A DOLL’S HOUSE MAGAZINE
INTERVIEW BY ASTRI BARBALA
1) You have been connected to both so-called high art as well as always being true to the Low Brow movement. In which environment do you feel most comfortable?
Neither, I prefer the company of musicians to visual artists. For me there is still a mystery in how a group of people can create an organized sound that is able to transfix a crowd. I don’t feel that sort of wonder at visual art anymore, I’ve seen and learned too much. There is a lot of meaningless visual art out there that somehow gets touted as being important contributions to contemporary culture; in reality its just weak masturbation.
The most amazing thing about Low Brow Art is that it has gotten contemporary youth culture to include painting in its list of things that are crucial and worth exploring. Jamie Reid’s artwork for the Sex Pistols was pretty radical but it didn’t make kids want to become artists, they still wanted to form bands!
2) In the ”autobiopsy” on your website it says you are ”able to see the beauty in both a Rembrandt and a rat rod”. In which do you find the most inspiration? And what/who else inspires you?
I am inspired equally by high and low art; the fact that an object is in a museum doesn’t make me consider it any differently than a weird thing in a street gutter. A lot of people need a sanctioned arena in which to look at non-utilitarian items, that way they can feel okay about contemplating a single color canvas or empty picture frame.
There are a lot of people who let artists do their exploring for them; its much easier for them to let someone go out and haul a weird object back to the art gallery than go out and find it for themselves. I find my inspiration in the street.
3) Do you play a lot of computer games? And have a weird thing for cats? Or does it just seem that way?
I quit playing computer games after I got all the way through Sonic the Hedgehog 3. At that point I realized I would never get anything concrete done in the real world if I gave in to the virtual one touted by computer games. But I still go down to the local arcade and watch kids play the games there; that way I can see what happens without putting in all the time to do it myself!
Other than calling their pet’s name and a few commands, most humans have lifelong non-verbal relationships with their pets; even so, people tend to consider their pets only slightly less than human. In my paintings I prefer to use animals for this reason; also, I’m tired of the use of the human figure in art. I chose cats because their history has paralleled that of human race for thousands of years; they have suffered alongside of us and also because of us. So cats make pretty good replacements for humans in figurative art. Dogs are cool but will eat their own shit and vomit and that is fucked up…
4) Why do you think MGMT chose you to do the cover art for their new album?
I was initially introduced to Andrew and Ben by Sonic Boom who produced and recorded “Congratulations”. Sonic owns a couple of my paintings and used them as cover art on several E.A.R releases. They came over to my house and I showed them some paintings and gave them my book Vacation From Reality.
Andrew likes cats so right there I was doing something he understood! But more important was the fact that I got along with the band and didn’t put on any pressure to get something out of them; at their level of fame I think it’s not easy for them to find people who can just chill out and act naturally around them. I went up a few times to the mansion in Malibu where they were recording and did drawings on some pieces of paper and pizza boxes that were just scattered around. I forgot about them completely until Josh Cheuse, the art director at Sony, sent me scans of them and said that he wanted some similar things. I guess the fact that I had hung out with MGMT in Malibu sort of involved me in a very tiny way in the whole process that led to “Congratulations”.
5) Do you have any favourite tracks from ”Congratulations”?
I like them all but my fave is Song For Dan Treacy because it made me find out more about him. Not many songs send me to Wikipedia to study up a subject.
6) What other music do you listen to?
I listen to all sorts of music but when I work in my studio its mostly heavy dub and ambient. Those kinds of music make time disappear which is very helpful because I start to go mad after five or six hours painting. Sometimes I psychotically listen to the same CD over and over again until the music vanishes and weird sounds begin to come out of the speakers. I collect bootleg recordings of the Rolling Stones from 1969 to 1975 and sometimes the low fidelity of the analogue recordings is quite beautiful, almost as good as perfect digital sound.
7) Any plans of exhibiting in Europe soon, if yes, where?
I will have new paintings on display at two different shows in Italy in September. First is the Urban Superstar Festival at the MADRE Contemporary Art Museum in Naples and then the Antonio Colombo Gallery in Milan.
8) What do you think is in the future for the Low Brow movement - is it going to become more included in the world of fine art, you think? And - is this important at all for the artists?
Low Brow Art goes completely against the Conceptual Art favored by the fine art world and for that reason is excluded from most museums. Still, there are a few artists like Robert Williams and Robert Crumb that have managed to get official recognition from the art power brokers. As with most art movements, there will be a few artists who get museum shows but most Low Brow artists will continue to sell to collectors who like the work for what it is and don’t buy it as an investment.
The origins of Low Brow Art are in the 1960s and 70s youth culture movements like Kustom Kulture, surfing and skate boarding. The young “New Brow” artists of today have entirely different influences; video and computer games and graffiti are their starting point. I have always tried to keep up with contemporary culture; that is why the audience has mostly approved the cover art I did for “Congratulations”.
After Sony “leaked” the cover art through websites and blogs, a lot of kids initially criticized the cover because it looked like a video game from the 90s. I find that an interesting complaint because it is very similar to the hatred that I had to deal with in the early days of Low Brow. The museums and galleries hated Low Brow because of its roots in “common” culture; it’s weird that kids now are equally elitist.
9) Which projects are you currently working on?
Getting the paintings done for the shows in Italy and building custom electric guitars.
10) Where can we find you in 10 years time?
Sleeping with my girlfriend on the beach of my own private island with about five thousand cats…