Interview with RJ RushmoreJuxtapoz // Monday, 16 Nov 2009
18-year-old urban art fanatic RJ Rushmore is the young mind behind the upcoming group show, The Thousands. The show will feature works by the likes of Banksy, Barry McGee, Blek le Rat, José Parlá, Judith Supine (shown above), Shepard Fairey, Swoon, WK Interact, and more. Naturally, we were a little curious about how a teenager has been able to organize a show of this magnitude, so we threw a few questions RJ's way.
First thing's first: who are you? Where are you from? What's your favorite food?
In a literal sense? I'm RJ Rushmore and I run the street art blog Vandalog. In a more metaphorical sense? I'm 18, so I'm sure I have absolutely no idea.
I was born in Chicago and lived there most of my life, but my family moved to London around 4 years ago, so most of the time I'm not sure where I'm from.
My favorite food is probably the mee goreng from the take out place 2 minutes from my house. Which is good thing because I can't cook and I end up eating a lot of take out food.
What got you interested in street art? What do you love about art outside in an urban environment rather than sheltered in a studio or gallery?
Even when I was pretty young, I thought that art was important, but I couldn't find much contemporary art that I liked. I went to the Tate Modern once or twice times a year and all that, but I went because I was trying to act "cultured," not because I understood anything there. So about two years ago my dad came home and it turns out he'd bought something by “this guy called Faile.” He'd never collected art, but he has a friend who happens to love street art. This friend recommended that my dad buy something by Faile, and my dad and I got sucked into the culture together.
Honestly, at first, looking up street artists was a great procrastination method to avoid homework, but it quickly developed into a passion.
I think part of the reason I love art on the street so much is that when I was 15 or 16, people would look at me funny if I wandered into a major contemporary art gallery, but street art breaks down that barrier and lets anybody look at art without feeling like they are being judged. And of course, it's also a great medium for artists because they can get their message out there without having to deal with gatekeepers (though unfortunately, it sometimes seems like the blogs and photographers on flickr have become the new gatekeepers).
You run a great blog, www.vandalog.com, how did it come about? What do you aim to show or share with this venue?
Thanks. Vandalog was just natural for me to start up. I'm a computer geek at heart, and I'd written for blogs about politics on and off since I was in 8th grade. I suppose the two reasons I started Vandalog were to become better connected within the street art scene so that I could meet more cool people, and to keep up with the daily art news myself. I figured that if I were blogging seriously about street art, I’d make sure to know everything that’s going on in that niche.
My dad reads Vandalog, so I always try to keep him in mind when I post something. He might also check out Wooster Collective from time to time, but he'd much rather read a newspaper than a blog. So when I'm writing for Vandalog, I try to cover anything related to street art that I think my dad should know about.
You're quite young (18) to be such an accomplished art curator, lover, and blogger. How have you managed to create such an impressive network at such a youthful age?
Two things. First, I honestly care about street art and everything that I am doing. And that leads to the second point, people see that I am doing things for the right reasons and they want to help me take the next step. For example, The Thousands might be curated and organized mainly by me, but lots of people have seen my genuine passion and have asked to help out. I'm sure that an hour before the show opens, I'm going to realize I've forgotten to do something important or my bartenders aren't going to show up. But I’m just as sure that when something is about to go wrong, there are a dozen people I can call for help.
Where do you see street art and urban art in general, headed in the next 10 years? Is this a fad or will it blossom into a true international movement? Or has it already?
Urban art, and street art in particular, is the single most important genre of art so far in the 21st century. Street artists were largely overshadowed in the 90's by groups like the YBAs, but now it's time for artists like Swoon and Banksy to become the biggest names in the art world. At the same time, street art is barely even a genre. The casual observer would have a hard time trying to figure out what Banksy and Barry McGee have in common once their work is in a gallery. So while I think that street art is going to get much more popular, I think that people may care less about making the distinction between "street art" and everything else (which is probably not a good sign for my “street art” blog).
Street art is definitely not a fad. Street art, as it exists now, has been around since the 1970s, and street artists live and work in all parts of the world. I've never heard of a fad lasting 30 years. Of course, the popularity of street art has exploded in recent years. As I said, I think street art will continue to get bigger and gain in importance, but once street art becomes the most important art movement in the world something else will come along and take its place. That's just how the world always works. Oddly enough, the street art movement has probably lasted so long precisely because the rest of the art world has largely ignored it.
What artists are you really excited about now?
For the last year I've been loving about almost everything that Know Hope makes; I think he's one to watch. More recently, I've been amazed by what Roa painted while he was here in London, and his piece for The Thousands is awesome (for now, all I will say is that it's on venetian blinds).
Why is art important?
Art, in it's many forms, is how humans best communicate powerful ideas to one another.
The Thousands opens this Wednesday, November 18th, 2009.
Keep updated on The Thousands at blog.vandalog.com/2009/10/the-thousands-2