This Saturday night, February 7th, the newly branded KP Projects / MKG (Merry Karnowsky Gallery) will be presenting a new solo show from Johnny Rodriguez (aka KMNDZ) entitled I’d Rather Love You. Only recently informed that he will be showing in their main gallery space, the Los Angeles-based painter is up to the challenge and has never felt in more of an artistic groove as now. Hear about his thoughts on the show and more in our question and answer session below…


Arrested Motion (AM): Can you tell us a little about this new body of work and how you came up for the title of the show?

KMNDZ: This show, I’d Rather Love You, is an evaluation of personal struggles from the last five years. On the surface, you can say the message is about non-violence as a reaction to both physical and psychological destructiveness. It is about what I believe is the necessary response to negative actions – understanding opposite perspectives and responding in love and kindness.

I imagine there’s this nefarious army firing off and dropping the bombs from my paintings. On the flip side, we see a guerrilla army taking those bombs and turning them into bird houses; turning grenades into flowers, and guns into megaphones. Please join me Feb 7th, help me realize what that underground guerrilla group would look like. Come dressed to my show like you’re part of this group of rebel thinkers. For inspiration think Tank Girl, Black Panther Party, Big City. First fifteen gets arm bands, and first thirty get the “heavy artillery division” patch.


AM: We often see symbology play a role in your imagery, in particular certain numbers. Is there any special meaning to this element of your visual language?

KMNDZ: I love symbolism and how its enabled me to tell a secret story. Numbers, birds, bottles, jewelry, and the weapons themselves. Keep in mind, in some cases ,this is me placing meaning to the image. To the viewer, I could be saying something completely different. In other instances, I’m pulling from scripture or numerology with five being the most common number in my work, representing grace.


AM: Speaking of reoccurring imagery, we can’t get enough of the bombs, grenades, and missiles you render so beautifully. Any reason you keep going back to these weapons besides it being badass.

KMNDZ: I think my dad’s history with war in Nicaragua plays a big part. This was a big reason why he made sure he raised his family in the US. I always felt I had it in me to be a guerrilla as well. I also can’t get past the message of using the artillery as a metaphor to share a message of love and peace. Ultimately, my heart is guiding me to paint more bomb bird houses. Until it says other wise, I think it might be safe to expect more. Or who knows I might be done after this show because damn, I painted a bunch of them.


AM: Can you take us through your creative process? Any drawings or studies first or do you progress straight to the painting?

KMNDZ: Meditating on story and how my style fits the message is where it all begins. I feel at times I’m bad company as my mind is constantly wondering. If you ever catch me smiling and agreeing with you, it’s probably because my head is in another place painting beyond my capabilities.

Once I settle on an idea, I start to doodle on scrap paper, the backs of mail, or the backs of my pen renderings. From there it’s straight to panel with the hope that I’m onto something good. During painting, I’m usually fighting to keep myself from trashing the piece. It’s always a fight and more times than not, I usually come out on top. Every once in a while I get my butt kicked and I start over.

AM: Oftentimes, we see you reference God and his influence in interviews and of course in some of what looks to be related religious iconography in your work. Can you expand a little more on how your spiritual life affects your art?

KMNDZ: I grew up in the Catholic Church – left it because I was told God wouldn’t accept me for my skater bowl hair cut. I wanted to separate myself from the control of religion but not from my creator. Ultimately, anything I’m involved with eventually influences my work. Jiujitsu, relationships, God, my kids, my past, and my present.


AM: Any particular artists you look up to or have influenced your development?

KMNDZ: Bob Marley, Jack White, The Budos Band, Edith Piaf, to The Pixies. Music does it for me first. Listening to the right song in a strange way helps me see how I want something to look. As for visual artists my list is infinite and always changing – Charlie Immer, Aaron Horkey, Andrew Hem, Date Farmers, Richard Bunkall, FernBeds, Susanne Konig, Rembrandt. However, Craola currently takes the cake. Yes I love his work, But it’s his spirit that has affected me most. His desire to push his capabilities has been most contagious. I’ve been teaching myself new ways of attacking a painting and Greg has made himself available to confirm my findings. I am most grateful to him.


AM: This will be your second time we believe at Merry Karnowsky Gallery. How will you approach this showing in relation to your first exhibition there in 2012? Anything different you will try or have learned since then?

KMNDZ: The show has turned into more than I expected. Showing in the main gallery has been a new development as of a week ago. Fortunately, I was cranking on the show and am prepared to take it on. If there was ever a time with this body of work, it’s now. Everything feels different, work has been pouring out of me. It feels good to let go and explore new approaches, techniques, and even new brushes. I normally paint with a very stiff brush. Using the Trekell brush that’s softer has changed things up a bit (drink more Ovaltine).

Ok, I’ll put it to you like this. Five months of the work I did for my first show with Merry was destroyed in n front of me and there was nothing I could do about it. This show is free and clear of that relationship and the work is a reflection of that.


AM: Any other upcoming shows and projects that you can share with us?

KMNDZ: I have been so focused on the MK show that I’ve yet put any serious thought into the after. Some projects in the making are a small mural for GB Pasadena, an artist series GI with Shoyoroll, and I still need to figure out this vinyl toy dilemma. There’s also an alumni show in Baldwin Park for BPHS students in May. My priority will be figuring out my next solo show. I am excited to see where things go after this exhibition.

Discuss KMNDZ here.