Upperplayground News


Los Angeles-based artist Johnny Rodriguez is best known as KMNDZ, a play on the Apple “undo” function, Command + Z. In this vein, the graphic designer-turned-painter embraces the draining emotions that pervade life, those we wish we could possibly undo: sorrow, anger, and frustration. KMNDZ channels these melancholic sensations into his art.

Johnny Rodriguez, KMNDZ, art, The Citrus Report, Upper Playground, I'd Rather Love You

“I needed an emotional outlet and painting seemed like the best way to express what was eating me alive.”

Running with the age-old philosophy that sifting through emotions provides the best material for fueling one’s art, Rodriguez has come to recognize his methodology for his portraits of skeletal robots, birds, and harrowing weaponry: “I tend to gravitate toward music that is emotional… the kind of music that gently guides you into a dark alley, [and] once there it clobbers you over the head and takes your wallet,” Rodriguez explained.

Perhaps more stimulating and apparent, though, is his use of matted palettes. Recalling his time in Mexico, where he sourced his coloration style, he explains that “there, nothing stands out more than a teal house set in natures earthy tones. It’s butt ugly, yet the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen.” The most blatant distinction is his long-running motif of juxtaposing gritty, metallic robots next to uplifting birds or nature-based objects.

Johnny Rodriguez, KMNDZ, art, The Citrus Report, Upper Playground, I'd Rather Love You

I’d Rather Love You, his most recent exhibit at the Merry Karnowsky Gallery, was centered around his personal experiences of losing a friend who had turned into an enemy. Gazing into the sullen-look of humanoid faces graced with a slight reprieve from airy floral arrangements encasing a bomb, one can begin to comprehend this universal feeling: one we all wish we can undo, but have to endure and make the most of.

“What I’m ultimately painting about is personal relationships,” the artist divulges. “Instead of responding to hate with hate further perpetuating the situation, I’m suggesting we respond in love.”