Posted on April 27, 2020
When Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith embarked on a North American fine art tour for 2020, he made his third stop at Cedros Design District’s EC Gallery. The Grammy-winning drummer’s two appearances on February 29 and March 1 featured unique works created in partnership with SceneFour, a visual art shop that specializes in collaborative art projects. Just as a painter uses brushes with oils of different colors, Smith works with drumsticks to capture light in a variety of ways; crafting rhythms that translate to very unique artwork.
“They said, ‘We want you to go into a dark room with a drum set and these light-up fluorescent drum sticks and play.’ They photographed me from all different angles and shutter speeds and that’s how it starts — that’s the beginning of it,” Smith explains of his unconventional artistic method. Smith then alters the images using various tools, methods, and media to relay what he’s feeling onto the canvas.
He says that the ultimate goal is for people to “feel” that rhythm in this visual format. “That’s the idea. Obviously, because it’s music-based and drumming-based, when anyone looks at a piece of art, it could be something totally different from one person to another person, which is a great thing about it. But I want them to see that and go, ‘Oh, OK, I can hear the rhythm of that,’” he explains. “Whenever you do any art, you want, I want, people to like it. You have to make it for yourself first and make sure you love what you do, and then you put it out there, and then it’s up for grabs.” The art also serves as an additional way for Smith to channel his own creativity. “It’s always encouraged to have creative outlets no matter what you do, and when you’re in a band for a long time, that’s a challenge, too, to challenge yourself to grow and change, take risks as an artist,” he says. “This is another avenue for that, and so far it’s been fun so I’m going to do it until it’s not, but right now, it’s all good.”
The satisfaction of creating art that has gained so much popularity does come at a cost to Smith. “People buy them and I’m like, ‘Oh, they’re going home with somebody — my babies are going!’ And they’re like, ‘Don’t worry, it’s going to be in a good place!’” he laughs. “You do get attached to them, but that’s a great thing that you know that somebody else appreciates what you’re doing. And that’s a good feeling.”
EC Gallery owner Ruth-Ann Thorn evaluated the celebrity element heavily before featuring the show. “My big concern was: We’ve been in San Diego now 25 years and I wanted to make sure that even though I love the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers, he was a credible artist, that he actually could paint,” says Thorn. “It’s always cool to have a celebrity, but our reputation as a gallery has always been on the quality of the artwork that we bring in. We’ve steered clear from even some of the artwork that we felt was credible but maybe a little too commercial. There’s a fine line that you walk there.” However, she was taken by Smith’s work. “I was completely amazed because he’s done something that I haven’t seen anybody else do, and that’s capture what he does on the stage on the canvas.”
And then there’s Smith himself, who proved as likable as both his art and the music that’s made him famous. “He’s just the nicest guy,” says Thorn, adding that he even offered to take out the trash after engaging patrons all day. Following the show, she adds, “We went out to grab a bite to eat and there was a little local cover band in the corner. I thought, ‘Oh gosh, this guy must be just done.’ And he got up and went over to the band and said, ‘Hey guys, I just started playing drums, and I’m wondering if I could jump in on a set?’” Though they called his bluff — he is, after all, in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame — he still jumped in with them for a few songs.
Though the exhibition was limited to Smith’s live appearances, due to its popular reception, Thorn persuaded Smith to allow her to retain a handful of pieces for collectors who were unable to attend. At press time, ten pieces are still available for acquisition at EC Gallery. ecgallery.com Deanna Murphy