For this week’s People section, we had a quick chat with West LA’s HVW8 Gallery owner, Tyler Gibney about his experience in the art world, transitioning from artist to curator, over the past decade and a half.
The gallery started in Montreal, what was it, 15 years ago now?
We called it the HVW8 Art Instillation. It was a gallery/studio, kind of like an artist collective. We were doing a lot of music-related stuff. For the Montreal Jazz Festival, we were asked to do something visual to go with this DJ greatest hits music stuff. So we started an art band of sorts. At the time a lot of people would do sampling with music. We took the same idea but with imagery. There would be three of us and we’d take an image. And in three hours we would do a live piece. Then we started traveling and we would do it in different cities like New Orleans and Tallahassee. We had some big shows in Japan and Puerto Rico and Toronto.
So it’s basically just mixing the imagery with sound?
You know when someone would make music and you would kind of sample it and mix it in with your own? Back then it was hip hop; they’d take a classic sample from …
Like Bowie in No Way Out?
Yeah, David Bowie or from whomever, and then make it your own. We would do the same thing but instead of audio we did it visual. So it was the same premise of like cut and paste. I was going the graphic designer route. We would reference an image and then take something and re-contextualize it.
That’s Brilliant, and so simple at the same time.
Yeah … and then in like three hours we would link a good piece. We would travel all around with different bands but then create these pieces on the spot.
This was in ’98?
Yeah. We used to travel around and do that and then we started doing some big art shows. Then I ended up moving out here in about 2003…
Yeah, it was too cold for her in Canada. So when I moved here, I was by myself again and there wasn’t a place that would show the kind of art that I was into, so I just started my own place with Addison Liu (my partner in the gallery).
How have things changed over the years?
Well, I went from being more of an artist to a curator, so that was a big change.
So you stopped making art, or just slowed down?
Well it’s more fun when I can help facilitate the artists with their pieces because I always work collaboratively anyway. With a lot of guys, I’ll get them their first show and then also I’ll help them do murals or things that they really didn’t do before.
Are the other two guys who helped start HVW8 still active?
Why did the band break up?
Distance and it was just, you know … Art is ego and it was hard. We were a bit of an anomaly because we were three people creating one piece, with a sense of ownership. I don’t think the public really knew how to perceive us ’cause we we’re like, “Oh what is this? Who’s the artist?” My side was the conceptual design, Dan would always do the figures and Gene would do the background. We had a good relationship. It went on for a long time and we got really successful with it, but then things change. And then physically I was 10,000 miles away so it was a little hard. I started to concentrate more on the gallery. We did a lot of music events here too.
You don’t anymore?
We still do but I definitely concentrate more on the art now. It’s come full circle. We used to tour all the time and do all these performances and live events. But now I’m trying to tweak the gallery. The gallery itself will be kind of like these pop-up galleries. Because another thing with HVW8, we did a lot of political stuff in 2006-2008. We would do these galleries called Political Minded and they’d be like these pop-up, guerilla galleries and that was like pre-Obama, when it was still Bush.
There was so much to say.
We said so many crazy things … It was a bit of a movement, especially when we did the Manifest Hope and all that stuff around Obama. We moved Politically Minded around Munich, San Francisco, New York and Montreal.
How do you see politics influencing the art here?
The one thing with politics is that you get into certain morality stuff. Now what I’m trying to do with a lot of the shows, especially with the photo-based ones like Peter Beste‘s, they’re kind of political in nature, but you almost have to present them like a documentary. You know what I mean?
Yeah of course, just put all the information out there and let people make of it what they will.
Yeah, like you’re not going to give what’s right or wrong whereas with politics you’re saying, “I support this because …”
You could be like the Economist.
With these kinds of shows you’re not saying it’s about gratuitous sex or environments, but I mean its also presenting what it is. And this is what it is. If you get into the politics behind it, it’s the crack epidemic and all of those things that have led to this stuff that we see today. That’s popular culture.
Tell me about your upcoming shows.
I have an upcoming show with Janette Beckman. She was a really big photographer from London. She did all the hip-hop and punk stuff and everything. She went to New York and then came out here in ’82. She did Belinda Carlisle on Fairfax and the LA scene. By chance she became friends with this East-LA gang and started documenting them. They never met anyone from England or anything like that. We kind of take for granted how small the world is now. Back then people didn’t really have access to a lot of stuff. Then she came back recently and was talking about doing a show. It’s pretty cool that she’s coming back 30 years to the day and can follow up. She actually reached out and met these three girls again and took the same photo 30 years later. They went through the whole book together. One of the girls works for the city attorney and is like in a BMW. They’re these accomplished woman and they were like, “Oh, this guy’s dead.” All of the guys were dead. When you’re doing a show like that it’s kind of interesting, but at the same time there’s that fine line between glorification versus just kind of showing what it was and what it is. Especially in a city like LA where there are still gangs and you don’t want to get involved with that kind of stuff. But at the same time I do think its cool to be able to show people that stuff.
Well it’s educating people too, about their surroundings. Which are some of your more memorable shows?
Parra, for sure. We have a really good relationship now. I feel like he’s one of the better ones. Geoff McFetridge, he’s from Canada and we’ve known each other forever, so I did a show with Michael, Kevin and Geoff and at the time it was like 2009. That was a great show. I mean they’ve all been good, I can’t really complain. We’ve also had Snoop Dogg and Dam Funk; they did their first performance together here and that became an album and that was kind of a big deal. Every Sunday we used to have “Live at the BBQ” where we’d record live music and have a barbeque here and all these people would come.
Used to? When’s that happening again?
Yeah, I know we need to start doing that again. We did it for like three years. If you go online to iTunes there’s still a ton of HVW8 podcasts and we would record it live. We’re going to convert the space next door into a music studio and start doing that stuff again.
That’s awesome – I want to be a part of that. That’s kind of what you’re looking at for the future?
Well I think we’re doing the traveling show. I have upcoming shows with Jean André, that’s this month. I have Willo Perron who is the art director for Rihanna and Jay-Z and he does these huge productions. He’s responsible for all the look and feel. I think that will be an interesting show.
How does that translate into an art show in a blank gallery space?
Well I mean it’s interesting for me too, to pose those questions to people where they are in charge of these huge multi-million dollar productions and these massive things. But also it’s a little different when you’re working with someone as an art director. It’s still your work as well as his, you know what I mean, but he kind of takes the hit for it. Whereas it’s like if he’s out of the equation then it’s on me. And sometimes it’s different to put yourself out there because when you do a show you’re really exposing yourself. So Jean is next and he is really cool ’cause we just did a big thing in Miami at Art Basel and that was his first time in the States. He’s just a young guy in Paris. This will be his first real American show, so that will be interesting. And he’s a character, I mean he’s really good though too. He’s the art director of Ed Banger Records and just had a show at Collette.
What’s up with this JJJJound piece on the wall. It looks like an email?
He sent the emails to these painting factories in China to have them fabricated there. We kept it totally transparent, so we actually printed the email on the wall and you could pick your grade of artist. He picked a medium-grade artist so when we came back and we had the show there was all these people taking instagram pictures and it was just a very meta show.
Tell me more about the traveling show.
Well with the one in Amsterdam I just found the gallery and then kind of transformed it. I like that idea of pop-up galleries, of just taking spaces and then transforming them.
It must be exciting to change it up and engage with different communities.
Yeah, and I’m good at that. Even with this space we always have the mural wall and we always do that front wall. We’ll paint the whole place, so whenever there’s a show it’s not just like, “Oh, there’s one picture on the wall,” usually it’s full-on. Krink has done the whole front of this building; there have been countless murals on the front and the back ’cause it’s been like 8 years at this spot.
Do you like the location?
It’s all right. It’s cool because if we were three blocks over it’d be different. Like what we did with the Atiba Jefferson show and a lot of those shows, we get around 400 people in the back. It’s a pretty big party. You can’t really do that in West Hollywood, and we kind of get around that being where we are. But I do think that LA is becoming the place for art. A lot of New York galleries are coming here now, moving Downtown and getting these huge spaces. It would be ridiculously expensive in New York.
And the places are gorgeous too … the facades. I live in a loft that I would never be able to afford in New York. It’s pretty cool until you have to go outside and figure out how to park your car.
COME CHECK OUT JEAN ANDRE’S GAULOISE OPENING AT HVW8 TONIGHT 7-10PM