t seen in 20 years. That was the highlight of my trip.
TC: How did this show come together for you personally, and how did it come to be at Rotofugi?
JF: Local artist and curator Dave van Aphen and I did a show years ago at his DVA gallery. I had a great show, and a crazy visit, and have always loved coming to visit chicago. So when he and the rad folks at Rotofugi invited me back for a mini exhibit i jumped at the chance. I have been visiting Chicago since I was in high school to skateboard. It is one of my favorite cities in the world.
TC: Why Silly Pink Bunnies?
JF: The Silly Pink Bunnies is a secret society, and a globally feared gang of millions. That is all I can tell you at this time, sorry.
TC: You’ve been been living in San Francisco for the last 20 years, but you’re originally from New York, right? What are some similarities and differences you’ve noticed among the East, West, and (now having shown in Chicago, the) Third Coasts…art wise?
JF: In the east there is a financially stronger art market, and the artwork, trends, and the scene, in my opinion, are all driven by the finances of the high art world. Chicago and San Francisco enjoy the freedom of not being the super big money art market cities, and as a result this provides a more free, down to earth, and diverse art scene in both places.
TC: Where, inspiration-wise, do your pictures, images, and characters come from?
JF: Day to day life. an old film or tv show. The old man next to me at the bar. It depends on the year and the body of work. I take great satisfaction and comfort in the idea that inspiration can and does come from the strangest of places. It doesn’t matter how hard I hunt for the best idea ever. The best ones always sneak up on me when I’m not looking.
TC: Do you have a favorite medium in which you work? I had the chance to see your sculpture in The Haight last summer when I visited San Francisco, and it was stunning to be greeted into such a historic space in our country by your obvious hard work and what it stands for. Given your distaste for “standing around talking about art” opposed to actually making art, what is it that you like best about your work?
JF: I think ink on paper will always be my favorite medium. It’s the most immediate and satisfying of all the different types of artwork i make. I think what I like best about my work is that sometimes people who normally don’t care much about art, tend to like it. I think i attract alot of art virgins. I’m not making work strictly for one art audience or another. It’s not street art, or skateboard art, or vinyl toy art, I’m just making artwork to create a dialog with the rest of the human race…and sometimes dogs and pigs too. I like to make people happy and make a lot of friends along the way. It’s the best thing about this job.
TC: If I were to live anywhere outside of Chicago, it’d be San Francisco. Where would you live if it weren’t San Francisco?
JF: Six feet under.
TC: Tell me about your crew and their involvement in your output.
JF: No crew currently. My homies that helped me as a younger artist are all old and have jobs and kids. I try working with younger “artists” but that hasn’t worked out too well yet. For now, I just don’t sleep much.
TC: How do you balance everything you do: creating, blogging, networking, etc.?
TC: What’s the most important thing to you, as an artist?
JF: Making people happy.
TC: How did you hook up with Aesop Rock, who’s one of my all-time favorites?
JF: I am his biggest fan ever. We were introduced when he moved to SF years ago. It is probably the work I am most proud of in my entire career. To become friends and collaborate with one of my all time favorite artists is an irreplaceable experience I can’t describe with words.
TC: You’ve been posting some crazy shit, food-wise, lately. Has food always been an interest of yours, or is this a more recent endeavor?
JF: I have always been into food. I worked in a bunch of kitchens growing up, and both my parents are exceptional cooks. As soon as I started making any adult money, I have steadily blown a major portion of my income eating beyond my means. Every penny and heart attack was well spent.
TC: Who was rocking the majestic San Fran beard first, you or Brian “Fear The Beard” Wilson?
JF: Me. Do the research, he bit my style. Fact.
TC: What’s coming up next for you and your gang of silly pink bunnies?
JF: Our 25 year anniversary in a few years. Otherwise, that’s top secret shit.
TC: Where is the best place for our audience to stay current with what you’re up to?
JF: My blog: jeremyfish.wordpress.com, twitter and facebook bullshit, www.fecalface.com, and www.upperplayground.com. My website www.sillypinkbunnies.com, but i only update that with art shows once a year.
TC: What was it like speaking to the graduating class at sfai? Was it super weird being on that side of that process?
JF: It felt really good. I was a total loser when I attended there, and never got any respect from my instructors or my fellow students. So it was kind of like mooning the whole school and flipping them the bird at the same time. Just kidding, the students were awesome, and I had fun.
TC: Where Hearts Get Left just closed a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to know if that show was everything you hoped it could be and how it was received by San Franciscans.
JF: I can’t express my gratitude to my SF fan base, or more importantly to the city itself, for giving me the opportunity to grow as an artist here and give back to a city that has made me the man I am today. I only show here every few years, because they need to be my most special shows. This year 3k people attended the opening. I will be back for more in a few years. Come visit San Francisco…it’s the greatest city in the world.
Chicagoans: Jeremy’s mini-show will be on display at Rotofugi, 2780 N. Lincoln Ave, through November 11th.
San Franciscans: I hope you don’t take for granted how lucky you are.