ALIEN/ATION: Interview with Featured Artist Rick Kitagawa

July 5, 2010

Together with Paper Hat Productions, Hyphen will be hosting its first-ever illustration show, ALIEN/ATION, on July 10th. In the days leading up to the show, I'll be conducting short interviews with some of our awesome featured artists. Today I spoke with Rick Kitagawa of Paper Hat Productions.

KL: What is Paper Hat Productions, and what is it all about?

RK: I'm one of the co-founders, along with Eve Skylar. It's pretty much just the two of us.

We were looking to find ways to make gallery shows a bit different. Usually you walk in, have some wine, look at art for 20 minutes, and walk out. We want it to be an event that people can be excited about. DJs, cocktails, live entertainment, live art. Just a place where people can interact more with the art. Some audience members will definitely be walking away with some live art.

Another reason we started Paper Hat Productions was because we wanted to differentiate our event organization and gallery curating work from our work as Monkey + Seal, which is more of our graphic design, illustration, and art studio.

Talk about your own artwork.

I try to offer something that's a little different. I've recently been exploring the juxtaposition of text and image -- I'm very interested in hierarchies and the way that people perceive things, and how text can change an image or vice versa, and how they can interrelate.

And I always try to layer as much as possible in terms of themes and meanings and interpretations. I feel it gives my work a little bit more breadth. I want to be able to relate to a wider audience.

Can you give a specific example of how you use text to amplify an image or vice versa?

There's one piece, it's pretty much just a simple painting of a roll of toilet paper with a very drab background, and it says "I hate my job." It gets different reactions. People who really hate their job think it's a funny image. For me, it's like, "No matter how bad your job is, your job could be to wipe people's butts."

Will we see this piece at the show?

No -- for this show I'm going down a different route. I'll be exploring the notion of personal demons, and giving an image of an actual creature, an actual monster, to those personal demons. For example, one of the paintings I'm working on is of a woman who's a little emaciated and her demon is painted literally as a bone creature that's coming out of her mouth. I wanted to allude to eating disorders and to physicalize the inner torment that the people who suffer from those disorders go through.

Tell me about how the ALIEN/ATION show came into being. Whose idea was it?

We were friends with Lisa [Hyphen's publisher] previously from UC Berkeley. She approached us with the idea of an illustration show, as a way to give back to Hyphen's illustrators and showcase their work. We were definitely excited to sit down and work with both Hyphen and the illustrators that they had worked with previously, because they're all very talented.

How about the title of the show?

The title is something that Eve came up with. She thought that it fit really well with the whole idea of what Hyphen is trying to do, in terms of bridging these cultural gaps between what's percieved as American, Asian, and Asian American, and the identity politics behind that.

We wanted to have the title represent multiple meanings, whether it's "alienation" as one word, feeling like you're alone and without other people you can relate to, whether that loneliness is emotional or physical. And the idea of an alien, someone who doesn't belong here. And we also have people who just want to paint aliens and monsters.

We wanted to speak to the Hyphen audience as well as give artists some breadth in what they wanted to cover.

ALIEN/ATION will be held on July 10th at Space Gallery in San Francisco. For more information about the event and more interviews with the featured artists, follow this link.