The Los Angeles-based artist Joshua Vides has left his signature monochromatic mark on an array of eclectic and unusual canvases—from shoes and mirrors to cars and guitars. He punctuates his object with bold, black lines, bringing his multidimensional ideas to reality.
For the first time, however, “Commercial Break” (April 29–May 15) at SAI Gallery in Tokyo will feature colorful works. For his first-ever exhibition in Japan, Vides will showcase a dynamic range of paintings, drawings, and sculptures, complemented by coveted fashion items from both his own brand Reality to Idea and from exclusive collaborations with some of Tokyo’s leading forces, like the streetwear brand WTAPS®. Special for the show, as well, will be a collaboration with KITH‘s sweets brand, KITH TREATS, in Miyashita Park, serving up original flavored ice cream using coffee beans sourced by—and served in a cup designed by—the artist himself.
Co-curated and co-produced by the U.S.-based creative agency and artist management firm, ICNCLST, “Commercial Break” lends meaning to the conscious break Vides denotes between previous projects and that moving forward. The works in “Commercial Break” are full of evocative storylines, vivid imagery, and an interactive perspective that reflects the artist’s vitality as a visual creator more than ever.
Whitewall spoke with Vides about “Commercial Break,” his status as a leading icon of contemporary creative culture, and his plans for the future.
WHITEWALL: Can you tell us a bit about “Commercial Break”—your first show in Japan, featuring all-new works?
JOSHUA VIDES: “Commercial Break” is an entirely new concept and body of work I’ve been preparing in the shadows. Being known for my “Reality to Idea”, black-and-white concept, “Commercial Break” lives as the next chapter and continuation of myself as an artist. The goal was to remove the protagonist from these iconic micro comic-book offerings and allow the existing environment to live alone on a macro scale. The challenge was to successfully recreate the negative space to reflect the initial drawings offered from the past in the present day and to continue my signature look and feel with a splash of color and storytelling. It took months of trial and error to fall into a space where these works were neither too far nor too close to what I’ve been recognized for and I’m very happy where I Ianded.
WW: This is the first time you’re using color. Why now?
JV: I can give you a million reasons why, but the simplest way to put it is I’m more than a one hit wonder. If you look at what I’ve done with the black and white concept, it looks like decades of work and energy when really it’s only been 5 years. Can I successfully continue to offer works, projects, and partnerships in black and white? Most definitely. But that seems like an easy way to fall into a space of boredom and lack of innovation which are two things I’ll never accept. I’d rather throw concept after concept to the wall with failure after failure rather than wait for the tide to come down. “Reality to Idea” will continue to grow because it has only scratched the surface, but this new offering gives me the new energy I need to move and grow accordingly.
WW: The show is also a collaboration with KITH Treats, featuring flavored ice cream with coffee beans you sourced yourself. Can you elaborate on this partnership? Why KITH TREATS?
JV: Once the agreement of the show existed, I wanted to find ways to bring energy to the city of Tokyo outside of the gallery. Having a background in the streetwear space, it only felt right to reach out to some of the brands that have planted their flag in Tokyo. Kith Treats is an extension of the Kith brand that offers fun and tasteful offerings that I knew would be refreshing beyond a T-Shirt and tote bag option. I mean, if you had the opportunity to have ice cream offered and packaged in your own design, wouldn’t you?
WW: This show was also co-curated and co-produced with ICNCLST. What was that process like? What do you have in common?
JV: I’ve been friends with the ICNCLST team for a few years now. We work in a very organic way. If I have an idea or if they have one, it’s just a text away. We’re like-minded when it comes to energy and presentation and when the idea came up for a solo show in Tokyo, we all understood what needed to be done and the flow from start to finish was seamless. Although I’m not exclusive to the agency, at this point they’re the only collective I’ve continued to work and grow with. What we have in common? We’re certified hustlers.
WW: You’ve previously worked on translating your work onto garments, including collaborations for clothing, shoes, and accessories with Fendi, The Hundreds, and more. What importance do you feel art plays in the context of consumer culture—particularly coveted limited-edition releases and more collaboration-forward pieces?
JV: Whatever you offer as an artist should reflect your personal interests. I grew up on brands like Stussy, SSUR, and Supreme filling my closet and eating up all my grass cutting funds. Every now and then, an artist series or collaboration would be offered and seemed like a fun way to introduce an artist you may have not known about prior. Now, being an artist to collaborate with, I find myself enjoying the challenge to work with a brand’s ethos and introducing my interpretation of their products to their consumers. For me it’s an organic way to express myself on a commercial stage without taking on 100 percent of the risk and allows my ideas to expand in other categories. Whether it’s a streetwear brand, footwear conglomerate, car company, or high fashion label; it’s just part of what I was already interested in. Fortunately I’m on the other side now, so my grass cutting funds get spent in other places.
WW: What has being an artist during the pandemic been like?
JV: Although Covid affected the world in a treacherous and deadly way, it forced everyone to stop in their tracks and adjust their lives for the better. For me personally, it was the time I didn’t know I needed to take my foot off the gas and breathe. So many cool projects fell through, invoices, and commissions got canceled; it felt like my ship was slowly sinking and was completely alone. I had to pivot my studio and business model to depend solely on myself instead of partnerships and consumer facing events. I began to draw more, paint more and overall just create for myself, which led me to my fourth solo show in Los Angeles, “When Time Stood Still.”
Beyond the show’s success, I focused on small but impactful offerings via my website to allow entry-level collectors to obtain some of my work which fulfilled the income I lost due to the pandemic. But most importantly, I was able to spend more time at home with my wife and kids which, to be honest, would not have happened without having my studio shut down. I’m a workaholic and now I’ve learned to balance my life as an artist and my life as a husband and father which I’m grateful for. Much sympathy to all of those reading this who have lost a loved one or are still trying to pick up the pieces.
WW: What are you working on now, in 2022?
JV: How much time do you have? I’ve got some good projects coming up. Opening Mate Black Coffee in New York and Korea. I have footwear, home goods, and car-related collaborations on the way. Other than that, I’m trying to be a better human in general. I stopped drinking which has helped clear my mind. I started a routine which strengthens my overall health and I’ve been shifting more of my time and energy towards my family. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon and look forward to growing as a creative, entrepreneur, father, and husband.