Tofer Chin

Photos: Curtis Buchanan
Words: Olivia Purnell

Tofer sits shoeless and cross-legged in his sixth floor downtown studio as he describes his installation outside Rio. He’s smiling wide, like he’s about to tell me something awesome. And I’m not disappointed.

Tofer Chin in Garrett Leight Brooks Sun
Tofer Chin studio sculpture and painting

“You walk up this path, through the jungle, and get to this lagoon, and you see these matte black, almost alien, shadowy entities living there,” he says. He’s gesturing at a set of impressive geometric stalagmites sitting next to the couch. I imagine them waiting there in Rio, but larger and alone. They’re partially covered in leaves and vine by now, part of the jungle floor, but also separate. Over time the two — his sculpture and this Brazilian lagoon — will slowly become one. “It’s pretty incredible,” he says “to get to add a touch of magic to the existing scenery.”

Tofer Chin studio sculpture and painting
Tofer Chin Studio, Garrett Leight

A born and raised Angeleno, Tofer’s murals, paintings, and sculptures are everywhere from California to Nicaragua, Japan, and of course Brazil. They’re glimpses into his world, architectural shifts of perspective breaking down form and light and shadow and the psychology of color (lately he’s particularly interested in how pink makes you feel). This is the work of a man who might’ve been a chef in another lifetime – there’s that same kind of exactness and attention to juxtaposition. It’ll be interesting to see how this precision translates to the screen; Tofer’s first stop motion animation collaboration Gusto Rules! just premiered on Comedy Central.

“Wait, where are you parked?” Tofer asks me on my way out. I’m on 7th and Mateo, right next to one of his murals; black and white angled cubes on a bright blue backdrop. It’s not a brand new piece but the blue still feels electric, and the shapes, just a glimpse of a larger whole. It is awesome.

Tofer Chin Q&A for Garrett Leight
Tofer Chin studio paintings for Garrett Leight feature