Ego-dystonic Behavior, 2008
Visual artist Tofer Chin can barely sit still during our interview. He searches through iTunes for Aphex Twin songs that “inspired the conceptualization of recent paintings.”
He then tries to hunt down a November 2006 issue of Flaunt magazine with his optical art splashed across the cover. Chin enthusiastically presents more evidence of a life steeped in art. “I just curated my first fashion spread for Flaunt,” he says, holding up layouts filled with photos of models and carefully hand-painted backdrops. “I was really nervous and excited because I’ve never done something like this before,” he admits.
Portrait by Linda Nguyen
Chin recently closed out a high profile show at the Commissary Arts gallery in Venice for which he produced several large canvases of geometrically abstract paintings that scream sex, drugs, and psychedelic rock ’n’ roll. His current style is a bit Frank Stella gone electro-pop: A 48x36-inch painting titled Joy is an explosion of orange planes layered over a controlled black-and-white grid. Joy is a think-piece—achromatic patterns juxtaposing gradations of bright color challenges one’s visual sense. But its gestation was Chin’s emotional response to everyday influences. “Joy was inspired by music I was listening to. It’s named after my friend whose favorite color is orange. I’ve never really used orange like this.”
Then there’s the book deal. A follow up to Chin’s acclaimed book, Finger Bang, is another photographic portfolio of the beautiful and grotesque. Vacation Standards features a photo of old couples wading in the Red Sea. “I capture my observations while I’m traveling,” he explains. Chin’s travels are unpredictable and certainly not pedestrian.
Finally, there’s the dabbling with designer Kelly Wearstler and her glitzy art circle. She commissioned him to create original work for Los Angeles’ Avalon Hotel and Miami’s Viceroy Hotel. He’s also finished painting a life-sized sculpture for Wearstler’s personal collection. Clearly, Chin is busy, maybe even overloaded. He never gets the chance to “sit back and take it all in.” He’s too busy redefining his limits as an artist.
“It’s been an evolution of me,” he believes, and as he continues to evolve, the art world scrambles to keep up.