Forward Motion is David Young V‘s latest installation, turning Gauntlet Gallery into a cavern of symbols and numbers that seemingly want to be something, to say something, anything- to conjure the presence of an anonymous past. While keeping true to his exploration of an imagined dystopian future, the project is in some ways a reaction or response to Young’s recent bombing trips to Hong Kong and Bangkok (Look out for “Bombing Istanbul,” preparations are underway). Motion ended earlier this month, but don’t trip, here’s some images of the installation and an interview about the work.
After taking a six month hiatus from making work at the beginning of 2014 you decided to take your street art abroad to Hong Kong and Thailand. Tell us about your decision to take some time off and then going abroad.
During my 6 month hiatus I came to realize that I have to do art, it’s a large part of my nature. During those months my creative-well was completely dry. Though I was taking a break from art, I still had the urge to create. However, nothing was left in to express, I was empty.
My original plan was to simply travel to Hong Kong to explore a new place in the world. My hopes were to gain back some of the inspiration I had lost. Any one that’s traveled abroad knows how refreshing it can be for the soul. I had no intentions to practice art in Hong Kong. It was not until a week or so after I booked my ticket that my desire to create kicked back in. I began searching for contacts, making notes of other artist’s experiences in HK, and most importantly frantically making art again.
I had traveled to Hong Kong with 46 pieces in total of all different sizes. I even brought work from friends and colleagues of mine. In my three weeks there, I got up nearly every night. It was one of the most refreshing things I have experienced. I had gotten up in foreign countries before, but never with this ferocity.
I came to realize that this was my very own project. There were no galleries, patrons or expectations of making money involved. I could do whatever I wanted however I wanted. I had spent less money in total on this trip then I do with most of my installation projects. I felt that this was a win/win situation. I made my art present, traveled to a new country and met many new and exciting people. Unlike many of my larger scale projects in the recent past, this was far more fulfilling.
Upon returning back to the states, I immediately started contemplating my next move. Traveling to Bangkok, Thailand with fellow artist Eddie Colla was the result of that plan. Although I love doing gallery installations and murals, I feel that doing street art abroad offers something very new and exciting to both my work and myself. It has a tendency to release some of the pressures I feel in life.
How did your travels change your ideas, composition, color and symbolism in your work?
Much of my work is based on composition and symbols. Though the symbols have no literal meaning they are still representative of language. I feel that traveling to Asia allowed me to experience such a vast array of written language juxtaposed over very dense urban landscapes. I closely studied the letterforms and their compositions both in Hong Kong and Thailand. I feel that much of what I experienced in Hong Kong in regards to symbols was based in mass commercialism/consumerism combined with one of the densest populations of people on the planet. Whereas much of what I experienced in Thailand had it’s roots in religion, culture and national pride. The similarities, distinctions and differences of these two nearby cultures was astounding to me.
I have only begun to experience the changes that have occurred in my artistic practice as a result of these trips. I feel that my installation at Gauntlet Gallery is the start of that process.
What was your idea when you started your Forward Motion installation? How much of your new work is influenced by your travels?
I had a very loose idea of what I wanted to achieve in Forward Motion. I often start my projects with very little planning or layout, this project was no exception. I simply wanted to start breaking apart what I was doing artistically before this project. Though I maintained a similar color palette, I wanted to move away from using human references in order to delve into exploring symbols and composition. I felt that always having to use some literal reference in my work was becoming constricting. I feel that this show allowed my imagination and process to flow a bit better. I feel that my travels have allowed me to loosen up, feel less restricted and allow me to become far more aware of how the world operates. My intention was to have this very same effect reflect in my work, I believe it’s starting too.
After being in the Tenderloin for X number of years you have become a staple in the art community. What are your thoughts on the changes the TL is going through?
In my 12 years of living in San Francisco, primarily in the lower Nob Hill/ Tenderloin area, I have seen several changes in this city, most notably gentrification and the rising tech class. Though it is the most centrally located neighborhood in the city, I feel the Tenderloin has been the most resistant to these changes until recently. There has been a 200% rent increase throughout the neighborhood. No longer is the Tenderloin a neighborhood that creative and working people move into, it has now become a place they leave. A small efficient apartment (many with no private bathrooms or kitchens) is rented for $1,500 and upwards. There is only a small minority of people that can afford to move into this neighborhood, most of them are not artists.
Though the creative element still exists here, it’s rapidly becoming smaller. The vast array of local dive bars, galleries and small business’ are giving way to upscale wine bars/ restaurants and expensive condos. I feel that the only thing that is staying in the Tenderloin are the SRO’s (single residency occupants) . Many of these buildings are federally funded and conform to a different set of rules. To me, the Tenderloin is the only neighborhood that still feels like it’s a part of a real city. It’s still diverse, gritty and has a lot of allure. However, with the coming changes, I know that this will drastically change soon.
What are you thoughts on the San Francisco art scene?
The San Francisco/ Bay Are art scene has largely been a friendly and collaborative place. I do feel that their are limitations though. It’s rare to meet artists that make a decent living off their work. The Bay is still ripe with artists, but I feel that there isn’t the most thriving art market here. Most of what can be sold are smaller affordable pieces and very expensive high ticket items, but not much in the middle. Coupled with that limitation is the Bay Area’s conservative approach on art. I feel that the vast majority of work I see in recent years is either soaked in pop commercialism or contains little or no substance at all. I don’t feel like many artists in the Bay attempt to really expand the ideas presented in their work, I see a lot of repetition here. Much of what I see is very safe, friendly and made to sell. Rarely do I see work that really opens me up to new thoughts and ideas, or challenges the current ideas I have of either my surroundings or myself. This does not mean that there are no exceptions to this. Certainly I have seen shows, installations and projects that have blown me away. However, that has not been my general experience in the last few years. That’s not to say that the elements I crave in art are not present in the Bay, maybe I just need to seek it out further.