Estevan Oriol began his career in the entertainment industry in the late 1980s as a club bouncer at Los Angeles' most popular Hip-Hop clubs and infamous Hollywood hangouts. It was there that Estevan first linked up with his Soul Assassin brothers from South Gate, Cypress Hill. Eager to expand his knowledge of the business, Estevan secured a job as tour manager for the rap group, House of Pain, in 1992. Estevan invoked his unique photography style to catalogue the outrageous experiences he had on tour and began taking pictures of his neighborhood homies and the low rider culture. He had a gift for capturing the raw essence of street life through his photography.
In 1995, after collaborating on various projects with Mr. Cartoon, a world famous Los Angeles based artist, the two joined forces in 1995 to create Joker Brand Clothing. A decade later, Mr. Cartoon and Estevan expanded their empire, using their unique talents to assist brands and companies in reaching the coveted Hispanic Urban market place through the establishment of SA Studios Agency, a multi-cultural multimedia design/art company. SA orchestrated a highly successful collaboration art show sponsored by Nike called Cultura, based on the line of shoes completed for Nike. SA's clients include Harley Davidson, Nike, Toyota, T-Mobile, and Rockstar Games.
Today, in addition to being CEO of Joker Brand Clothing and his full time career as a photographer, Estevan directs music videos for groups including Eminem, Cypress Hill, D12, Linkin Park, Blink 182, Paul Wall, P.O.D., and Xzibit. He devised shooting campaigns for Nike, Rockford Fosgate, and Cadillac. He has directed new media projects for My Cadillac stories, MTV, and Apple Computer.
We are fortunate to have Estevan Oriol discuss his contribution to “I LOVE LA” and his vision of art in the Digital Age.
Which work will you be exhibiting? Why did you select this piece? It’s one of my iconic and probably the most influential and inspiring pieces in my collection. It is called L.A. Fingers. I chose this one because it represents where I'm from and what I'm about. I shot in 1995 when I started doing photography and I had no idea that it would make such an impact. Even Nike did a shirt with reference to this photo. There's a good ten companies that have imitated this image in their clothing lines but I was most surprised when Nike did one.
What is your charity or cause? Why did you select this? Where does community work fit in with your ethos as an artist? I chose Homeboy Industries in Downtown LA. There are so many charities that do the same thing but I think what father Greg Boyle and his team do is unique and I have seen the results firsthand. He's helped out friends of mine. They have the tattoo removal, the bakery, restaurant, gift shop, and all types of programs to help people get jobs, education, self improvement, and help with addictions.
Please talk about the art scene in LA: What is it like as an industry? What is it like as a community?
It’s good right now, very active. People are still buying even though the economy isn't so hot, not for as much as before but it’s getting better. It got bad for a minute. The community is good, everyone has their cliques but a lot of people support. The downtown LA and the Culver City art walks bring out a lot of people. MOPLA and Photo LA get a lot of support too. Jeffery Deitch came out from New York to run MOCA. Things are getting good. The one bad thing I noticed lately is how bad they are cracking down on graffiti. They are treating them like hardcore criminals.
Where in LA do you live and work? How does this neighborhood affect your work as an artist?
I live in San Fernando Valley and work in East Downtown by the LA River. It affects me a great deal there is a lot of homeless downtown, so you never get a chance to get ungrateful. I love downtown it has great locations for shooting and we are right next to the LA River. East LA Is right over the bridge, we are close to everything. Where I live my block is cool but the neighborhood always has something going on; the ghetto bird is always by the pad It makes me feel like Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas” when the helicopter was following him.
Why should people buy art?
To support that community of people. A lot of walls would be empty if it weren't for artists and people who collect. Art is people stories.
Do you collect art? Who do you collect and why?
Yes I do, random artists and ones that I can afford. I have originals from Retna, Date Farmers, Hanky Panky, Mr. Cartoon, prints by David Choe, photos from at least ten photographers. I also have a big collection of art and photography books.
What are your thoughts on the traditional role of the gallery in nurturing an artist’s career? How do you think artists will evolve in response to non-traditional (online) sales opportunities?
Times have changed. The Internet has made it more “Do It Yourself” for any kind of artist. You no longer need galleries, agents or managers, but at the same time most likely you will get less money and not get the respect you want if you do it yourself. I'm in the process in looking for gallery representation now finally after all these years; I have shown in over 50 shows worldwide.
How did you connect with Cat Jimenez? What are your thoughts on Edition One Hundred?
I met Cat when Cartoon and I did some work with Nike at the Blue House, and then again for a projection show she was curating for MOPLA. Edition One Hundred is a cool way to make the art affordable and to get you exposed to new people. I get to pick a charity of my choice (Homeboy Industries) for a percentage of the sales, which feels good to sell some art and know you are helping people at the same time.
What are your thoughts on Art in the Digital Age? I thinks its the fast food of the art form. It’s cheating but if you don't go with the time you get left behind .I have seen some better printing lately. I still shoot film 35 mm,120 mm, and 16mm for myself but if a customer wants to play the no budget card, I shoot it digital. I don't like too but they me force to, photography is my source of income. They even have phone apps that has people thinking they're photographers now.
Edition One Hundred is curated, limited edition art available in editions of 100, priced at $100.00. Prints are hand-signed and numbered by the artists in a size and/or print exclusive to Edition One Hundred. More here.