Kai Aspire Pictures
Interview : Kai Aspire
Who are you ? And where are you from ?
Who am I ? That’s a hard one. I’m a guy who has something to say and makes sure he says it. I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California by a French-Tunisian father and Mexican-American mother. Our house was always filled with culture and passion.
What does your name mean ?
Kai means "triumphant" in Chinese, "ocean" in Hawaiian, and "keeper of keys" in North Germanic languages like Swedish and Norwegian. All those definitions are apt, but to me Kai is just something my family has called me forever. It was a nickname I was given as a baby — I couldn’t pronounce my name, so I would say Kai instead. When I hear someone call me Kai I know I’m at home.
What are your main influences - art and otherwise ?
My main influence is everyday life; light bulbs go off in my head all day long from things I see and words I hear. Artwise, all the greats influence me: [LIST SOME OF YOUR FAVORITES]. My father was an amazing teacher; he made sure that if I was going to do art I would have to do it the right way, by studying everything in the past before moving onto the present.
You studied to the School of Fine Arts (l’école des Beaux Arts) in Paris, great experience ? What did you learn ?
Yes, I did study there. Paris is AMAZING. The history of the city gave me so much inspiration. Just taking the metro, walking in the streets and experiencing the continual shifts in weather wrote a new story for me every day — I had the feeling that something great could happen at any moment. Meanwhile the school itself taught me a lot about discipline and technique and how to work at a high level. It taught me to respect art as a way of life.
You alternate between painting, sculpture, molding and sticking. Which art form do you prefer ?
I don’t know if I prefer one medium over another. I will say that I get a rush from being out on the street. What I really love is when my viewers understand the message and emotions I’m trying to convey. For me, art isn’t necessarily purely aesthetic but rather a message that is wrapped in some form of emotion that makes sense in that particular medium.I like to say "Plant and seed in their mind and let them decide if it grows or dies".
Did Morons — a reference to your father’s smoking — consolidate in you the misappropriation of consumer commodity ?
I don’t really understand the question. MORONS was the first of many works in which I made a statement using a consumer commodity. The reason I do this is to get a message across clearly and powerfully.
And the rappers in your works ?
Years ago, my father told me that if I was going to make art the right way, I would have to study the masters. Among many others, he had me study Rembrandt, Rubens, Frans Hals, Anthony van Dyck … the list goes on, but most of these Dutch/Flemish painters painted lords or noblemen, and their paintings tell us a lot about Renaissance Europe. The more I learned about their work, the more I realized how little of US history is being told through portraits. Rappers have a huge influence on today’s society, just as noblemen, kings and queens had in their time. So I created portraits of some of today’s most iconic rap and hip-hop artists in a style reminiscent of the great Northern Renaissance masters.
Tell us about Combo and Le Diamantaire ?
I had just moved to Paris when I met with a Swiss art collector named Haki Cakmak. I was looking for some Montana Gold spray paint, and I traded my paint for his stickers. He told me he would get me in contact with two great Parisian artists: Combo and Diamantaire. Sadly, right after he left Paris he got very ill and had to be hospitalized, so there was never a chance for him to introduce them to me. Time passed and Haki was starting to do better, thank G-d, but I still hadn’t met his friends. Then one day I’m riding the Metro and happen to be carrying a fresh oil painting of my work Morons. As I step off Line 8 I hear someone yelling “KAI? KAI?” and I turn around kind of confused and answer “Yes?” and Le Diamantaire introduces himself, explaining that he had recognized me because I was holding the painting. He invited me to his studio to meet with Combo. They showed me around, introduced me to their friends and really helped me enjoy Paris and the whole street art scene there. After I left Paris they came to LA to do some work while I prepared my LOST VALUES show. The two of them are great and I’m super grateful to have the pleasure of calling them friends.
What's in your toolbox ?
What’s NOT in my toolbox, you mean! I’m not afraid to go from spray paint to oils to sculpture to stickers to whatever else it takes to create a meaningful piece. Everything is fair game.
What's the most dangerous situation you've faced when doing street art ?
I’m not sure I’ve faced dangerous situations. Hold on, I take that back, I have encountered dangerous situations, but probably no more so than everyone else. I am at peace with the situations I get myself into and have come to realize that they come with the trade. I was arrested in Beverly Hills for doing my stop sign work. The Louvre takeover was supposed to be scary, but ended up being quite pleasant. I’ve fallen off a 20-foot ladder; that was scary but thank G-d I didn’t get hurt. When I’m planning something it can seem dangerous, but when I make it a reality I get so caught up in the moment that I have no sense of fear or danger.
Can you remember when you first picked up a spray can, and what did you create ?
I must have been about 14 or 15 the first time I picked up a can of spray paint. The first thing I did was tag my name. The next day I started making stencils and from there everything picked up pretty quickly.
How has your work evolved throughout the years ?
Over the years my work has completely changed. As I said earlier, I keep coming up with new ideas in new mediums and then set about learning them, from stencils to paintings to sculptures to my newest medium — sewing. The more I work, the more I perfect my craft. Hopefully I just keep getting better…like they say, practice makes perfect.
Are there any artists that you would like to collaborate with ?
For a long time I had a list of people I wanted to collaborate with — artists like KAWS, Retna, Surr, Chuck Close and the list really did go on and on. Today I don’t feel like collaborating with anyone. I just want to keep making good work with no distractions. But who knows, that may change!
What's next for you ?
That’s a surprise … but I am planning a show with Lulu Laboratorium in Miami for March and NYC for May. Let’s hope they pan out.
Who are your heroes ?
That’s another hard question to answer. All my life I have looked up to certain people: my father for his work ethic and creativity; my mother for her ability to stay cool and calm in the most outrageous situations; my neighbor for his ability to perform every trick on a skateboard. I wouldn’t say these are my heroes in the stereotypical romanticized way; it’s more that they are people from whom I can learn a thing or two.
What is the question that I didn’t ask and you would like to answer ?
I guess you could ask me where I see myself in the future. I see myself continuing to produce art while being able to provide for a family - living the California dream! Never selling out and making art that says just what I want it to say. Hopefully my work will have a reach way beyond my current Instagram followers and Facebook friends lol! Who knows, maybe I’ll found or curate a museum.
Thank you for reading and thank you to everyone who has supported me through the years, and a special thank you to all my fans with out you I wouldn’t be anything.
Posted by autopsi-art
Kai Aspire Links
Website : www.kaiart.com
Instagarm : kaiaspire
Facebook : Kai Aspire Art
Twitter : Kaiaspireart