SM: I believe that Lowbrow has enormous commercial potential! People go crazy about it, but "experts" just don't! Some of European critics still dismiss it as "too American", "illustrative" and so on. Situation in Europe is rather strange: power is what matters even beyond money. And everything is dictated by New York (Soho Art Trust) and London (Saatchi & Serota). You & your colleagues did great marketing job with artist sites. Now, that's a revolution! What is the institutional response towards new underground art in USA? You've exhibited in "Kustom Kulture" show? Are museums slowly opening for this kind of art?
AA: The "enormous
commercial potential" lies in the utility of Low Brow Art: since it's illustration
based it's perfect for media reproduction, like CD covers or advertisements.
Low Brow art also appeals to an audience in the lowest levels of consumer participation:
when was the last time you saw a tattoo of an abstract or Minimalist color field
painting? In Low Brow Art very little is left to the viewer's imagination since
the narrative is set up and the images and characters clearly defined. The message
is obvious and frequently resorts to influences outside of the artworld. This
can make it "too American" in that it's cultural references are often
specifically American television shows, fads and trends.
I'm amazed how the word "illustrative" is used as an insult since the museums of Europe are filled with accurate renderings of landscapes and people. The New York and London "art mafia" are nothing new, collectors and critics have always dictated which artists and styles are good or bad. The lucky thing is that they have this stranglehold only in the top levels of the artworld; down below, the Low Brow artists are still able to find collectors. This is where the internet becomes very useful because it's a sophisticated and efficient way for art to be seen by a worldwide audience.
The "Kustom Kulture" show was remarkable in that it was a museum show. It was not remarkable that in order for that to happen a lot of political deals had to be made in the offices of the museum organizing the show. Museums are "slowly opening for this kind of art" but they are quickly becoming more receptive to highly talented individual Low Brow artists.
SM: I've read that sometimes You make sketches for your paintings on computer. Some figurative deformations You apply do remind me of digital distortion commands (like Corel's "Swirl" etc.) However, end result (easel painting) is much more thrilling than current digital animation which is still somehow too static. I really must ask You this: what is the main cause for faceless expression of new cartoons? Commercial reasons, rigid logic of technology or...? I mean, objects in "3D Studio Max" or "3D Viz", for example, have to be in logical perspective...and that's a drag because painting was always based on anti-perspective as higher expression (Byzantine frescoes, Gothic or "Fall from grace" by A.A.)
AA: The artists who use new animation technology concentrate on making easily recognized imagery so it can be understood by visually unsophisticated audiences. The psychedelic potential is ignored so that crowd can marvel at the animation's closeness to a perfect "cartoon reality". However, cartoon animation, no matter how believable it is in terms of light and space, is never expected to duplicate our normal visual reality; we have live actors and film for that. Cartoon animation is striving towards an unspecified perfection. "The faceless expression of new cartoons" is because it's all about technology designed to amaze people visually, not impress them with new narrative and stylistic freedoms. Painting is a very primitive form and consists of a single image therefore it can utilize these new technologies in an entirely different way than animation. The surface of a painting is completely different than a monitor or movie screen and lend itself more to that immediacy of "contact".
SM: Can You tell me about your 100 $ paintings project. I saw that ad in Juxtapoz and couldn't believe it!!! Is it still going on? If so, how can people from Yugoslavia buy your stuff? We don't have Pay Pal, only Western Union Transfer. What do You want to achieve with 100 $ works? Create brand new art audience? Dump overpriced "high art" dinosaurs or...?
AA: I sell 100$ black and white paintings for two reasons. Artistically it gives me an opportunity to "remix" images in a manner very similar to the way music is remixed to make a different version of a particular song. I can use a single image as many times as I want to, putting a character in different situations and throwing together the drawings from several paintings. I don't like to use the same drawings in separate "major" paintings but I love to use the same drawings when I make these "minor" works. I also do these 100 dollar works to make original paintings affordable to people who normally can't buy art. Ownership of an original painting should not be restricted to people who can afford to spend lots of money. I'm not trying to "dump overpriced high art dinosaurs", just make art that's affordable to all. I sell work for 100$ and 3000$, and all prices in between.
SM: I see that you insist on monumental approach: crystal clear composition, reduced palette (in certain sense)...opposing "maximalism" of Your peers. However, I could never make out how many figures are out there on your paintings? One mouth - two tongues! One body - three legs! It's as if futurist Marinetti was Warner Brothers art director? Are You taking a laugh out of 20's avant-gardes or reminding us that we completely forgot how to deal with problem of movement in plastic arts?
AA: In the high art world the kind of distortion you're talking about is called "Cubism"; in the low art word it's called "psychedelic". I won't deny that a lot of my inspiration for this distortion is drugs like LSD and DMT since they've provided me with stunning visuals. The difficulty of course is how to transfer that from the mind's eye to the canvas. The best way for me is through the "monumental approach": analyzing the experienced visual and then professionally constructing an image that shows it off. The major problem is how to boil sequential images down to a single panel; my way of achieving this is to make references to action before and after the most important moment. There's really no advanced theory behind it, it just looks good.
SM: If it's not top secret, would You describe how the work process goes? Do You work with assistants? My guess is yes! Your production is gigantic to me! Still, quality never declines! Will You pump things up like Disney? I guess You could. People fall in instant love with your images.
AA: I first make
a pencil drawing of a character on a piece of paper and scan it into the computer.
I then use Adobe Photoshop filters to change the drawing around. Once I have
a suitable character with some sort of action to it I begin to decide the environment
in which all the action is going to take place. At that point I have the basic
painting layout but not necessarily the story. I then print out the black and
white line drawing and project it onto a stretched canvas. I very seldom try
out color combinations in advance on the computer. Sometimes I'll have the narrative
decided in advance, other times it comes to me as I paint. I've spent as long
as a month and a half on one painting but there's no telling how much time it's
going to take to finish. After it's done I put the goddamn thing away and only
the passage of time will tell whether its a good one of a piece of shit.
The quality is always in doubt, I'm always surprised when the paintings look good. I still break brushes and smash my canvases when things don't go quite right. I've been painting for a good 20 years now and there's been a lot of blood, sweat and tears involved in making these paintings. Not to mention ruined relationships, painting is a solitary pursuit; God help the spouse of an artist!
I don't have an assistant, if I did I sure wouldn't let them paint, that's the fun part. I'd make them go food shopping or clean my house, the shit I really don't want to do!
SM: Are You actually doing sequential art? I think not.
AA: I've done a few animated cartoons but they're really just loops of psychedelic cat heads morphing into indescribable graphic chaos and back again. No story.
SM: How would You describe basic differences between east & west coast underground art scenes? By the way, do you know what's Rick Prol doing now?
AA: The East Coast scene is more graffiti oriented; the kids are coming from that type of graphic background and are also much more "rave" inspired. The art has a more conceptual edge and requires some intellectual discourse to be explained It's a much younger crew. The West Coast is more about painting and using slightly older pop culture references. Basically I'd say West Coast is derived from "Kustom Kulture" and the east Coast from Graffiti.