often times when i start a blog post, it's really hard for me to not just blurt out all over the page: HEY! I REALLY LIKE THIS. YOU SHOULD TOO!!! really, all i want to do w/ this blog is be a portal for the great art i come across. it's often hard to find the right words w/ out coming over like a polly anna who speaks abbrev.
well, this post isn't any different. i was recently very fortunate to be in touch w/ kevin cyr, a ginormously talented painter in brooklyn. he has a show coming up this friday at PEP gallery and he took a moment to sit down and answer some questions i had for him about the upcoming show, his work and the many vehicles he paints so beautifully. instead of getting all shouty about how incredibley talented he is, i'm going to let his interview do that for you. but just in case it's not clear by the end, i really like kevin's work and you should too!!
can you talk a little about your upcoming show at pink elephant projects? what are your inspirations behind it?
i was lucky enough to travel to india and beijing, china with an artist i worked for last spring. it was my first time in both places and i was really amazed at the cultural differences. i was immediately drawn to the different modes of transportation since i've been painting a lot of vehicles and industrial landscapes for the past couple of years. i took a ton of pictures of Indian rickshaws, because they were everywhere. when i got back to the u.s. i started doing drawings and paintings of them.
you have a lot of motorized vehicles in your work. what's the story w/ that?
i think painting vehicles has a lot to do with the small town i grew up in. i’ve never been interested in fixing cars or even owning one, but i like the way they look and what they can represent. it’s interesting how different vehicles can define not only the owner’s geographic location, but their social status. each vehicle i’ve painted has been found on the street and in some cases documented just before being carted off to the junkyard.
you mention that you took lots of pictures of rickshaws and vehicles in india and beijing. the vehicles you paint are these actual vehicles or are they ideas you have created on your own? for instance, the camperbike, is that an actual vehicle you have encountered?
the rickshaws are actual vehicles that i photographed in mumbai, india. the only changes i made were to add the american junk food logos. the camper bike does not exist in real life. the tricycle does, but adding the camper top is my creation. the tricycles in beijing carry so much stuff i figured why not a camper?
where did you grow up, and do you think that has an influence on your work?
i grew up in a small, industrial town called madawaska, maine. it’s one of the four corners of the U.S. right on the border of canada. when i grew up there, the majority of the town was employed by madawaska’s papermill, so it’s a pretty blue color town where very few people had fancy houses or cars. i grew up riding dirt bikes, playing in the woods with my friends and brothers. i wasn’t necessarily interested in cars, but there was definitely a modest, working-class quality to the town and people that has found it’s way into my work.
i love your chevy van sculpture...can you talk a little bit about that? did you build it completely? it looks amazing...how did you get it to look so real?
the van was partly inspired by those “art” toys. i bought a plastic model on ebay, built it, then based the paint job on a few chevy vans in brooklyn. it started out more as a prototype than a sculpture. my brother is a toy designer in hong kong, so i asked him to look into making a real prototype, but it’s too expensive.
what are your feelings on graffiti and street art? what do you think about how popular and mainstream graffiti has become? can you name some of your fav artists.
i've always been too chicken to be a graffiti artist, and i don’t have strong feelings about the purity of it. i like how a lot of artists have bridged the gap between the street scene and the more mainstream toy industry or gallery exhibitions—artists like kaws and neckface. i also really like the wheat pastings of the collective faile.
did you go to school for art?
i went to massachusetts college of art in boston for illustration and painting.
you've done some work for some great firms and publications...what has been your favorite work so far?
i have done a couple of illustrations for readymade magazine. they were really easy to work with and i’ve always liked the magazine.
what are you listening to right now?
“this american life” on npr. i'm pretty lazy when it comes to music— either finding new music or changing a cd in my stereo. i usually end up turning on public radio and listening to it all day.
who are some of your favorite artists? who are you watching right now? any shout outs?
i like christian helmich who shows at lehmann maupin, jules de balincourt, anna conway, david hardy, who have all shown at P.S.1’s greater new york show. shout out to ain cocke who does great little paintings and drawings of WWII era soldiers, and also to all my chinese artist friends.
what has been your best experience as an artist so far?
i would say traveling to beijing and being part of a painting project. i have plans to do my own project there--hopefully soon.
what is your favorite piece of art (you can pick a few if narrowing it to one is too much)?
at the moment, it's a piece by david hardy. he built a mini recreational vehicle out of a wheel chair and wood grain contact paper. at first i didn’t like it, but mostly out of jealousy. i’ve had my own mobile home project in the works, but his piece is really good and really funny.
what was your favorite xmas or hanukkah present this yr? why?
an artforum subscription and a recycled bike part bottle opener. i've been using pliers to open beers in my studio.
any big plans for 2008? any collabs or projects you want to share w/ us?
i plan to expand on my camper-bike project. when i was in beijing i bought a motorized tricycle and had it shipped here. this spring i'll buy a camper top, the kind that goes on a pickup and modify it to fit the tricycle. then i’ll develop a series of paintings around it.
you live in nyc now, how is that for you as an artist? is it exciting? inspiring? can you tell us some of your favorite galleries and places you like to go?
new york is great. there is always so much to see and do. i live and work in brooklyn, so i tend to hang out in and around my neighborhood a lot. most of my favorite galleries are in chelsea: david zwirner, lehmann maupin, zack feuer, leo koenig. they all show the work of a lot of great artists. there are a lot of new galleries in the lower east side since the opening of the new museum, but i haven’t visited any of them yet. i’ve been busy working in my studio.
kevin's show, look both ways, opens on january 4th, this coming friday at PEP gallery and runs through the 9th of february. there will be a reception from 8-10p.m. you can check out kevin's website here.