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Juxtapoz 15th Anniversary Art Auction: Josh Keyes

Juxtapoz // Wednesday, 30 Sep 2009

It’s no secret Detroit has seen better days. Homes have been stripped of copper wiring, some have been burned, and many are falling apart. The jobless rate in Detroit is now at a staggering 22% and crime and hopelessness is at an all-time high.


Over 11,000 homes have been foreclosed in Detroit, which is one of many reasons why we have decided to organize our 15th Anniversary Art Auction to benefit Power House Project of Detroit.


The Power House Project of Detroit brings communities together to renovate these worn down houses—using materials they have on hand and the design eye of local artists, rather than purchased materials or hired professionals.


We have vowed to do our part in supporting the fallen communities of Detroit by donating all proceeds of our Juxtapoz 15th Anniversary Auction to The Power House Project.


The generosity pouring into the project has been amazing—over 100 established artists and galleries have donated pieces to help the cause.


In the weeks up to the auction, which is scheduled to go down on November 14th in Los Angeles, we have been featuring one participating artist daily. Today we present to you the painting donated by talented artist Josh Keyes, one of our favorites around the office.


Read on as Josh gives some insight on the methodology behind his striking pieces, including “Roar”, the painting that you, Juxtapoz reader, will have a chance to bid on this November.--Elise Hennigan


Elise Hennigan: Josh, for our 15th Anniversary Auction you donated one of your newest works that pictures a Great White busting out of a floating piece of asphalt, releasing a colorful swarm of hummingbirds. What can you tell us about this piece?


Josh Keyes: Lately I have been consumed by visions of animals bursting out of the earth. For me I think it has to do with a great urgency for transformation and change both on a personal level and on a global level. I like to combine polar opposites in my work when possible. I think it creates an interesting tension and emotional charge. The thought of something so delicate and light as a hummingbird fluttering out of a shark’s mouth struck me as an interesting idea for a painting. Soon, one hummingbird became a dozen and then more kept appearing. I tried to imagine the roar of fluttering wings that this event might make and stumbled on the title, "Roar".


This work carries out a theme that you regularly address: the crashing of the natural world with manmade, urban settings. Do your works have a deliberate environmental and political slant?


They do, global warming and what appear to be the irreversible effects of climate change seems to be included in nearly every news headline I read these days. For me as an artist, I think it's a historical event that desperately needs to find expression. This is a core focus in my work though it is sometimes amplified or distorted to some degree through the frame of my personal iconography.


What about spiritual references? Are we looking at post-apocalyptic chaos?


If it is a chaos my aim it to express a harmony within the chaos. The images are for me articulated and in some cases raw projections of what I hope are collective representations of both the anxiety and hope we carry for the future.


I draw upon different sources for thinking about this imagery; I have found many potent images in the early work of the alchemists. I think that most people including myself are witnessing and also have become part of a great transformation, into what is up to us. In this way alchemy seems to be a relevant area of interest to me. Perhaps in that way the work has evolved to incorporate spiritual or psychic metaphors and imagery.


You really hit a wide gamut of animals as your subjects: bears, dear, birds, sharks, etc. Do you have a favorite animal to paint?


There are still so many more I would like to add to the cast of characters. I don't think its a question of favorite animal, some are just much more pushy or insistent on being included in a painting.


For me certain animals have a personal almost totemic presence and meaning for me, but I am also very mindful of the meaning or message they might have with or is common with nearly everyone. A shark is a predatory animals, great and powerful, a shark can also represent a destructive force or energy, in some circles the shark stands for an over powering or dowering elder. I often use the shark as a metaphor for unchecked aggression or a great destructive shadow that lurks just below the surface of our consciousness. It is the darker part of our nature that if unregulated will chase us into a nuclear war or lead us to an uninhabitable world. That is why I try to balance or pair the shark with an animal or situation that evokes a polar or opposite energy. It creates a tension between these different but complimentary sides to our nature, both are necessary and it is up to us or with help from others to find and hold a balance.


You recently moved to Portland, right? How do you like the new location?


So far we love it, Lisa and I miss many things about SF and Oakland, there is such an amazing frenzy of artists and action down there. Our main decision to move was so that I could have a larger place to work. My old studio was quite small so it's nice to have some room to stretch my toes.


From what I have seen of Portland it looks like a great city. I have been focused like a laser on creating new work for my show with Saelee Oh at the Jonathan LeVine Gallery in January so I haven't had a chance to roam the city. If anyone knows of some cool spots or galleries, please let me know.


Emerse yourself in the world of the Juxtapoz Art Auction! Check out participating artists, donated pieces, and charity information here:


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