Alex and I got to converse a few weeks ago after I stumbled upon some of his bizarre and thought provoking photographs…think Dali meets Warhol… He’s a deep dude with some serious insight on art, health, entertainment and toys. Take a look at his work, and if you are in the Santa Cruz area hit up one of his shows in early 2011.
2011? Yeah, 2011 is here……
Derek Keller: Tell us what kind of toys were in your toy basket as a youngin’
Alex Darocy: I was big on the G.I. Joe’s, and the action figures in general were probably the most common toys that I had. My favorite toys were these little action figure astronaut dudes, they had really elaborate equipment and they even had separate helmets that went on with the glasses and face shields. They weren’t expensive, but they were super elaborate, equipment oriented. You know, blinking toys and tools. A lot of really male gendered toys.
DK: At what chapter of life did you start taking photo’s, diapers? training wheels? cracked voice, first car?
AD: Umm.. about 10 maybe, somewhere 8-10. My dad had a 35 mm camera that he bought when he was in the navy over in Japan, and he let me use it. I went down to the local used book store and I bought a book on photography. So I taught myself everything about depth of field and macro photography when I was 10. I didn’t really get into art photography until later. My family didn’t go to art galleries or museums as much, mostly science museums. So we missed out on a lot of cutting edge art. I got into art, started taking photography seriously once digital cameras came out. Through photo sharing sites I’d make friends and we would critique each others work. Just the amount of the photographs you could take with a digital camera really made making art more possible for me.
“a lot of our personal habits are being controlled by consumer trends and corporations. My interest in food came out of the art movement.”
DK: What would you describe your art as? Yes Alex, put it in a box for us.
AD: I tend to call it… It definitely fits into the genre of Pop Surrealism. That isn’t generally used by many artists as their title, but a lot of artists are working in that genre. Lately, I’ve been sort of emphasizing it as a documentary function, because all of the objects I use are found objects. I generally don’t modify them much, and I really am pulling out the real meaning from the objects, the meanings that are influenced by the toy makers and by the whole process of making the objects. I feel that those meanings are apparent when you look at the toys but they’re not quite as obvious at first glance. What I do is I just find the angle of where the alternate interpretations are possible. I feel like it’s more of a documentary type of function, what I’m doing.
DK: And what the hell is up with all the food!?
AD: Well my friends and I got into… How can I say this? When we were into music, 60′s music, psychedelic music, and that sort of lifestyle… Psychedelia is almost a branch of entertainment. That’s how we got into that type of music and that type of culture. And within that culture is a whole natural food movement, veganism, organic foods. There are many subcultures within the psychedelic culture. So through psychedelic music I got into health food and alternative diet, and thinking about the general production of food. You know, the method of production of food in the United States, how it’s become corporate, and how people have really lost the desire for quality food. I mean I was raised on junk food and as soon as I made the switch over to natural food there was just such a dramatic shift in my life. When you switch over to organic food, it really changes your whole outlook on things and it’s really noticeable. I started connecting things like food to politics and to personal habits, and how people act in the world. How individual actions effect everyone else, and how a lot of our personal habits are being controlled by consumer trends and corporations. My interest in food came out of the art movement.
DK: Can you describe the process and of you taking a photo? Can you talk about the equipment a little bit for all the nerds out there?
AD: Well I use a medium format film camera. And I use a variety of lighting to illuminate the toys. Everything from colored flash lights to colored party bulbs to tube black lights you’d find in a hardware store. I also use a stage lighting set up where I use gels. I started using colored bulbs and those actually get better results and are easier to use in many cases than stage lights. The lighting is a big part of it for me from the beginning. I generally go around to different toy stores and dollar stores and drug stores regularly. I go shopping and look around. I tend to like items that are new and cheap, and from China, and that are obviously mass produced. So I go shopping and develop concepts a lot of times while I shop. Based on anything from how the store is set up, the way the toys are sold, which toys are placed where, etc. You know, the general gendered nature of the whole commercial aspect. A lot of times I get ideas from kids in the store even. One time I was looking for toys and there was one kid bullying another kid. He looked at the collection of toys I had in my arm, and started insulting me based on the toys that I had. It was really funny because I had a really gendered collection, and they were really gendered in a obviously tacky way that most people would see right through. He saw it right away and that sort of confirmed to me I was on the right track. So I take the conceptual period and I usually work on that for a while. The planning, the different ideas, the different justifications I want to make. Sometimes I think there is a color I want to illuminate things in at that time, and other times I just play with it and work it out. In preparation I fill up all these collections of toys around a theme usually. Once I get enough in a collection, I start playing with the toys. Sometimes it’s random, sometimes I just start grabbing things and putting them together, and then they form these funny little scenes I didn’t even see otherwise. Other times I put the toys together in a theme that I conceived and had planned for a while. But in general I really don’t know how the toys are going to look until I start playing with them and working them together. I kind of think of the process like carving wood. I don’t carve, but people that carve work with the grain of the wood. They pull figures out of the shape of the wood. A lot of times the figure or the art work is already in the wood. I feel like that’s what I do. A lot of these expressions and ideas are already in the toys. And it’s really almost impossible to figure out all the ideas that are within the toys unless you just sit down and work with them.
DK: Not to generalize but….well.. screw it let’s generalize….what’s generally the type of reaction your work provokes?
AD: I get a wide variety of reactions. Humor, a lot of people respond to the humor. A lot of people are overwhelmed by the surrealism in them. It really takes them to other places. It’s one thing I’m interested in is constructed reality. It’s also a big concern of mine, that I don’t just take people off on a mindless voyage. Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the physical objects. There is a lot of detail in them. The photographs are usually big, the colors are really bight and eye catching. It’s a lot for people to take in. I showed them to some animal rights activists who were really into them. And I’ve got a lot of feedback about concepts behind them, and people get the concepts. Which I’m always happy about. You know, when people don’t just see them as one liners or simple jokes. I’ve got a lot of reactions from the art world which is pretty interesting too. There’s that aspect of trendy people and rich people who enjoy art because it’s entertainment for them, and it’s like another object that they display status through. A lot of people will hop onto my pieces and admire them for flashy aspects. It’s interesting, I think that’s true for any art. How many different interpretations there are. The more people you talk to about your work, the more you realize how many interpretations there are to artwork. It’s something that’s almost impossible to get around. Because if you’re serious about making ideas and getting your artwork out there you need some kind of financial support to take your art to a really advanced level, no matter what type of artwork it is. The financial backing really helps. But on the other hand, it’s really a bad influence having to sell pieces and make them popular enough to where you can sell enough to keep yourself going. The idea really creeps in that people really do gravitate towards decorative work. Work that makes them feel good in an easy way. That always creeps into art making practices.
DK: How about a little insight on your cinematic taste?
AD: There’s nothing recent I can think of right now. A lot of the movies I like are the fantasy movies like Willy Wonka or Wizard of Oz. Really dreamy, surreal movies. Doing this too, it’s like, I pretty much grew up with the whole category of cartoon characters. A lot of movie characters and T.V. characters I’m familiar with, but I’ve never seen the Toy Story movie. I’ve got quite a few different Toy Story toys that I’ve found, although I’ve never seen the movie.
I’m really not big on movies. That’s kind of why I do photography because I think a lot of films and other art forms overwhelm people with too much information. A photograph is in it’s still form. It really allows minds to just wander through the art form and make up their own opinions and create their own ideas. I think the last movie I saw in the theater was Pan’s Labyrinth. I thought it was decent. But I thought the whole plot and the whole scene just wasn’t that substantial for me.
DK: Visually you enjoyed it?
AD: Yeah, visually I thought it was awesome. If I do go see a movie, it’s just more to keep up with technology really. For example, Avatar. I read so many negative critiques of that movie and I haven’t met one person who has liked it. But, I still wanna see it for what they did technically.
DK: And your audible taste?
AD: Right now I like Grizzly Bear, Mew, I kind of like Interpol, I like a variety of new music. Hmm… I wouldn’t say that music is super influential on my either. I listen to music in a way where I analyze how it makes me feel with comparisons to visual art, the visual intensity. I try to achieve those levels in my work. I would say as far as contemporary music goes, I wouldn’t relate a lot of it to my work. I appropriate pop so much, as opposed to using it in a straightforward manner.
Next Show// February 2011 @ the Blue Room at Caffe Pergolesi in Santa Cruz: // http://theperg.com/
Check out the Santa Cruz Community Art Show as well