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KMDNZ Goes Deep; Talks Loss, Love and Paying Homage at DesignerCon 2015

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I interrupted Johnny KMNDZ Rodriguez mid-WIP to get to know him and his work a little better. Much of what I knew about the Los Angeles-based graphic designer up to this point dealt with his all-star lineup of internationally revered enterprises tacked on to his resume— brands such as MTV Networks, Universal Pictures, Microsoft, Lexus and Disney. But instead of discussing his commercial successes, KMNDZ and I talked loss, love and paying homage at DesignerCon 2015.

kmndz designercon

Hi Johnny. Can you tell me about the piece you're working on right now live at DCon?

All week my brain has been racking with, 'What am I gonna' paint? What am I gonna' paint? I drew some stuff up, and just thought 'I'll do more bombs.' But last night, at the last second, I thought I'd just do a tribute piece. So I went and found everyone's like primary head or logo that they do and I'm making a roll call kind of piece. No one knows I'm doing it, but hopefully they'll come by and be like 'hey that's my dude.'

But even though I'm doing everyone else's art, I'll eventually do my style of their art. Like the dunny or the KAWS; I'll do KAWS, I'll make it look like KAWS, but I'll make it look like wood or put beads all over it or something; kind of KMNDZ-ify it.


Very cool. Can you tell me about the print you have available through POW titled "Atoll?" Where's the content from that piece stem from?

"Atoll" was a part of a Merry Karnowsky exhibition called I'd Rather Love You. The exhibition talks about things that I've been experiencing with loss of love and relationships and whatnot. It's something that drove me to the conclusion that in relationships in general, I've been getting abused a lot. It'd been happening for a long time. I'd gotten to a point where the only proper response was just to love someone back; the proper response was never to respond in an equal manner or to respond with hate in anyway.

I genuinely wanted to make a difference in the way someone perceives the way you should respond, by just showing them or being an example. We talk about stuff like this a lot, but once you experience it, it's super hard to do— almost impossible to do. We have that innate tendency to like, protect ourselves, but I'm finding the older I get – maybe a little wiser, I don't know – that at the end of the day, I would rather choose death over hurting someone.

A part of learning this was through a relationship. Like, I love 'this' person and I never wanted to come strongly back at them the way they had at me. So when I paint about bombs, those bombs are full of love and taking what is designed for hate, and replacing it with love.

Upon finishing this quote, fans and friends approached Johnny to extend a hello, handshake or smile— allowing him to extend that love he embeds in his creations, IRL. Stay tuned for more work from KMNDZ and for an update on his DesignerCon live painting, which just may be up for grabs as a POW printed wall adornment in your home soon. You'll have to check back to know! Till next time.