Jeremy Fish Talks Buds, Bunnies and Beasts

By David Jenison

New York native Jeremy Fish immersed himself in the skate lifestyle during his youth, and the graphics associated with the scene helped stir up an artistic talent that broke out once he moved to San Francisco in 1994. In the decades since, Fish had such a meaningful impact on the local arts scene that San Francisco’s City Hall made him its first-ever artist in residence in 2015. The skateboard-loving artist is also a cannabis advocate who’s made art for dispensaries and Seattle Green Bud and took an active part in the effort to pass California’s medical cannabis initiative (Proposition 215) in 1996. PRØHBTD spoke with Fish to learn more.

Your most recent L.A. exhibit, Los Angelurkers, documented mythical beasts hiding throughout Southern California. Did you actually see things in Los Angeles that sparked the idea?

No, not at all. I hadn't been to LA since my last show there in 2014. I just finished with two kinda serious historic-based bodies of work, a residency at San Francisco City Hall and a huge installation at Levi’s Stadium for the 49ers. So afterwards, I wanted to create work that was lighthearted, fun and purely imaginative. I have a lot of strange amazing friends that lurk in hidden parts of Southern California, and I suppose they originally inspired the idea and the title for this body of work.

Can you tell me about the mythical beasts?

Some of the themes came from things I knew and loved about LA as a little kid. I grew up in upstate New York, and LA always seemed so fucking cool in film and television in the '80s. I loved Fast Times [at Ridgemont High], Cheech & Chong, The Big Lebowski and The A-Team. At thatage, I was also deeply fascinated with BMX, skateboarding and all things Disney. So I started by making lists of things I loved about LA and went from there. The ideas for the lurky "beasts" grew from my list of things about LA I loved, combined with some very inspiring friends who live there and past experiences I have had over my 22 years living in California. My imagination went from there and delivered these 22 new beasts in the form of drawings and paintings.

In terms of style and color, how would you describe the exhibit, and in what ways did the pieces push you artistically?

My shows tend to be monochromatic in terms of each isolated body of work over the years. This batch is very colorful, and not all done in one universal color scheme. Also, I won’t be painting the whole gallery with a background environment, as I have been doing for solo shows for the last 10 years. I prefer working small these days, less really is more currently. Thinkspace requested some larger works, so I had some huge frames carved and painted twice the size for the last two pieces in the show. They were fun to paint and a nice project to work on with my frame carver.

How did you come up with the Silly Pink Bunnies concept, and why do you think it connected with so many people?

It is an old skateboard gang I started with my friends in high school. This year we celebrated our 20-year anniversary with more than 500 members worldwide. An exaggerated article in the newspaper in my hometown was describing rampant "gang activity" in our city. My friends and I decided, if that was the situation, we would be the meanest gang in town, with the toughest name. We all moved away, made friends, and friends of friends made more, and 20 years later we all still meet up on Easter weekend somewhere on earth to celebrate our friendships.