“James Bond with Martini” Jim Evans/Richard Duardo (1986)
The things we keep, the symbols and signs that stick, become essential parts of our history. Jim Evans has created many of those special pieces, from rock and film posters, to album covers and rock ephemera. His explosive imagination has brought music and film to life. In this interview, he reflects on his artistic origins, working with Neil Young, and the expansive range of his content. Surround yourself with his vivid work for bands like Oasis, U2, Wu-Tang Clan and more at the Pop Art Photo Show September 27th through the 30th at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica.
How did the San Francisco underground scene influence your foundational style and flavor?
The idea of using pop culture, generally, and the images, the cartoons, science fiction… things like that, all working together in conjunction with comic books, band posters…it freed me up, completely. Instead of starting out having to learn where to go, what to do and how to do it, I sort of jumped into it. It allowed me to use my strongest abilities, visually, to make imagery.
You’ve created posters, album covers and even jackets throughout your career. What has been your favorite medium of visual art and why?
I would say music-oriented projects. Rock posters have probably been my favorite because they’ve allowed me the most freedom in terms of subject matter…In the 90s when I started doing posters for Helmet and L7 and Peal Jam, all the different Alt Bands, the combination of things freed me up to do pretty much any kind of imagery that I wanted to. I’d listen to the music, and I’d hear the dynamic of the music, and I’d turn it into a piece of art. It could be anything from a chair, to a science fiction monster, to an exploding head.
Do you have a specific memory of working with an artist or producing a certain piece that has stuck with you?
Doing Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps. They sent him over to my house…he had a lot of specific ideas about things he wanted to do. It was kind of an overwhelming experience for me because he was Neil Young…I knew a lot more about him than he knew about me…He came in with a pile of ideas. His ideas were not what I expected at all. He had just seen Star Wars so he was kind of…into Star Wars and war movies in general. So, it went in a way different direction than I thought it would be…It turned out to be kind of a classic.
You create special pieces that people keep for a lifetime, and even pass down through generations. How does it feel to create something that truly stays in people’s collections and history forever?
It feels really good! In some ways it kind of fulfills my original fantasy. When I was a kid…the Coca-Cola signs, and other oddball things that just stood out to me…I didn’t really understand what it was about (them) that stood out to me…I just knew that I looked at this thing and I thought, ‘I would really like to have been the guy who did that.’ Just because so many people look at it and it becomes such a part of their lives that I admired it. When I started working, my main idea was to make iconic images like that…I just tried to make something that looked like it would last forever.
Can you describe your legacy as an artist, or what you hope your legacy will be, in a few words?
I guess I would hope to be remembered as a guy who lived in his time and reflected the culture around him, and was able to… turn it into a vision that other people could see the world the way I see it, in little bite-size pieces. I try to be entertaining, and at the same time I always thought I saw things a little differently than everyone else. So, when I translated what I saw, I tried to make it something that communicated to them where they go, ‘Oh yeah!’…So I guess I try to send subliminal messages but at the same time reflect the culture around me at any given time.
*Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.