Looking Ahead • Childs Play: an Art Exhibition from O.J. Hays, Armani Howard & Darius Airo


Artist OJ Hays and I have been talking about doing an interview previewing his upcoming ChildsPlay art show for a couple weeks now. Both my co-worker and roommate, I've spent just about every waking minute with OJ of late, however our focus has been assisting the roll out of Chance The Rapper's impending album release. 

Now, the day before his one night only art event, I find OJ on our deck, our personal outdoor oasis for temporary escape from computer screens. As we take a few minutes to talk on the rain-soaked deck, we finally get to our interview. Having gotten a preview of the material, I'm incredibly excited for the event. 

For those who aren't familiar, here's a quick rundown. Hays is a West Virginia native, spent his college years in Columbus, Ohio studying animation, then moved to Chicago in July 2012. Randomly enough, he moved across the street from Pat The Manager, who was looking for a graphic design to pair with a young Chicago rapper he recently began managing. In the years since, O.J. has served as Chance's lead graphic designer, also working with the likes of De La Soul, Skrillex and North Coast Music Festival to name a few. With OJ also happening to be one of the better skateboarders in the city (just ask Uprise), it's only right he's showing in a gallery that also has a skate ramp built in. Read our interview below, and be sure to join us tomorrow night at Mo Faux Studio.

These Days: Is this your first show since moving to Chicago?

OJ: Not including any of the animations in the Chance shows, yes, first show in the Chi.

TD: I know better than anyone how busy you’ve been with the Chance 3 roll out, what was it like also preparing for an art show simultaneously?

OJ: Somewhat stressful, a lot of careful planning and time management. Both Chance 3 and the ChildsPlay show are very important to me. I’ve been in “super-focus” mode for the past several weeks… Grinding around the clock. It’s been crucial staying one step ahead, and making sure all of my bases are covered. Seeing everything actually come together is a great feeling. The fact that the show and album are happening in the same day is just wild.

TD: With so much of your work being digital these days, often only coming to life physically in the form of tees, posters & stickers, was it a freeing in a way to create your own confines?

OJ: It’s been great… Very refreshing.  Most of my life I’ve been making physical pieces. Lately that hasn’t been the case as much.  The computer speeds everything up tremendously, and is essential when it comes to animation. All the recent design work I’ve been doing has been super high-paced, and extremely time sensitive.  That pretty much forces me to be on the computer all the time, which can be very draining. The physical, tactile element of this work is like hitting the reset button, and has me ultra psyched!  

TD: You have a lot of mediums working together in this show, can you talk to us a bit about that?

OJ: Yeah, I have a grip of watercolor paintings, wood-cutouts, and a bunch of fun new animation stuff. I’m really excited about the combination of mediums that I’m using for this show. I’ve never seen it done quite like this before, especially for a live event.  We’ll see how it turns out on the 13th!

TD: The birds, the center of your work for this show, are a fairly new character for you. How did they come about?

OJ: I’ve done some bird themed stuff before, but this is a bit more concentrated.  I’ve always loved birds, and in West Virginia (where I grew up), there’s a much wider variety of birds...  Many more, and much more colorful.  You pretty much only see pigeons in Chicago. This particular project is trying to liven things up, and bring some color to the city. The skateboarding aspect is something even closer to my heart. Combining the two is something that has been done before, but never well. This is my interpretation of that pair, and I'm excited for the world to see it.

TD: Can you talk to us about the other two artists you’re showing with?

OJ: Oh yeah, Armani Howard and Darius Airo. All of us have very playful, yet significantly different styles. That’s basically how the show came about.  Armani’s my ultra-homie, heavy part of the Uprise squad, he’s been killing the game with a ton of projects lately. Armani introduced me to Darius, and brought him into the equation. His stuff adds a whole other dynamic to the show.  You gotta come out to the show, and scope everything together for yourself!

TD: What’s the biggest thing you would like to see people take away from this show?

OJ: A positive experience!  And great memories. ChildsPlay show and Chance3 in the same day?!... Not a bad way to jumpstart SUMMERTIME CHI!  

Thanks! see you Friday.