Note: Extra Vitamins is the multi-disciplinary creative studio of Julia Belamarich and Kyle Warfield. The Denver duo is known for producing everything from experimental clothing to zines to murals and interactive installations. Here, writer Will Meier gets into the various grooves of their fine art.
Extra Vitamins makes jazz so I wanna bop to this one. Improv session or freestyle or whatever. i.e. I’m putting on Bitches Brew to write this because that’s the mood:
Cause life is always a playground as all kids and artists know, right?
But how do you bring that to everyone else?
I feel like art might typically be ‘good’ if smart non-artists flip out when they see it, too. I took my buddy who climbs to the EV show at Leisure a bit ago and there were rock-holds on the paintings, damn; but also like perfectly-tensioned coils and brush-stroke-ish pockets stitched full of colorful little pieces of whatever and laser-cut gloss-acrylic comic-puzzles hanging from the ceiling and some sort of weird boardgame-as-architecture vibe going on in the middle of the room. Et cetera. Which is why I think about the work as jungle gyms. You climb into them and it’s choose-your-own-adventure, so fuck it, let’s go up the slide.
Randomly, they also remind me of like all those Victorian paintings of lace. Like – this opulent thing, this symbol of wealth and ease of life, and whether or not the painter might get to indulge much in the swank signified, they’re all up in the pattern itself, kinda stealing it back by depicting it in their own way and saying, no, that’s actually for everybody to appreciate. Extra Vitamins’ high-hip lace is more like…laced…Cool Patterns and subtle, staged optical interactions. Very party, very semiotic, very doodly, very clever, and very, very crispy clean. Clean enough to read, some might say.
Which is convenient because they’re also a palimpsest of what is definitely ‘visual language’. Like the pieces all together are some sorta Rosetta Stone for eachothers’ hieroglyphs or something. Throwback to the dawn of storytelling and all that. The original Cypher. It’s like with Keith Haring: If you say the same kinda thing enough times in enough ways visually, you start to create this sorta freestyle lexical ecosystem. I mean, after all, EV are designers, who have to kinda communicate specifically on purpose. It’s a numbers game. The age of emoji. One hundred.
An example of the ‘communication’: I bought a piece, a rare occasion on the writer budget, but I had to, once I saw this part that’s like a photoshoppedly-ripply chainlink fence, and this purple grid being distorted by a thin acrylic rod laying across it, and the two ripples are kinda the same, ontologically or whatever. And certainly the same optical granularity as the stitching all over the brightly colored foam pieces inside – so many of these relationships, which are loud and precise. The really wild solo is several colored shirt tags turned backward. Stripes of the byproduct of mass production showcased as the point of highest contrast. You might say that Saul Bass and Duchamp are both proud. You might also say that it’s like music: the beat was so good I actually bought an album for once. And what I’m saying is like — this piece was just one in my price range. The big ones are better in more ways than surface area.
When Extra Vitamins throws a party, everybody’s invited. For once, ‘play’ isn’t just art-school doublespeak in a statement – these are games that are actually fun. And really, the work doesn’t need words. It’s probably best as an instrumental. I just couldn’t help myself but freestyle over it for a second.