1xRUN Thru Interview
Truth Automation by Nathan Spoor
1xRun: Tell us a little bit about this piece, is there anything immediate you would like to highlight?
Nathan Spoor: I think the highlights of the piece are all in the characters and energy they generate. It’s the same sort of frenetic energy that I got from looking through a ton of Ralph Steadman’s work and reading Hunter S. Thompson’s words, occasionally illustrated with Steadman’s drawings.
1xRun: When was this piece created and what materials were used?
Nathan Spoor: The paintings were made over the course of several months last year, 2013. I painted this with acrylics on a canvas stretched over a wood frame.
1xRun: Tell us how the idea and execution came about?
Nathan Spoor: I was inspired by the double-feature articles I was writing for Juxtapoz last year, a cover feature on Ralph Steadman and a piece on Hunter S. Thompson. I researched for about three months, reading everything I could find, looking at all the images, articles, documentaries and interviews I could find online. I collected both of their books as I continued researching, trying to find first printings or hard to find books of Steadman’s art so I could hold something with that original energy – it might sound silly but I’m old fashioned in some ways. So while I was doing the research and reading, I was also coming up with ideas and did a decent sized piece about the collaborative madness that Steadman and Hunter shared. I also really liked what Steadman had to say about covering the Patty Hearst trial, so I did a self-portrait modeling my painting after a cool collage piece Steadman did in 1976.
1xRun: How long did the piece take?
Nathan Spoor: The painting took a few months, I really don’t keep track of how long paintings take anymore so I have to apologize when people ask me this – I work so slow and methodically that it doesn’t help me mentally to watch the clock. I think it probably took about 6 or 7 months to finish both paintings.
1xRun: What is unique about this piece?
Nathan Spoor: What’s unique about this piece is that it exists as a fun exercise of me being influenced by the ideas, words and pictures from some pretty radical creative thinkers. Most of the characters in the piece are manifestations of Steadman’s reactions to Hunter’s wild Gonzo persona and my imaginings of how they would all huddle together around a core value in Hunter S. Thompson’s work – the eternal search for truth.
1xRun: Why should people buy this print?
Nathan Spoor: I’d rather sit with someone and hear what they enjoy about a painting really, you know? It sounds like a cop out, but it’s really enjoyable to hear why an individual really has to have art in their lives than try to sell someone on a painting. It makes me feel weird, like I’m on the wrong side of the equation. I respect salespeople and am really intrigued by the good ones – the ones that let the item sell itself to the person that has a connection to it. Collecting art is a personal choice and I support that, I’m really curious what draws people to art. This piece in particular won’t happen again, that’s part of what makes it unique and one-of-a-kind. That’s a really attractive quality for collecting, and that’s what makes something more attractive than an item or painting that an artist can do over and over again. These paintings and prints are emanations of a deep affection that I was inspired to create, and it exists as a tribute to two great minds and creative revolutionaries.
1xRun: Describe the piece in one word.
Nathan Spoor: Gonzo.
1xRun: This piece highlights writer Hunter S. Thompson, describe your introduction to Hunter for us.
Nathan Spoor: I got turned on to Hunter by a friend in school and just loved it. It was like reading Keroac’s “On The Road” for me. It blew my mind in how well he could turn a phrase to his will and make words function in a way that created pictures dance across my mind. That sort of gift is magical and energizing. Reading Hunter’s work inspires and engages parts of the mind that are excited by life in motion.
1xRun: What are some of the aspects that you enjoy about Hunter’s writing?
Nathan Spoor: Ah I could go on for a while, but I’d end up just quoting what I wrote in that article. Check out Juxtapoz issue 147, April 2013. I feel like that did him a bit of justice if even a small bit. Hunter was an iconoclastic journalist and outlaw writer that really was the living voice of the counterculture and the chronicler of that history.
1xRun: You mentioned that you did a larger feature story on Ralph Steadman for Juxtapoz, tell us a bit about what went into assembling that story…
Nathan Spoor: Yeah, I was commissioned by Juxtapoz to do two features – a cover feature on Ralph Steadman and one on Hunter S. Thompson. The Hunter S. Thompson feature was smaller, more of a life review and my admiration of his wild ethos. The Steadman feature was a major piece about the height of his work during the Gonzo years, working with Hunter. What went into that was several months of reading, looking at pictures, watching documentaries and interviews, etc. It was fun, and truly none of it can be called a complete telling of their stories – but I feel it was a good effort and a lot of fun.
1xRun: What were some of your favorite tidbits you uncovered in putting that piece together?
Nathan Spoor: I think my favorite part was calling up famed movie producer Stephen Nemeth, who produced Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and getting to hear some of his stories of what Hunter was like during that whole thing. It was hilarious, he had me cracking up and even though we only had time to get into a few things he says that this story was pretty standard for anyone who worked with or knew Hunter (from the Juxtapoz feature):
1998 would see the literary treasure of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas re-imagined as a hit film starring Johnny Depp and directed by surreal visionary Terry Gilliam. Depp, alongside his counterpart Dr. Gonzo played brilliantly by Benicio del Toro, captures the essence of Hunter in the movie; which invited viewers to take the risk of being on the ride into the sunset search for the American Dream with him. Stephen Nemeth, the film’s producer would confess to us that all of the stories of Hunter’s legend are true, reciting tales of how Hunter would arrive (late) to dinner engagements “coming down stairs with a Bloody Mary in hand, the waitress came over and Hunter said “I’ll take 3 more of these, 3 Heinekens, a Triple Chavez but make it in a pretty glass and a Schramsburg Blanc de Noir.” Then he pulled a grinder of cocaine right there at the restaurant, offered it to us and made it disappear right at the table. The production company rented a big white Mercedes for Hunter as well: “So anyways, that night he lost his rental car. Lost the whole car who knows where. At 4:30 the next afternoon Adele the assistant came in and said ‘Hunter has lost his rental car. ‘I said what? He clearly went somewhere and parked, partied, and left with someone else and hadn’t even considered that he had a car when he arrived.” Ah Hunter, you do your legacy proud!
1xRun: Did you have a favorite book, article, story or any type of film related to Hunter S. Thompson?
Nathan Spoor: The Fear and Loathing movie was my first visual account, and it worked out that I was lucky enough to spend time with the producer and get his stories. I remember seeing that at some point in grad school I think? Maybe after. But it was surreal and I’ve always been drawn to Terry Gilliam’s work so that was a very cool crossroad of creative genius. I’d recommend any of Hunter’s books to someone wanting to see what he’s all about, you can pretty much jump in anywhere and get weird. The Hell’s Angels book was his first big break, the Kentucky Derby article really established his Gonzo style of journalism – really fun reading. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas isn’t super long and is hilarious.
1xRun: Do you have any upcoming events or shows?
Nathan Spoor: I’m working on a couple big things coming up soon – I’m curating a new Suggestivism exhibit called Chronology that opens August 16 at Copro Gallery in Santa Monica, CA (full artist list on my website). There’s also a really amazing exhibit titled Masterworks: Defining A New Narrative that focuses on large-scale paintings from 14 dynamic artists that have been consistently adding to the new contemporary narrative of painting for at least 10 years or more. That will be put on by Long Beach Museum of Art, debuting October 23rd (complete with a giant book from Gingko Press + LBMA – amazing!). So please come out to one of those and say hi!