Twitter Facebook Instagram Google+ Tumblr YouTube E-Mail WhatsApp Sign In Check Close snapchat
Search
Exit Clear
World of Playboy World of Playboy

Jay Howell and Slow Culture Discuss Their Sprawling Show ‘Playboys & Girls’

Slowculture Playboy and Girls flyer

This Friday, L.A. gallery Slow Culture will open the doors of its Chinatown space to unveil Playboys & Girls, a month-long celebration of groundbreaking art and Playboy culture. The show’s eclectic but organic lineup of 20-plus established and emerging artists ranges from skateboarding legend-cum-painter-photographer Ed Templeton to folk illustrator Stacey Rozich to Playmate Brook Power (Miss May 2016). The wild mashup is what you get when you combine the visions of curator Jay Howell—mastermind of the quirky visual worlds of Bob’s Burgers and Sanjay and Craig—and Steve Lee and Fred and Max Guerrero, three L.A. natives who, since 2013, have been using Slow Culture as a vehicle for making good art accessible.

We spoke with Howell, the Guerrero brothers (who also operate Chinatown’s no-frills burger haven Burgerlords and a surprisingly popular beef-focused Tumblr) and Lee (a photographer, former Arkitip contributor and friend of the Guerreros since high school) over drinks on the deck of the Playboy offices in Beverly Hills. Topics included why it was important to the four men, who are as much friends as partners, to create a brick-and-mortar forum for the 22 artists of Playboys and Girls; their takes on the Playboy legacy; and their master plan to make art an experience instead of a scene.


**Untitled** Tamara Santibanez

Untitled Tamara Santibanez

First things first: Why a Playboy art show?
JAY HOWELL: I started working with the mag doing illustrations recently. I just noticed that the art direction in the magazine was really on par with what I was interested in and what these guys were interested in. And the opportunity came out of nowhere. I really try to take advantages of situations when I’m given them.

That’s a good trait to have.
JAY: It’s all self-serving, egotistical crap, but I just thought, we need to do an art show with the kind of art that’s in the mag, and also stuff that should be or could be in the mag. And I was like, “I need to handle that.” I asked Playboy and you were like, “Yeah, of course.” It wasn’t even like a thing. I needed to talk to Slow Culture, because that’s just the spot it should be. It’s the coolest spot to have a show, with the coolest art, with the coolest magazine. It all worked perfectly.

Why was Slow Culture the perfect place?
JAY: I think people on the east side really like Playboy a lot. I feel like a lot of your parties are a little bit different than what we experience on the east side. But I thought, the people on the east side would really love this. My favorite art is on the east side of Los Angeles. So it was like, we need to bring you guys over there.

STEVE LEE: It’s great that Jay brought this to us because we’ve had an ongoing relationship for around three years now. Slow Culture is in Chinatown now, but we were in Highland Park initially. We were fortunate enough to have Jay do a show with us there around two years ago, and since then we’re just guilty by association [laughs]. It’s been a good relationship and he’s helped us so much. It kind of goes 360 degrees.

How’d you guys meet?
JAY: I came down to Los Angeles from San Francisco around six years ago. I knew about the city, but once I moved to the east side—and this isn’t like an east side / west side story at all—it reminded me of San Francisco, and I really liked that. But I noticed that all of the art shows were on the west side, in places like Culver City, and I was like, “Why the fuck are we coming over here? This isn’t really my style.” Even though I liked the artists at the shows I thought, “Why don’t we just have shows on the east side?” Then these guys open up a gallery shortly after I moved here and I was like, “Oh. This is my scene. These guys get it.” And immediately the gallery just exploded.

FRED GUERRERO: I think we kind of fell into it. We don’t operate like a traditional gallery. We’re called Slow Culture because we focus on the culture aspect of things, with music or food events or pop-ups. It’s cool to use the gallery to connect that way. It’s not like we’re trying to do anything different; it’s just more organic between our friends. We were friends with a bunch of the artists we work with now before we even had the gallery, so it kind of just happened that way.

It’s not going to be all salon crazy. It’s going to be classy as fuck.

How’d you choose the artists you chose and what did you tell them?
JAY: I hate themes. We could have said, “Everyone interpret the Playboy bunny.” It could happen, but I don’t give a shit about that.

STEVE: A lot of artists really don’t like theme shows. I think if you just say, “Okay just do the bunny,” that’s too easy. All of our artists have a lot more personality, and we’re very loose with them. We work with them because we appreciate their art, and so if you push them in this really narrow theme you’re going to get a poor product.

JAY: Playboy magazine has never told its artists to do “Playboy art”; they just chose good artists to be in Playboy and then let them loose. So I think the heart of our show really represents the magazine in that way. It speaks of Playboy without relying on a weird theme.

**Amber** [Jay Howell](http://jayhowellart.blogspot.com/)

Amber Jay Howell

Tell us a little more about the curating process.
JAY: I curated with these guys. I brought the show to them. I like to work with people and be organic about it. I don’t like to dominate things. So I came in and said, “Hey, let’s put on a show together. What are your guys’ thoughts?” And then we were able to all go and grow it together.

STEVE: Jay said, “Pick some artists that you guys like that would fit as well.” So it was rad to pick and choose some people from our community.

JAY: And then Playboy was like, “Hey show these people too. This person is sick,” and we were like, “Done. This is rad.” So it was really just a super easy, really well maintained, good-looking crew.

Are there any artists or pieces that you’re especially stoked on?
STEVE: We love them all.

FRED: I think it’s very diverse. It’s not all illustrators. It’s not all oil painters. There’s a good range of everything. So I think that really helps the show feel balanced.

JAY: If you were to take a picture of the show, and a picture of the party of the show, and you put it into the full magazine, you’d think, “Oh, this a narrative without even being a thing.” You’d just feel that organically. There are photographs and there are drawings. It would come off as an art book immediately.

Speaking of the party. I hear that there will be chicken? Did I hear that right?
FRED: Max and I have a restaurant right across the street. One goal of Slow Culture is to have a physical space that people can come and share that together. It’s not just reading the magazine or seeing it online; it’s a place where you can physically come see it and make new friends—go hang out, grab a drink across the street.

STEVE: Group shows can be a nightmare but this has been one of the most pleasant experiences.

JAY: This show is very affordable as well. I wanted smaller pieces. Stuff that would look great in your house, and a piece you could pick up immediately right from the show. Then you could bring a little piece right from the mag into your home. I’m really excited about that aspect.

STEVE: That’s another great part about this. Seeing a lot of these artists that do large scale work and being able to get a small thing and make it affordable for the fans. That’s rad that we can create that atmosphere for people.

FRED: Everyone wants to go big when you do a group show. Then the piece is 50K or something.

JAY: Everyone wants to be the biggest piece in there. I’d rather take one or two small pieces. Keep it fun. It’s going to lay out all perfect museum style. It’s not going to be all salon crazy. It’s going to be classy as fuck.

**Chill Spill** [Hellen Jo](http://helllllen.org/)

Chill Spill Hellen Jo

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the show?
JAY: I want the reader to be excited about finding new art. Someone reading the magazine, seeing this art, and learning more about it—with each issue that comes out they can say, “Oh wow, I recognize that; I’m learning about more art.” They keep coming back. That’s my main goal for people.

FRED: There’s this stigma that maybe you have to know about this artist or you have to know this history of it. You don’t really have to. It really boils down to, if you like it you like it. If you like it and you want to look at it every day, then that’s the right piece of art for you. I think that’s the most important thing.

JAY: No ego. Even though it’s a high class event, it’s for everyone. Everyone’s invited. There’s also something cool about living a fancy life but partying really dirty.

This is shaping up to be a real community event. That speaks to it not being a cookie-cutter, shrink-wrapped art show.
JAY: It’s a cultural event with one of America’s biggest cultural icons. I think the show is putting those things together and displaying that, and I think that once you see the show, it’s going to be extremely obvious how excited the community is about this. It’s going to be brilliant. You’re welcome! [laughter]

FRED: One goal of Slow Culture is to have a physical space that people can come and share that together. It’s not just reading the magazine or seeing it online; it’s a place where you can physically come see it and make new friends—go hang out, grab a drink across the street.

STEVE: Group shows can be a nightmare but this has been one of the most pleasant experiences.

JAY: This show is very affordable as well. I wanted smaller pieces. Stuff that would look great in your house, and a piece you could pick up immediately right from the show. Then you could bring a little piece right from the mag into your home. I’m really excited about that aspect. It’s going to lay out all perfect museum style. It’s not going to be all salon crazy. It’s going to be classy as fuck.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the show?
JAY: I want the reader to be excited about finding new art. Someone reading the magazine, seeing this art, and learning more about it—with each issue that comes out they can say, “Oh wow, I recognize that; I’m learning about more art.” They keep coming back. That’s my main goal for people.

FRED: There’s this stigma that maybe you have to know about this artist or you have to know this history of it. You don’t really have to. It really boils down to, if you like it you like it. If you like it and you want to look at it every day, then that’s the right piece of art for you. I think that’s the most important thing.

JAY: No ego. Even though it’s a high class event, it’s for everyone. Everyone’s invited. There’s also something cool about living a fancy life but partying really dirty.


**Baby Giraffe** [Nathan Kostechko](http://nathankostechko.com/)

Baby Giraffe Nathan Kostechko

**The Gorgeous Hussy** [Stacey Rozich](http://www.staceyrozich.com/)

The Gorgeous Hussy Stacey Rozich

**Fragaria** [Molly Steele](http://molly-steele.com/)

Fragaria Molly Steele

All images courtesy of the artists


More From World of Playboy See all World of Playboy

Playboy Social

Never miss an issue. Subscribe and save today!

Loading...