Bay Area-based artist, graffiti writer Tim the Optimist has developed his artistic practice in many ways as an outward expression of his observant persona, both regionally and in his travels through Asia. The diverse environments, the experiences they offer and in which he immerses himself, with their rich material culture and political and social climates, are interpreted through the artist’s own personal artistic language and understanding. “Packrat’s Paradise” now at Oakland’s LeQuiVive Gallery through the month of February, with its several large works on panel and a massive three-dimensional installation, reveal the artist’s scavenger-like attainment of his art objects, fragments of materials gleaned from expeditions, these compilations performing as a kaleidoscopic panorama of the peaks and valleys of contemporary urban life.
A thriving writer and graffiti artist on the streets of the Bay Area since grade school, Optimist developed his fine art practice later in life, the early 2000s. It serves a disparate purpose, receives inspiration from separate materials and tools, and provides different intrinsic results. In an interview with Endless Canvas he says, “…I plan out my fine art to the T. measuring and preparing ’til I know exactly how it’s going to work, then do it. I use tools and a lot of different paint products and brushes and shit.” However, with his graffiti and writing on the streets, he says, “I just do it.. That’s why I love it so much, cus graff is the only form of art I can do without planing or sketching. It just comes out of me the way it does and then I can forget about it. Its not permanent and its expendable. There is a lot of pressure on me when it come to fine art. Everything has to be perfect.”
The large installation along the gallery’s main wall is certainly is the highlight of “Packrat’s Paradise” solo show. Each of the pecuilar tchotchkes, random knick-knacks, and ephemera (newspaper clippings, slap tags, and tickets are just a few types) worn from the erosion of time and miles of travel are positioned alongside Optimist’s works on panel, graffiti tags, and original drawings. A tessellation of SFMUNI day tickets might be the canvas upon which an original drawing of a truck sprayed with tags of friends or himself, layered with a bus stop sign placed adjacent, and resting upon the one inch thick panel might be a toy truck, with sharpie-drawn images of street art on it. Borders are blurred between fine art and the cultural material of everyday life. A portrait of an elderly scrap collector, leaflets disseminating information of rallies to honor Oscar Grant, and signage barring graffiti or risk incarceration fill the wall at LeQuiVive however, illustrate that although observer, Optimist does not remain without a point of view, revealing the inequities and social justice issues that remain a part of the modern world.
“Packrat’s Paradise” will be at LeQuiVive Gallery, 1525 Webster St. Oakland through the month of February.