kozik in car

IPaintMyMind Exclusive Interview: Frank Kozik

October 15th, 2012 Posted by Art, Featured, Interviews No Comment yet

Words by Evan La Ruffa

A cursory glance at the rock poster art scene over the past 20 years would yield a handful of names… and those names would pass the credit right along to Frank Kozik. Perhaps it has everything to do with the fact that Frank reinvented the genre. While poster art expanded and left San Francisco’s Bill Graham scene, Frank’s versions and interpretations leaned towards punk and DIY, and became associated with the rise of grunge in the early 90’s. He’s created iconic posters for bands who ended up selling more than a few records; Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Nirvana, serving as a few eaxmples you might have heard of before. Throughout it all, Frank Kozik has woven Americana into his own taxonomy of comparison. The devil is truly in the details, as scene’s right out of cartoons made for Big Boy are spiked with robotic hands and an undertone of demise. Kozik has also become the figurehead of the ripple effect we’ve seen in the vinyl toy scene, contributing everything from smoking rabbits to Emperor Mao remixed with Mickey Mouse.

He’s not into romanticism, in fact, he seems to get off on slaying nostalgia, despite admitting influences that you can see in the work. Frank has never brown-paper-bagged someone to death; which is to say, he’s not a fan of rules, art cliques, or machinated standards of authenticity. IPMM and Kozik agree, artists need to sell their work. His ability to make uncompromising art while appealing to a broad audience has been proven over and over again by his success, and we’re honored to have one of modern art’s foremost characters on these digital pages. If you’re looking for lots of syllables and philosophical diatribes, this is the wrong interview to read. Then again, if you want unfiltered thoughts from one of the most successful and iconic artists of our time, jump right in.

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Evan La Ruffa of IPMM: Frank! The pleasure is ours! Let’s get into it… The Labbit is one of your more popular pieces, how’d it come into existence?

Frank Kozik: I was in Japan, obsessing on hello kitty type stuff in the mid-90’s and some friends over there said I should devise my own type of character….so…..Labbit was born on a beer coaster more or less.

EL: How does the idea for a toy or poster work for you. Is it just a flash that implants the image in your mind of what you want to create, or do you feel it out the moment while sketching/producing?

FK: It’s always different. Sometimes an idea has been there forever, other times it just pops into view. The toys are more planned out than the posters.

EL: In one interview, you talk about a poster you did in the early 90’s that took you almost no time to create, and how ironic it is that it’s one of your most popular works. How often does time spent on work correlate with popularity? (I’d guess it has nothing to do with it).

FK: Usually the ‘impulse’ heat of the moment designs work best. Some sort of energy transfer happens I think.

EL: You were born in Madrid, but moved to the states as a teenager. Do you visit often? How much is Spain a part of your life?

FK: Havent been there in 30 years. I suppose it has had some impact on a subconscious level. I consider myself 100% American.

EL: How does your childhood there inform your worldview?

FK: It has made me appreciate what a great place the US is.

EL: Tell our readers a bit about Man’s Ruin Records, I’m not sure how many people know you ran a music label at one point also.

FK: Started on a whim in 1995 grew rapidly, but out a ton of releases then collapse in the big distributor auto de fe of 2001-2002. It was a wild ride.

EL: Why did you choose to name your brand, Ultraviolence?

FK: A tip of the hat to A Clockwork Orange

EL: Often times your subject matter involves polarizing figurs like Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevarra, Ronald Reagan, etc. What idea about any certain personality make it worth parody in your mind?

FK: What it boils down to is all those guys had ‘style’…for better or worse.

EL: You’ve also made comments in the past about being fine with the productization of your work. You’re brash when addressing the issue, but I completely align with you pushing back on logic that hipsterizes the fact that artists need to sell their work, as if selling work equals selling out. As an organization advocating for artists, we’ve said something similar; for art to exist, people have to buy it! Thoughts?

FK: Not selling out is just selling out. For the last 5000 years money = opportunity and scope of action, both of which I enjoy, so I like money.

EL: There’s also the open forum of lower price points, which is where white wall folks tend to get hung up, but you seem to have done a great job of dipping into various art ecosystems with a consistent voice…

FK: I have always tried to keep a range of prices so that anyone who wants one of my things has access. 5 bucks to 5 thousand.

EL: What artist made the biggest impression on you as far as influencing your own creative evolution?

FK: PT Barnum.

EL: Tell our readers a bit about Man’s Ruin Records, I’m not sure how many people know you ran a music label at one point also.

FK: Started on a whim in 1995 grew rapidly, but out a ton of releases then collapse in the big distributor auto de fe of 2001-2002. It was a wild ride.

EL: Name one artist or musician IPMM readers should google right now.

FK: The Art Of Skinner.

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