Elijah Blue is no stranger to celebrity culture. The son of Cher and Greg Allman and half brother of Chaz Bono, at age 13 he was given his first guitar. By Gene Simmons. Suffice it to say, Elijah has a unique perspective on the state of the celebrity world, or as he calls it, "Celebrity Apocalypse." Thus for his debut as an artist, Elijah decided to work within the celebrity system, and the results are both interesting and inspired.
I confess to agreeing to the interview on Elijah's lineage alone, but was pleasantly surprised by the voracity of Elijah's artistic convictions. I spoke to Elijah at length about his latest venture, an exhibit called "Stuff of Legends" at the Madison Gallery in Malibu. I quickly realized that though he may come from celebrity, he certainly isn't afraid to expose its inherent ridiculousness.
NK: This first show features a lot of something all of us here in LA know quite well - the step and repeat walls. Why?
EB: I've only done two shows so far so it's not totally quintessential to what my work is going to encapsulate. It's one of many things that I thought was appropriate. Everything is already predetermined in these walls; it has a very specific pattern, a very specific algorithm, and a very specific function in the world. I'm very restricted in working with that particular medium. I like how it creates tension with repeat patterns that we've seen in pop art throughout the years. But this isn't pop art. I chose the step and repeat because it's a built in painting. I'd look at these things on the red carpet and was fascinated by the triangulation between celebrity, the consumer, and the corporate complex.
NK: How did you choose the specific logos?
EB: The logos have to adhere to the phrase. It almost decides itself - I just facilitate it. They're all working with these phrases that negate them, to say the least - "Johnny come lately," "Bridge and Tunnel," "Devil May Care." They apply to the ultimate social commentary that I'm making on the consequence and apocalypse of celebrity.
NK: Thank you for my transition. How much social commentary is there in your work? Or do you just put it out there and let the people do their own commentary?
EB: Whatever people end up doing is totally not my concern, I come from my place and whatever the result is is completely its own life. That part I'm not really considering. It's as simple and as flippant as - what logos do I use for Bridge and Tunnel, what symbols do I use for every phrase that I thought applied to everyone I've ever known. There is also an intimate aspect on how I know these phrases apply to myself and people in my inner circle, and how it applies to the state of celebrity, the modern day hierarchical social structure. I have all these confines in place that allow me to execute each of these at ease because there is a system, it's very organized.
NK: You comment a lot on celebrity culture, reality TV, the overbleed of celebrity; what is the state of celebrity culture, or rather what concerns you about the state of celebrity culture?
EB: Nothing concerns me. I really don't have an opinion. This is not didactic. I am not coming from a place of really having any bias either. It's a complex system and that makes for a great artistic incident. Quantum mechanics is a complex system too, I don't have any bias or opinions about that. I know there is a lot of depth to the pathology of the symptom of celebrity. It's an anthropological symptom; it's not for anyone to have an opinion on. It's like having an opinion on water. I am reducing the symptom of celebrity to be the same as the symptom of water. It all becomes the same at some point; it all becomes a bigger picture of chaos. I'm looking at it from way back but I'm also insular. That's what creates the tension.
NK: You come from a background of music and more specifically rock and roll. How much rock and roll is in your art?
EB: There wasn't a lot of rock and roll in my rock and roll so there isn't a lot in the art. My music was also coming from a place of trying to transcend and escape this realm and reach into the looking glass and pull out whatever I could grasp. I believe there's a place where, again, all these things are the same. So the painting and the song are non different.
NK: The Ink Blot images. What's the comment here? How much of it is that you feel these products, this culture seeps into us as consumers subconsciously?
EB: The Ink blot comments on reflectivity and there are some other pieces in the show that have inverted writing, there is a reflectivity that is largely motivated by the pool of narcissists, the pool of narcissus becomes a metaphor for the triangulation between the consumer, the celebrity and the corporate aspect at the top. I looked at the Johnny Walker coat and I saw a shape that resembled a Rorschach shape, I know that the Rorschach has been done by previous artists and I like sometimes working in the generic construct -- that becomes a statement as well if you're reinterpreting it, and it becomes absolutely applicable to what you're interested in. The other part is the very mundane aspect of the 'Johnny come lately' type of personalities that often succumb very quickly to some sort of psychological breakdown, again a lot of the step and repeat thing is inherently very negative. Even though I'm not taking a didactic stance, all the phrases are negative phrases. The Johnny come lately Rorschach further galvanizes the Johnny come lately type of fame.
NK: You come from celebrity. Does dealing with this realm come naturally? Are you a pop artist?
EB: I'm really not a pop artist and I'm certainly not a celebrity culture artist. I'm just working in the confines of a certain system right now and there are infinite amounts of systems to work in. It becomes arbitrary in the end, what the system is. What matters is what you are doing in the system, how you engage chosen and said system that is concurrent with where my work is at right now (which is very much at the beginning). There's also this though - what's not so arbitrary is that what I'm choosing addresses a lot of my pretense; it's very neutralizing to my own pretense. So I had to choose something very shrewdly to address that coming out of the gate.
NK: So then what other systems are you interested in working in?
EB: I am interested in working in the pure aesthetic we had created in my music projects. I'm interested in that because it has no connotation, it is very much in its own vacuum and has its own pure aesthetic. It has metaphors and allegory but it's not really culturally relevant the way that the other stuff is. It's more purely a fantastical system. I'll be going much deeper into the celebrity pathos in gnarly radical ways; these painting are the baby stuff. I will explore this to the "Nth degree" and the degree that is borderline criminal.
EB: I mean, I don't know why man. (Laughs) I just have a strange drive.
NK: What's next for you as an artist?
EB: Some actionist type art in the celebrity vein. More step and repeats that are more technical, with super imposed background images. I'll be going deeper into what I am capable of, I know what first work is supposed to look like, and I'm being very deliberate about what I'm creating right now. I'm very aware of the arc that the work should constitute.