As we transition from Summer to Winter, we are shifting to more primal colors and subtle details. Fashion and art can both walk the same path from time to time, which led us to seeking out an Artist who also had a relation to these principles.
As an alumni from the Design Department at UCLA, the first artist that came to mind was none other than the infamous Vasa Mihich, a professor most notably known for his sense of humor, but who also nurtured and taught incoming design students right as they entered the door as a naive and wide-eyed freshman. Although it had been nearly 4 years since having Vasa’s mentorship, he opened the door to his studio without hesitation for us at Koshka. We got a behind the scenes tour of Vasa’s studio based right here in the heart of LA.
As Vasa immigrated from Yugoslavia to LA in the 1960′s he started off from humble beginnings as he transitioned into the LA Art scene. When asking Vasa about his practice he bluntly reveals, “success is the problem.” As I tried to decipher this statement, Vasa divulged that he had always tried to distance his creative process from any outside interferences of commercial success or profit. Vasa proudly adorns the title of “Conceptual Artist” and as we walk through his studio basking in the bountiful amounts of painting and sculptures, we begin trying to uncover some of the concepts behind his work.
Vasa quickly states, “I know there is a concept, but I forget.”
Knowing Vasa, I’m not the least bit phased or surprised. It turns out that Vasa has a current book underway that aims to reconstruct his initial concepts behind some of his most famous works. The books also aims to uncover the systems that much of Vasa’s works encapsulates, hinting that systems are not always purely mechanical.
As an artist, Vasa not only develops concepts, but develops the very techniques to materialize his visions. The studio houses two very different worlds: a gallery on one side, and on the other an industrialized filled machine-shop where Vasa and his team physically create everything. It’s rare, especially for an artist based in Los Angeles, to create everything in-house at their studio. Vasa has kept this up for the past 50 years, a feat that should not be forgotten.
As we begin looking at his sculptures, we are told that many of the details of these pieces actually started off as mistakes. Vasa does not necessarily even see these pieces of work as sculptures, but rather more as “3-dimensional paintings.” Vasa went on to make miniature multiples of his work when asked to create pieces that could be carried in the Gift shops of many the museums his work was exhibited in. Although Vasa joked about how there was no profit in doing so, he did suggest that it had an even greater purpose than monetary gain, in that it offered international visibility for his work. By keeping his price-point at a reasonable price it allowed his art to be tangible by many of his fans, outside of the arts community.
As I begin to ask another question Vasa interrupts, “A lot of people think I’m somebody, but you’re looking at someone who disagrees!”
As we come to a close of the tour, we sit down with Vasa and ask him some of the last questions we have on our chest. I ponder why Vasa’s work has always been compared to the interactions of light and color and he quickly discards this claim.
He jokes by stating, “I don’t stress this. If we didn’t have light, we wouldn’t see the colors. Everything would be black! You need the light to see my work.” It seems that much of Vasa’s work carries a variety of systems and concepts that many critics and online sources haven’t yet discovered.
One of Vasa’s core philosophies as an artist holds that “ideas have no value if not made.”
I ask Vasa if he has any projects currently underway as I look at some sketches skewed about his desk. The words finish-fetish slip from his mouth as he states how he is creating some of his ideas from nearly 50′s years ago that he did not have the funds at the time to create. To go back after all this time and finally fabricate these structures show the inner perfectionist that Vasa truly is.
Our visit comes to a close, and although I may not be able to understand his work any better than when we started the tour, his words of wisdom jump in and around my brain, much like the memories I have of him as my professor.
Check out more of Vasa’s work here: