Andrew Schoultz + Casey Jex Smith at 200 SecondJuxtapoz // Wednesday, 18 Apr 2007
Andrew Schoultz + Casey Jex Smith at 200 Second: A portrait of two artists at work
Andrew paints an autumnal tree dismembered, interrupted by seeming decay and rot. Casey, just an elevator stop above, paints carefully intricate clouds that give way to the spectral revelations that only faith can bring. In less capable hands, these two murals could have been disasters, and indeed little ones did occur. Not that it matters. The sum of such accidents and intentions, of sweat and design, of time and tide, are known quantities of the equation. The "x", the unknown, need not always be known. Faith, belief, design and inspiration—these do.
Coincidence is a funny thing. It never plays by your rules or comes in on schedule. This was my line as of late one Wednesday evening in last February halfway through what would become nearly one month of photos, notes, and documentation that would become this blog you are now reading. I'm thinking of these things now as I did then, because I am trying to find the common thread that ties these two men together. Not necessarily what have in common aesthetically or thematically, but what common drives empower their hands and heads as they apply brush to wall. Finding such a thread or even the needle to thread it with is quite the task. Casey is a Mormon, mellow and friendly with eyes as blue as a calm ocean sky, and really knows his art history whether it's textbook or street art sketchbook. Andrew is driven with a sure and steady hand, a muralist with many murals to his name in San Francisco and beyond, who was, at one time, a graffiti artist and but has always made work that is deeply politically concerned. He also is a connoisseur of well-brewed beer (Andrew sipped from microbrews after painting some nights, and at the unveiling of the murals he carted in his own Stella rather than drink the Corona freely given).
What do Andrew Schoultz and Casey Jex Smith have in common, really? At first glance, I somewhat tritely think, "Not much, huh?" Going over my copious and rather messy notes written in shorthand that a stranger would be hard pressed to decipher - it hits me quickly, like a clashing clamoring pacific wave. The way in which they approach the wall is not dissimilar to the way I go about writing, in fact it is eerily close. They both work intuitively, even instinctively. What intentions they had beforehand are weighted with the gravity of uncertainty. They don't know the end result, and they are brave enough to confront and engage the forces that propel one to create. These are the assumptions I have as the murals are finished and I still have follow up interviews to do. Some of these will be deflated a bit, but for most of these, I turned out to be (mostly) right on. As for instinct being a prime drive, I wasn't exactly off, as Casey would confirm in an email weeks later. Andrew wrote that while he does work instinctively, this has been one of his most structured murals to date. That said the finished piece wasn't 100 percent what was planned out, but pretty damned close (my words, not his). Andrew saw the mural as a test, to see if he could, "...do a mural and stick to a design and still feel happy about it, and that happened with this piece."
How did I come to be here writing about and taking photos of these two murals? A couple weeks had passed between first hearing of the mural project from Oakland-based artist and friend John Casey at an art opening, and my initial photos and note taking. Casey Jex Smith, one of the artists, and Svea Lin Vezzone, Swarm Studios principal and organizer of the yet to be painted murals were to be my contacts. I missed out on the first day of painting, so my first day of documentation was actually the second day of painting for Andrew and Casey. I took the elevator to the fourth floor and waited to greet Casey, who was "in the moment", painting two and a half centimeter blackish lengths. We talked briefly, catching up on the relevant goings on in our lives, art, music and other digressions. We spoke little of the mural, which felt appropriate. We talked about our favorite current and former Bay Area artists. Names like Barry McGee, Kyle Ranson, Matt O' Brien, Margaret Kilgallen, Robert Arneson, John Casey and Derek Weisberg pop up. After 45 minutes or so, I went down two floors down to Andrew's two-story high mural. His art assistant, Markie P., is quick to greet me and Andrew follows with a firm handshake a minute or so later, his eyes fixed to the wall, still focused on his work. After chatting briefly about what our days had held, Andrew and Markie looked upon their initial efforts and began painting again. I start taking shots with my camera, and I have to admit that I am rather intimidated by Andrew. He's one of my favorite artists. My nervous feelings eventually subsided. Out of the nearly 100 photos taken this first day, a couple dozen turned out. That said, the beginning is the easy part—there are a few more weeks of mural—making to go. I plan to show and make the most of this time spent as a fly on the wall, rain or shine.
Detail of Andrew Schoultz's partially completeld mural "Regeneration." Acylic and spray paint.
Detail of Casey Jex Smith's mural "Polarized". Watered down acrylic paint.
Casey at work on clouds in his variation of pointillism/pixelation.
A view from the third floor at Andrew painting on the floor of the second.
Andrew assistant Markie P. moves his ladder to get in position to paint up more leaves in reddish browns and olive greens.
Andrew painting up intricately detailed leaves in a dizzyingly wide, yet always complimentary, spectrum of color.
Halfway through, Casey works bathed in the otherworldly light of a day becoming night.
Casey at work, later that evening.
The debris of a paint spill, stain, rags, soap and all its time-consuming lameness. Casey and I worked on cleaning it up for about half an hour. At that point I advised to use a wetvac as the carpet wasn't getting any cleaner. He wisely took me up on that bit of advice and Casey left to rent a vacuum ending his painting for this day.
Detail of half-finished autumnal leaves from Andrew Schoultz's "Regeneration".
On the second to last day of documenting, I snuck up to the roof of building that houses the two murals. I had to have something to do while Casey spent a half - hour long break from art - making to talk with his girlfriend Amanda. This is the beatiful view I saw of the Oakland skyline. Later that day, Amanda surprised Casey at the mural site. Before leaving, i told the couple of how to get up there to see the 360 view of Oakland and the rest of the SF Bay. I'm told they quite liked what they saw.
Just after I got back from taking in the View of the Bay from rooftop, I find Casey and Amanda Lynch working on the mural in tandem.
I found this left after a Andrew finished a day's work on mural that I was not witness to. I guessed this to be a possible title, and I turned out to be almost correct.
Markie P. paints one of many leaves that will number in the hundreds by the time he is done.
Andrew paints golden leaves towards the end of the project.
From the third floor looking down on the second.
Close-up shot of Andrew at work.
Detail of completed section of Andrew's mural "Regeneration".
Painting high up sections of wall on ladders and scaffolding is hard work! Especially if you have back issues like Casey, who taking a break here from one of his six to eight hour days of mural-making.
Casey hard at work painting the last section of his mural on his second to last day of painting.
The aforementioed section that Casey is laboring on. Here it is nearly done. He'll go back and add much to it. We have an in depth talk about this, and he later consults his friends Amanda Lynch and Jared Lindsay-Clark. We all come to same seemingly simple conclusion, "It needs more."
Final title and credits for Andrew's finished mural.
Casey in front of his newly completed mural "Polarized".
Stay tuned for part two...