Last week we had the privelege of interviewing Kris Kuksi, this week we present the youngest person we have ever interviewed, Luke Rudolph. Luke’s art career is but at it’s birthing stages and what better way to get into the mind of an artist than at his beginning. Luke is only 17 but already has gained great insight into the world. Luke’s primary focus is on the unequal rights between upper, middle, and lower classes. In effect his art itself is a statement for a class war. It is Luke’s tenacity, vision, and force of will that we wanted to share with our readers. If you do not to appreciate Luke’s art then at least remember the strength and pure vision we all had in our youth.
JackDirt: Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about your family, and area you are growing up in?
LukeRudolph: I was born in Madison Wisconsin, and after a few years my family moved to Wausau. Wausau is a relatively small city (around 100,000 people if you count the small cities right next door.) It doesn’t carry the unaccepting stigma that most small towns do; it is rather liberal and accepting of people, cultures and different views. My Dad, Brad, is a 5th grade teacher, play director and lighting designer. He is exceptional at whatever he does, and he has made sure I take a sense of pride in whatever I am doing, whether it is my art or a job that has no real meaning behind it. My Mom, Sarah, is a professor at UWMC and has directed over 40 plays. She has the tender loving care that all mothers should have and has helped me through life immensely. And that leave us with my Brother, Grady, he is a computer science major at University of Minnesota at Minneapolis. All of my family has been very supporting in terms of my art and my philosophies and they are an integral role in my life, thinking and art.
JD: Do you plan on going to an art college to get a BFA? What do you plan on majoring in?
LR: To me, going to college is not important. In the art world, it is more important if you have a BFA or an MFA and who you know. I think artwork should be judged by its integrity and impact on the viewer, not by how many degrees you have or if you are the second cousin once removed to a big art dealer. Of course I am not trying to sound condescending to anyone who did go to college for art, I have the utmost respect for you; I just feel that this is the path I have to follow. I feel this choice plays into my art theories and philosophy and isn’t just a cop out. We can all talk about revolutionary ideas, but no one acts upon them.
JD: Do you have any spiritual beliefs and if so do they ever seep into your work?
LR: When I was younger I believed god and religion to be ridiculous, but as I’ve grown and matured god and spirituality have become a part of my life. I am not bound to one denomination and I do not follow a certain creed. Without sounding cheesy, I believe that “My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness,” (said by the Dali Lama) can describe my spiritual outlook. Compassion for your fellow man is a very important part of my life, and should be a part of everyone’s life. When I address certain issues in my art, for example class war, I do not do it in a demeaning or aggressive way; I try to approach such matters in my life and in my art with understanding and care. This reflects in my latest art by the way I use my colors and symbolism; it attacks and criticizes the way things work, but not in a way that condescends to the people whom it effects (for example, people in the middle to lower classes).
JD: What drives you to create? Why do you care if there is a social divide between economic classes? How do you see your art influencing that if at all?
LR: As I said previously, I find it important to care about your fellow person, and this is my way of connecting with them. The social divide and class war have always been problems and, while on the decline, remains a reality. A lot of people think that in the USA anyone who tries can become rich and famous, or that you can pull yourself up by your boot straps. While there are always stories of people going from rags to riches, it is not common; one could blame the government or blame the people. I feel that both the individuals and the system share some responsibility. It is always easier to give up than to work hard and succeed in life. This self fulfilling prophecy of failure hinders the poor immensely; I feel it is important to try and change this. It has been said that the poor are poor because they don’t try and they are lazy, when in fact the hardest working people are in the middle to lower class, yet they reap little benefits from their work. I believe that this inequity is overlooked by many, and is once again a large problem with our social and economic system.
Not much artwork discusses this problem and I feel doing so is very important. Many people approach the issue with a sense of condescension and not compassion, as I discussed earlier. The result of such an approach to class war often is that many people become alienated from the art itself; because they feel the art is criticizing their way of life. My approach is one that I would like to see more people consider when they address the issue.
JD: There have been many times when I have been to an art museum and overheard people talking about abstract art similar to yours and say “I could do that, why my 8 year old could even do better, why is this art?” How do you convince your viewer that your art is more than just self celebratory creation and it does have meaning?
LR: Good question. This is something that has always bothered me when people look at abstract art. I feel this notion stems from not understanding the art, and what we don’t understand we fear and hate. Nothing I do with my art is unintentional, I think out every action I do and how they relate to what I’m trying to say. Only someone who has tried to create abstract art can understand the rigors of it. There are no rules besides composition and balance, and it is based on intuition and dissection. Creating abstract work requires an extreme amount of understanding for art and intellect and it comes with intense frustration. To anyone saying, well I could have done that or my child could have, I respond with put your money where your mouth is (but with more respect and reservation of course.) If you believe it is so easy, then give it a try; see if you can make something as powerful as Basquiat’s or Rauschenberg’s work. And if you can’t, then there is probably something more to it then meaningless paint spread on a canvas. As I said before most abstract paintings are not made by mistake.
JD: Your paintings are very reminiscent of the Dadaist period, in particular Hannah Hoch’s work, do you feel any connection to these artists? If you could speak with the artists of this movement what would you have to say to them?
LR: I feel a connection in that I understand what they did, and how important it is to the art world. Without Dada there would be no abstraction, no minimalism and none of the contemporary art that we know today. I feel that it is important to go back to the basics in art, even if you are a seasoned art veteran. Each time you go back, you will come out with a new idea or a new outlook. If I could speak with someone like in the Dada movement, I would thank him/her for all they have done and then I would ask them to reiterate what they were trying to say through their work. Was it just “art for art’s sake” or did it have a more profound socio-political meaning behind it.
JD: Marcel Duchamp was the first to take a common object and present it as art. Most notably it was his upside down urinal that acclaimed a significant amount of fame. Do you feel that it is possible to make such a strong visual statement anymore or has everything in fact been done? Do you feel that your work can some day draw that attention?
LR: The time has come and gone for this degree of minimalism; it isn’t profound anymore to simply take an object and call it art. When creating with the Dada style you now have to use more then just minimalism, you have to be creative with how you do it. I would hope someday my art could be dissected and play a pivotal role in an art movement, but I can’t be sure what will happen with my art. All artists need to pick up where the art movement left off, not just recreate what they did.
JD: You said “I feel focusing on the bottom of the economic totem pole contrasts past trends in art, mainly pop art. The use of logos, repetition, dull colors, and mark making all play a role in my abstract imagery of class war.” I find this statement to be curious since, a) pop art gave birth to abstract expressionism, and b) because pop art itself served to make satire of popular culture.
LR: I mean no disrespect to pop art itself; it has played an important role in where we are with art today. But to me this approach to social and economic issues is condescending, and leaves much to be said. Satire is always a powerful tool, one that I utilize occasionally, but it lacks a deeper impact that can and should have on the viewer. One that hits you in the chest like a bag of bricks, not just tickling your funny bone with a feather.
JD: Would you not agree then that your does not contrast past trends but merely mimics them in a different light? If so why or why not?
LR: I would say that I do not contrast in them in that I’m not reactionary with what I say; however I feel this compassionate approach to economic issues may be somewhat uncharted territory in the art world. Of course, I am shedding pop art in a different light and doing it with a different approach but as I said previously you need to pick up where art left off.
JD: Your piece Capitalist Effect is not only a great political statement but one that holds great weight upon our economic status as well. What was the catalyst for such a primal and motivating painting?
LR: This piece echo’s my sentiment that people become how much they make, or what car they drive and that they are not defined by who they are by what they have done, but by what they have. This idea came to me when I was looking at a dollar and thinking about what it represents. This piece not only describes who we are as people, but is a simple rebellion against the status quo.
JD: Are there any pieces you feel we may have neglected that you would like to discuss?
LR: I feel that my most recent paintings encompass my approach to the issue of the economic divide most effectively. They use subtlety and compassion and they aren’t as aggressive as my early work. A few of my personal favorites are; Algorithm 1, Motif, The Bottom and Market. This new style is where I want to head with my art.
JD: Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity! Check out all of my art and writings at www.lhrart.com
JD: You are more than welcome Luke and thank you for taking the time for us.
In Luke’s defense we asked some very difficult questions of him. We knew it would not be anything he could not handle though. Luke is an incredibly intelligent artist, who we feel if he does not pursue his art he will still pursue a path that will bring about tremendous social change in our society. A change that we need very much. Thank you once again Luke.
* Luke Rudolph Art