B+ (aka Brian Cross) was born and raised in Limerick, Ireland. He attended the National College of Art and Design in Dublin graduating in 1989 with a degree in painting. In 1990 he came to Los Angeles to study photography at the California Institute of the Arts. While at Cal Arts he began work on a project entitled, “Its Not about a Salary: Rap Race and Resistance in Los Angeles” which was subsequently published by Verso Books in 1993. It was nominated as a Rolling Stone music book of the year and made the NME list for best music book of the year.
Since the publication of the book B+ has continued to work in the LA Hip Hop community. His first album cover work was for the Freestyle Fellowship (Inner City Griots). Since then he has done an estimated one hundred more for artists from Mos Def, Rza, and Eazy-E to Company Flow, J Dilla, and Damian Marley.
B+ has directed several music videos for DJ Shadow, Nitro Microphone Underground (from Japan), and Control Machete (from Mexico). His latest venture puts old school drummers together with new school DJs and is entitled Keepintime: Talking Drums and Whispering Vinyl. The DVD of the project was released by Mochilla, Cross’s production company with partner Eric Coleman, and was a big success; subsequently the Sundance Channel bought the TV rights and Ninja Tune released it in Europe and Australia. The sequel Brasilintime: Batucada com Discos has just recently been finished and has premiered in Sao Paulo Brasil and is currently doing the film festival circuit. B+ still lives in LA, answers his own phone, photo edits for Wax Poetics magazine, still digs like crazy and DJs from time to time. We are fortunate to have B+ discuss his contribution to “I LOVE LA”.
Which work will you be exhibiting? Why did you select this piece?
I will be selecting three images from the Timeless series: The first is an image of Carnival in Recife, Brasil. Brasil is a favorite subject for me as I am fascinated with the music and social infrastructure there. We began working there for the Brasilintime project from 2002–06 but Timeless has given us a chance to work with Brasilians again this time with Arthur Verocai.
The next two images will all relate to the Timeless shows. They are images from Brasil, Ethiopia, and Detroit.
Please talk about the art scene in LA: What is it like as an industry? What is it like as a community?
I’ve mainly worked in and around the Hip Hop music and culture scene in Los Angeles for almost 20 years, at times it intersects with the Art scene but more likely not. Our scene is quite close knit, but very receptive. We build trust that takes time but it lasts. This community is well supported worldwide but also knows how to support itself.
As an industry it can be quite barren. It still has some of the quaint naiveté of a cottage industry. It would be foolish to think that there are really any comparisons to be made with the Hollywood Film industry—although the level of productions we pull off sometimes rely heavily on our proximity.
What part of LA do you live and work in? How does it influence your work as an artist?
I live on the Eastside. Eagle Rock to be exact. I think there is a great sense on this side of town that we are the sleeping giant. Most people only know about the Westside or Hollywood, but the real key to understanding Lo Angeles is east of Western Ave.
For the most part all that I am involved with exists here. We can be quiet territorial in Los Angeles but in the end everyone comes to this side and gets down.
Why should people buy art?
People should support creativity at its most fundamental level. That includes buying Art from the most popular forms like popular music and or performance to the more permanent forms like Visual Art. In the end we live in a very disposable culture, Art offers an opportunity to have something that has a value beyond the normal surplus.
Do you collect art? Who do you collect and why?
I’m more of an investor in Art. Usually my own. But I have traded over the years quite a bit.
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