Jacob Rochester: Nostalgia Sparks Creativity

Jacob Rochester remembers. The Connecticut-raised, Los Angeles-based artist remembers weird cars, obscure video games, old horror movies, posters, music, beats, Dennis Rodman’s hair, his mom’s rug collection, and the huge spoiler on the red and white Acura Integra Type R. And, for what Rochester doesn’t quite remember, he has a cache of USB keys loaded with nostalgic images and retro references he’s been collecting since the eighth grade. 

Rochester has done work for Apple and Netflix — and maybe you saw his mural, International Friendship Through Basketball, painted as a collaboration between Aimé Leon Dore, New Balance, and NYC’s Masaryk Community Gym. His client list also includes collector cat-nip brands like Nike, Actual Source, and trading-card company Topps.

His art is ultra-specific, coming together from a particular melange of influences and cues that could belong only to him — for example, his painting of the rugs draped over a Ferrari F40.

Jacob Rochester - Ferrari rug copy

“The addition of rugs is just another example of blending certain worlds together,” he says. “Growing up, my mom collected rugs and hung or laid them throughout the house. This, paired with posters of supercars hung all over my bedroom walls growing up — and that oftentimes rugs are sold and traded through travel and out of the back of cars — is what loosely inspired that piece.”

But the feeling his art evokes, of remembered stuff and nostalgic objects, is hyper-relatable, especially for anyone that’s ever had a case of collector-brain and geeked out over cars, t-shirts, basketball, or whatever. 

“I’ve always approached my art and design practice in the same way I sample music for beat-making. It’s oftentimes a spur of the moment reactionary collage to specific references and motifs that have had some sort of impact on my life, past or present.”

Jacob Rochester

Where cars and nostalgia intersect, the results are often ugly or cringey; that Rochester’s work is so aesthetically intriguing makes it stand out. Not many artists would take the time, for example, to weave the rear-end of a Mercedes 190E Cosworth into a 50 x 60” rug or paint a loving portrait of a Subaru Baja.

nostalgia porsche

“Since a young age, mainly through videogames, I developed an interest in how cars were drawn and designed,” Rochester says. “And, even more specifically, I had an obsession with body kits and how aerodynamics varied between every model, realizing just inches of an adjustment can completely change the feel and performance of a car.”

“I remember playing the first race of the video game Need for Speed: Underground in the white and red Type-R Integra with the huge spoiler; that car (though not a Type-R) ended up being the first car I ever owned.”

These days, Rochester drives an F80 M3, which, for anyone not versed in geeky BMW model codes, refers to the fifth generation M3 that arrived in 2015. 

“I’ve also always loved automotive stories that embrace custom/handmade craftsmanship,” he continues, name-dropping the custom Porsche 911s built by Nakai-san under the RAUH-Welt BEGRIFF (RWB) name, the meticulous Porsche 911 restomods by Singer, Alpina BMWs, and early AMG-tuned Benzes. “I feel like these nuances in automotive culture have always drawn me into those special details that I try to similarly have in my own work,” Rochester explains.

It’s strange to see cars remembered and celebrated the way Rochester does. In art and movies, automobiles are usually loaded symbols, visual stand-ins for freedom, but increasingly also commerce, climate change, or mortal danger. But cars, like a particular album or piece of clothing, can also be unique personal artifacts, nostalgic visual reminders of a place and time and a feeling, or an obsession. Rochester reminds us that these things are worth remembering, and maybe even celebrating too.