Exclusive Art Show Interview: Chet Zar on 'Conjoined 8' at Copro Gallery

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This Saturday night is going to be a blast. Conjoined 8 is about to debut, and from what we've seen this just might be the group show's best year yet. Just check out this awesome summary from Gary and Erica of Copro Gallery:

Copro Gallery presents "CONJOINED 8" curated by Chet Zar! 
"CONJOINED 8" is a 3-Dimensional Group Sculpture Art exhibition Classic sculptures, Hyperreal
life like models, Surreal assemblages, mixed media paintings, Art, Toys, live body painting performance, live music, virtual reality event and other conjoined works. 

LIVE MUSIC BY "SOUL BEAT" with members of the "The Steady 45s"
Plus live body painting performance, virtual reality experience, food truck by "Pinch of Flavor"

We spoke with Chet Zar about the show and got all the details of what we can expect. Previous Conjoined shows have wowed audiences with pieces from dozens of incredible artists, and this year looks to be no different. It'll definitely be an event to remember.

 Dark artist and curator Chet Zar

Dark artist and curator Chet Zar

Andrew Hawkins: So, tell us about Conjoined and why people should be getting excited for this show.

Chet Zar: Everyone should get excited about it in the first place because it is an exciting show. It’s a super entertaining show, it’s not your mom and dad’s art show. There’s so much to look at, there’s a ton of artists involved, and everybody always brings their A-game to the show, so it’s really special. A lot of people say that it’s their favorite L.A. show of the year, and they always make a point to make it.

AH: Yeah, it’s a huge show for you. I mean, you always get a packed house, right?

Chet Zar: Yeah, crowds out the door, every time

AH: So what is Conjoined about? Because when I think of your Conjoined shows, I think of twins, like the melding of Hollywood practical effects and fine art. Something like that. But lay out what this is.

Chet Zar: That was the idea for the title, actually. Gary came up with the title, Gary from Copro Gallery. He asked me to carry the show, and I thought it would be cool to do the show where I could incorporate all of these amazing sculptors that weren’t getting shown in galleries very often within our art scene. Primarily the dark art scene and the pop-surrealism art scene. There’s so much talent there that wasn’t being shown that much, and the same goes for my friends in the film industry.

There are these incredible sculptors and painters, the talent is crazy. But most of them never showed in galleries, so I thought this is a perfect way to bring the two together and create a platform for them to present their work to people who have never seen it before, and also make for a really fun show. So that’s kind of where the Conjoined show title came from. We also kind of modeled it after cheesy horror movie titles, as well.

That was always the theme in the back of our minds: there was Conjoined, and then there was Conjoined 2: The Sequel, then Conjoined 3: The Final Chapter, then Conjoined 4: A New Beginning… So this year is Conjoined 8, so the unofficial title is Conjoined: Infinity, because when you turn the 8 on it’s side it makes the infinity symbol. It’s got that tongue-in-cheek element to it.

 'Conjoined 8' official poster featuring sculpture art by Chris Haas

'Conjoined 8' official poster featuring sculpture art by Chris Haas

AH: The poster for this looks awesome, it’s got this incredible piece on it, the infinity symbol is tilted to the side, it just looks like a powerful image. Key art. It makes me wonder, what kind of art are you expecting people to bring to the table for this one? We’re only a couple of days away, so everyone has already had to have submitted their stuff, right?

Chet Zar: Yeah, tomorrow’s the last day to get stuff delivered to the gallery so a lot of it’s already there. I haven’t seen most of it, but the fact that I haven’t seen it is a testament to how hard the artists bring it every year. I don’t have to worry and check to make sure it’s going to be a good show because I’m telling you, every artist brings their A-game, 1000 percent, every time. It’s amazing. I think the show is so good that everyone wants to try and top it every year, and every year it’s gotten better and better, it’s crazy. The show is so good that you think it can’t get any better, and then it gets better the next year. It’s really insane.

AH: From what I’ve seen, I’ve never been able to attend one, but all of the pictures are these crazy art pieces ranging from hyper-realistic sculpture to pop-surrealism to dark art, even to automata. You’ve got this open platform for people to bring whatever they want to the table.

Chet Zar: Yeah, as long as it’s good, there’s never a theme. A lot of artists think that the theme is twins or conjoined twins, and people make things that have to do with conjoined twins or something. But there’s really no theme other than: make it great, make it amazing. That’s it. As long as it’s amazing and it’s sculpture.

AH: So talk a little bit about Copro Gallery because that’s where this event happens every year, right?

Chet Zar: Yeah, they’re a gallery located at a place called Bergamot Station. It’s a big complex in Santa Monica of all these art galleries, and they’re kind of the black sheep of the complex. There’s a lot of fancy galleries, then there’s the down-and-dirty, scrappy Copro Gallery down at the very end, where all the good stuff is. It’s a great gallery, it’s my favorite gallery. It used to be a low-brow gallery, showing Robert Williams and stuff like that and it sort of slowly, over the last few years, morphed into a more dark art-friendly gallery. There’s a lot of great creepy stuff, and the artists are great, and they put on amazing shows. Gary Pressman and Erica Miller run it, they do an amazing job.

 Copro Gallery director Gary Pressman

Copro Gallery director Gary Pressman

AH: I was about to mention Gary and Erica because they’re all about the art scene, and a lot of the time, they just have an open invite for the shows. Is this a show that’s going to have a cover charge or any kind of entry fee?

Chet Zar: We usually do something like 5 bucks, maybe. Something cheap. It’s pretty inexpensive, when you see all the artwork. We honestly started charging just to get less people to come. Seriously, if we charge a little, some people will be turned off but we did it one year, and more people showed up. So who the hell knows?

It also ends up being this huge show, and you think that everybody buys everything, but it’s more like people come to party and people come to see the art, just to look at it. We’re not always guaranteed a ton of sales. Sometimes we’ll have a Conjoined show that has great sales, and then sometimes we’ll have a show that won’t sell much at all. And it’s not because one show is better than the other, that’s just how the art world is. It’s so expensive and time-consuming to put on and to ship out all of the unsold artwork back that we at least will get a little bit of pocket change from the door money, too.

AH: What kind of pieces usually sell for these shows? It seems like, with all of the variety of sculptures, is there anything that stands out, like as soon as the doors open, it’s definitely going to get picked up and get the red dot?

Chet Zar: No. Never. [laughter] If we knew that secret formula, then everybody would do it. You know how it is, man. The art world is so weird, you never know. It’s that magic thing where someone sees a piece of art and they have to have it. You cannot predict that, it’s such a personal thing. I’ve seen amazing pieces not sell, and I’ve seen pieces that maybe weren’t as good, sell for a high price because somebody loves it. So, you know, there really isn’t any kind of gauge in that way. And as much as Gary is a good businessman and has to make money to keep the gallery open, he and Erica really care about putting on a good show. And that’s first and foremost, that it’s a good, exciting, entertaining, interesting show.

AH: Awesome. Well, I know the show is coming up soon, it’s going to be January 20th (this Saturday) from 8:00-11:30 and sometimes I think Copro keeps the doors open a little later depending on how many people there are, usually?

Chet Zar: Yeah, we say 11:30 on the flyer, but it usually goes until 1 or 1:30.

 Kazuhiro Tsuji's hypperreal sculpture of artist Mark Ryden

Kazuhiro Tsuji's hypperreal sculpture of artist Mark Ryden

AH: Are there any artists or anybody that you’re excited to have featured this year? Anybody you’d like to give a shout-out to before we wrap up?

Chet Zar: There’s so many, it’s hard to say, There’s probably a hundred artists in the show bringing pretty large pieces. I know Ave Rose has a couple of amazing pieces that I can’t wait to see. She’s showed me a couple of bits and pieces of it. Kazuhiro Tsuji's giant Mark Ryden head is amazing, I’ve seen that, it’s incredible that’s going to be there.

AH: Yeah, I’ve seen pictures of that. That looks unbelievably cool and incredibly detailed.

Chet Zar: It’s unbelievable. Mike Correll is going to put a piece in again and he’s got a really cool assemblage art piece. There’s a new guy named Duncan Crawford who’s got this really large, strange vampire woman that’s coming up out of twisted roots, a 7-foot tall sculpture. Like I said, everybody brings their best so it’s hard to single any out, but those just came to mind, though. But I did want to mention that my son’s band is gonna be playing there as well, which is kind of cool for me.

AH: Oh, so there’s going to be live music?

Chet Zar: Yeah, live music and my son’s band is called Soul Beat, and it’s a variation of their band, The Steady 45’s, it’s kind of like soul music. They’re really good, a really good band. I think we’re going to have a virtual reality station where people can try with virtual headsets on. And we usually have body painters and all kinds of stuff going on. You never know. The outside is also a big part of the attraction. We’ve got a food truck, I think we’ve got the grilled cheese truck this time, my favorite!

AH: Hell yeah. Well, every time I’ve ever been to Copro, it’s always been an event and it sounds like this one is going to be huge and tons of fun. To wrap it up, is there anything you like to mention, anything you’ve got going on? I know you have your Dark Art Society podcast with Mike Correll, but is there anything you want to plug before we get going?

Chet Zar: Yeah, that’s probably the biggest thing we’ve got going on. I mean, I have this Dy5topia book that I’m slowly chipping away at and I’m excited that it’s pretty close to being done. After next week, Mike and I are having a meeting about finalizing all of the text because we had to change a few things as we discovered throughout the process of making this book. We’re mythologizing all of my paintings into one book and sort of creating a story behind it. So that is moving full-steam ahead and yeah, Dark Art Society is doing well and we’re going to continue doing that. We’ll probably launch a Patreon very soon for that so that people can support it and we can grow that whole Dark Art movement.

AH: Awesome. Well thank you for talking about Conjoined 8 today, it’s going to be exciting for everyone who’s going to be able to make it out to Santa Monica for this, so thank you so much for your time.

Chet Zar: Hey, thanks for having me on, I really appreciate it.

CONJOINED 8 opens tomorrow night Saturday, January 20th at Copro Gallery with a $5 suggested donation for entry. Event time 8-11:30 PM