Legendary Artists RISK and TAZ Unite For “Unconventional Forces”

Photo by Birdman.

Unconventional Forces is the aptly titled culmination of the collaboration between two of California’s best known visual artists: designer and band poster pioneer TAZ and graffiti icon RISK. Together, the two represent a multi-decade career of art-making influenced by all things Cali, from surfing to Kustom Kulture to rock music.

While Jim Evans, aka TAZ, comes from the San Francisco underground and is best known for hundreds of gig posters, rock ephemera and high profile album jackets for The Beastie Boys, Beck, Aerosmith and many others, Kelly Graval, aka RISK is an L.A. artist and renowned graffiti legend known for pioneering the painting of freeway overpasses, signs and billboards.

Though very different, both artists have a similar affinity for pop culture and an intuitive understanding of street appeal. The result of their collaboration is a selection of collaborative posters, originals and printed ephemera on view at RISK’s very own Buckshot Gallery through June 4, 2016.

For insight into this unique partnership between legendary artists and artworld peers, we spoke with RISK about the philosophy behind his gallery, his working relationship with TAZ, and the meaning behind Unconventional Forces.

As a street artist, was it difficult for you to get into the mindset of creating gallery work?  

A lot of people say that graffiti art shouldn’t be in galleries because it shouldn’t have any boundaries, but I think it’s the exact opposite: galleries have no boundaries. With galleries, you can basically create your own environment, bring in different lighting, whatever you want. So I’m a big fan of graffiti in galleries.

What inspired me to do Buckshot was that, after I got into the gallery scene, a lot of gallery’s started asking me for certain things, like “Can you just do some graffiti letters or just not do graffiti letters,” whatever it may be. And I was like, “Well, that kinda sucks, I don’t wanna do stuff just because that’s what you can sell.” So I started Buckshot because it’s not part of our profit-making goal, our goal is to make a profit by selling prints online. The gallery is a place for us to have artists do what they want to do without the normal constraints of gallery owners talking about what sells and what doesn’t sell.

How did you connect with TAZ for the forthcoming exhibition?

TAZ and I have run in various circles that overlap for years. When I did Third Rail Clothing, he actually did a poster for one of our parties, and I liked his artwork and I bought one of his posters. So, I’ve been a fan for years. We have mutual friends and we were at a BBQ one day, and we were talking about our styles and whatnot. While they’re very different on paper, how we get to the end result is kind of the same creative process. So we decided to collaborate. It was fun, so it just turned into a show.

How did you work together to conceptualize and produce the pieces?

He comes up with cool images and then he backs into it; he backs into what band and what poster fits with that image, rather than saying “here’s the band, now make an image.” So he goes in reverse and that’s kind of how I make my work too.

So for us it was the same thing, we sat down for the show and said, Alright, let’s start doing stuff, and we did it the conventional way of like, “Okay, you come from this rock world and I come from this world, so let’s make it combine.” But that wasn’t working, so we just started working on stuff we liked [separately], then sat down and laid it out and saw what overlapped and what worked together.

Does the title “Unconventional Forces” reference the artists, the process, or the content of the artwork?

It represents both of us as artists coming from different places to create a unique symmetry.