Original Interview with Artist Alex Yanes
For Create Zine Issue2, we editorially featured a handful of international artists. Here is the original interview with Miami born and raised visual artist Alex Yanes. Having worked with ink and wood since his early teens, we were keen to discover his fascination with the city’s skate and graffiti scene of the 1980s. You can download the feature here, or read on for a more in-depth insight into Yanes' iconic, colourful and oft amusing artworks.
CZ: Tell us about where you grew up, studied and what your early influences were.
AY: I was born & raised by my parents in Miami, Florida. I'm the oldest of three siblings. Most of my days were spent outdoors as a kid. My grandparents had a lake house, I grew up fishing, building tree forts and exploring in the woods surrounding the lake. There was an old train track that ran nearby and I remember being intrigued by the graffiti I would see painted on the train cars. Crudely drawn cartoon figures and words that I knew weren't supposed to be on the trains. At the age of 12 I was introduced to skateboarding. The graphics on the boards captured my attention. Unaware that the graphics were silk screened, I would sand the images off of my boards and painstakingly try to recreate the same look by hand, using graphics of my own. We had no skate parks in Miami at the time, so I began building ramps with my friends. That was my first introduction to wood working & building something out of nothing from beginning to end. My passion for art & wood working merged at the age of 19 & twenty years later it's morphed into what my work is today.
CZ: Your artwork is pretty graphic but you have adopted collage and sculpture mediums, when did you decide on this approach and how did it come about?
AY: I vividly remember the day. My childhood friend and I decided to experiment with some LSD on a Friday afternoon. I started painting on some left over scraps of wood from a ramp we had just built. I was nineteen years old & barely in art school at the time. My friend suggested that I cut the characters out with a jigsaw and give them some shape. Right then and there, 3D visuals kicked in and my whole perspective on how I viewed the world and my art changed. I guess I had an epiphany of sorts.
CZ: Where do you source some of the materials you use in your compositions?
AY: My studio is located in an industrial area so sometimes things just fall in my lap. Other times I've had to search construction sights and dumpsters. I once picked up bus bench that a drunk driver had crashed into the night before. The wood was a nice school bus yellow and a perfectly weathered patina. I used it in a series of 12 pieces. I also enjoy searching through planks of wood for the perfect wood grain pattern at my local hardware store.
CZ: Where do the references in your work come from?
AY: Most if not all of my references are connected to a memory from my childhood in some way. To me, my art is reminiscent of the way things were, a carefree and easier time in my life when things were still brand new and pure to the core. It offers an escape from the complications of the world today and having to be constantly connected and accessible. Nothing better than turning off my cell phone and getting lost in my work. It's like going camping.
CZ: What has been your most favourite, or ambitious, project to date?
AY: I try and look at my entire life as one big ambitious project. If I had to choose, it would probably be my 'Going, Going, Gone' installation which is now part of the Long Beach Museum of Art's permanent collection.
CZ: With no restrictions whatsoever, what would be your ultimate project?
AY: Definitely a massive, functional, outdoor, public art piece. Something accessible to everyone.
CZ: There is a pop-esque aesthetic to your work, it’s certainly accessible and friendly, the colours you use are bold, almost animated, how important is that?
AY: It's just the way my brain pairs shapes and colors together. It might have something to do with growing up in the 80's hay day of pop culture and Miami Vice episodes on television, Miami's classic Art Deco design. It's probably been subconsciously embedded. I yearn for perfection as I think all artist do. To me, my work is never perfect. That's why it's constantly evolving. I hope it's never perfect because then I'd reach the end.
CZ: Who (or what) in the creative world is making you think "Wow! That’s amazing!”
AY: Has to be Elon Musk and his vision, I also enjoy the work of 'Los Carpinteros' from Cuba, Wayne White, Eddie Vedder and of course Barry Mcgee.
CZ: And are there any creative heroes of the past that you just love?
AY: Oh man, way too many to list. Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol and Frank Stella. I love my Father and Grandfather. They've taught me all I know and have been my heroes since day one.