Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we listening to when we come to visit you?
There's usually a progression of music during a day of printing my Rock Posters. I start with Dead Meadow while getting everything ready. I throw on Baroness or Ramones to clean screens. The Clash and The Who takes me through a lot of the printing. There's Dub and Manu Chao to help me concentrate if there's difficult printing. Uncommonmen From Mars gives me a kick of energy. There's Mogwai when I'm printing the last color. Maggot Brain by Parliament goes on to sign and number my prints. So it depends on when you visit me.
I'm a Rock Poster Artist from Dayton, Ohio. I've been making poster art for about 30 years.
When did you start drawing?
In the crib, literally, my parents put crayons into my crib with me.
Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?
My Father, John Sperry, was apprenticed to Master Sculptor Robert Koepnik; and Koepnik had studied under the famous Swedish sculptor Carl Milles. Carl Milles had studied with Auguste Rodin. I used to work on sculptures along side my Dad, in my Dad's studio and also in Robert Koepnik's studio, as a boy.
I was enrolled in art programs at The Living Arts Center in Dayton, Ohio and at The Dayton Art Institute.
I had a dual major of Journalism and Art at the University of Missouri and studied art with Frank Stack (aka Foolbert Sturgeon, author of "The Adventures of Jesus"), who had made some of the first underground cartoons and who had worked with Gilbert Shelton (author of "The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers") at the Texas Ranger in Austin, Texas. I used to go by Frank's office to rap about art and comics and movies and American culture in general. He is a storehouse of cultural info. Frank Stack got me fired up to be an underground cartoonist.
Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?
I been living from my art for 16 years.
In France I've been on Arte Channel, Rock and Folk, Punk Rawk, among others.
Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?
My best work is very influenced by making abstract forms and hieroglyphic line that is resolved in the mind of the perceiver. I like the work of the post-impressionists in this regard, and the early abstract painters in terms of pure formally based abstraction from a perceived image. I like to create pieces that ask the viewer to reassemble them in their own mind. It a freedom I'd like to give to my viewer.
Optical art, psychedelic art and the theories of color, the perception of color and their use by an artist come into play in my work. I've read Josef Albers, "Interaction of Colors," and highly recommend this book to any artist. I'm interested in the power of color and it's perception and it's relation to other colors in a work of art.
The work of Malleus brought me a great influence, at a time when I was throwing many of my shop-worn ideas away. I had reached a point where I needed to shake my world up.
In 2005 The Art of Modern Rock had come out and I felt it was perhaps opportunistic at that point to assume a feeling of "having made it" and to capitalize on that perception.
I went to Europe to make a studio in Milan in the Centro Sociale Leoncavallo in 2006. The people there offered me 1000 square feet of studio space in the largest oldest squat in Europe. I took them up on the invitation. I made posters for European shows and started traveling all over Europe making exhibitions and exploring the poster tradition in Europe.
I looked for shows where I could see the original poster art had began in the 1870's with Jules Cheret, and in the 1890's with Toulouse Lautrec, and in the 1900's with Alphonse Mucha. I went to a lot of museums to see the works of these and others like Gustave Klimt. Mucha and Klimt were using the metallic palette that I'd been using for a decade with great delicacy and beauty. Their gentle touch with metallics influenced me. I also saw with the work of Malleus how it was possible to translate these influences to the present-day and make them relevant.
I know you are the most familiar with french scene american artist, can you tell us a little bit more about your story with our country ? Who are your favorite french artists ?
I came to Paris in 2003 to make a show at Born Bad on Rue Keller off Rue de la Roquette in the 11eme. Firehouse had a book tour and we had 27 dates across Europe. I met the Born Bad crew in Paris, met Cecelia and Yvan from the French punk band Les Terribles and they showed me around a bit.
We made some expositions savage while visiting. One was at Les Nuns and another at Cantata and yet another at Au Petit Garage - all in the 11eme. We were having a blast in Paris. I met the members of the band Metal Urban - my dear old friend from Geneva Yvan Le Hyaric had introduced me to Olivier Votelet who was playing guitar for Metal Urban. Yvan was our informal roady, helping to carry our posters. Yvan was roady for The Young Gods (he had introduced me to TYG in Bologna, Italy when they were playing a show with Mike Patton at a Centro Sociale called Club Link). Olivier Votelet introduced me to Eric Debris and Hermann from the band. We had some dinners and nice times together.
Sunny's boyfriend Ludovic Joffrain called me on my cell as we heading down a road in central Italy - coming from a show we had had in Arrezzo - and he told us he had met with the editors of Rock and Folk who were organizing a show at the Paris Olympia Theater and that he had gotten us a gig making the poster for it. He had also gotten us a month long poster exposition at the Paris Hard Rock down Boulevard des Capucines from the Olympia. We knew the Hard Rock was pretty touristic, but it gave us a great platform to show our work for one month, and by staying in the city, we could explore Paris for real. We made our show there in May to June 2004. We had dinners with Frank Margerin and Eric Debris and Yvan and Cecelia from Born Bad.
We investigated around the neighborhood of Boulevard des Capucines and found that there was this old club called La Palace, which appeared to be open, though it looked abandoned. There were some squatter who had opened the club and were organizing some shows there. The people there showed us around the premises and we even saw the famous VIP room. We agreed to make a quick showing of our posters in the lobby in celebration of the club being opened again.
We had heard that Daniel D'Arc had made one of his most famous shows there at La Palace, as the squatters told us the story. Well, it appears that Daniel D'Arc was making a video at a club down the street and had seen our posters. We had befriended a waitress named Chadia Mhindi at the Hard Rock. Her boyfriend Cyrille Nobilet was working on the video shoot near to his apartment near the Hard Rock, and overheard Daniel D'Arc speaking of the posters he had seen at his old haunt La Palace. Cyrille mentioned that he knew the poster artists and that we were probably around the corner. Daniel D'Arc offered that he would very much like to meet us, he liked the posters so much. Cyrille went to get us to and brought us into the club during the video shoot and we were introduced to Daniel D'Arc. We spent the day with a private viewing of Daniel singing live for this video shoot. It was great and Daniel is such a generous and kind man!
So we took residence at the Rock and Folk extravaganza at the Olympia in the merchandize alcove in the entryway of the theater. Cyrille and Chadia helped to roll about thirty or forty joints from the shit I had found. We started talking to people and having our poster show opening and the rock started and so did the smoke begin to rise. And the kind and friendly staff at the Olympias didn't pay us any mind. Most assembled had never seen the like at the Olympia - what an incredibly fun night - the rock lasted literally until dawn.
This party resulted in a marriage too, which is a very nice story. We had met Lena Balacco and her boyfriend Charles Mammarot while staying in Paris. They came to the show and became close there. They were to visit me in San Francisco later the next year. They went to Las Vegas to marry while staying with me. The next time I visited Paris their baby girl, named Elvis, had been born and was till just a little raisin. Charles took me out for a drink and asked that I become the Godfather of Elvis. So Lena, Charles and Elvis are my family now. I came to Paris last summer and made a poster show at Lena's restaurant Sésame on Quai de Valmy on the edge of the 10eme and 11eme on the canal St. Martin. The show was a fantastic success!!!
The morning after the Olympia, we had breakfast at the Hard Rock the next morning: Sunny Buick, Ludovic Joffrain, Olivier Votelet, Hermann Schwartz, Frank Margerin, and surprise here came the Uncommen From Mars to ask a question - just in time for breakfast! They had seen me at the Olympia and heard I had a s51 how at the Hard Rock. I believe they were intending to just leave word for me. We all joined together, and the Uncommenmen ask me to make their record cover. I made the cover for their Live in Lyon record. Punk Rawk magazine published the art on the back cover and gave me a spread inside.
The band the Elderberries saw the cover for the Uncommenmen from Mars CD, "Scars are Reminders" and asked me to do the cover for "Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained." The funny thing is that their manager was living in Milan Italy where I was living for a year making posters. And she was a great friend of Daniel D'Arc as well. We were sitting there having the meeting for the record cover over dinner and she whipped out her phone and called Daniel D'Arc right there, passed me the phone and we said hello again.
I am a huge fan of the art work of Le Dernier Cri, from Marseille, they make the most incredible silkscreened art books. They can be contacted at http://www.lederniercri.org/
Finally, I watt to say, the French silkscreened poster movement is in good hands. Tanxxx is a very good rock poster arrest living in Bordeaux and she prints with Henri-Paul at Brazo Loco Press - www.tanxx.com
Also, my good friend Alexandre D'Huy is making some very nice things in the city of Paris - we will have a show together soon at Sésame, 51 Quai de Valmy 10eme, metro Republique. http://www.au-sesame.com/
Thanks for answering my questions and see you soon on the website !!