Born and raised in San Francisco, Apex has been doing street art since 1992, when he was just 14. Now, at age 34, he's one of San Francisco's veteran practitioners -- someone whose spray-paintings are instantly recognizable. Loops, lines, and half-circles converge into a nucleus, which often splits apart at the outer edges. With bold colors, and intricate shading and paint strokes -- like that of an Impressionist painter -- Apex's creations stand out from outdoor walls around San Francisco, and also at 941Geary gallery in an exhibit called "Reflected" that continues until January 5.
SF Weekly spoke with Apex about the exhibit, his large mural at Haight and Masonic (created in August), and the state of street art in a city with dwindling spaces for artists. Apex, whose given name is Ricardo Richey, has exhibited in galleries around the Bay Area, including Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and has been an artist in residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts.
Your new exhibit gives you a large gallery space where you could do anything you wanted. You created 12 large paintings, and 12 small, framed variations of the same bright images, along with a dark grid pattern on the floor and walls. What's the story behind "Reflected"?
The architecture of the gallery dictated a different presentation and approach. With all the raw wood and brick, and because the space is so open, I wanted to engage the viewer more -- to have the viewer participate more. The wall and the floor all have a continuing pattern, and it starts in the center of the floor and works its way out -- mirroring itself, to go with the theme of the show. The space is so big I wanted to darken the space, and then have bright canvases. On their own, they're bright but also subtle and soothing. It makes the space small, even though you're aware the space is big.
The intricate forms in your art remind me a lot of fragmented letters, architectural patterns -- even freeway ramps from a distance. There's a reason for that, right?
I love every field of architecture -- from landscape architecture to urban design -- and lines that occur in nature and the lines that are man-made. If you stand on the street, you see a city one way. If you're flying over a city, you see it in a different light. Both are different levels of abstraction in my mind. With my work, it's all about how far I can abstract the root of where it comes from. And then when it breaks down, what do I get? What new ideas come from that? That's the most interesting thing for me. When people say my work reminds them of different things that I personally enjoy, it lets me know that not only is my painting signature in the work, the work is deeply related to who I am as an artist -- that those interests are coming through the work. I have a wide gamut of interests. No one who has ever said, "Oh, I see this in your work," was completely wrong.
Up next: Is it a good time to be a street artist in S.F.?