A Wormhole Through Worlds with Jeff Soto and XBOX
Game consoles are windows into a myriad of worlds. Each game has its own story, its own cast of characters, its own aesthetics, and offers its own escape. For a client like XBOX, Jeff Soto had to bring together all of those worlds into one execution. It’s not enough for XBOX to pick one or two: to celebrate their platform they have to represent the entire scope of what’s possible through the console so Jeff Soto did just that. He created a “wormhole.”
In the video, the viewer is brought through what seems like dozens of worlds, each one a representation of a popular XBOX game, and each one created by Jeff. One after another they go, sparking inspiration and curiosity for anyone looking for their latest obsession. XBOX offers those in spades, and Jeff offers a taste of each one.
Step into Jeff Soto's World at Jonathan LeVine Gallery
In many ways, walking into a gallery show is like walking into the mind of an artist. They present their work, a creative expression of how they see the world, or wish to see the world, and we’re given the opportunity to absorb it. They put up their hopes and dreams, often times their nightmares, and their reckoning with the world as it is. When it’s an artist like Jeff Soto it’s a big change from what we confront in our daily lives, but his dreams help us to dream and this month at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York City, those dreams have an open invitation. “I always feel like an artist’s entire body of work should be fair game to use,” explains Jeff whose show includes a series of work that is considered something of a rebirth, drawing on his history of characters and the environments they inhabit. “My cast of characters and the worlds I create are The Sotofish Society,” says Jeff, explaining the name of the show ‘The Sotofish Society.’
We don’t mind telling you that Jonathan LeVine Gallery is an incredibly prestigious location for any artist to show, but this exhibition marks Jeff’s fifth solo showing at the gallery. A decade of artistic collaboration has resulted in making the gallery a very safe space for Jeff to show everything he’s been working on. The exhibition doesn’t stop at the pieces he’s better known for, graffiti and mixed media, but will also include a selection of watercolors and relief prints.
“I don’t necessarily paint for other people, I very much paint for myself,” Jeff explains. “And I’m trying to express myself and get my thoughts out there. But it’s always nice when there’s a good reaction to it.”
‘The Sotofish Society’ will be on view at Jonathan LeVine Gallery, 529 West 20th Street, through October 8.
Tristan Eaton and Jeff Soto Team Up with Converse for Good
Bringing art home always makes us feel good, but did you know it can make others feel good too? This year, Converse’s Lovejoy Art Program teamed up with 22 global established and emerging artists to create 48 original pieces of work that would be put up for auction. Tristan Eaton and Jeff Soto are a part of this impressive roster whose pieces are now available for bid at Paddle8.com.
The auctions are set up to benefit Artists for Humanity, a Boston based non-profit that focuses on job training for underprivileged youth. Their whole mission is to create a sustainable pipeline for kids who are interested in building careers that they might otherwise not have access to. Artists for Humanity is in the middle of a massive expansion, and the proceeds from this auction will help to build the future of this organization.
“At Converse we owe so much to artists and their abundant creativity,” says David Carrewyn, Global Creative Brand Director at Converse. “The Converse Lovejoy Art Program is an amazing opportunity for us to both give back to the creative community and offer all artists a platform to showcase their work. We’re proud to host our first auction to benefit the great work Artists for Humanity does in Boston and look forward to continuing this program next year.”
Before Converse lets go of all this incredible work, they’ve hung it in their Boston headquarters to soak up the inspiration and creativity for their own employees. We think of sneaker brands as being places where technology meets the road, but everyone at Converse is trying to push the boundaries wherever they can and look to artists like Jeff Soto and Tristan Eaton to help them think about their processes in new ways. Converse is already benefiting from having this art all around them, and now you can too (while at the same time benefiting Artists for Humanity).
Both Tristan and Jeff’s work is still available to be bid on at Paddle8.com until Monday, May 2. You can find Tristan Eaton’s ‘Against All Odds’ here, and Jeff Soto’s “Distant Sounds in the Night” here. The rest of the work as a part of Converse’s auction are here.
Jeff Soto Is Repopulating the World's Mysterious Corners
The problem with the world today, as painter Jeff Soto sees it, is that we’ve become so accustomed to documentation that we’ve expunged mystery. The corners of our world are so photographed and catalogued as we chase the shadows with flashlights that it is impossible for anything to hide. We lift every stone and plunge every cave, threatening the habitats of our imagination with extinction. And it’s a real shame. “I grew up with the idea that Big Foot is probably real, we just haven’t found him,” explains Jeff. “And the Loch Ness Monster is out there. There are all these mysteries. It’s a better world when there’s some mystery out there.” Jeff cannot stand by and let these things happen. So he’s populating this world with as much mystery as he can.
In Nightgardens, Jeff’s first ever solo show in his hometown of Los Angeles, he began by exploring traditional painting genres and techniques. Almost every painting started as a landscape, but quickly each found a life of its own. “It’s funny, when I look at the paintings I’ve done for this show it doesn’t really look like landscape painting,” he says. “They all started with a landscape or a loose idea of a landscape. There’s kind of an exploration of the dark and mysterious. There’s a lot that I’ve been thinking about.” As Jeff plumbs these questions, characters and beings show up in his scenes. Their appearance is like a reaction to the extinction of mystery in our world. Almost as if they arrive to be counted at a call for attendance. They show up to prove they’re still there and we should still wonder. We can relax that there is still more to find, still more to understand.
Jeff set up Nightgardens as a personal challenge to himself. He’s using it as an opportunity to explore creatively, and scratch his artistic and intellectual itches. “Every painting is a challenge and there’s an uncertainty,” says Jeff, wading into the lands he’s exploring in Nightgardens. “It makes me sad that maybe we’ve found everything or we know everything. There’s no way we know everything, but I just like to think we don’t know anything. There’s a lot more to explore, I would hope.”
Nightgardens opens on June 27 at KP Projects / MKG, and will be on view through July 25.
B&A Plays with Oreo
Everyone has their own way of eating Oreos. Whether it's dunking in an ice-cold glass of milk, twisting the cookies from The Stuff, or eating the sandwich cookies whole, there's no wrong way to do it. The myriad of flavors, colors, and themed special editions mean that there's an Oreo out there for everyone, and they can fit comfortably into anyone's experience. Oreo's latest campaign, Play with Oreo, highlights the customizability of Oreos current generation offering a unique flavor for everyone. Oreo collaborated with a handful of artists to illustrate all the experiences Oreo can partner on. Working with ten different artist and studios, including B&A artists Ryan Todd, Jeff Soto, Shotopop, Andrew Bannecker, and McBess, each creative brought their own spin on the story that Oreo is telling in the campaign: that there’s an Oreo for everyone.
Ryan Todd, who contributed illustrations to the campaign, explains that the campaign is really about the personal experiences that each illustrator could bring to the collection. Each illustration features an Oreo character, whose head is a smiling Oreo cookie that acts as the central character in the compositions. “The Oreo character became a personification of playfulness and was central in everyone’s artwork,” says Ryan. “In a way, the iconic Oreo cookie existing as a smiling character was a way for us to channel and represent our own approach to playfulness.” Each ad uses a different word to express each unique experience. Whether you’re discovering, twisting, wondering, rolling, or dreaming, Oreo can partner with you on your journey. By using all these different artists, different styles play off the different actions and create a campaign that’s as varied as Oreo’s customer base.
That creative breadth requires artistic agility, something that was acutely felt by the artists. “It was very exciting to work with a brand who were really keen to promote and encourage playfulness,” says Ryan. “This approach really resonates with me and the way I work so it was a dream project to be involved with.” That freedom and collaborative energy means that each artist’s aesthetic is immediately recognizable. Jeff Soto’s signature characters populate his piece, with their extending antlers, and topographical elements singular to the artist. Andrew Bannecker’s shaded vector style is beautifully suited to his space themed scene. Shotopop’s detail oriented flair offers all the necessary features to speak to their twisty composition. And who better than McBess to inject an honest depiction of the rock lifestyle into Oreo’s world?
Oreo can truly fit into any lifestyle, and for every lifestyle there’s a new Oreo flavor. Recently Oreo has released flavors like Red Velvet, Cinnamon Spice, and Cookie Dough. Out of all the flavors that he could choose, Ryan Todd’s pick is a little smoother. “Here in the UK, we’re not quite as well versed with the variety of flavors on offer compared to that in the US but Oreo ice-cream is always a winner for me!” says Ryan. Wonderful!
Jeff Soto Takes Halloween Personally
In America we celebrate Halloween. It’s a holiday about celebrating the fall, with the cathartic exercise of dressing up and looking for a scare. The holiday is rooted in the belief that the veil between the world of the living and the dead is thinnest on that night, and each culture has interpreted that in different ways. In Mexico, they celebrate Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. For DDLM they pay homage to those who have passed on, and send their best wishes during a time when their messages might just be heard.
Illustrator and painter Jeff Soto was approached by Ford Motor Company to help them celebrate DDLM on social media. As far as picking artists goes, Jeff was the perfect fit. Jeff is from Southern California, living in Riverside, where there is a large Mexican Cultural influence so he’s been seeing a marked increase in DDLM celebrations over the last few years. “We had one in Riverside, and I’m very familiar with the imagery,” Jeff says. “I’m really fascinated by it and I enjoy looking at it. I like the meaning behind the holiday. For me it’s a celebration of the life of someone who passed away. I think it’s a really interesting, healthy way to celebrate someone who is no longer with us.” Jeff brought not only those images, but also the experience of positive reflection into the work he did for Ford.
First, Ford knew they had picked the right guy, so they didn’t start him off with heavy directions. Instead, they let him fly free, which is not something that large companies tend to do very often. “I was just lucky that they had a lot of trust in what I was doing,” Jeff says. “They’d seen my work before and they knew what they were getting into. They didn’t say anything; they just totally left it to me.” Jeff’s familiarity with the iconography, along with the culture he lives in, allowed him the expertise to fly untethered, and Ford let him roll with it. “They gave me pretty much free reign to create. They had a lot of trust in what I was going to do.” That trust allowed Jeff to dig in and express himself and his own interaction with the holiday.
While working, Jeff tapped into his experience and injected it into the piece. Specifically he thought about his late grandfather who had supported so much of his work. “I’ve have a Grandpa Barney who passed away a couple years ago,” Jeff says. “He was a big supporter of my artwork. He was a really cool guy. I always consider what he would think.”
Halloween can have a different meaning for everyone, whether it’s a time to get a little loose and eat some candy, or reach out across the worlds to remember those you love. However one celebrates the holiday it can be restorative, strengthening, and pleasurable. Jeff was lucky enough to filter his contemplation into his work with Ford, and we all to to see the results.
Volkswagen Shares the Secret Cities of America
Cities inspire us. They excite us. They are homes and hostels. They show us worlds we never knew, and new ways to see what we've always known. Everyone's city is different, even if they live in the same one, and each version is an intimate secret.
To celebrate their new Golf, Volkswagen wanted to show off the cities that go unseen; the energies and spaces of places known to those who love, visit, and live in these places but unknown to the novice. The unsharable stories and the unshakeable inductions. They wanted to show the cities in America that are privately seen, and they chose artists to be the guides.
Andrew Bannacker got to illustrate Washington, DC. He put together a veritable map of the US capital showing off presidential monuments, the White House, the capital, the zoo, and even a presidential motorcade. But Bannecker is savvy and didn't forget that Washington, DC is in the context of the mid-Atlantic United States. He shows off the crabs of Maryland, and the football and hockey of the locals. It's classic aesthetics and a faceted look at one of the most complex cities in America.
Jeremyville composed the story of his New York City. Looking like an updated version of Saul Steinberg’s “View of the World from Morvan 9th Avenue,” Jeremyville imagines the city from a few intersections in the Lower East Side. In classic Jeremyville form, everything and everyone in the image is a character, from grumpy rats, to horrified hotdogs, to a cup of coffee and his phone. NYC is moving, in action, and on its way. It’s a maze of energy and flow, unstoppable, but he’s left a place for you.
For Jeff Soto, it was Los Angeles. His LA is a little glitz, a little glam, and a lot of twilight. The sun and moon appear, ready for their close up, as the sun sets over the ocean with waves enough for surfing. The cityscape sits in the background with the burnished edges of the failing daylight, with stars and birds filling the sky. The watchful eyes of owls regard the streets and cacti, while a dragon slithers by a cat. Jeff Soto’s LA is quiet from a distance. He finds the peace of it and offers that peace.
For VW, Artists Across America is about activating people. Inspiring them. They shared the visual stories of these cities, and anyone can take them home. They've made the entire collection printable, so that anyone can print, cut out, and assemble paper versions of these artist experiences. Not only that, they've also made the 3D version of the Golf available for anyone to print, blank. VW only highlighted five cities and five artists, but the idea is to empower all Artists Across America and the cities they live in.
So print one out. Draw the experience of your city or your town. Join Andrew Bannacker, Jeff Soto, and Jeremyville. Tell the secrets of your home.
Preview: Jeff Soto's 'Fire Within' at Bunsen Goetz Gallerie
B&A's Jeff Soto and longtime collaborator Maxx242's joint exhibit bows Saturday at Bunsen Goetz Gallerie in Nuremberg. "Maxx and I have spent most of our lives in Riverside, California, and are well-known artists in the community," explained Soto. "We were talking to the Riverside Art Museum and the people there suggested that we work with a space in Erlangen-Nuremberg, Riverside's sister city. Bunsen Goetz had recently arranged Elke Zauner's 'Exit/Entry' at Riverside, so the gallery invited us to show at their spot. It's sort of an artist exchange, in a way."
"Fire Within," the exhibition's name, references love, sexuality, and spirituality – recurring themes in both men's work. Soto's pieces explore nature and the cycle of life, and whether an afterlife awaits us. Maxx242's paintings address love and loss in the context of family and other relationships. At the opening, the pair will debut more than 25 tableaux on wood panels.
Although Soto and Maxx set off on their first artistic adventure in 1991 (decorating urban walls together under the monikers "Sotofish" and "Sag") and helped found art collaborative F4D Studios in 2011, the two haven't shown together in a gallery setting before. "We share a studio and I tried to stay late nights alongside Maxx," Soto remarked. "We each have strengths when it comes to image-making, so we kept dialogue going and pushed one another. It was fun, and perhaps one of the strongest bodies of work I've done in a long time!"
Along with attending the vernissage on November 9, Soto and Maxx will deliver a talk and slideshow presentation at the German-American Institute Nuremberg on November 7 at 7 p.m.
Bunsen Goetz Galerie
Kressenstraße 11, Nuremberg
November 9 through December 21; Wednesday to Friday from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Introducing Stormcloudz, Jeff Soto's Apparel Site
Jeff Soto's imagined characters can now inhabit your T-shirt drawer. Last week, the illustrator (with the help of his brother Tim) launched Stormcloudz.com, an e-commerce site for his prints, posters, books, and zines, as well as a new clothing line.
"I've always taken a populist approach to art, maybe because of my graffiti background," Soto explained. "I see that a lot of people who enjoy my work can't afford to buy an expensive print, so it felt natural to bring it into an entirely different medium, which is apparel." Seven designs, priced from $20 to $25, are currently for sale on Stormcloudz and Soto plans to release another style each month. "So far, the response has been really good," he noted. "Of the shirts that we have, some of the sizes are sold out." He is also working with Hybrid Apparel to place the clothes in other stores.
Five percent of Stormcloudz's sales will be contributed to the art community. "I grew up with not a lot," Soto remarked. "My parents were very supportive of me as an artist, but as far as getting art supplies, it was hard. [Stormcloudz] is going to start local, maybe by donating some money to the Riverside Art Museum here, in Southern California. We're also going to look into funding some of the high schools nearby because the budgets for art programs are pretty small. Maybe we'll run some free programs at our shop."
He hopes to eventually expand Stormcloudz's offerings to include other artists' output: "We don't want it to be a brand that's tied to me; we want it to be more of a lifestyle brand that's art-based, and caters to kids who are creative ... who want to do or wear something different."
But, for now, Soto is still ironing out the kinks. "We didn't think to have a return policy," he noted, adding, "I kind of didn't know what I was getting into when I signed up for this. In the illustration world, you're hired for a project, you do it, and you get paid. This is different – I might do twenty designs and we pick none, or we pick one or two, or we pick ten. I'm trying to embrace it."
On Tour: Phish, the Melvins, and Alkaline Trio
Some of the season's paramount concerts – for non-Beyoncé worshippers – were promoted by B&A illustrators. Phish asked Jeff Soto to develop a poster for the group's Lake Tahoe show, held at the end of last month. He came up with the design after reading about Lake Tahoe's version of the Loch Ness monster.
"Tahoe Tessie is a snake-like creature that has been seen for decades," Soto explained. "I chose to portray Tessie as a mystical water goddess, rising from the lake with her pet cat. It's unclear if the campers below are performing a type of summoning spell over the fire, or just happened to be at the right place at the right time. Or maybe it's the wrong place to be!"
Both David Welker and Tara McPherson produced bills for the Melvins' 30th anniversary tour. Welker's tricolor, hand-pulled screen print features Clarence the Clown, "who ran amuck with a chainsaw one fine Sunday afternoon at the carnival following one too many clown jokes," the artist said. "I chose this character for the Melvins because the band is an odd blend of punk, art, and metal."
McPherson's protagonist is a girl led astray by a false heart, with a paper replacement pinned to her chest, drawn using glow-in-the-dark inks and metallics. McPherson also lent her hand to the upcoming Alkaline Trio and New Found Glory tour: "The inspiration was taken from the twins in the 'Shining,' and the poster illustrated the unbreakable bond they have – a reference to the co-headlining acts – with a ghostly, Victorian feel."