In an ongoing series called “Gallery Exhibitions in Spaces but not in Space” where I talk to artists that have a gallery space at CSULB, this week I delve into the work of Jaycen Mont Rios. First things first, let me get this off my chest, Jaycen has a dope ass name, from the way “Jaycen” is spelt, to his last names, Mont and Rios. (Two last names?! I can only imagine how astonishing the story for his family genealogy is) Full disclosure on my part, Jaycen isn’t some random artist stranger that I interviewed (though that would be fun to do, so I already have. I’ll be posting that blog post soon, so stay tuned) but I actually spends about 3 hours with him every Tuesday and Thursday in Foundry class.
So the story goes like this, this is first semester I met the guy and before I can talk about his art, let me tell you about him. He is by far the most chillest dude I have met in college. And that’s saying a lot, since I’ve already spent a good four years interacting with the Cal State Long Beach populous. Here’s why he’s the most laid-back dude I know, the way he speaks is very calm and nonchalant, never rushes to finish a sentence and you can instantly tell when you talk to him that he’s just going with life’s flows. He’s too cool to have self-induced stress. Furthermore, he’s the kind of guy that always looks on the bright side. As you know, (if you live in Southern California) we’ve been struck with a sickening heat wave as of late and people (me included) constantly complain about the heat and I’ll always remembered how he humbled me in class by saying, “It’s hot, yeah, but it’s not that hot. People live in hotter places, we’re just not used to it in California.” Consider that statement for a moment at face value, ‘yes it’s hot but there are hotter places in this world we’re just not used to the heat spike’ and now consider it with another meaning, a deeper empathic one, ‘some people live in different States or countries with much worse heat than we do so we shouldn’t complain but instead we should remember this face and be grateful we don’t have it so bad’. (Of course I would in my usual read-way-too-much-into-a-simple-statement-self get to that conclusion) So this was what Jaycen’s concept for his show .Stoned was all about: duality, the face value or our self-interpretation of the content that the art presents compared to the actual meaning/intent of the work.
Jaycen shared the Merlino gallery with other printmakers but he had the whole left wall to himself which he hung four prints from the wall. Of the four, two of those prints got a lot of attention from the visitors while I was interviewing him for this blog post but let’s start with the title of his show: .stoned. It’s a major hint to what his show will be all about. A double entendre of being under the influence with mary jane and of the process of lithography in which stones are etched upon to be used as like giant stamps to create the prints for the show. The first one was a print of a blown-up hand flicking off the viewer, with the words ‘To: Charles Banowetz” scrawled in the upper left-hand corner of the print. On two separate occasions, this print was asked about but more specifically asked about who was Charles Banowetz and What did he do you to get his name on this print? The middle finger is a very powerful gesture and to address it someone made the image that more powerful so people we’re intrigued. I can definitely say nobody and I mean nobody would think that that middle finger to Charles Banowetz was meant as a nice gesture but it actually was. Jaycen explained that Charlez Banowetz is a friend of his who graduated Cal State Long Beach and to include his name in the work was meant as a respectful gesture not a disrespectful one. He further explained that sometimes you just have those friends that you can be rude to, or do otherwise offensive things too but hey, they’re that friend that will just end up doing the same to you with the same offensiveness admiration. So as a jest, a giant “F-You” to a friend was produced with good-natured intentions.
The second print that also garnered attention was Ladies Love the D (personally my favorite because of its double entendre). The image consisted of two silhouettes of two ladies in flower dresses (the kind of dresses that you would picture on 1950’s white-picket fences mothers to wear while they call in their children for supper) with their backs turned to the viewer intently looking at a car. Finally on the print was the words; Ladies Love the D. As I sat with Jaycen talking about whatever the hell we were talking about during that time, two older ladies come out of the gallery and starts to talk to Jaycen about his work. One of them (a gentle, tranquil looking lady, who rolled around a backpack) tells us about how she stood there looking at Ladies Love the D while trying to figure about what the “D” stood for. She then recited all the words started with the letter “D” and even the dirty letter “D” but wanted to know from the artist what he was trying to tell viewer. He said that the “D” stood for Datsun, the car brand since he loved Datsuns and as to why he loves them so much, “Because they’re different than other cars.” I’m telling you, this guy is too chill. To be fair to that old lady, I for one didn’t know what the “D” stood for but at face value I thought it just meant the typical “D”. I saw the car on the print plain as day but I just thought, “Huh, the “D”, that hilarious.”
But it wasn’t the “D”, but an idea, a lesson that Jaycen taught me and hopefully other people through his work, a lesson that we all know by heart but we don’t realize often; the face value or our self-interpretation of anything are only half of the content presented compared to the wondrously, amazingly full and actual meaning/intent that we instinctively miss when we just look and don’t ask.