Interdisciplinary painter, sculptor, and designer Tristan Eaton is above all a people person. Besides being a gregarious soul with a passion to talk art, ideas, inspiration, and changing the world, Eaton situates humanity firmly at the center of his wide-ranging practice. From examinations of what makes people tick in pop culture, political action, and private memory, to evocative portraiture and media-savvy hybrids, Eaton looks closely at people—perhaps more closely than they’d like. He had a blockbuster career survey exhibition at Long Beach Museum of Art in 2021, but for his latest project—a Dead Press pop-up at Sized Studio in Hollywood this weekend—he gets much more intimate. With a new folio, surprise drops, and an experiential contextualization for his ongoing Uprise works, Eaton evolves and rededicates his inspirations for protest art—believing that art has immense power to captivate and change minds, and that artists have a duty to engage toward a better world for everyone.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
TRISTAN EATON: It was early! As an 8 year old, my parents put me in a weekend art program called KidsArt and I did charcoal drawings that were way beyond what anyone expected. I still look at them and think I should be much better by now!
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
It’s about people! Whether it’s focused on the figurative or on human behavior, it’s always about people.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Honestly, I’d love to own a movie theater. It’s my secret dream. I’d host exhibitions themed around the movies and create silly film festivals. For example, I want to put on a film festival of GIFs. Just 1000 GIFs playing for 48 hours straight.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes! I went to School of Visual Arts in New York City. I was there at the same time as the legendary painters James Jean and Esao Andrews.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I was born here, but left at an early age. 10 years ago my friend Mike Moon asked me to pitch Disney some crazy TV show ideas. They bought one and moved me out here. The show promptly died, but I’m still here!
When was your first show?
My first show was in Detroit in 1996. I started showing with C-Pop Gallery when I was 18. They were an early part of the Juxtapoz Magazine/Lowbrow movement.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show or project?
On September 29th I have a great project launching at a pop up gallery in West Hollywood! I’ll be launching a special sculpture and fine art print collection based on the history of protest and revolution. It’s been 6 years in the making and I’m very excited. Come by Sized Studio on Friday, September 29, 8-10pm at 526 N. Western Ave.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show or work with?
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Absolutely love Dancehall Reggae. Everything by Barrington Levy, Buju Banton, Sister Nancy, and Bounty Killer gets me hyped to paint and wreck shit!
Website and social media handles, please!
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