This is a preview of our piece on Devin Reynolds, which will be featured in upcoming issue 20, out this October.
Tyrone Don’t Surf was the aptly named first solo exhibition by Los Angeles artist Devin Reynolds in 2018. The title itself speaks directly to the duality of his upbringing being a young Black man from Venice Beach, California. From working on fishing boats to navigating the mostly white surf community, Reynolds has always had a specific point of view in his art practice; his aesthetics lean toward sign painting and graffiti in an original, honest style familiar to those who share a similar upbringing. This year he was part of the Shattered Glass group show at Jeffrey Deitch, solidifying that he’s one of the few coming to take equity in this new art world that is shying away from white male artists and growing more to accept a new diverse class of painters. I chatted with Reynolds about everything from …Lost Surfboards, The Beautiful Losers, to what it was like growing up in Venice, sign painting and more.
I noticed your collection of books in the entrance of your studio. Books say a lot about a person—what do they mean to you?
Books are it for me. I bet if you broke down my bank account more than half of my spending would be on books. I can’t say that I actually read anything, but studying and referencing art books is a big part of my practice. Two years ago I started collecting sign painting and typography related books, and I have a pretty sizable collection going. It’s everything from monographs to regional photography surveys, street photo-documentation to font alphabets, and everything in between. I’m trying to slow down, but I still go to the bookstore a couple days a week.
There’s a lot of energy coming from your building—really feels like the roots of a new movement are coming straight out of there. What’s it like sharing this space with everyone in there?
A part of me has a hard time answering this question. It’s a good one though, and the reality is that we are a part of a movement of painting and sculpture in Los Angeles. But I can’t say that we started it or are the only ones in the conversation. There’s five of us in our building, but when it comes down to it I would have to name about thirty or forty people that we are in conversation with in and around Los Angeles. At our studio it’s myself, Sonya Sombreuil, Mario Ayala, Rafa Esparza and Alfonzo Gonzalez Jr. I feel hella lucky to be in a building with such hard-working and inspiring artists. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be around people that are as stressed as me about making their work! But honestly, I couldn’t ask for a better group of peeps to share space and time with.
The movement you’re speaking about has a lot to do with our peer group tapping into our upbringings and communities through our art. Most of us grew up in relatively similar environments. Even though East LA is different from Venice, maybe the smells, bus lines and colors aren’t the same in Mid City as they are in South Central, but there are still central themes and motifs that bridge the geographical and cultural gaps between different parts of the city. If pop art appropriated consumer goods and commercial graphics, it feels like a lot of folks right now are using images and ideas that come from the physical fabric of our communities—walls, fences, textures, building materials.
You mentioned you grew up surfing and fishing and still continue to. Spaces that weren’t traditionally reserved for Black or Brown folks. Has the duality of your upbringing ever affected your interests? Did people around you growing up ever give you shit cause you were into these things?
I would like to thank The Pack for making it ok to wear Vans. Before that paradigm shift in California fashion I definitely got teased for wearing white boy shoes [laughs]. Do kids even tease each other anymore? Also, I grew up working on a fishing boat with three older Black dudes and a Japanese guy that’s darker than me. I didn’t think about the race and class stuff until I was an adult. I had one guy when I was in high school tell me to go back to Africa while surfing at El Porto, but he didn’t want the smoke and he ended up getting out of the water. I don’t even remember that being a big deal to me at the time. Nowadays I see that I am less inclined to connect with people in the surfing community because I don’t care to share space and time with rich people that surf all day long. I can think of a thousand different kinds of people I’d rather spend time with.
For more from Devin, follow @devinreynolds_ on Instagram.
Photography by Brian Overend.