Artist of the Week

Esteban Schimpf

September 2, 2010

Esteban Schimpf lives and works in Los Angeles, California where he enjoys his time in the sun. His practice traffics in irreverence and authority. Using humor, Schimpf pokes at profound subjects while maintaining a comic and nonchalant distance.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do?  Socially I usually avoid that question by telling people that I work in the fashion industry as a photographer. It’s hard for me to tell people what I do because it’s complicated and I do a lot of stuff. I have to do a lot to be an artist and maintain my lifestyle. But I truly love fashion. There’s a lot of art involved in fashion. Personally I am SO drawn to beauty, design, and elegance…they’re my favorite things.

My facebook profile answers the question most directly:

“fashion photographer
audio dealer

I have to do all of those in varying degrees. Life is a hustle.

How has living and working in LA effected your art practice? Life in LA is what it is, it’s life in LA. I love it but a lot of people hate it. The more that people hate it the better it is because that just means hipsters will go gentrify some other city. Many artists live life well here. The secret is how to do it; every artist has to do it in his or her own way.

You HAVE to make YOUR life work for you. It’s your life and it’s your responsibility. In LA the resources are here but the desire, ambition, and motivation has to be within you. And it’s JUST as cutthroat as NYC.

But my main reason for loving this city is because LA has turned me into an artist; into a man that lives on the land. I quit all my steady jobs and now I just live in a house in a jungle reading Hegel and thinking about liberty. But I read W magazine and HIGHTIMES too!



What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?  I just curated a show called INSTANT LA SUMMER An Exhibition by Esteban Schimpf. Man, what a thrilling and beautiful experience! It was my first major show in a serious gallery space in Culver City (the Chelsea of LA). I have a small gallery that I started in Chinatown called Actual Size Los Angeles, INSTANT LA SUMMER is major league. Carmichael Gallery was really supportive and they let me have the space and basically allowed me to do whatever I wanted with the artists. I picked the both major artists with large careers and also my close friends that are my age. It was an excellent show because the artists are all so brilliant. These are serious artists that are going to all be major players in the art field.

Curating is fascinating for me because I am an artist and I don’t know how to curate shows. My vision is hyper subjective and I am crazy and feel free to be free. For me it’s just another project that comes out of my studio. But more importantly this is a way for me to create more opportunity for artists, for my friends. The more we all work together the more we work!

Workers UNITE! : P

The show was generously reviewed. Here are some links.

I have a ton of upcoming exhibitions that I am going to be curating in the next 2 years…booked solid and it feels good. It’s hard to just be getting started but it also feels good. The learning curve is steep so I’m still cutting my teeth and trying to figure this all out. I also have to wrestled being a curator and an artist. I have several solos coming up and making all of that fit in and work together is what drives me. It’s fun.

If any good artists are reading this I am giving you my open contact: Blow my mind with an amazing PDF and take life by the horns, that’s all that I ask.

What is one the bigger challenges you and/or other artist are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing?  I don’t know! Money?  We all need more. Am I getting paid for this btw?

I see a lot of people dealing with a lot of summer drama. I hate when I have to deal with angry selfish people…a bummer in the summer! I wish people just stopped being selfish and had more empathy for other people’s struggle.

If you had one wish what would it be? A Kennedy-like compound in Benedict Canyon for me and all of my closest friends. Basically and elite party for the intellectually and creatively advanced. Our own perfect little world.

Is that too much to ask for?

When/where did your interest in art begin? My first memory is of me abandoned in a square hole in the jungle of Colombia where I was born. I remember the walls were covered in wet clay and I sat there looking up at the clouds trying to form the shapes that I saw. That’s when I knew that I would be an artist…

I still think about that moment. Our history defines us.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Beautiful women with gentle smiles. Good food. My friends. Good wine from Napa…

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I recently had to make a billboard for a biennial in Portugal curated by Lauri Firstenberg and Cesar Garcia of LA><ART who are just absolutely brilliant people. Lauri does so much amazing work for the LA artworld. They really make this city a brighter cultural capital.

My piece was pretty purile. At the age of 24 I am the youngest artist in the biennial and my piece totally reflects my age and humor.

It says, “God, Imagine the Storm on Jupiter

Billboards are basic materials of our culture. They can be absolutely vernacular. The more commercial my work gets the better it gets. I want to make good art for all the people. & I just want to be loved. Every artist does.

My process is a bit embarrassing…. I basically made it in my underwear on my porch in Highland Park really nervous. It’s a scary piece for me because it means a lot to me. And it’s really BIG, in idea but not execution. I first made it in college at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where I failed a class because of it.

A month after I graduated with my Bachelors Andrew Rafacz Gallery invited me to be in a show and they picked “God, Imagine the Storm on Jupiter”. It was reviewed in Artforum and I eventually sold it to a good collection…so that made up for the fail, but man, it still sucked and hurt me really deep to fail.

The vast majority of my advisors in college did not like me or respond to my work. Neither did my peers. I can tell you all of their names but I would rather tell you about the brilliant handful of absolutely devoted and encouraging professors that told me to continue being an artists. Gaylen Gerber, Michelle Grabner, Hamaza Walker, Candida Alverez, Ken Fandell, Sandra Adams, and Stanley Murashige. I learned A LOT from them and every shitty critique and abuse that I endured from the homophobic painting dept. was worth it because of the knowledge that these real artists and scholars where so generous to give me.

What artists are you interested in right now? That’s easy, the list of artists in my show INSTANT LA SUMMER.
Charles Irvin, Daniel DeSure, Emily Mast, Emily Steinfeld, Erik Yahnker, Josh Mannis, Kenneth Tam, Los Super Elegantes, Maya Lujan, Mark Hagen, Margaret Haines, Orlando Tirado, Pascual Sisto, Sarah Sieradzki, Sean Kennedy, Simon Haas

I’m interested in all of them! They are all museum quality practitioners. They’re the best in their weight class!

Other than that I mostly look at Italian art from the last 500 years. Listen to a lot of opera too.

What do you do when you’re not working on art? I enjoy black magic vinyl, I like to dance!

But the company of my amazing friends is the most important thing for me. They are so advanced and I would be lost without them.