A Pop Art Odyssey in Los Angeles by Mark Gubb


Over the weekend of October 13/14th I headed off to Los Angeles to meet with Derek Boshier to begin the selection of works for his part of our shows at Mostyn next year and to talk about the project. It’s the second time this year I’ve had to make a three-day trip to Los Angeles and, whilst I will never EVER complain about spending time in LA as I love it, it’s a blooming long way to go for a couple of days. So, much of last week was lost in a fog of time-based disorientation (plus a PhD transfer presentation and a trip to London for the People’s Vote March) hence this slightly belated account of that trip.

As I say, I love LA, which sounds like a real arsehole-type-comment to type, but I do. I love the architecture, the sunshine, the pace of life - it’s a huge, sprawling, city but doesn’t seem to act like one. There’s none of the aggressive hustle and bustle of New York or London, just a bunch of folks seemingly going about their days at a pace to suit. Equally, that doesn’t mean the place lacks dynamism. I find it one of the most inspiring cities to visit, in the same way I do Berlin (another city that, on a day-to-day pace of existence level seems to be permanently stuck on ‘Sunday’.) Maybe I’m lazy and like laid back places. Who knows. Who cares.

As I say the primary focus of the trip was to meet with Derek Boshier, whose show I’m curating alongside my own solo show at Mostyn next March. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Derek back in 2016 when I was staying with a friend who moved to LA about 6 years ago and had become friends with Derek. He invited us over for breakfast and became very animated when I told him I lived in Cardiff, as he’d owned a cottage in Wales through he 70s and loves the country. That conversation sparked off an ongoing correspondence which has led to this place and the shows at Mostyn.

Friday night was spent dashing out through the thunder and rain (!) heading out to meet an old friend who moved there about 10 years ago to make movies. He’s managed to maintain a positivity about the whole thing in a city where EVERYONE claims to be part of the film industry and so it can, apparently, be difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. He found out that a producer he’d been working with, who had gone a bit quiet, had been sent to prison by reading about it in the pages of an entertainment magazine. After 27 hours awake, I ducked out back to my little Silver Lake bungalow to attempt some over-tired sleep, with a quick stop off at Cruzer’s 100% vegan pizzeria. One of my true joys in life is checking out different vegan places when I go abroad and L.A. has an absolute plethora to choose from. Philly Cheese Steak pizza was my choice on the night and I highly recommend paying them a visit.


Saturday morning started with an essential visit to Moby’s ‘Little Pine’ restaurant, another staple on any vegan trip to L.A. The American biscuits with gravy and sausage is a joy of breakfast indulgence. The last two times I’ve been there Moby has been in there too, eating breakfast coincidentally enough. But this wasn’t just indulgence, this was also where I’d arranged to meet Derek and my friend Jonathan Griffin - now L.A. based for 6 years or so and still writing for frieze, the New York Times and other esteemed publications. He’s also agreed to write a catalogue essay about mine and Derek’s work for this show.

So, following breakfast it was off to Derek’s studio in Frogtown. Derek’s had his studio there long before it became the ‘hottest new neighbourhood’ referred to in the article I’ve linked there. So has David Dedlow of plan:d gallery - a space just next to Derek’s studio, who was kind enough to give us an impromptu tour of his current show. He explained how the name ‘Frogtown’ was actually the name of a tough local gang, but has slowly been reclaimed by residents over recent years. A real highlight of the show were the carved wooden sculptures of Matthew Rosenquist, whose studio is in the same block as Derek’s. A particular favourite was this one appropriately positioned in the gallery’s bathroom, just in front of the mirror…

Jonathan was also keen to show me the L.A. river which runs just near to Derek’s studio. I’ve already mentioned that it was raining on my arrival in to L.A. - something that virtually never happens and so pleases all L.A. residents when it does, less so a man who’s just flown half-way round the world from South Wales. According to Jonathan the river had an unusually high volume of water running through it as this time, due to the rain…

That trickle of water at the bottom of the picture is the unusually high volume of water currently passing along the river. What that does mean though, apparently, is that this area is particularly rich for wildlife due to the vegetation that grows in the river. So much so that someone’s dog had recently been snatched by a coyote I was reliably informed.

The day was then largely spent looking through Derek’s archive of current and past works. I’ll post a couple of images but, as an artist myself, feel I need to be discrete and respectful to the extremely generous access that Derek provided. We spent hours looking through paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and nothing was too much bother. His archive, as I’m sure you can imagine, is extraordinary and makes for very rich, if difficult, pickings. Some real favourites of mine were a series of large ‘99c War’ drawings from 2004, each one measuring about 2.5m x 1.5m.


Understandably, for a man who’s now in his sixth decade of making work, there’s an awful lot covered in the themes and subjects of his work, but something I feel a real affinity with is how he returns to the politics of the day. There’s a great ‘What Do Artists Do All Day?’ about Derek (not currently available to view unfortunately, unless you work at a university and have access to BoB, though there are a few clips on that linked page) where he makes a comment about making ‘art that’s political, not political art’. A sentiment I really connect with.


That evening there was an RCA Alumni event at The Grafton Hotel on Sunset and Derek very kindly invited me along. Knowing my time in L.A. was limited, and spotting that the hotel was very close to the Rainbow Bar and Grill, I made an early stop at the Rainbow to pay my respects to a bar that has played such a central role in so much of the music I’ve grown up loving. So much so that they’ve renamed the outdoors bar ‘Lemmy’s Lounge’ after the great man who would spend hours sitting at the end of the bar playing on the quiz machine (R.I.P. Lemmy).


At the RCA event it struck me what a wonderful thing it was. No disrespect to the universities where I gained my undergrad and postgrad degrees, but imagine being so confident as an institution that you have alumni spread all over the world that you can just organise an event in Los Angeles and expect people to show up…

So, to end the night it was a drive right back across L.A. to the Vegan Hooligans pop-up at Abby’s diner - a lovely traditional diner in Eagle Rock that gets taken over by the hooligans every night to ply their vegan trade. I went for the ‘Flaming Melt’ (one of they most popular dishes apparently) washed down with a traditional root beer (when in Rome and all that).


Sunday started off with a visit to Sage Vegan Bistro and Brewery in Echo Park, followed by a walk to the park itself. The building that Sage is in is beautiful, topped off with an amazing sign. And the food is great. As is Echo Park. So I spent a while enjoying the lake at its centre and daydreaming about a super-ambitious public project whereby I’d build a bunch of Silver Lake-style bungalows somewhere and use them as residency accommodation. If there are any major public commissioners reading this, do feel free to drop me a line to chat more about it…


Then it was off to Derek’s house for the day to look at the archive he has there, including an incredible collection of photos from his days living in the cottage in Wales. It was exciting to see more work but it was pretty extraordinary looking through the photographs. They’re a wonderful document of a moment in time, and of Welsh rural life at that time, and the fact that they happen to be through the lens of one of Britain’s foremost Pop Artists just makes them all the more interesting. So much so, I already think there’s another project in the photographs alone, so am in the process of following some relevant lines of enquiry back in my home city of Cardiff.


Again, Derek’s generosity was humbling, in terms of his time and access to his house, life and work. We unearthed some really exciting things too - particularly some photographic works that have only ever been seen once, back in the 80s, some of which relate specifically to his time in Wales. So, fingers crossed, we’ll be able to include those in the show. It feels important to unpack this relationship that Derek has with Wales in the exhibition, but avoid simply illustrating the fact that he used to live there. The quality and relevance of the work remains key.

So, after bidding Derek a fond farewell, that left me with an evening and a day in Los Angeles. I had to make my first stop a place called Vromage - a store dedicated to exclusively selling it’s house-made vegan cheeses. As with anything in L.A., of course the guy who runs/owns it has more of story than simply being of a catering background, so regaled me with tales of his time as a fine art and antiquities dealer as he made me an excellent sandwich.

Then, it just so happened that one of the presenters from the conference I was involved in, back in February - Michelle Cruz Gonzales - was involved in an event that night. It’s a bi-monthly literature event at a cafe downtown and this event was listed as a Punk Extravaganza. In one place, on one night, we had Michelle (who used to be the drummer in Spitboy) reading alongside the likes of DH Peligro (drummer for the Dead Kennedy’s, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nailbomb) and Jack Grisham (T.S.O.L) What an event! Couple that with the fact that Michelle’s buddies Alice Bag and Allison Wolfe came along to support her, I was in some kind of British-man-in-America punk-fanboy heaven.


So, Monday was a day processing what on earth had happened in the past 48 hours-or-so, plus a trip to Venice Beach to catch up with my old URRA Residency buddy Halina Kleim, who is actually from Berlin but just happened to be in town doing some research. I’ve been fortunate enough to do a bunch of residencies over the years and I can honestly say that the experience of the residency is one thing - great in-and-of itself - but the thing I really value about all of these experiences are the friendships and networks that are formed. I did the URRA residency about 8 years ago now and am still properly in touch with a handful of my fellow residents spread all over the world. This meeting also provided one last opportunity for some excellent vegan food, this time at Cafe Gratitude in Venice Beach, where I had the best Key Lime Pie I’ve ever tasted.


From there, I had one last visit before the airport - the Wende Museum - a museum that houses an incredible collection of Cold War artefacts and memorabilia and curates these collections alongside contemporary art. It just so happens that a friend of mine from the UK, Danny Birchall, has just co-curated an exhibition there. Coincidentally, I met Danny when he was working at the ICA and he agreed to be one of my American GIs in my performance ‘The Death of Peter Fechter’ It’s a really amazing museum, relatively newly moved in to this space. If you find yourself in L.A. and have an interest in the Cold War, I can’t recommend it enough.

Anyway, that’s a pretty exhausting and exhaustive account of my very brief trip to L.A. Suffice to say I’m very excited for the show next year.

Computer Wizards by Mark Gubb

I’m looking to get this introduction to Celtic Frost’s ‘Morbid Tales’ turned in to a choir - the kind of voice-of-angels choir that one might hear during a beatific vision. I’m guessing this could be a pretty simple process of just loading it in to some programme with a plug-in of some description, but it’s beyond me. Any of you good folk out there know how to do it?

Rome, Madrid, Llandudno by Mark Gubb

Things are ramping up now for my solo show at Mostyn in Llandudno next year. If you don’t know I’m having a show alongside the legendary Derek Boshier (Pop Artist, friend of David Bowie and Joe Strummer etc.) I’m also going to be co-curating Derek’s show to draw out connections between our works. Exciting times. (If you don’t know him, here’s an interview from 2017 to get you started... https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/evg7zn/david-bowie-and-the-clash-were-fans-of-derek-boshiers-art-and-you-should-be-too )

I’m heading out to Los Angeles next month to meet with Derek. Whilst I’m there I’m also hoping to get along to this... 


I met Michelle Gonzalez when I was in LA back in February, talking alongside her at a conference about punk at UCLA. Her paper was drawing comparisons between George Orwell and Joe Strummer. I love these kinds of coincidences and connections...

Anyway, last week I was in Rome and Madrid for research purposes. The work I’m developing takes Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgement’ as it’s starting point, so a visit to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel were pretty essential. it was a great few days. A top tip I would offer is that if you’re visiting the Vatican, book your entry tickets online. You can just turn up on the day, but if you’ve booked it means you get to stroll past queues like this, that had already formed by 8.30am...


I took my fabrication-collaborator, Chris Gadd, with me too...


Chris is the extremely talented airbrush artist I worked with on my g39 show in 2016 and will be working with again on this project.  

The Sistine Chapel is extraordinary. Quite different to how I had imagined (though I’m not sure how) and ‘The Last Judgement’ is a thing of wonder. It’s really important just to go and stand in the presence of this stuff. I’ve seen it a thousand times in reproduction but had never really ‘seen’ it. It’s important to see it in context too. It’s not just a big religious painting on a wall - it’s surrounded by all the other paintings, and people, and priests, and sounds. Like anything in this world, it’s not enough to see it in reproduction, it’s all this other stuff that brings it to life and helps you understand it.  

We also went to visit the Rooms of St Ignatius, which is another must-see. A pretty basic room that’s been painted as one big optical illusion to give it the impression of being an architecturally grand chapel-type space.  


Every bit of what you see here is painted on a flat wall, designed to be at a proper perspective when viewed from the centre of the room. Really extraordinary stuff. 

So, after a couple of days in Rome it was on to Madrid for one day and a visit to the Prado. The main things to see there were Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ and Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. Again, truly extraordinary. 


Goya’s ‘Drowning Dog’ is one of my all-time favourite works of art and something I’m sure I’ll be returning to for many years to come. 

I was also reminded how Celtic Frost used a section of ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’ for their ‘Into the Pandemonium’ album cover. A reason to love both things that little bit more. 


In the afteroon a quick visit to the Reina Sofía to see ‘Guernica’ rounded off the trip. Three days and three of the building blocks of art history.

So now I’m in to the process of sketching out designs for the new painting, trying to figure out how to process all this stuff and make it work for me without just creating a visual carrier bag of art history references. 

Then today was a 9 hour round-trip to Llandudno for a meeting about practicalities. Great to stand in those beautiful spaces again and begin to imagine how the shows will take shape in there. 


Next stop (later this month) in Portsmouth to catch Derek and his show at Jack’s House Gallery before he disappears back to LA. 


Welsh Translators by Mark Gubb

Does anyone know any freelance Welsh translators? Not just someone who speaks the language, but people confident and able to translate English in to Welsh, primarily for print. If that’s you, or you know anyone, please get in touch. (I’m not looking for agencies, but freelance individuals). Ta!

6th March 2018 by Mark Gubb

It's been a long, long, time since I posted an update. An inexcusably long time in fact. That's not to say that nothing has been going on. I won't go in to everything, just some edited highlights, then I'll try and be back more often with general updates about what's going on in the world of The Studio of S Mark Gubb.

First thing to flag up is that I’m exhibiting as part of a show that’s been curated by Ross Sinclair at the Queens Park Railway Club in Glasgow - ‘Artists who make music Musicians who make art’. The line-up of artists involved is extensive and impressive and way too long to list here. The show runs until 25th March and there’s all the info on the QPRC website 

Bubbling away in the background, and now finally coming to fruition, is a project I've been involved in on the Nine Elms development in Battersea. It's a two-part commission, one of which will see a collection of seven works set in to the hardscaping around a new development opposite Battersea Park - Vista - and the second of which is a new sculptural lighting commission to be set on one of the railway arches behind the development. The seven hardscaping works are going in the ground as we speak and the lighting commission should be there by the summer or so. To give a little taster, here's probably my favourite, which is a piece of marble that's been cut and engraved to look like a torn jotter page and set in to a granite plank, containing the words often spoken by Joe Strummer when the Clash would play 'London Calling, live...

2017-01-06 14.10.13.jpg

Also, I recently got to go to Los Angeles for a long weekend as I'd been invited to speak at a conference at UCLA - 'Curating Resistance: Punk as Archival Method'. I was invited to re-present a version of my performance 'God So Loves Decay' and then to talk about it. I love Los Angeles and so any reason to go there is reason enough, especially when I get to spend the weekend hanging around the UCLA campus listening to fantastic presentations about punk from different people. There are too many highlights to mention, but a particular shout must go out to the folks from the 309 Punk Museum Project and Michelle Cruz Gonzales who I had the pleasure of presenting alongside - maybe better known as the drummer from Spitboy.

The 309 Punk Museum Project is a live project, attempting to raise the money to buy a house in Pensacola, Florida, to save it from redevelopment. The house has a fascinating history and has been a cornerstone in the punk music scene there for decades. It's a great project. Take a look and donate if you can, as the clock is ticking for them to reach their goal. I must also thank my employer, The University of Worcester, who stumped up the cash from research funds for me to go. Here are a couple of pictures from the weekend (starting with the good folks from 309...)

Being there also meant I got the chance to catch up with some people, one of which specifically links to the last bit of news.

I'm going to be having a solo show at Mostyn in March 2019. But it's not just a solo show. My show will run alongside a solo show of the legendary Pop Artist, Derek Boshier, and I'll be co-curating Derek's show, drawing out connections that exist between our work. All in all a pretty exciting proposition.

It just so happens that Derek is good friends with my friend Jonathan Griffin, so whilst in LA last month I took the opportunity to meet up with both and have breakfast at Moby's excellent vegan restaurant, Little Pine (well worth a visit if you're ever there). It was great to meet Derek again who, when I told him why I was in town, replied, 'Oh right, so I suppose you'd like to hear some punk stories. Have I told you about how I taught Joe Strummer at art school?...' For anyone that knows me, you'll understand the kind of heaven I was in right there. 

So, I'll sign off with a picture of me, Derek and his girlfriend enjoying breakfast at Moby's place.


Migrant Press: Revisited by Mark Gubb

I'm currently making work for a new Division of Labour project that will be exhibited in Worcester and London later this year (October and November respectively).

The project is based around 'Migrant Press' - a highly influential independent poetry magazine that existed briefly at the end of the 1950s. There's a fantastic account of its history by Richard Price through this link:


For my part of the project, a list of about twenty lucky individuals are going to be receiving a piece of print from me through the post, on a weekly basis, for the next few months. Some of this might respond directly to the content and history of the original Migrant Press, whereas other things might be more autobiographical - a mixture of photography, writing and drawing, in response to things of interest I find in my research and/or the day to day.

This idea of exchange in various forms whether invited or not, is something I'm in the early stages of exploring further through a PhD. 

For more information about the project check back here and or the Division of Labour website.



Documenta 14 by Mark Gubb

I'm currently sat on the floor outside the toilets on a DB train to Münster so what I write here isn't a deeply edited and considered account of Documenta 14, just some thoughts. 

Overall, it was ok. As with any of these big things you very quickly go art-blind and can find yourself wandering around museums and venues like you're in IKEA on a Sunday morning. It's often after you've left that things begin to percolate through and you realise what you've really liked. 

First thing to say is that the Kultur Bahnhof and the Neue Neue Galerie were my real highlights. Like a lot of people, I guess, I have a fondness for odd and repurposed spaces as they just tend to offer a more interesting proposition in which to site and read work. Both of these spaces are exactly that. 


Outside Kassel's main train station sits a shipping container. A constant stream of people go in but don't come out again - like a reverse Keystone Cops kind of thing. On entering the container you discover it's placed over the top of the entrance to a, now-disused, underground station. What's not to love about getting access to a disused subterranean space?

There are a handful of works in there, the most striking of which being a large video installation at one end. Now, at this point I'll state I've no idea who made the works I'm about to mention. I'm sorry, it's unprofessional, but unless the name plaque was immediately apparent I just couldn't be arsed to track it down as I just wanted to enjoy the work and experience. 


Exit from this amazing space was by following the tracks out of the station and back in to the world - an ambiguous and alien experience that was enjoyable in itself. The parting shot is this work, meaning 'Hello/Welcome' in Greek and relating to a bunch of Greek soldiers transported here during the war and who occupied a space somewhere between PoW and guest. 


My other favourite space was the Neue Neue Galerie - a disused post office building across town. This holds a considerable number of the new commissions and hangs together well as a curated show.  

A work about the murder of an Internet cafe owner in Kassel is fascinating - an incredibly well-researched and deeply disturbing account of, what appears to be, a state-sanctioned murder. It also taps neatly in to the current Netflix 'Making of a Murderer/The Keepers' zeitgeist. That, in itself, is an observation, not a criticism. 


The show carries on over several floors, meandering through every media and form you'd expect to meet in such a show. Artur Zmijewski gets a room to himself for some new videos (no pic, sorry) of amputees undressing and performing exercises. As with so much of his stuff there's a moral ambiguity as to how we're supposed to be feeling as they, at once, feel a bit voyeuristic and exploitative but maybe quite sexual and a bit homo-erotic. Who knows. 

In all honesty, if I'd have seen these two venues and no others, I'd have seen the lion's share of what I really wanted to see. That's not to say that there's no other good work around, but I largely found myself enjoying one or two works in each of the other venues.  

Minujin's Parthenon of banned books, on a site where the Nazis used to burn books, was a fine visual statement, but then I'm a sucker for the grand public gesture. 


Another highlight was Romuald Karmakar's video 'Agni Parthene' in the Orangerie. The best I can offer you is a screenshot from my Instagram, but if you want to see a clip of it then you can find one there. 


These big shows/projects are always great, for the sheer volume of work one gets to see in such a short space of time, but I invariably leave, whether it be Venice, Documenta, any biennale anywhere, feeling that I've a) probably missed the best thing somewhere (this is invariably proven to be the case by checking others Instagram feeds after the fact) or b) there could have been half as much work and it would have, somehow, been twice as good (nonsense, of course).

The whole trip was thanks to a bursary from a-n due to my role as an AIR Council Member, so a big thanks to them. It wa great to meet a few of the recipients of the member bursaries too. So, to finish up, here's just a little collection of additional works from the various shows. 


Documünster by Mark Gubb

I'm off to Documenta 14 and Münster for a few days to catch all the art. I'll be writing something for a-n that should be online next week, and also CCQ Magazine, available in a few months. Maybe even see some of you there?... 


Fuck it All and Fucking No Regrets by Mark Gubb

An email came out of the blue from an old friend of mine, asking if I minded if he got the text from one of my artworks tattooed on himself. 

Did I mind? Of course not! The only condition was that he sent me some photos. So last week, the day came and this happened... 



Of course, I can't claim this entirely as my own - the whole point of the work is that I'm quoting James Hetfield from Metallica. Anyway, good stuff I say.