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A Conversation With River

2017 Aug by Mike Davis

In Spring 2017, we released Thoughts On The Walk, a brand new print available in our online store designed by Sean, aka RIVER. For the Twin Cities-based artist, his first-ever print represents a staple in his graffiti career and a beacon for nostalgia. Not unlike other painters who were drawn to the allure of box car graffiti, River took it to another level and released Thoughts On The Walk with us back in June. The dream-like piece is dotted with bright colors and found retro imagery, resembling the very places that conjured up his love for the art in the first place. We caught up with the artist and discussed inspiration, creative process and the natural progression of using new and different mediums.

BURLESQUE: When and how did you first get into graffiti and street art?

RIVER: Graffiti first caught my attention in my early teen years. I was a shy kid who loved to draw, and in class my friends and I would decorate our notebooks trying to outdo one another with our elaborate layouts of words and cartoons- competitions to see who could make theirs look the coolest. Then one day, while traveling down Lake Street in South Minneapolis, I saw bold, legible names written repeatedly on bus benches and curbs.  Seeing these words written creatively over and over again really impressed me, not only because of how cool it looked, but also that someone was brave enough to do this illegally all over town. Once I came to the conclusion that I didn’t see anything morally wrong with it and figured out that I could do it myself, I was hooked.

B: What inspired you to pursue graffiti?

R: I was inspired to pursue graffiti by seeing it all around me. The more I saw, the more I felt the need to do it myself. Although the Twin Cities didn’t have as plentiful of a scene as some larger cities, it was all I noticed walking around by myself. Seeing the names written openly in public, searching for pieces in the hard to find places and patiently waiting for the freight trains to roll by. It was the adventure and I loved it.

B: Was there ever a question as to whether or not you wanted to pursue if full time?

R: Once I started painting and noticing my own personal creative progression through graffiti, there was no question whether or not I wanted pursue it as much as I possibly could.

B: How does it shape your work in other creative projects?

R: I relate back to graffiti all the time in other creative projects in my life, no matter what I’m doing.  I’ve learned and I’m continuing to learn from graffiti every time I paint and want to apply the knowledge as much as possible because of graffiti’s unique nature. 

B: What was your creative process like when you first started graffiti, and how has it changed as you developed your style?

R: When I first started painting graffiti I thought of the process as a set of rules you apply to your creativity to build a piece or a throw-up or a tag. Something like instructions to follow in order to make graffiti properly.  Now, I use the exact same method but I enjoy breaking the rules and applying them in different ways. Kind of like Legos; you can build something amazing if you carefully follow the instructions, but you can create and build something even more amazing when you know how to build something but choose to rearrange parts in order to make something that’s never been made before.

B: What’s the transition like from graffiti painter to creative artist for you?

R: I have always been a creative artist outside of graffiti just not as prolific, so there hasn’t been much of a transition. I’ve never really enjoyed combining the two until recently. I’ve always thought of them as oil and water- impossible to mix and that they have their own separate places in the world. Now I consider them to be more like oil and vinegar- occasionally mixable temporarily if shaken properly and flavored with the correct spices.

B: What's your start-to-finish process like now?

R: Spend a super long time with the initial sketch, do something different, then just have fun with colors, line and space. And usually get stressed out and take it down to the wire during the process.

B: Trains seem to play a large part in your work. My first introduction to your work was Thoughts on The Walk. What is it about trains, beyond the obvious graffiti connection, that you're drawn to in your artwork?

R: Well, as a wise man once said, “Train is best.” That man was right. And trains have been of most importance to me in my graffiti career and have always been there for me to paint. The particular joy and nostalgia I get when I’m around them is unmatchable. It only made sense for me to make the subject of my first print to involve the love I have for freight trains.

B: Do you have any upcoming projects you're particularly excited about?

R: I’m always excited about painting, no matter the project. Have fun.

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Our Kickstarter Thank You Party!

2017 Jul by Mike Davis

Mark your calendars... Thanks to your generous support, we hit our Kickstarter goal and you're invited to come celebrate with us! Come party with us at Can Can Wonderland on Friday August 11th. There will be mini golf, vintage pinball, food and drinks, plus music from DJs Mike 2600 and Shannon Blowtorch.

Did you contribute to our Kickstarter campaign? We'll have some of your reward items ready for you to pick up. Just cheered us on from the sidelines? No problem - you're still invited and we'd love to see you there!

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A Conversation with Jacob Bannon

2017 Jul by Mike Davis

Interview by Jenny Handke

Back in 2004,
Burlesque co-founder Wes Winship made his way to a Converge show at Triple Rock Social Club. At the time, Burlesque was finding its legs and building a reputation and had screenprinted the show’s poster, designed by longtime friend and BRLSQ collaborator, Aaron Horkey. Here, Wes saw firsthand Bannon’s way of marrying visual art with his music in a way that feels like they’re extensions of one another in complementary mediums. Between sets, the two were introduced and the rest was history. Jacob and Wes immediately clicked and the two eventually got to work on various projects, like “On My Shield” and “Year of the Hare.” In the last decade, Jacob and BRLSQ have joined forces, creating some of our most popular and fastest-selling prints, like Jacob’s 2015 FRAGMENTS series and art show at CO Exhibitions, a week-long, team-driven print and design project that resulted in more than 200 one-of-a-kind mixed media prints with the help of the entire BRLSQ team.

This Tuesday, July 11th, we’re doing it again and releasing two new prints designed by Jacob, “As Above, So Below,” and “A Rumble Beneath.” Both pieces passed through the hands of our team, where we combined a handful of mixed media techniques including spraypaint, splattered and dripped acrylic paint, and sanding to create bold and unique textures on each sheet of paper prior to screenprinting. These two prints were first debuted at Full Bleed, part of Roadburn Festival 2017 in The Netherlands, where Jacob’s other band, Wear Your Wounds, was performing. Working with Jacob has always flexed our creative brain, stretching what we thought was our capacity to innovate and deliver as a team. These two new prints follow suit in the Bannon-esque tradition of gusto and collaboration. As a tribute to our longtime collaborator, we dropped in with Jacob to get a glimpse of his creative process from his perspective, and a peek at what to expect next from the visual artist and musician.

B: Collaboration seems to be a common theme in your work that I've seen and heard. Have you always collaborated with artists and designers within the scope you do at Burlesque, or was that a new realm for you when you first started producing with us? Why did you decide to collaborate with Burlesque in the first place?

J: I approach creating art from a designer's perspective. If there are things that are within my wheelhouse that I can create, I go for it. If there are situations where collaborating with others makes the most sense, then I am all for it. I feel it is important to be flexible and work well with others. We all learn from one another and are better for it.

B: Wes and Mike light up about  having a hand in your creative process. It's not too common for artists to ask their printers to co-produce art. What's your take on collaborative work like this and do you work as closely with other designers/artists in other creative projects, including music?

J: I really respect the craft and execution of print making. It is an art form within itself. I feel a lot of artists do not give the printers they work with enough credit. It is their insight and knowhow that allow an incredible print to be produced. Wes and Mike are no exception to that. I should also say that I have definitely challenged them in regards to what is possible in print making. I’m always trying to push things farther than the previous project, and they are always game for that challenge.

B: Fragments sounded like a huge undertaking with an incredible turn out. What was that week like for you, and what was the motive behind that concept? What was most fulfilling about that week?

J: Fragments was an interesting experiment. It was a busy week of creating things. A lot of trial and error, and little sleep. Wes approached me with the idea some months before in a formal way. Prior to that, we casually discussed some sort of in-house collaboration where we could approach printmaking from a more fine art based mentality. It was a success for sure and I hope we can do it again down the line.

B: In Rungs in a Ladder you talked about an accident, which obliterated your knee. How did your recovery shape your persona, and how do you think dark experiences like that influence your art today?

J: That would be best answered by a therapist. At this point, who knows. I just pour what I have into making art and music, as well as promoting others efforts. I am very grateful for the art and music worlds and the platform they have given me.

B: What are some other big influencers -people, places and/or experiences- that have a hand in your process and style?

J: Directly Francis Bacon, JWM Turner, Pushead.
Any of the artists and illustrators active within the punk/hardcore/metal world when I was younger.

B: Your work is very theme-heavy. Lots of female subjects, silhouettes, female silhouettes, color and contained chaos. Even when you pair your music and your artwork, there's this sense of audiovisual harmony going on, like both mediums are just progressions of the other. Where do these junctions come from? Is there a hidden message or story behind the themes in your work, specifically the females and contained chaos that's in both your artwork and music?

J: The feminine form is a beautiful thing and the male form is a beautiful thing. I’ve used both in my work. I feel that they can tell a poetic story without the use of words. When I am creating work to be paired with music I do my best to marry the two ideas. With the end goal to have them compliment and enhance one another. I a lot of my work it collage and mixed media work. With that said I have hundreds of thousands of pieces of source material that I’ve used over time. As I build things they tend to take on a character of their own, with their origins being obliterated in the process.

B: What should people expect to see in your work debuting on our website on July 11th?

J: A number of collaborative pieces that were created by myself and Wes.
Kinetic artwork that expands the idea of what is possible through the world of printmaking.

B: With that, what kinds of projects are you cooking up these days? What's next for you?

J: I released a 300 Page art book titled “Dunedevil” recently. It is mainly abstract work and experiments that I created over a weeks time in a dune shack in Provincetown, MA. I also released an experimental album of the same name as a companion piece to it all. I am in the middle of a large project for my own band, Converge. I hope to have that finished up shortly, then on to the next project.

- - - - - - - - - -

Thanks Jacob! Don't miss "A Rumble Beneath" and "As Above, So Below" when they arrive in our online store on Tuesday July 11th.

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We have completed design and illustration projects for a diverse range of clients including Nike Sportswear, Target, Arcade Fire, 3M, Rhymesavers, Kidrobot, Walker Art Center, Stones Throw Records, and many others. From logos to album packaging to posters to stage design, we would love to create the visual elements to help you develop your brand, promote your event, and add excitement to your business.

About Burlesque

What began as a handful of dudes working on a graffiti magazine has grown into a multi-disciplinary team of graphic artists and screenprinters. Since 2003, Burlesque has been creating screenprinted concert posters, developing and publishing prints with numerous fine artists, organizing and hosting art exhibits and music events, and sharing our work in gallery shows and poster events from coasts to coast.

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