Coop is an Oklahoma native who headed out to California in the late 1980’s and soon became regarded as one of the most respected underground artists of his time. From his colorful, sexy and inspired by car culture, R. Crumb and a host of other pop culture elements, Coop gave birth to the smoking devil, the devil girls and a host of other cars and icons he freely adapted, combining advertising art, corporate images and his own immediately identifiable art, creating what we here at ChopperHead feel is true Fine Art for the New Millennium. His work has appeared in numerous art gallery exhibitions, magazines and his own book, “Devil’s Advocate: the Art of Coop” as well as his popular sketchbook, “The Big Fat One.” Quite a few of the images he presented to us grew out of his Brand Recognition series and we also were fortunate enough to have him share some of his recent work, Parts With Appeal as well as sharing his thoughts with us in an exclusive interview.
Join us if you will in celebration in an Outlaw Kulture artist who answers to no one and does what he wants, when he wants and why he wants, still musing how he gets away with it the entire time.
Tell us what inspired you to become an artist?
A lack of any better ideas. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, and it always seemed like this was what I was supposed to do with myself. When I was about twelve, I bought a copy of The Ramones’ Rocket to Russia LP, and the back cover cartoon by John Holmstrom made me think that maybe I could also create cover art for my favorite bands. It all sort of fell into place after that.
What influences you currently in your artwork?
Everything. Almost everything that I dig seems to find a way into my work in some form or another. I’ve been doing a lot of photography over the past year, and I’m finding that creeping into my painting,
both in terms of composition, and actually using my photos in the paintings in different ways. I’ve also been using stencils with spray paint on my painting, I think due to seeing so much cool stencil street art lately.
Is it easy for you to talk about your work or would you rather let people come to there own conclusions?
It’s very easy for me to talk about my own work, maybe too easy. I’m finding these days that it’s more interesting to hear what other people have to say about it, though. Often they see things in my work that I never intended to put in it, at least consciously. Then I can take credit for it, and compliment them on their insight, all at the same time!
Do you feel people really get what you’re putting out there?
Definitely. I’m always very happy with the feedback that I get from people, even when I seem to be stuff, and the whole time I am questioning the worth of it, so it’s always heartening to get good feedback on the new stuff. Often my fans are more confident of my talents than I am!
What do you think about the business of art and how that game works?
Well, it’s always been sort of fucked, but I would say that it is easier to make a living as an artist now than it ever has been. The internet has completely changed the way that art is bought and sold, and allowed people like me to connect directly with the people who buy my work. As a result, I can deal with the fine art world on my own terms. They need me more than I need them at this point.
Do you see yourself as part of any scene or movement?
Not really. I think that there has been a desire to group myself and other people off in a new direction. I spend a lot of time alone in my studio doing together with names like “Lowbrow” and “Pop Surrealism”, but the only thing we seem to have in common is our general age group and some common interests. I would never change what I’m doing in order to fit into a certain arbitrary bracket, anyway.
Have you had any trouble with the bible thumpers over your artwork or anyone for that matter?
Not really. The few times that someone has objected to my work, they have been more of the liberal stripe rather than Jesus-worshippers. I seem to have gotten away with all this so far.
What kind of music do you like to listen?
Everything. I have about 600 gigs of music on my computer at my studio, over 100,000 songs last time I looked, and it runs the gamut from jazz and country, 78s from the twenties, to Slayer and Turbonegro, I will go through a period of listening to nothing but reggae dub versions for weeks, then straight into classic punk rock, to Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb. I like it all, except for pretty much everything currently on the radio!
Does listening to music while you are creating affect your creative process?
Sure. When I’m doing long stretches of painting, I will listen to different stuff to get into a certain mood. I like to listen to really crazy atonal freeform jazz like Ornette Coleman or Cecil Taylor, when I’m doing the real labor-intensive parts, and high- energy stuff like punk or heavy metal when I want to work faster.
What’s next for Coop?
Just more of the same. I would like to get started building the Model A Phaeton I’ve been piecing together for the last couple of years.