Meet Alex G, a Long Beach-based artist and SoCal native. Alex works on paper and canvas, rendering characters whose white tees drape like Roman sculpture. Figures climb across tropical-hued platforms and stretch between potted plants or boxy pillars. The work speaks for itself, but there is a reason why the word ‘paradise’ appears in his website url. In celebration of his upcoming solo exhibition, Alex talks with us about paint, personalities, and why it’s shitty to be obsessed.
Hi Alex. Have you always been interested in portraying people?
Alex G: More than anything else, yes. I think that even in photographs, the addition of a person adds a layer of interest that nothing else will. Still lifes are cool, but they are built solely from color and composition and technique. As far as trying to communicate something, I think that it’s people that matter most.
What do you enjoy looking at?
I like looking at nature, and people. People watching is huge. I enjoy looking at old masters, technically well-done artworks. Lowbrow humor, too. So much contemporary art is about tastes or about deciding a style, whereas painters used to be technically concerned and look to their predecessors. 15th to 18th century Europe is also an era that interests me.
How do you think you view daily life differently than someone who doesn’t paint?
I’d like to think that I’m more attuned to noticing detail than I would be otherwise. Just looking more closely in general. Having this obsession (painting) kind of sucks, haha, but at the same time it’s kind of cool that I always have something to do for myself versus for someone else, like a regular job. It makes any other work feel strange.
You come from a unique background of identities. How do you identify yourself?
It took me a long time to identify myself as an artist or painter. That’s a really recent development that I’m still trying to embrace. I’m an LA native, SoCal Native. Racially speaking, my mom is Japanese and my dad is Black. That obviously plays a huge part in who I am.
What is the secret to having a painter’s attention span?
See, I think that a lot of that stuff is personality. I think that anyone can do anything. A person can technically do whatever they want. But certain paths require a certain personality. You’d succeed as an athlete if you were competitive, for example. As a painter you have to be okay with spending most of your time alone in a room.
Do you have a favorite thing that you have ever created?
Certain drawings or paintings that I’ve made that sparked a shift in what I think is worth making. Someone asked me, ‘Why are your people always black?’ and ‘Do you paint black people because you’re black?’ Before, I used to draw and paint white people, but this drawing that I made led me to strictly creating black figures. Initially it was a stylistic choice, but there was also a point where I did ask myself why I was always depicting white people. I think the system does cause you to think that it’s what is most worth depicting. The message still isn’t that the people are meant to be black, they are just people. They definitely aren’t white people… they are just figures, they don’t have faces either. The second shift was when I decided to start fully rendering my work.
Your characters are often reaching or being pushed. Why is this?
It’s pretty straightforward, isn’t it? I’m just depicting a mood or feeling from certain experiences in my life. Obviously these are taken from what I’ve gone through but I’m not trying to tell you what part of my life that was or whom these people are. I’m just trying to capture a moment or a mood and you can apply your own feelings. So when you ask what certain things mean, I’m pretty reluctant to answer that question.
You work on set with videographers and filmmakers. What have you picked up there?
Creative people are crazy. It does require for you to devote your entire life to a project. Whether it’s a movie, a commercial, or a video. Those guys devote every waking moment to that project. That’s how I’ve been with the body of work for this show. Work ethic is essential. You learn to avoid other temptations and bullshit invitations to hang out. On a side note, I’ve picked up more inspiration from movies than any other medium.
What part of the process do you struggle with?
Not knowing whether your ideas are going to be worth realizing or if the end product is going to be good. You just have to say fuck it. It’s a numbers game; if I make 10,000, at least 5 will be good. You just have to keep cranking shit out. I hate stopping to have to eat, too. Still working on stopping to eat when I’m in the zone. Time is against me. I look forward to painting faster with time.
What’s the last thing you would ever want someone to say about your paintings?
That they are “street art”. I don’t like being categorized as surrealism either. I don’t deal with fantasy anymore, all of my poses and subjects are from real life. They are just highly stylized. I don’t consider it surreal, but people say it all the time, so I deal with it.
What do you listen to while you create?
A lot of Podcasts. Joe Rogan podcasts. Rap. Shitty rap, good rap, alternative rock, jazz, soul, the hits. I’m obsessed with Drake, I know that’s bad but I think he’s actually really good. Yung Thung, too. There’s a lot of shitty rap out there but I respect his style because I think it’s actually original. I would love to paint an album cover for Kanye.
What is the best possible place that you could see your work end up?
A museum. People preserve the works and through time the most people who can actually view your work will, rather than just some shitty rich person who only bought it as a financial investment or to appear as a more cultured person to women or peers or something. Fuck that.