Paradoxically, an artist can never experience the same joys as their audience. Most viewers only see the finished product, rather than the struggles that formed it. For the artist, there is only the process — the toil to understand an idea germinating within them, and the journey to will it into existence. Unsurprisingly, many ideas — brilliant or not — only go as far as the waste bin.
“How many napkin sketches exist out there that we’ll never see? asks visual artist, Joshua Vides, when reflecting on the path that got him to where he is today. Many within the streetwear community know Vides for running the label CLSC out of Southern California from 2010 to 2018. In recent times, he has reinvented himself as an artist, who has in just a five year span, become a go-to collaborator with some of the world’s biggest brands. NASCAR, PUMA, Fendi, and Ferrari are some of the many labels whose products Vides has reimagined by distilling them to their constituent elements. Simple line sketches that draw back on early inspirations, where objects become suspended in space, like thoughts floating in the mind.
Dubbed Reality to Idea, an aesthetic he coined in 2018, Vides looks to celebrate the moments that first spark an artwork. Whether an installation, painting or object, viewing one of his own pieces conjures the feeling of being transported into the whitespace of a piece of paper. “The idea behind that was taking everything back to its origin,” he tells Hypebeast, “which if you look at anything surrounding us right now, started with a paper sketch. I do my best to celebrate that and highlight the trials and tribulations of getting an idea off the ground.”
For his latest collaboration, Vides worked with award-winning tequila brand Cincoro, which was founded in 2019 by Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss, Milwaukee Bucks owner Wes Edens, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck and his wife Emilia Fazzalari, along with the GOAT himself, Charlotte Hornets minority owner Michael Jordan. Anytime that sort of excellence is brought into a room, something special is about to brew. As legend has it: one night, the five NBA executives had dinner and shared their love for tequila — sparking an interest to create a unique brand that offered an ultra-smooth finish that would complement intimate and celebratory occasions.
While many heritage brands are hesitant to experiment outside of the box, Vides admired Cincoro’s willingness to push the boundaries with little to no hesitation. “For me,” he adds, “it’s exciting to work on something that just looks different and elevates what my end all, be all, visual looks like.”
In lieu of Cincoro’s partnership with Joshua Vides, which will be celebrated at the upcoming Art Basel in Miami Beach, Hypebeast caught up with the artist to discuss his Reality to Idea philosophy, the process of redesigning Cincoro’s sculptural bottle, along with the merits of paving your own path in the often copycat world of art.
Collaboration is such a core pillar to your work. Can you talk about this collaboration and the storytelling that you aim to convey through Cincoro?
I think first and foremost, with any collaboration, it’s like, ‘Why? Who?’ This year is my fifth year pursuing art as a career. In the last five years, if you look back at some of the projects I’ve done, it’s crazy. Obviously, we have to say no to a lot of things now, because of the level we’ve reached. So anytime something across the table, with a brand like Cincoro, we’re very aware of what it is. We’ve enjoyed the product before. I had no idea who was behind the brand. ‘Well, the owners are these five NBA legends, not to mention Michael Jordan.’ Your ears tingle a little bit when you hear that. He’s probably the greatest basketball player of all time. Anytime any of us get the opportunity to be around that kind of greatness , how can you say no? Just to be in the same room and the same conversation on the email where his name exists — sign me up.
It was killing two birds with one stone. One, Cincoro is a brand that is respected in their own space, and Michael Jordan is tied to it. From there, ‘Ok, what are we doing? We want to design this bottle.’ And when you look at the bottle, it looks so cool compared to other tequila brands. For me it’s exciting to work on something that just looks different and elevates what my end all, be all, visual looks like.
Those owners of Jeanie, Michael and so forth represent the best brands coming together to envision what a tequila looks and tastes like. How was the process of working with their team to present this next chapter in the Cincoro story?
The people involved are multi-championship level. So even to just be in the same conversation, I feel proud of myself — which rarely happens. ‘Damn, I’m here now.’ What I really enjoyed most was, although you have super crazy famous owners for this brand, the team we started working with from the first day till today, has stayed consistent. It’s not a big team, so I would take Zoom calls with three-to-five people on a call and everybody knows their role. Nobody steps on each other’s toes. There’s not a million cooks in the kitchen.
Very similar to my practice, I don’t know what people think about me, my practice, and how many people are involved — but we pull off some pretty crazy shit, where I assume people think there’s maybe 20 people working here. I find pride and value in that, when I work with other companies that have that same ethos. We have five people pulling off Fendi and Ferrari projects. Everyone proudly wears 10 hats. It’s easier to effortlessly work on something, when both companies are level-headed as far as their teams go. I enjoyed the tight-knit community that built this project from the ground up.
Another pillar to your aesthetic is this two-dimensional approach to flattening objects in space, where the artwork begins to play with your eyes. Touring your studio, however, sculpture is showing to be a bigger focus within your practice. The Cincoro bottle itself appears like a sculpture. Can you discuss your approach to redesigning it?
At this point in my life, I’m mainly known for the Reality to Idea concept I created in 2018. The idea behind that was taking everything back to its origin, which if you look at anything surrounding us right now, started with a paper sketch. I do my best to celebrate that and highlight the trials and tribulations of getting an idea off the ground.
How many napkin sketches exist out there that we’ll never see? Because it was scary or people didn’t have connections to produce whatever the idea was. As far as this project goes, I want to celebrate the moment that these five NBA legends were sitting on a table and thinking, ‘What’s it going to look like?’ I can only imagine and know that, out of all the napkin sketches, that is what they chose. Let’s celebrate that exact moment. Cincoro is now one of the leading tequila brands wherever you go.
I do my best to celebrate those special moments, whether with brands or people. I’m not changing the shape of the bottle, but just applying my creative idea to the overall existing object. Fortunately, the idea stands out and it’s not just an all-over print. You have to wrap the bottle 360 degrees to get this multifunctional art piece.
Viewing the bottle in real time, it looks as though you cut it out from reality. Were you able to work with the owners themselves, such as MJ? Did they have input?
There were a few phone calls at the beginning. Obviously, Michael was never on the call, but some of the other owners would hop on and say, ‘This is what the plan is. This is where we want to go, etc.’ How many times do you get the opportunity to talk to somebody who’s actually behind the brand? Even when they see me, it’s not like there’s this guy on the internet that we’re working with. To actually be able to have a conversation and get off the phone and be like, ‘Josh is a pretty chill dude, a regular guy from Rialto, California, that found a cool concept and now we’re working with him. I feel good about that.’
When you look back at your career, what differentiates this project from past collaborations? Both in terms of the challenges and the messaging.
Every project is so different, from rollout to product to timelines to the teams involved. Hard to put my finger on one thing, specifically. But what’s important to note: this is the first time Cincoro has collaborated with anybody. So they had to learn, not only how to communicate with an artist, but work with an artist and his small team. How do we get to this end goal together?
They already do an amazing job at tequila, what it looks like, and where it’s available. It was an enjoyable learning lesson for both of us. For me, it was having the opportunity to pitch more ideas and concepts, because they were so open to that. Whereas, other companies who have done this 100 times would say: ‘Can’t do this. Not going to do this. Red tape here, don’t call that guy.’ For being their first time, ‘We don’t know. There isn’t a no. Let’s try it.’ That wasn’t challenging, but super exciting.
We were talking about this yesterday, that Cincoro wrapped a full bottle 360 degrees with artwork, specifically for each corner. Now, they have the ability to have that conversation with the next partner, or even in-house product. So it’s almost like I elevated the production and ideation of what’s possible for the brand itself.
What is your go-to tequila, from the one you like to sip on to your favorite cocktail?
Añejo is always the move, because it’s top shelf and delicious. It’s actually what’s included in my limited-edition bottle with Cincoro, which is pretty cool. Cocktail depends on what’s going on. I might be on vacation or hanging out at home, but a tequila soda has always been a go-to for me. But if it’s someone’s birthday, straight shot.
Even the most successful artists tend to forget the journey that got them where they are. Rewinding the clock back, was art always a direction you wanted to go or did your career manifest as a result of all your overlapping interests in culture?
I still don’t know what I want to do. I’ve allowed myself to try everything I possibly can, when I can. Somehow, I ended up here. If you were to talk to 10 year old Josh doing graffiti and ask, ‘Do you want to be an artist?’ That’s not even an idea for him, because it’s not possible. I’m in a low income city, going to church four times a week. Can’t even watch MTV. I was so far separated from the culture, that being intertwined in it wasn’t even an idea. But I’ve always been intrigued by: ‘What can I do? What do I like? Can I mix both worlds?’ And just learn from that.
Graffiti went from the walls to a t-shirt, selling it and getting hit by somebody to do a collaboration. Then learning the business side on how to negotiate with a multimillion dollar company that wants to make a shoe with me. Then making a shoe, learning how to do that, traveling the world, meeting people from Hypebeast and then being like, ‘Oh, I can just ask you to put my stuff on the website?’ And just building relationships and being a good person at the end of the day to where I am at today.I’m recognized as an artist and a bunch of other things. I’m sure 10 years from now, ‘Did you always expect to be in this space?’ I would say no, because I was known as an artist 10 years ago.
Even before the term was coined, streetwear has always been a constant throughout your life, you even had your own label CLSC. How has the transition been from brand owner to full-time artist? Surely there are parallels between the two.
Personally and mentally, it was a really hard time for me. Growing up, my goal was to become a streetwear owner. I wanted to be Nick Diamond, I wanted to be Ben and Bobby [Hundreds], and have the store on Fairfax. Then I got there and was like, ‘Wait a minute…this isn’t completely fulfilling me.’ That’s hard to understand. It’s like telling yourself you’re going to be a firefighter — you have all the trucks and toys at your house as a little kid and the photo of you with the hat. Then you become a firefighter and you don’t like it. ‘Did I waste my time? Was I wrong here?’ It’s a difficult pill to swallow.
There was a time I was just really confused and trying to figure out where I wanted to go next. But, I’d like to think streetwear was my art school. I didn’t go to art school, but was able to learn from the complications in that very tight-knit community and understand I can do my own thing and not follow this Diamond Supply blueprint or The Hundreds blueprint. Sit in the same space, but succeed by my own ideas. As my life kind of shifted into becoming an artist, the skeleton remained the same and it still is today. I can be on the dance floor but in my own world, doing my own thing. I’m able to find success and be termed an artist, without having to go by what exactly you’ve been told to do as an artist. I find it very similar, just different mediums.
Roy Lichtenstein is an artist that comes to mind when viewing your own work. Which artists and movements would you say had the biggest impact on you?
I can talk about this for hours. I’m inspired by everything. I’m inspired by different artists for different things. Visually, there is Roy Lichtenstein, John Dubuffet, Cynthia Greig as far as their style, painting, and creativity goes.
But I’d also like to think about when I was in middle school and seeing a Nike sneaker come out by some artist in New York named Futura, and being like: ‘This guy doesn’t run the fastest mile in the world. I’ve never seen him hit a homer. I’ve never seen him dunk. I’ve never seen him swim laps faster than Michael Phelps. Why does this person have a Nike shoe?’ Him, HAZE, STASH, created this world that I didn’t think existed. I can design a performance shoe, even though I’m doing something illegal? There’s inspiration there, because they opened up the door for all of us that are now working in this commercial collaborative space. I’ve been fortunate to meet these people, learn from them, and implement their energy — whether it’s the way they paint or they’re just cool people at the end of the day.
Can you walk me through the execution of one of your paintings or even an object you choose to paint — from earliest thought to the finish?
It sounds cliche, but everything starts with a sketch. It’s thinking, ‘Where do I want to go? What do I want to do?’ I’m in a position right now where I’m heavily dedicated to ceramics and taking a little breather from painting canvas. Five years straight of that, it works, thank God. I found a space there where I can sell canvas. Years, decades from now, people will look back at my work and go, ‘He never stuck to one thing. He was always searching for the next thing to make him happy, opposed to what’s sold.’
With ceramics, I don’t sketch that stuff out. I just wonder what I think could be cool to make today. Then I grab a piece of clay, start molding it with my hands, hope for the best [laughs], fingers crossed that it all cooks well, paint it and then glaze it. I’m just driven by what I want to see exist and go from there.
How would you define your own practice?
It’s hard to say. These moments that define me change everyday. If you want to think about 2018? Easy, that dude’s a Pop artist. If you want to put your finger on 2023? He’s a ceramicist. Overall, everybody knows I just work my ass off. I’d rather be known for that, than be labeled in a specific category of art. ‘That dude works really hard. You could tell that everything he makes is truly his and he’s making all the calls.’ Whatever that category of artist is, put me there.
Photos: Jeremy Lee. Courtesy of Cincoro Tequila.