The rain had just begun to fall down, but people arrived early for the first opening of Cool Try. Plastic mini basket ball hoops with marble pattern backboards were stacked up, floral printed bottle openers and card decks were displayed on the hand covered shelving, and racks of graphic tees were among the product offerings.
Wednesday night was the first of 6 nights for local artist, Ryan De La Hoz’s pop-up shop for his brand Cool Try. While Carson Lancaster, owner of Book & Job Gallery in the tenderloin, is away on vacation he has given De La Hoz the keys to the space to host the pop-up.
I have been following Ryan’s work for a few years now. He is a local artist, living in the Mission, who is best known for his collage and paper cut works. He has shown his work locally and across the country in LA, Seattle, and in group exhibitions internationally. De La Hoz, who was featured in Juxtapoz Mag this past May, seems like a quite guy, but he’s actually pronounced, filled with stories of local activities and anecdotes of past culture topics.
De La Hoz said some of the products were sold out within the first hour. Noting, “A dude came in and when he saw the all over vegetable print cut and sew shirt, he said he needed a medium. And good thing, cuz I only made one of those.”
I spent some time with De La Hoz and asked about his work and the Cool Try brand. I’ll be referring to myself, Derek, as D, and Ryan as R.
Derek: How is the experience of having a physical space for Cool Try products different that just the online store? How did you prepare for the pop-up once you made arrangements with Carson at Book & Job?
Ryan: Having a physical space challenges me to think about furthering the presentation of the “brand” and I like that. Once I knew it was happening I started thinking of things very quickly. Since it all lives online I never have to think too hard about it so when an opportunity like this comes along all these dormant ideas spring to life.
D: Have some of these new products been something you’ve been planning to do for a long time, like the clocks, watches, and the veggie board? Can you explain the idea behind some of the items?
R: I don’t have a big master plan when it comes to Cool Try. I just let it flow. The ideas came during the initial planning of the space. I wanted to make a lot of things that you could only get at the store and not just exclusive shirts but housewares and accessories. Melding the “Welcome To Your Doom” sentiment with a time piece (watch and clock) just seemed perfect. The veggie board is my response to the over-saturation of floral patterns in fashion. Don’t get me wrong I have two floral tee shirts that I have been making since 2010 and I love flowers. I just started thinking about other things in nature that have lush variety and an arrangement of different types of vegetables seemed perfect. I am working on all over print veggie five panel hats but they will not be ready in time for the store. My first instinct is to put flowers on everything and so veggies are my alternative.
D: You have been making more physical art pieces lately, like the textiles, sculptures, and using found objects, how do some of those pieces like the virgin lights connect with your other works on paper?
R: It’s all part of an amalgamation of tropes and motifs from different timelines in History meant to form a new narrative. The virgin lights was an installation called “Assumption” which referenced The Assumption of Mary using dollar store night lights and a power strip. Catholics and others believe that Mary never died but was assumed into Heaven. I wanted to present a slightly tongue in cheek representation of this. I was raised catholic and the image of Mary is always presented in a grand scale. I was playing with the idea of beliefs and also commodification of this grand figure into a piece of plastic that can be purchased for a dollar.
D: What is the process like working with a manufacture for the products? How do you know what manufactures to trust to do a quality job?
R: It’s all about trial and error. This is a one man show and I am not wealthy so I do what I can do when I can do it. If I find out a manufacturer is shoddy then that idea goes into my pile of things that will never be seen my the public.
D: The pop-up is pretty exclusive in terms of how many days it will be open. Is 6 open days enough?
R: I’m just looking at it like an art exhibition that is having 6 opening receptions instead of one.
D: You reference a lot of older pieces of culture that sometimes escapes people, like the music, tv, and artists. What is it about those things that is still relevant to you and your work? You have a good collection going in your room of small figures, it must have been a big part of your youth?
R: Action figures were a big part of my youth and that translated into thinking about sculpture in the same way in my adulthood. For example my sculptural work is plastic and usually small. If I knowingly include pop culture in my work it is in an attempt to analyze a cultural zeitgeist.
D: So you did not finish school, how do you think that decision worked out for you, and being able to just make your art.
R: Well I work as an art teacher to support myself so I do have a “day job”. I think it worked out just fine. I have always had a hard time being creative if it is homework or does not come from a place of pure passion. I was getting lazy and didn’t like where that was headed so I cut the cord and just started working harder independently.
D: You work with kids, what types of projects or lessons do you do with them, and does anything you do with them carry over to your art practice?
R: We paint, draw, screen-print, and use clay / a clay wheel. I mostly do artist focus classes where I talk about one artist for five weeks and we make projects based on that artists work. Working in that environment has expanded my media once more. I used to be afraid of paint (anything that has to dry really) but it has slowly been working its way into my practice because of my teaching job.
D: You have a good following and online engagement with the local scene, and have work across the country. Why is doing the pop-up something special for you?
R: As the years pass Cool Try feels like it is beyond me and is certainly my most accessible and widespread creative endeavor. A lot of people that I do not know support it and it is nice to meet some of those people in a physical space.
D: What are some of your 2015 plans? Any shows in the begging of the year?
R: I am working on exhibitions at FFDG SF and Mishka LA for January and March. Other than that I am just going to make more things.
The Cool Try pop-up will be open at Book & Job Gallery (838 Geary Street) during the following dates,
Saturday the 20th 5-10pm
Sunday the 21st 7-10pm
Saturday the 3rd 7-10pm
Sunday the 4th 7-10pm
Sunday the 10th 7-10pm