mj: Are you still involved with the Keyson Gallery? How did Wallpaper LAB come to be?
ron keyson: Happily I have discovered my calling, not as an art dealer, but as an entrepreneur or as one colleague recently corrected--a capitalist. Capitalism, humanistic capitalism, given the right set of circumstances, can be an art form itself or in the case Wallpaper LAB, produce art.
I earned a scholarship to NYU teaching set building and decoration in the film and television school. This led to getting jobs later on in the film world--including scenic painting and art direction. People in the art world heard about my skill set and hired me to translate their art into large 2D environmental/installation works. My clients included Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami. Other clients followed--I pitched the idea of curating Wallpaper LAB as an exhibition to Lennon Weinberg Gallery in NYC and they said "yes"!!! This was in May of 2006--their only caveat was that the show be their first show of the season (the most high profile spot of the season) Yikes!
This was an incredible challenge as I had not approached any artist about doing this with me in a serious way--and the pitch to Lennon Weinberg Gallery was to seamlessly wrap their entire gallery with 15 original wallpaper designs. Fortunately the incredible first group of invited artists, printers and collaborators pitched in on all fronts to make this an amazing success. I still feel very lucky about being able to work with these people. The show was reviewed in the New York Times and many other publications. The store Artware Editions approached me to become my NYC distributer and things are going very well...
Ron produced and installed this mural (Mountain Girls) for Chiho and her dealer Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin at Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn's - Salon 94
mj: I know that some of your influences include Chiho Aoshima and Damien Hirst. Could you talk about what it is about these artists that inspire you?
ron: Both of these artists love the hunt and kill aspect of art installation and exhibition. When others say that art is dead or redundant, these two artists (although certainly not limited to them) go after the audience and other artist's attention with a relish.
Chiho, shot moments after Ron completed installing a 360 degree diarama mural at Blum & Poe Gallery.
At international art fairs, gallery and museum shows I have seen Chiho go up against some huge career giants and literally blow them away. Her scale, savage content mixed with the lightest mouse click animation touch, seems to generate an almost atavistic response in the eyes of her viewers and competitors alike.
Never satisfied--always plunging ahead without a seeming care or misstep--Damien Hirst orgiastically engages the art world as if he were the original keeper of the flame. This is an artist working out his utmost inner visions. Most people would have reverted to some safe form many, many projects back, but this guy has too many internal voices to rest.
mj: I'm such a fan of Marilyn Minter. Can you talk a little about working with her? Will you be offering other work from her?
ron: When I started Wallpaper LAB, one of the first artists I ask to participate was Marilyn Minter. As with other artists, I set up a studio visit, suggested a few ways to translate her work into wallpaper and sat back, waiting for a positive affirmation. Her decisive response was "no". This rattled me and I asked for clarification. She obliged, articulating just how uninteresting my suggestions seemed to her.
The Christmas Tree/Merry Merry Tree (life size wall sticker) was an idea I had had for a while but I was reluctant to have her reject another idea. But like all things in life, and especially true of the art world, audacity is more important than courage. Of course she said "yes". Working with MM is as fun and intense as those two states get without getting into extreme sports or crime. She is an absolute master, knowledgeable about all things art and art world, a knowledge bank which she graciously shares. The tree took form over a month long sprint where emails, telephone calls, studio visits and business meetings eclipsed everything else I was doing. Marilyn also introduced me to The Art Production Fund/WOW, our partners, and the rest is history.
Detail from Echo, Wow, and Flutter; Sideways, Flopped, and Mirrored; 2006. Fred Tomaselli for Wallpaper LAB.
mj: Do you feel that Wallpaper LAB has a certain point of view? How do you see it evolving?
ron: Wallpaper LAB is essentially an art/design convergence incubator. It's primary goal is to vertically dominate the artist wallpaper market. It's concurrent mission is to horizontally infiltrate art into other locked down design sectors.
mj: Are you still painting, creating art, writing? What are you up to these days?
ron: Each artist I work with affords me an opportunity to be creative. As far as sitting alone at night, in a deep dark obsessive place, sure--I still love it! Writing, guitar improvisational playing and designing keeps my mind fluid in a hyper-kinetic sort of way.
mj: A lot of trustyourstyle readers love art and want to start collecting. What would be your advice to a fledgling art collector?
ron: Rule #1. Buying art should be fun! If you are not having fun investigating what is out there and what excites you, then don't become a collector.
Rule #2. Collecting art is a lot like collecting anything else--like music or books-- it's not just okay to buy the same artist's work, it is normal.
Rule #3. Occasionally turn the equation around and sell a piece that you own--at auction or elsewhere--this will give you confidence to indulge your collecting.
More conventional tips for collecting art (such as where to look, who to buy from, how much to spend) can be throughly researched in every art magazine's special "Collecting" issue at least once a year.
mj: I know I've seen some great stuff at your place over the years. Who are some of your favorites that you've collected?
ron: Peter Edlund, Chiho Aoshima, Damien Hirst, Miyeon Lee, Markus Linnenbrink, Christopher Daniels.
mj: Finally I'd love it if you'd talk about who are some of your favorite new and old artists and why.
ron: There are so many artists that I absolutely love, that rather than list them I will refer instead to Artist X. This person has never exhibited anything before but is making plans and compacts for just such an occasion as I type. Artist X carries the weight of all that has proceeded with the lightness of pure inspiration and creative joy. One day this artist will come to occupy a very comfortable seat in the art cannon of time, absolutely loved.
Here are A FEW THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT RON KEYSON:
THE FOUR MOST STYLISH PEOPLE WHO INFLUENCED ME:
1. My Mom: who always said "be classic not trendy"
2. My Dad: A true maverick with incredible taste in sports cars & stereo gear
3. Dustin Hoffman's character in The Graduate (see answer # 1 for explanation)
4. The Dali Lama--This guy really is the coolest person on the planet.
FOUR OF MY FAVORITE DESIGNERS:
1. Pina Farinia
2. Jean Pouvre
3. Brooks Brothers
4. Donald Judd
FOUR JOBS I HAVE HAD IN MY LIFE:
1. Electronic Hardware Engineer: (Colourtronics, Teledyne, Beck-tech, UC-Berkeley)
2. Scenic Artist / Art director: Feature Films, T.V., Rock Videos in the 80's/90's
3. Interior Designer: Total design, contracting and build-outs of Manhattan residential properties.
4. Wallpaper LAB / CEO: Curator
FOUR MOVIES I WOULD WATCH OVER AND OVER (AND DO):
1. My Dinner with Andre
2. Solaris (Tarkovsky)
3. Blade Runner
FOUR PLACES WHERE I HAVE LIVED:
1. Los Angeles, CA
2. Phoenix, AV
3. Berkeley, CA
4. New York, NY
FOUR TV SHOWS I LOVE TO WATCH:
1. Meet The Press
2. Washington Week
4. American Masters
FOUR PLACES I HAVE BEEN ON VACATION IN THE LAST FOUR YEARS:
1. Cape Cod, MA
2. Paris, France
3. Berlin, GR
4. Laguna Beach, CA
FOUR WEBSITES I VISIT DAILY (Or at least Weekly):
1. New York Times
3. Various friends blogs (Hi MJM)
4. About a million design sites
FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS:
1. Pizza (various ingredients)
2. Ramen Noodles
3. Banana Creme Pie
4. Spinach Salad (various ingredients)
FOUR PLACES I WOULD RATHER BE RIGHT NOW:
1. In a cinder block house in the Mojave Desert with an expansive view of nothing.
2. Hiking through Ensenal Canyon (Malibu) circa 1978.
3. Flying to Rome, IT
4. Waking up in Kyoto, JP
Thanks Ron for stopping by!
For more info on Wallpaper LAB go to wallpaperlab.com