Illustration by Adam Villacin
The first time we ran into anything by Adam Villacin it was at the New York Art Book Fair back in October. We had scoured the halls for anything sports related — found a Alec Soth zine, poured over Richardson magazine, and then headed for the hills. What? Queens has good Mexican food we heard. But, on our way out the door we ducked into the zine tent. Not sure why it was necessary to keep all these lovely zines out in the cold like that (it wasn’t that cold) but maybe it had something to do with the art book guys wanting to keep it separate?
Anyway, we were just about out the door when something caught my eye. It was a zine titled “Bo Knows No Bo’s” and I had to have one. Bo Jackson? Definitely in. Don’t even care what it is about. Wait, what is it about? Well, I took that first issue back to Portland, showed it to my friend Max and then promptly lost it. A few bummed internet searches later and I was oogling through Adam Villacin’s website and emailing him to see if we could carry some of his fantastic illustrations (as well as the Bo Know's zine). Turns out he's a really nice guy and a fantastic illustrator to boot.
So, after that Julie met up with him at the LA Art Book Fair, picked up a couple Mike Tyson tote bags and then we sent over some questions for the next iteration of the Weekly What's Up...
JD: First of all, I heard from Julie who was at the LA Art Book show that you actually live across the street from Golden Saddle Cyclery? True? Those guys are great. Do you ever stop in there and have a Topo Chico with them? They’re obsessed.
AV: True, yes, very true. I haven’t shared a Topo Chico, but we used to live in the same apartment building, so that’s even deeper.
This was your first time at the LA Art Book Fair, right? What did you think?
This was actually my second time at the LA Art Book Fair. It’s something I looked forward to all year. I had such an amazing time at the fair last year- you make so many great connections with people whose work you admire and get to see so many familiar faces. I was busy all last year with projects that stemmed directly from conversations I had at the LAABF- this year is shaping up to be the same.
What was your best seller at the show? My guess is the Mike Tyson tote? Am I right?
The tote sold well, but people love the Dream Team haiku book. I had people coming by to cop 4 at a time to pass out to friends as gifts. There was something about that team that resonated with people roughly my age, it was like the forming of the Avengers or something, but with Men’s Olympic basketball… and it was real.
Did you find anything cool that you picked up for yourself?
I honestly was so busy at my table that I didn’t have much time to walk around and see what was around. But I bought a gorgeous Reginald Pean book, and made a really amazing trade with Kristofferson San Pablo. I was included in Darin Klein’s Box of Books this year, and every participant gets copies of everyone’s contributions- there were some beautiful zines in the collection.
When Julie was talking to you there you mentioned that you haven’t actually been drawing for all that long. How did you come to realize that you had a talent for it?
Well, that’s a half truth. I’ve been drawing all of my life. I went to CalArts, and kinda stopped making work while I was there. I spent most of my 20s in bands and pursuing music, and that all stopped in 2009ish. After that, I focused in on visual art again. I went back to my roots and picked up a pen and some paper and started drawing the same things I was drawing when I first learned- Wolverine, Bart Simpson, Hulk Hogan. It evolved from there as I figured out the subject matter I was interested in.
- Dream Team Zine -
Ok, Dream Team the zine specifically – can you tell us a little bit about how this came about? I mean, I know how enamored I was with that perfect combination of nearly super powered basketball all stars that were assigned the task of kicking Olympic butt, but how did you come to decide on that particular topic?
I discovered I was interested most in the exploration of subcultures- teams, gangs, group identities. The formation of the 1992 USA men’s basketball Olympic team was very much like a superhero team origin story. Everybody was cherry picked for a certain reason, skills that they could bring like no one else. The promotional campaign was hugely successful, but the built in storyline did all the work for them. I was only 9 at the time, but it was probably the most patriotic I had ever been. I remember wearing matching Team USA McDonald’s hats with my grandpa all summer long. Once I realized that sports were as interesting and relevant to my work as gangs or musical subcultures, the idea to make a zine about the Dream Team wasn’t far behind.
Do you have a favorite in there? I’m partial to Clyde the Glide at the moment, but that could be because I live in Portland.
I’m a native Angeleno, lucky enough to remember the Showtime Lakers, so Magic is an easy favorite. My favorite haiku in the book is Stockton, and the one that strikes up the most conversation is the poem about Jordan and Chamillionaire.
There is also a sort of a movie thread that runs throughout, well, at least with Ewing and Bird. And I hear that Space Jam has sort of a cult following in Chicago, is this a film that spoke to you in some way? (I’m totally not joking about that by the way – it’s huge there.)
I like Space Jam. It didn’t speak to me in the way that other sports films of the 90s spoke to me, like The Sandlot or Mighty Ducks 2, but it did have a huge R. Kelly song attached and lots of superstar appearances.
- Dead Wrestlers -
We are pretty excited to have picked up two more zines from you to carry. Dead Wrestlers is so good and took me on a trip (albeit a short one) down memory lane. Junkyard Dog and Macho Man Randy Savage were two that bit it early (even though I found out a year late on the JYD end).
What prompted you to pay tribute to these lost souls?
I was a huge WWF fan in the late 80s and early 90s. I had tons of action figures, subscribed to magazines and loved the larger than life personalities involved. Films like The Wrestler later explored the dark side of professional wrestling. In my research into these men, I discovered that there was a sad and tragic theme behind many of their early deaths. I chose to present it in a very factual and context free manner, which contrasted with the wild outfits and poses of the illustrations.
- Aggressive Inline Grinds -
Did you know that Kyle Kelley from Golden Saddle used to be a professional, or at least near professional ‘blader? (is that what you call them?) Which do you think would be his signature grind?
I did not know that, but since I made the zine, people have been outing all kinds of ex-pro inline skaters. I was recently at a drawing party with some very successful and famous artists, and everyone at the party admitted that they used to blade in the 90s. There was talk of starting a casual team up, taking to the streets of Silver Lake and grinding the shit out of some curbs. I hope Kyle’s signature grind would be a unique twist on a Shifty Pornstar.
The Mike Tyson tote bag was something totally surprising that Julie brought back from the show. How did that come about?
I’ve been obsessed with Mike lately. I usually spend an hour or so every few weeks zoning out on highlight reels on YouTube. Mike in his prime was otherworldly. I honestly think that if he lived in another era, he would be studied as a mythological figure or a demigod. I’m not done making work about Mike Tyson yet, there are many layers of the man to explore.
Did you read his new book that just came out?
Just got it a few days ago, but I’ve been too busy to crack it open yet. I was pleasantly surprised by how physically dense it is.
You did a collaboration with MISHKA late last year. How did that come about? Do you do other “commercial” work?
The collaboration happened after the New York Art Book Fair. My friend Hassan Rahim was kind enough to include a few of my books at his table. Mikhail Bortnik reached out to me and was kind enough to let me do a show at the LA Mishka store. We made a Magic Johnson shirt to go along with it. Mishka is a rad brand that works with lots of artists that I admire. I will work with other companies as long as I don’t have a moral stance against what they represent. I’m a working artist, so any exchange of creative work for money is commercial, right?
I heard a rumor that you just became a new dad? Congratulations! Should we expect that to start filtering into your art?
This is true. My son is 6 days old today, so I have no idea of what to expect. He is truly amazing and captivating and fills me with so much joy and pride and love. I’m sure that will translate into my other creations in some way.
Well, whatever the case may be. We look forward to more illustration and design work from you Adam, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions.