Joe Robert’s Psychedelic Imagery Is An Open Invitation To An Unknown Journey

The artist and illustrator Joe Roberts has just released his second monograph-styled book named We Ate The Acid (61)A3HT3TA3) *. This publication is launched by Anthology Editions and includes over 100 new drawings, paintings and mixed-media aiming to “bring to life both the creeping unease and the uncanny humour of the psychedelic experience”. The San Francisco-based artist himself prefaces this book as a visionary journey with a declaration: ‘the way you choose to explore it is the way you choose to explore it. Make sure you take notes’. The book features an introduction by Hamilton Morris (Hamilton’s Pharmacopeia on Vice) and a conversation with gallerist and actor Leo Fitzpatrick, Director of Marlborough Contemporary.

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We Ate The Acid (61)A3HT3TA3) *, Book cover, Anthology Editions

Words: Yannis Kostarias

Investigating the artistic potential of free association and the “uncanny humour of the psychedelic experience”, Roberts develops profoundly personal imaginary artworks inspired by diverse fields. His drawings are usually fantastical in context, recalling pop art, urban street culture, surrealist iconography and modern cartoon characters. Employing an idiosyncratic perspective, the artist skillfully merges allegorical depictions in vivid colours and eerie settings. Drawing inspiration from manifold cultural sources, Robert’s imagery embraces together an urban edginess and a fantastic sensibility. Geometric shapes, spiritual and religious symbols, or even comic figures, signify Robert’s recent artistic universe. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, Freddy Krueger and the Wu-Tang Clan are some common figures in the artist’s unexpected narratives while Mickey Mouse is probably the artist’s most favourite motif-giving him a centric role in his work and an alternative nickname called ‘Weezy’.

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Joe Roberts, The World Ended on a Fryday, 2016, acrylic on canvas 24 x 36 inches

Aiming to get engaged with Robert’s psychedelically dark depictions some well known pop-culture references enable the viewer’s perception to deal with the intangible arrangements. Whimsical compositions are executed in a remarkably graphic style next to child-like illustrations and kaleidoscopic patterns. For example, UFOs, Halloween flying witches, Anonymous and black cats in his work The World Ended on a Fryday, 2016, incorporates a dark narrative combined with a secretive exaggeration and simplified forms. Colour is everything to Joe Roberts, and the series of shadows, shades, hues and darkness underline the feeling of mystery in these dream-like surroundings. The paintings’ meaning successfully become ambiguous and unrestricted to interpretations. An aesthetically energetic and spirited transcendentalism captures Robert’s artworks and provides polyvalent and variegated realities via his fictional systems.

Born in Madison, Wisconsin, Joe Roberts (b. 1976) lives and works in San Francisco, California. He studied at the San Francisco Art Institute. The American artist has had solo as well as group exhibitions across the United States and internationally. Solo exhibitions include Planet Dare (Reyes Projects, Birmingham, MI) and Trails (Viewing Room, Marlborough Chelsea, New York). Group exhibitions include BURNT (Marlborough Contemporary, New York, NY), Oro En Paz (BBQLA, Los Angeles, CA), Another Place (SHRINE, New York, NY) and Slam Section (Gallery Steinsland Berliner, Stockholm, Sweden).

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Art Verge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work? 

Joe Roberts: Top secret.

AV: How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?

JR: Amateur landscape paintings.

AV: ‘We Ate The Acid’ is your second monograph-style book; What does this new art project mean to you?

JR: It’s a collection of art I made during a period of my life when I was experimenting with psychedelics.

AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

JR:  I really like Brian Degraw’s paintings.

AV: Creating a new artwork can be a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?

JR: I don’t have a social life. I have a girlfriend and a dog.

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AV: How do you know when drawing/painting/artwork is finished?

JR: I get a feeling like when I finish a puzzle.

AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process and where is your studio now based?

JR: It is a small room in my house in San Francisco. There is a giant redwood tree growing outside the windows I like looking at the tree.

AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?

JR: I don’t remember . I rarely go to exhibitions.

AV: What do you hope readers or viewers will take from your new second art book?

JR: Hopefully it makes them smile.

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AV: What does your mum think about your art?

JR: She likes it.

AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl? 

JR: Both.

AV: Is the glass half empty or half full?

JR: Half full.

AV: Which are your plans for the near future? 

JR: Travel to New York for book release party.

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We Ate The Acid

©All images are courtesy of the Joe Roberts & Anthology Editions

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