January 28, 2008

The Jaguar Collection: Dan Zomack

Where are you from and how did you get into the art you do?

I was born and raised in New Jersey. I grew up on classic rock. I grew up in central Jersey in the 80s when it was more rural than it is today. All my family was from North Jersey though so I was able to have that busy-rush that comes with north traffic and laid back attitude down in central, which I still have today.
I used to play in the woods as a kid, all day. That's what there was to do.
Getting into skating and that culture in ninth grade totally changed my life and had a profound impact on who I am today. I was never that good at skating, not good at all, but it was fun. The kids I started hanging out with turned me on to all sorts of good music, photography in skate magazines, and art. The classic rock went perfect with it.

One particular close friend was really into art and graffiti, and eventually I got into both too. Trying my hand a little at each, I tried to find my own thing.
Over time, I met a bunch of new people who influenced me even more through graff but what was so great about these dudes, is that they were amazing artists, and that's what really turned me onto them. I was fortunate to be able to meet and become friends with Navy8, Chip7 and Eye.
My education in art was never formal and it has been through friends that I was able to learn techniques and be encouraged to follow through in what I was doing.

What medium do you like to use? And why would you say you prefer it?

Much of my work winds up being cardboard which I then place in a frame. I like the way ink bleeds in to it and acrylic paint can be applied to it, as well as how paper can be easily glued to it.

Can you tell us what your typical process of creating a work is like?

I need to be surrounded by visual and auditory stimulus. Listening to music or the television, having a conversation in person with someone, as well as reading a book or looking at the newspaper or a magazine is ideal working conditions. When I am drawing or painting, I am typically watching television, listening to music and have something (as strange as it may seem) like Newsweek lying open near me.
The practice is one I learned from William S. Burroughs. He would listen to multiple radios at the same time, but have each radio tuned in between stations so that he would be able pick up two or three stations with each radio. He would listen to all the words and music coming through and combine them with his own ideas. This is one aspect of his cut-up method.

You mentioned music...so, what music do you like to listen to while you are working?

I would have to say that Earth's "Hex: or Printing in the Infernal Method" has had the most influence upon me by far of any other album the past year. I typically listen to mellow music when drawing or reading though. The new Radiohead album has been getting a lot of play, John Coltrane's Complete Village Vanguard Sessions are a must, Velvet Underground, Magnolia soundtrack, Boredoms, Husky Rescue, Midlake and Neil Young. I listen to all that stuff nonstop.

Alot of your paintings sort of resemble medical or biological diagrams. What is the concept behind them or what are you trying to express?

I'm very into "words." Words are nothing more than symbols, or signifiers. Words have an effect on the brain and nervous system. Language is the highest function of an organism yet it is also this language, that if misinterpreted, can have devastating effects such as war. Words can be very specific images or can be vague, and this vagueness causes miscommunication between at least two organisms. This is where abstraction comes in.
Ideas often do not match verbal structures and through the words I use on a piece, I am trying to connect the two.
The anatomy of a human being is universal, even if it is abstracted. Adding words to it makes the verbal structure of the piece very specific. It's fun to then organize the verbals onto a piece and lay them out, and play with sound and rhythm of what is being shown. Music is universal so they say but our words are not.

Has any film or book inspired a painting?

The films of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick, Terry Gilliam and Paul Thomas Anderson are very influential over me. I get transfixed when their films are on. Also, the writing of Cormac McCarthy, essays of William S. Burroughs, Nietzsche's "Human, All Too Human," The Complete Poems of Langston Hughes and Alfred Korzybski are probably the top writers (works) that have affected me. I try to go by Korzybski and his theory on general semantics. A large, and maybe the largest, is the earlier work of Hunter S. Thompson. His approach to covering an event and injecting his own ideas and fiction into the reality of the story was a bold and innovative way to write. He was a member of that whole New Journalism class in the late 50s, 60s and 70s that was all about experience being the essence to life and work.

What's your earliest childhood memory of drawing?

In elementary and middle school, I must have drawn hundreds of these tunnel drawings. Usually across the top two-thirds of a piece of construction or unlined paper, I would draw the top surface of land. Beneath that land line, I would draw a maze of tunnels. Most would be dead ends, one always lead to a bedroom where there was always only a single bed and a television, and there would always be a pool in another room as well. I distinctly remember sitting at a desk in my parent's bedroom drawing those tunnels.

Can you say there any particular teachers or friends who intrigued you the most or helped shaped your eye in a real direct way?

Since you posted the Minamoto piece, that was inspired by the work of Sam Friedman, with the little cut-up pieces of color. I was lucky enough to travel with him to Tokyo a couple years back and was also in a show with him in Philly last year or so. His work just jumps off the canvas. I like the very simple, childlike quality in it that is found in one of my favorite artists, Jean Michel Basquiat. The past four or so years have been the period of my life when I have been the most influenced by the work of my friends. They include but are no way limited to Daniel Santoro, Keith Garcia, Erik Von Bartholomaus, John G. Slaby, Keith Van Pelt and Mark Winn. (I'm sure I'm missing a couple so sorry to offend.) It is not only the caliber of their work, but their dedication to their work. I also really enjoy Paul Klee, Raymond Pettibon, Nobuyoshi Araki, Jim Houser, Weegee, Daniel Higgs and fun graffiti.

You've been to Japan recently. Did this trip influence your work at all?

The trip most definitely influenced my work, but also my life. I've always had an affinity to contemporary Japan and was asked if I wanted to go on a trip there, which of course I could not pass up. I went with a group of friends who are amazing artists, and was there for a large art show where I was able to meet some heroes like Ron English.
There is a ton of signage and symbols on the streets of Tokyo, and I always try to look for either the connection or absurd disconnection between symbols and their intent.
On a side note, Navy8 and I filmed a television commercial out there for a Gatorade-like type of drink called Amino Supli. The commercial was on limited run in Tokyo while we were there.

What kind of stuff/themes are you currently working on right now?

Words have traditionally been an integral part in my work, but lately I have not been including them so much on the work I have shown. I have been wrapped up in these Alchemy and Mysticism influenced black ink drawings. It is the ancient and historical aspect that I want to make a connection with. I am also working on a(nother) collaboration book with Erik Von Bartholomaus. We plan on printing it up once we are finished with it. We have done collabo work previously. I am a big fan of collaboration pieces.

Where do you plan on traveling to in the near future?

I will be traveling to Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter, I will be going to Mexico and checking out some Mayan temples and layin out at the beach, reading, drawing and supremely relaxing.
I'm also mulling over going back to Albuquerque, New Mexico sometime during the early summer to visit Erik again. I love the desert out there and would like to work with Erik again.

Is there any classical/traditional art that you really dig?

There really isn't. I go into the Metropolitan Museum of Art and see all this classical art and feel nothing towards it and it gives me no feeling either. The reason is because it is too formal for me. I'm sold on raw power.

Thanks Dan. For more on Dan's work visit www.danzomack.com.


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