Interview by Joe McKee
Images by Adarsha Benjamin
“Content was king, and I didn’t own my own content.
It pushed me to channel that creativity into my own brand.”
— James Georgopoulos
Born and raised in New England, Georgopolous is a visual artist based in Los Angeles who creates visual, sculpture, and installation art. Formerly an art director in film, his work is a translation of meticulous processes and icons within pop culture today. Images of weapons, automobiles, pixilated pornography, and machines frequent his work. View more of his work here.
Joe McKee is a London born singer-songwriter and composer. He was raised in Western Australia where he began writing music and teaching himself guitar. In 2003 McKee formed the band Snowman which released three albums through Dot Dash Recordings. At 23 McKee relocated to London where he began writing songs for his debut solo album, Burning Boy. Today Joe lives in Los Angeles with his wife Adarsha Benjamin and their daughter, Juniper Lucy Lee. Listen to Burning Boy here.
The Work of James Georgopoulos is confronting to say the least. When I visited him in his Los Angeles studio space I was greeted by massive images of guns, pixelated internet pornography, dismantled muscle cars and industrial machinery on a seemingly jurassic scale. There is a domineering, even oppressive, presence to the space. Though visually disparate, the works are bound together by a common thread. A thread that communicates an unsettling message of power and control. They each stand alone as masculine, hyper sexualized statements, while together they stand united like an army.
This interview and photoshoot took a little while to come to fruition. James’ work is informed by his own desire to control, even on a micro level. This meticulous behaviour permeates his practice. Every detail, every pixel is pristine and his work space is almost immaculate. Is the art an extension of the artist or is the artist an extension of the art? Welcome to the weird world of James Georgopoulos.
JM: Where are you from?
JG: Well, I grew up on the east coast, and that’s what I consider my roots. I was born in New England and raised in New Hampshire and Maine. But I’ve lived in Los Angeles for half my life now, so it’s become home. Both places have similar elements of ocean and mountains, so there’s a connection that feels familiar.
JM: When did you start focusing on visual art?
JG: Early. Probably when I started working in the family business (fashion), merchandising the windows and creating worlds to emulate what I thought were cooler cities, like New York or Boston. I wanted to try and bring more of that metropolitan feel into the New England towns I was living in and make people see a different story.
JM: Who influenced you growing up and who influences you today?
György Kepes (1906-2001) was a painter, designer, teacher, and art theorist from Hungary. Kepes studied painting under the impressionist painter István Csók in Budapest, worked in film and design in Berlin and London, and moved to the United States in his early thirties. He taught at the New Bauhaus in Chicago and founded the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT in 1967.
From New Britain, Connecticut, Boghosian is a sculpture and assemblage artist. Boghosian has taught at a number of prominent universities, most notably Dartmouth where he spent almost 30 years. His work often refers to classical literature, music, art, and history.
Eshoo is a painter, assemblage artist and teacher who attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the 1950’s and has taught throughout New England. His work is sensitive in character and deals with themes such as the Sioux Indians and mythical and harlequin characters.
Ivan Albright (1897-1983) was a magic realist painter and artist originally from Chicago. Albright meticulously created dark, intricate portraits and still lifes. In 1943, Albright was commissioned to paint the grotesque feature painting for Albert Lewin’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray in his signature style.
Born in Nashau, New Hampshire, Aponovich is a painter. His still lifes, portraits, and landscapes draw inspiration from his surroundings, especially New England and Italy. Aponovich was named New Hampshire’s 2006 Artist Laureate.
JG: Growing up, my dad collected art and was always hanging around with his artist friends. I loved those guys and just thought they were the coolest—what they had to say, what they were doing. I was hooked. Probably the most significant influence when I was a teenager was György Kepes. He was part of the New Bauhaus and let me hang out in his studio for years, ask him questions, watch him work, go have dinner with him. It made me want to be an artist. I wanted to be him, have his life. My first works were basically homage to his style of his paintings, and later when I started doing photograms, that all started with him. Varujan Boghosian, Robert Eshoo, Ivan Albright, James Aponovich, all those guys were around too and all mentored me and influenced me in some way. Today, I would say the most prevalent would be Jeff Koons, James Rosenquist, Richard Prince, Andy Warhol, John Baldessari. And then Google, because that makes it possible to find anything you want about anything at anytime: 2am, 4am, 3pm. Koons work is probably the one I can relate to the most. I know that’s overstated, but it’s true. Prince and Baldessari, they’re probably the ones I get people comparing some of my work and research to, but that’s okay.
JM: How would you describe your style?
“I like when people are able to look at
my work and identify it as James Georgopoulos.
I’d like to have a continuation in my work
that people can recognize.”
— James Georgopoulos
JG: Clean, controlled, masculine, powerful. I like to make the things I like to look at that are visually appealing or interesting. I tend to be drawn to machines, metal, finishes, and the mechanics of an object. Materials are important to me, and I’m a perfectionist, so the finish and detail of an object are important. This tends to be an issue when trying to keep up with the quantity of work I’m able to produce, just ask any of my galleries. I like when people are able to look at my work and identify it as James Georgopoulos. I’d like to have a continuation in my work that people can recognize. I’d also like the funding to do more challenging works which, to keep it short, are works at a pretty massive scale. I feel like I am at the beginning of an exploration.
JM: What’s the story behind getting started creatively?
JG: After years as an Art Director in the film industry, I decided to finally go for it. I was making big sculptures for projects I was working on, like Pink Floyd, and thinking about it being a sculpture for a set versus something that was in a gallery or museum. It seemed like a waste that it all got torn down at the end. It seemed so semi-permanent. I learned how to produce something in the film industry, but at the end of the day, my ideas didn’t stay mine. Content was king, and I didn’t own my own content. It pushed me to channel that creativity into my own brand.
JM: What’s your favorite album / book / artist / film …. right now?
JG: Who has time for that? No, kidding. Kind of.
JM: What are your interests and passions outside of your practice?
JG: I’ve been oddly listening to a lot of country music. Must be my latest obsession with muscle cars and perhaps more appreciation for a simpler quiet. I’ve also been gardening, which I find pretty satisfying. I’m growing my own vegetables, building systems, eating a lot of tomatoes.
JM: How do you feel about the rising creative scene in LA?
JG: Finally, it seems like Los Angeles has a voice and people are paying attention. The museums are listening and people seem to be listening—going to more gallery shows and museums. And that’s where it starts, on a local level. There’s a dialogue now. People are willing to take more risks, and that has to be the future.
JM: What’s next?
JG: I’m working on a lot of different things. Mainly, a body of work for a show in 2015. Right now, the work is about creating an experience through technical installations. I’m using sculpture, filmmaking, photography and painting—finding a way for the mediums to coexist and create worlds that are interactive with the viewer.