"Kio" 40 x 36 acrylic on panel 2017

A Conversation with Bryan Ida

Mona Kuhn, curator of the 2023 Billboard Exhibition sat down with guest artist Bryan Ida.

MK: The upcoming billboard exhibition "We the People" opens on February 3, 2023, and I am thrilled to have your work included. The curatorial process started a few months ago, when I started looking at all the submissions, and in a way, started feeling the pulse of what is happening in our communities. While looking at all the works, I felt that there was a strong presence of works related to this subject, including one work titled that way by Ingrid Menendez artist. There was a clear underlying current of unity coming thru the works. It became clear to me that we, as an artistic community, as the people, as diverse as we are, that this collective "pulse" wants to project a unifying message forward. Where were you in your thoughts when you started this series?

BI: I was thinking about how I could portray the angst, anger and resentment of the ongoing political and social climate without referencing it through obvious pathways. I was looking for something that would be a step or two away from actual events, so I decided to work on a series of paintings and drawings that depict artists and curators as a way to convey something about the political zeitgeist. I chose artists and curators because they are a group of people who strive to communicate the hidden reaches of interpretation that represent and communicate a more profound form of expression. 
"Gay" 1 7x23 Acrylic on panel 2017
MK: As an artist, I admire how you picked up on that collective unconscious energy that we all felt, and how you transformed it into your own works.  How did you go about carving your own expression and path ahead, within all that turmoil?

BI: Each time you step further away from the source material, distortion and bias grow, as each person interprets and gives meaning to events differently.  I try to interpret and communicate in these portraits, each person’s awareness and reaction to the current reality, and show a deeper awareness of the political and social atmosphere in which we live.  I chose to represent the face, as it is the most identifiable and expressive part of the human form, and by offering multiple angles and views of the same subject, it shows the many facets and angles that each person perceives and emanates. The interaction between the many layers references my previous work, by using hard edge forms and multiple glazes, I create relationships between the foreground, middle ground and background that communicates the interconnections between our various subjective planes of reality and exemplifies the complexity of each individual personality and the different ways we are perceived. Each fragmented portrait's covers and reveals itself, the underlying forms and images capturing the compiled complexity of the moment.

MK: Specifically about your painting "Kio" included in this exhibition, is that the same person seen from various planes? Can you tell us a bit about how this painting came to life?

BI: Yes,”Kio” comprises three views of the same person juxtaposed in a unique way on top, beside and underneath each image. Kio as an artist explores pan-nationality and pan-sensory subjects as he researches and mines historical sociolinguistic references that amplify awareness of temporal events past, present and future so his inclusion in my series was obvious to me. 

MK: It is interesting for me to see how you work with your subjects. You not only delved deep into their lives but also transform their and your life into a series of paintings. In doing so, you interacted with various people from all walks of life. Can you tell us about your connection with your subjects?

BI: Every person has a history and connection to the theme of these portraits and I have a personal connection to each subject of the portraits. As I absorb their stories of courage and triumph over oppression I am reminded we live with these truths on a daily basis and each narrative has a relevance and power all its own and they deserve to be felt and heard. A person’s story is a lifetime of experience and learning to get to this point in time and we all share in parts of the biography that depict struggle, grief, perseverance, and strength.
"Megan" 36 x 32 acrylic on panel 2017
"Jill" 36x32 acrylic on panel 2017
MK: I noticed you have 3 museum exhibitions opening up in 2023. Tell us more about it, are the works being featured from different series?

BI: I have a solo show at the de Saisset Museum in Santa Clara opening in January that will feature my ink on panel portraits titled “con.Text”. In this series of portraits I relate individual family histories to examples of historic institutional racism and discrimination. It features ink on panel drawings that bring light to the emotional narratives of people who are connected and share common experiences through time.

I research and reference the text from government documents and use the words from those documents as my mark to render each person with the very words that affect them. Using the word as a building block in the formation of the portraits does not label or define the subject by the words being used, instead the words are blended together and blurred and they are transformed from a label to a broader gesture that is used to define a new visual standard of vitality and beauty.

MK: That's wonderful, so you will start Jan 2023 on the right foot: a solo museum exhibition and billboard exhibition. Did I also see your works will be featured in a couple more exhibitions this Spring?

BI: Yes, It will be a busy spring, fortunately I have the work finished! I will be a part of a group show at Torrance Art Museum opening in January titled “Bridging the Pacific” an exhibition of Japanese diaspora artists that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Sister City program between Torrance and Kashiwa, Japan. In May I will be a part of  “The Circle of Sam: The California-Based Studios of Sam Francis “ The show will highlight work made by Sam in his thriving California studios and survey artists who worked alongside him as studio assistants. It will be great to see so many familiar faces from all those years ago come together again to celebrate art.
"Melissa" 40x36 acrylic on panel 2017
"Gary" 23x30 acrylic on panel 2017
MK: It’s so inspiring to see your works reaching this level of recognition. At times, young artists need encouragement so that they can envision that path ahead for themselves.  Can you tell us about how this journey started for you?

BI: I grew up playing music and participating in youth symphony and band. This early passion for music led to me studying electronic music composition and computer sound design in college. After college, I went to work for Sam Francis, the noted abstract expressionist painter, as his studio assistant. I vividly recall helping him with buckets of paint and painting tools, taking photographs and archiving this period in time. Working side by side with Sam, I had the opportunity to absorb some of his knowledge and to instinctively understand his perspective, we would often talk about the correlation between music and painting and how it is the expression of the same consciousness and creativity, but is conveyed through different senses. In the early 90’s Sam moved me down to Los Angeles into his big studio in Venice and he would be instrumental in the change of my artistic expression from music to painting. He helped me realize that the artistic language that was most natural for me was visual and I had the ability to put together visual thoughts and phrases much easier than with music. Through his generosity he allowed me to paint in his Venice studio that he no longer used and I started my life long journey into visual arts.
MK: Let's talk about scale. As you well know, some works work well very large, while others should remain small and intimate.  During our last billboard exhibition, I had a lot of fun bringing the works from NFT artists, from the digital real into a larger than life billboard scale in an urban setting like LA. How does scale play a role in your work?

BI: Scale is a very interesting subject. To go from drawing to painting to mural is not always so simple. Scale is a visual skill, something an artist has to develop and practice to get good at it. Images and objects don’t always look right as they scale up. One must consider and adjust such things as point of view, perspective, and human scale to make an image work in a large format.It will be interesting to see how the squares and lines I used in “Kio” will translate to such a large image viewed from relatively far away and below.
"Ben" 23x17 acrylic on panel 2017
"Dani" 23x18 acrylic on panel 2017
About the Artist:

Bryan Ida's work presented in We the People is from his portrait series that began in 2016 to address the political zeitgeist. Through his fragmented portraits of artists and curators, he tries to interpret and communicate each person's awareness and reaction to the current reality and show a deeper understanding of the political and social atmosphere in which we live.  Artist website

About the curator:

Mona Kuhn is a photographer and lens-based media artist. Throughout a career spanning more than 20 years, Kuhn's work is in private and public collections worldwide, as well as LA museums such as the The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Hammer Museum. Since 2015, she has curated major billboard exhibitions for TBC featuring a selection of 100 artists' works displayed on large-scale billboards located in major intersections across Los Angeles. Kuhn has helped TBC recruit emerging artists, NFT artists and brought the guest artist program to life with international artists such as Ed Ruscha, Paul McCarthy, and Alex Prager to help bring further recognition to the overall billboard exhibition. Her passion for supporting emerging artists to achieve their goals has inspired the rest of the team at TBC. Kuhn lives and works in Los Angeles.

TBC|Interview takes a deep dive into the minds of today’s most vibrant and enigmatic creators worldwide. The series takes a uniquely intimate look at some of the most intriguing voices working outside of the mainstream spotlight.
More Interviews