Interview: Kevin Lyons Talks About Curating Green Label Gallery Brooklyn
Green Label Gallery made its way to Brooklyn for the Dew Tour and we got a chance to talk to the installation’s curator, Kevin Lyons. Get an inside look at how the art was selected and why Kevin wanted to be a part of this unique art showcase.
What is Green Label Gallery and how did you get involved with Mountain Dew?
Green Label Gallery is the art extension of Mountain Dew's artist collective. I got involved because I was working on a collection with Girl Skateboards, Mountain Dew and Green Label Exclusives for Sean Malto. The collection is about to come out and at the same time, the Dew Tour is happening in my backyard, so since I used to work with Girl Skateboards--I started with them years ago--it was great to go back to working with them again, and Mountain Dew brought us together. Since Sean is here and Mountain Dew is here at the same time, it was actually perfect timing for me to do Green Label Gallery Brooklyn and work on the installation of it at House of Vans.
Why do you think it's important for Mountain Dew to support artists?
I think a lot of brands support the arts by just paying artists to do things for them, and one of the benefits of what Mountain Dew and Green Label are doing is that they are actually supporting artists by showing their work and showing a lot of work, not just paying one artist to do a huge installation or one collection. A lot of brands will just stop with me. They'll pay me to do something, and that's it, but these are kids who don't get a chance to show their work and don't get a bigger forum. There are going to be thousands of people here to see their work, so I think what Mountain Dew is doing is actually empowering younger artists and younger kids to show their work. What they do is give everyone an opportunity and a forum to see a lot of different work. I think that's the difference between some brands that say, "We support the arts," by paying a few artists versus Mountain Dew saying, "Art is democratic. Let's show more work. Let's involve more kids. Let's give kids a place to show their stuff."
Tell us about your process for picking the artists who are showcased in Green Label Gallery Brooklyn.
Hopefully my 20-25 years in the business equipped me to be able to pick art that I really like. Obviously there are some restraints around copyrights and getting too offensive, but for the most part, it was just stuff I liked out of the group of art I saw. I tried to pick a variety of art as well, so it doesn't look like just one thing or one type of art. We really tried to pick the best selection that would look good on the wall together. For me, it was just stuff that excites me. I personally have a certain aesthetic, but I was trying to mix it up as much as possible with really graphic stuff and really painterly stuff, and getting a good mix of male and female artists. I don't know the ages of people, so I can't really be diverse in that way, but I just wanted to get a really diverse group of people’s work so that the visual outcome is quite exciting, and people want to go and look at it.
How many artists did you choose in total?
We chose 80 in total. Not all 80 are going to be on the wall installation at House of Vans, but the good part is that you can see all the work collected in the hashtag gallery on Instagram. For this, we're going to try to hang about 40 or 45 pieces.
You're creating the gallery wall of work. Can you tell us what the process is for setting that up?
The gallery wall is going to showcase the work and it's going to have a lot of my stuff around the pieces. I'm just adding my little touches to it. I did the look and feel of the promotional posters, but that was my major participation along with picking the artists and helping promote the event. As I put the work up, I'll also be adding their Instagram names and stuff like that. I'm just putting up my little doodles around the gallery work.
Do you have a plan for the drawings you're going to be adding to the wall?
I don't have a plan really. This has been a whirlwind. It was a really quick contest and really quick selection, getting them printed and getting here. Seeing the space for the first time is interesting. The main focus should be the artwork and the winners. I don't want the focus to be on me. I think the small touches I'm putting on there just make the wall a little more interesting. The focus for me is getting as many pieces on the wall as we can so we can celebrate as many artists as possible.
You mentioned you live in Brooklyn. Why do you think the borough is such a hub for creativity?
I think like-minded people choose like-minded people to be around. If you want to go some place really creative, you go some place where creative people live. I think Brooklyn as a hub is amazing. Manhattan used to be the center of the art world and I think it's now shifting slowly to Brooklyn. I think part of it is real estate and cheaper rent, but it also used to be really isolated if you lived in Brooklyn. If you were trying to be an artist, you had to go into Manhattan to show your work all the time. I think there are so many galleries, support systems and studios in Brooklyn now, so you can really stay in this borough for a long part of your career and really work on that. That's the cool part about Brooklyn. It offers way more than it ever has. When I started out, you had to be in Manhattan. I lived in Brooklyn, but you had to be in Manhattan to get noticed.
What advice would you give someone who is trying to emerge in the art world?
I think you have to have a style, something unique about you because there are a lot of people doing the same thing nowadays. There are so many artists that are doing things that are derivative of another big artist. I think that was one way to come up in the world, but I think if you really want to break into the scene, you've got to come up with something fairly unique. You have to have a voice. You have to have something to say. You can't just always rely on whatever it is that you have, that you are showing to people. You have to get out there. You have to show your work. You have to be a part of things. You have to be really vocal and confident about what you do. I think the biggest problem facing all artists is that there are so many now and it’s hard to break into the art world and the whole global art scene. It's just about coming up with something original, really standing behind that, and working hard to perfect that.