Seen: Bür Gür King

Did I mention that there is a group show at Radiant Space in Hollywood, which is running until the end of March? Yes, I did, Several times. Go back and read my last few articles (here and here). Anyhow, Makan Negahban is one of the four artists who is exhibiting this month. Makan is more than just a painter. He is also a member of the Los Angeles-based band Bür Gür, which might be a funny way of saying Burger. Let’s find out.

You have a painting called “Corbo,” and, with your band, Bür Gür, you had a song called “Corbo – I’m Good.” So, who is Corbo? What’s the importance of that name to you?

Corbin “Corbo” Clarke is a friend of mine from middle school, and he and I started our band Bür Gür in our early twenties. I have a knack for painting friends, so it felt like a matter of time before I painted Corbin. Considering we’ve been through a lot of good times and hard times together, it was kind of nice to paint him, as if to say, “love you, dude.” As for the song, Corbin makes music under his nickname Corbo, so that’s actually a Corbo song and not a Bür Gür song. It’s a good one though!

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In this show, you are featuring two paintings: “New York” and “Verdure.” Can you tell us about the inspiration and meaning of those two pieces, and why you chose those to show now?

I made “Verdure” in 2016. Back then, I was in a relationship, and my girlfriend was essentially all I painted. So painting her was natural for me. I remember we made a day to go out to the gardens by USC and I really liked the image of her in the rose bush. So it just clicked and it felt right, and thus painting commenced.

I painted “New York” in December of 2018. I had been meaning to paint my cousin (who is the lovely lady in the painting), and eventually, we landed on this nice composition where it felt less like a portrait of her and more like a painting of a scene in the city. In a lot of ways, I feel like the main character of the painting is the dude walking up the stairs from the subway. I was just really excited about the composition, the juxtapositions, the characters, and the energy. Also, the painting demanded a higher level of technical precision than any other painting I had done, so that also excited me, and I looked forward to the challenge of executing it.

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Can you tell us a bit about where you are from, your heritage, and how that inspires or affects your art? 

I was born and raised in Orange County, CA. I’m a first generation Iranian. It’s hard to pin down precisely how it affects my art. I’m sure the sunshine and beaches of SoCal affected my palate; color is a big part of my work and you’ll seldom find me painting something monochrome. As far as being Iranian goes, I think that had more impact on my music than my painting. My earliest memories of seeing and enjoying paintings were of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works, so in a lot of ways, I’m most inspired by European and Japanese visual aesthetics than Iranian.

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Which is more important to you, music or art? Why?

I think my art, but that isn’t to say I don’t love making music. In fact, the band and I have been getting back together to work on songs, and I have really been enjoying it. But art has just been my focus, and I feel like the career of an artist meshes better with my preferred lifestyle.

How would you best describe your painting style, for someone who hasn’t seen it?
Have you collaborated with other artists or do you have the desire to and, if so, who?

I guess I’d say Expressive Realism, ’cause I try to let the strokes speak for themselves and not over-blend, so hopefully, that leaves a bit of a crudeness to it and preserves some energy that I feel gets sapped away when Realist painters keep stroking and blending. But I’ve done a lot of Abstract work and a lot of Primitive work too, which I anticipate will be the direction I move into as time goes on. I find that question hard to answer because I dabble in a wide range of styles, both with art and music, so it’s always felt like a disservice to my pieces that I really love that aren’t even close to realism.
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Have you collaborated with other artists, or do you have the desire to? If so, who?
I’ve done work with my friend Jared Pittack on some art and zines in the past, but it is typically not my instinct to work with people on art. Maybe it could be fun down the line but for now, I’m pretty locked into my ways and my habits. I’m sure I’ll want to shake things up in the future though so stay tuned.
What drives you to be a creative person in a world that often tries to stifle individuality and reward conformity?
I guess it’s just natural for me. Believe me when I say nobody in my family/social circles really nurtured my desire to make music or art. But I just couldn’t stop. So maybe the correct answer is “genetics” or something. I don’t know. I’m not smart enough to answer this question. I guess I feel like creativity will always find a way to express itself so if you’ve got the bug in you, it’s going to come out no matter what. At least that’s the case for me.
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Any other shows coming up for you in the near future or other projects?
I am currently painting towards my solo show in June and after that, I suspect that the band and I will get back together to put the final touches on our album. 2019 has a lot of fun stuff in store for me I hope 🙂
All photos of Makan were taken by Bryan Sims
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