Not Today Satan: Interview with T-Rex
Written by Logan Brown
Not Today Satan is LA-based artist Tyler Rexeisen's (T-Rex) newest solo exhibition on Serving the People. Typically inspired by a combination of the natural world, Los Angeles grit, and his background in clothing design, this new show is Lunar New Year themed and features a twist on his emblematic red figures. He sits with Logan Brown to talk about the new year, his inspiration, and the shift from fashion design to drawing and painting.
Logan Brown: What are you inspired by lately?
Tyler Rexeisen: Light, painters, Francis Bacon, and paint on canvas. George Condos; his medium, his style. I was in an art academy and got kicked out, so I learned the basics then I winged it from there.
LB: What message are you trying to convey through the theme of Lunar New Year?
TR: I’d like to encourage people to be open-minded; to know about things that are happening on the other side of the world. A lot of people are just living in their own bubble, and they've never been out of it. More people in the world probably celebrate Chinese New Year than regular new year. It obviously originates in China, but it takes place ceremonially in places everywhere around the world.
LB: How does your work correlate to Chinese New Year themes and where does that inspiration come from?
TR: It's the year of the ox, and I’m a Taurus, so I really feel connected to horns. I’m a very earthy person. I felt like it all fell into place. The Chinese language has so many words for red. It could mean red, but it could mean a revolutionary. You could say something's red and it could mean that it's sincere. It could simply be this scarlet color. So I'm really into red and the psychology of it.
LB: How come?
TR: I'm kind of color blind.
TR: That's like one of the colors that I always knew. It feels like there used to be a lot of pain in it for me. Sometimes I see pain in a certain red. There are so many different reds that make you feel different ways. I want to dig more into that this year.
LB: How would you imagine your creations celebrating the new year?
TR: Something really accessible, like giving out a blessing- red envelopes with blessings in each one.
LB: Being international, what's your perspective on a year with “new beginnings?”
TR: What do you mean by new beginnings?
LB: Well, with it being the new moon cycle, for the eastern perspective it's a kind of new year. For the western, the new year starts on December 31st. You get the best of both worlds if you focus on both. What does that look like for you to have two in one year?
TR: It brightens up the year.
LB: Yeah, that's great. Start the new year on December 31st and then start it over again if you're not loving it by February! Which one do you find resonates on a more personal level for you and why?
TR: I'd say both, equally.
LB: The piece with the multiple girls in the bed with the automatics, I thought that piece was phenomenal, from the horns accompanying each girl to the solitude of a sleeping person persona. Do you take into consideration the contradictions or polarities that come with the work?
TR: Yeah, definitely. I wanted to show a lot of tension. Sleep with one eye open, be always on guard.
LB: Where does that stem from? What were you feeling when you made that piece?
TR: Maybe it just stems from being a bad kid and relating to that. All my friends were just getting me into trouble growing up.
LB: Could you explain how you go about experiencing the energy that you bring about?
TR: I really like loud music. I could listen to any type of music and absorb that energy. Music 1000% is an important energy source for me. I also wake up really early and catch the sunrise in my window. I don't know if that has anything to do with it, but it’s a ritual for me.
LB: There's a serenity in that. Your work talks about anger and seeing pain, but at the same time you have a ritual that brings peace and calmness to you when you wake up. That's very interesting.
TR: It's like healing, day to day.
LB: Are you more interested in global or local recognition of your work?
TR: Definitely global. I could've done shows in LA so many times and but wasn't as interested. Not yet.
LB: What made you decide to do Japan first?
TR: I guess it was Japan that chose me. I love Japan and they love me back.
LB: What have you found has been most effective way to connect with your audience?
TR: Definitely Instagram.
LB: What in your creations has challenged your perception of the world around you?
TR: The power of manifestation. The things I choose to make in my art attract a certain type of person who I feel are my people. I'm always just in my head and living in my eyes. Even this interview is kind of hard. (My artwork is) how I can get people together and that's my form of speech.
LB: Has that always been the case for you?
TR: No. Before it was just a talent, not really something that could bring people together.
LB: What does this experience provide for you in relation to the completion and rebirth of the moon cycle? How do you feel today?
TR: I feel like an artist today.
LB: You don't feel like an artist every day?
TR: Not every day. Sometimes I feel like a graphic designer. Sometimes I feel like a shipping boy or a sticker salesman. On rare occasions, I get to really put something original out.
LB: What was the shift from fashion to painting like for you? Is there a different consumer producer relationship to fashion than art pieces?
TR: Yeah, usually. With designing fashion, there’s a lot of people involved. Fashion is not an art where it's just me. There's a lot of people and input that goes into fashion. They're both fun.
LB: When did your art career start?
TR: Well, my streetwear career died. I was out of money and it takes money to have these brands. I took it back to it's essence and started making art one-on-one. That was probably 2017. 2018 is when I really just dropped everything.
LB: Have you found yourself more by expressing through painting?
TR: I do good when I'm just making myself happy. The pieces in this show were me getting inspired by watercolor masters. They start in elements which help me find myself.
LB: What motivates you to experiment with new mediums?
TR: I'll have different artists come to my studio and then I can work with them, then I can step out of my comfort zone. I worked with Chito, he came in with an airbrush machine and that was the first time I ever got to use it. I was really excited. People, collaborations, and other artists motivate me to step out.
LB: What advice do you have for the new generation of artists that are starting out today?
TR: Stay confident, as if you can't fail. Be patient. We live in an instant gratification type of world. I'm definitely one of those people that likes instant gratification but it'll all happen in time.