Interview with Artist, David Young V
21 Jul, 2012
To view more of David Young V’s work visit his website at: www.DYoungV.com
Dig In Magazine interviews San Francisco-based artist, David Young V as he prepares for his solo art exhibition at San Francisco’s White Walls SF gallery on July 9th, 2011. David Young V, also known as D Young V in some circles, questions the ethics and morals in today’s social world, exploring the ideas of rebellion and social norms in our culture. Through his artwork in which he begins with a "photo shoot with models posing as though they exist in the world that he is creating…he uses props, specific lighting and sometimes even a military adviser to add a level of authenticity to the poses." Through examining the very nature of non-conformity amongst his peers, in terms of experiencing punk rock music and culture with its anti-authority, anti-government, and anti-military ideals, he noticed the military-like theme running throughout and the culture’s underlying contradictions, which relates to counter cultures and society, in general. For more on David Young V come see his show at White Walls SF gallery, Make an Effort: New Works by D Young V, on July 9th, 2011, located at 835 Larkin Street, San Francisco, CA. [Interview posted on June 26, 2011]
Dig In Magazine: Where are you originally from and where are you based out of?
David Young V (D Young V): I am originally from New Jersey. I moved to San Francisco in the summer of 2003 and I have been here ever since. It’s a very exciting city!
DIM: What will you be showing at White Walls in San Francisco in July of this year?
DYV: For my opening at White Walls Gallery on Saturday July 9th, I will be showing a variety of different works. The front room will consist of both large scale and smaller scale drawings done in ink. The large scale drawings are more directed towards color, symbol and pattern. As reference I have used local San Francisco residents photographed by Shaun Roberts (www.shaunroberts.net). Each model has taken on the role of somebody living and existing in a world I am creating. I wanted the drawings to resemble a type of believable realism conceptually. The smaller scale drawings were executed though micron 08 pens, my weapon of choice. They are not nearly as elaborate as the larger scale works, but provide a sort of meticulous process that I have grown to love over the years.
The back room of the gallery will consist of an installation of mixed media pieces that I have created in all different sizes. Each piece is an altered version of past work that I have done since I began this series three years ago. It provides a history of the images I have done leading up to this show, and presents them in a new light. I am very excited to see how this installation will turn out, because I have never done anything like this before in the past. There will also be a few other surprises opening night. You’ll just have to show up July 9th to experience them.
DIM: Where can your artwork be seen?
DYV: That’s a very good question. Outside of White Walls Gallery, I have done several murals and street pieces. I have a mural on the ground floor of Space Gallery (Sutter @ Polk), a mural in the bathroom at Cup A’ Joe Cafe (Sutter @ Levenworth), and I am currently working on a mural at Old Crow tattoo studio in Lake Merrit, Oakland. Outside of that, I have done several street pieces throughout San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami.
DIM: What installations have you done and what galleries/art shows have you been featured in?
DYV: Most recently I was involved in the 941 Geary Mural Project in April (www.941geary.com). This was a series of murals created by national and international artists primarily of graffiti and street art backgrounds. I did a temporary mural at Shooting Galley last year for the EAC (Emerging Artists Collective). I have been involved in numerous group shows and projects in the Bay Area throughout the last few years. Some of the spaces I have had the opportunity to show at are: White Walls, Shooting Gallery, 941 Geary, Space Gallery, Lopo Gallery, Old Crow Tattoo, RAW Gallery, Medicine Agency, Moth and Dagger Tattoo, Amsterdam Cafe, Cafe Royale and Babylon Falling.
DIM: How long have you been involved in street art?
DYV: I have done pieces in the street inconsistently throughout the last five years. However, it is only in the last 2 years that I have taken it more seriously and going out on a far more consistent basis.
DIM: What medium do you prefer? What materials do you use to create your art?
DYV: Everything I do creatively starts off with ink on paper. This is either Micron 08 pens or heavily pigmented acrylic inks. These ink drawings are the basis for everything I do afterward. For my murals, I use a variety of acrylic and water based house paints. For my mixed media pieces, I use photocopies, spraypaint, stencils, wood, canvas and matte medium. In addition to that I make simple screen printed posters / prints. As far as street pieces are concerned I use photocopy, paint and coffee.
DIM: What is your artistic process when creating a piece from initial idea to its final state?
DYV: This is a particularity elaborate question, which I will have to answer in several parts.
As far as my original ink drawings are concerned, they start off as a photo project. I will set up numerous photo shoots with models posing as though they exist in the world I am creating. These photo shoots will include a series of props, specific lighting and sometimes a military adviser to add a level of authenticity to the poses. The shots are a collaborative project between myself and photographer Shaun Roberts (www.shaunroberts.net). I will create the shot lists and he will interpret them to his vision. He is a phenomenal person to work with.
Once the photo shoot is complete, Shaun will filter out the photos and adjust their lighting to fit the needs of my drawings. After this I will project his photos on large scale paper to get a basic outline of what I need. From there I will make additions and subtractions from the original image, both on the computer and by hand. This includes the clothing and equipment of the character and alterations on the shadows.
Everything from there is pure imagination. I use a variety of different rulers, stencils and compasses to create the geometric patters, symbols and language of the piece. Much of my work these days comes down to specific measurements and line quality. Once the piece is completed its just a matter of finding a ways to frame it or seeking an alternative method (cost depending) to present it publicly.
DIM: What does your artwork consist of?
DYV: As far as the bulk of the work in this show is concerned, my original drawings are ink on paper. My mixed media pieces are matte medium and carbon on canvas stretched over wood panel. Some of the pieces in this series also include, ink, spray paint and acrylic paint in the mix.
DIM: How would you describe your art?
DYV: I would describe it in a variety of different ways. As far as the medium and technique are concerned: labor intensive, meticulous, time consuming and extremely fun / fulfilling.
Conceptually I see them as a form of social fiction. As time goes on and my concept/ narrative becomes more established, I will finally graduate to ‘science – fiction’. I’ll need to put in far more time and research to get to that level though. I suppose this is a way of fusing my different interests, background and inspirations into one form. They’re is my obsession with the sci-fi/action film genre, punk rock culture, street art, counter and sub culture, the city of San Francisco and my personal social perceptions on the human condition all wrapped up in one. When people ask me what I do I generally answer: I am creating a post – apocalyptic world that takes place a couple hundred years after the evolution of our current society fell apart. It’s a society that is trying to find an order and new identity through the attempt of discovering their past (which for the most part is hidden from them). In addition to that, their technology is the reconstruction of ‘tech’ far more advanced then what we have now, because the time in which society fell apart was several years from where we are now.
DIM: What are you trying to communicate through your artwork?
DYV: I think I am trying to communicate multiple things at one time through my work. First of all, I generally like to hear the viewer’s interpretation of my work, because it often conveys a perception, memory or idea that I was unfamiliar with until I hear their opinion. I have people tell me about their military experiences, paranoias on the direction of our society, childhood experiences living in war torn countries, references to movies and books, references to history and culture, ideas about language and codes, new creative ideas, and just general likes and dislikes regarding the aesthetic quality of my work. I collect all these interpretations in my head with the intent of adding them to the direction of future works. I believe that if I am creating a body of work that reflects humans, society and perceptions on the world at large; its very important for me to allow the outside influence and opinions of others to filter into what I am doing.
I am not sure that I have any singular message to convey, or even a point to make. The state of humanity is in constant change, as is the state of our thinking. I believe that the more I learn about our species as a whole, and the more I learn about myself, the stronger and more obvious my work will become. I see this as an ongoing experiment. In many ways I am constantly questioning morality and ethics. I am fascinated by the way in which they develop in people for different reasons. I am also equally intrigued on how they often change based on circumstance and experience. It is all too often that people will run into contradictions with the way they act and think. I feel that my works often reflect these contradictions, if only on a superficial level. I think this is why I create work that has elements of conformity and rebellion mixed together. I take symbols and aesthetics found commonly in punk and anarchist culture and translate them to something that appears to be militaristic and ordered. It seems to make total sense. It appears to me that an ethic or moral is only something that is useful in specific moments or circumstances. What works for one situation does not work for the other. At times even the idea of ethics and morality are a luxury. It is hard to say that an individual ‘will’ or ‘will not’ do something until they are placed in that situation.
On the topic of contradiction, it is something so obvious in our society. The idea of ‘rebellion’ is something we appear to hold a great deal of pride in. It’s obvious in our history and our culture. What exactly is rebellion? Is it to go against a grandeur force and attempt to overcome the odds set against you? Is it making a statement against an idea or perception commonly held amongst your peers, contemporaries, community or people at large? Rebellion can be conveyed from anything to a simple action to an armed revolution. However, in our modern day this concept is something that has been altered, filtered, manipulated and nearly lost. I feel often that the term ‘rebellion’, as it’s used in our culture is simply a loose term used to explain an action or statement that goes against an assumed perception of normality. However, there appears to be no real specific ‘norm’ in our culture. If I dress crazy, shave half my head and spray paint slogans on walls, then continue in this fashion for a few years, there will be an entire scene that will allow me to do just that. There will be groups of people that will pay me large sums of money to do just that, and on top of that there will be a huge commercial value in what I do. Outside of a few weird looks and some minor legal ramifications, everything I do will be accepted, loved and paid for. I could make a career of just that. It will be seen as ‘counter culture’, ‘rebellious’ and ‘deviant’. Countless people will imitate these actions, then create some sort of rule book on the ‘do’s’ and ‘do-nots’ of shaving half your head and writing slogans on walls. If these sets of rules are broken or challenged then those ‘traditionalists’ of this rebellious sub culture will classify you as corny, naive, less ‘rebellious’. You will be cast out and forced to create a new counter culture of your own.
I suppose in some ways I am taking social and cultural ideas in our culture and presenting them in a different light. In other ways, I am mocking the absurdity of counter culture in our society. However, at times I am glorifying it at the same time. In the end, the more I observe, the more I convey. If an idea (or image) sparks my attention, I interpret it and include it in my work.
DIM: What are the political and social implications that are conveyed through your artwork? Tell me about this futuristic world that is portrayed through your art.
DYV: Politically I have absolutely no stance. The idea of politics escapes me. I have never been able to make sense of politics. However, social behavior is something I find myself far more attuned to. As mentioned in some of the questions above, I am fascinated by what both an individual and groups of individuals will do in specific circumstances and settings foreign to what they know. I am curious of peoples actions in situations that causes them to question or contradict their own ethics, or the set of ethics they have been told to believe in. Often ethics and morality can be a comfort or set of rules to live by according to a certain lifestyle. People will often preach these ethics or attempt to force others to oblige by them. Even if that set of ethics does not pertain or make sense to the lifestyle of the people who are being told to conform to it. When faced with a challenge or odds so overwhelming you are forced to completely change everything you know about yourself, what then is the direction you will take your actions and beliefs. If I am a God loving/ fearing man and watch those I love die around me. Does my faith increase? Does it change and evolve my fit and mend my suffering? Or do I lose faith in everything I believed in to face these new challenges? Or simply not face them at all? If I believe that killing another human being is wrong, but someone horribly wrongs me or threatens those I love…is it wrong to kill them? If I do, what then happens to my ideals? What kind of person do I become? If I break an ethic or principle that I have been told to believe in or set myself to believe in over the course of my life, then how many other principles can be broken? What new principles will I create to replace the ones I have broken?
I am curious as to how both individuals and cultures face the challenges set forth upon them. I am also curious as to the short and long term changes that occur as a result of these challenges. These challenges often force a society to evolve (or end). We (America) often date ourselves through wars and the space between wars. Every war changes our identity, technology, beliefs, etc. A war can cause us to sacrifice our lives or way of life, pit people against each other that would normally be friends (on the battlefield or at home), develop new technology to fit the circumstances of that war, shift the power of a nation, set entirely new rules and laws to societies unaccustomed to them, cause people to commit atrocities that they may have never thought themselves capable of doing or give people strength they never thought they had. It is because war changes everything about us. It could be something as large as World War 2 that got us out of the great depression, put us into the atomic age, set up the USA as a major world power, had huge impacts on the development of our technology and generally changed the face of our nation and world at large. Or our Cold War with the Russians that developed our space program out of competition and the need to create a victory for our nations morale by putting a man on the moon. The Vietnam War nearly tore our nation in two, pushed the Civil Rights movement and forever changed the thinking and identity of our country on a cultural, creative and moral level. These are only a few minor examples, but it seems to me that the primary driving force for social change and evolution is human conflict, or some type of disaster of large proportions. It is an unfortunate thing about us, but to me it appears to be the truth. I do not believe that war is correct, but I do believe that it a fundamental part of our species and something that cannot be simply classified as ‘bad, ‘wrong’ or ‘unnecessary’ at this point in our evolution.
The futuristic world interpreted through my work is a loose concept that I have been developing for the past three years. The narrative and style changes as I change. It is set at an unknown time. The basic premise is that this is a society trying to rebuild itself and relearning the construction of a civilization. It is a society with little historical knowledge about themselves or the world at large. They are desperately attempting to discover the elements of its past. The location of this narrative is San Francisco, because that is what I know. I find this city’s history particularity interesting due to its ‘rogue’ element. I am attempting to explore that a lot more as I develop this body of work. Each show hints towards different aspects I have been developing. As the concept evolves more, there will be introductions to this world’s technology, which is in some aspects far more advanced then what we have now due to fact that when ‘our’ civilization falls it will be at least a couple hundred years from now. If our civilization fell apart now, people would be attempting to utilize plumbing, electricity, automobiles, computers, etc. You would see mass make-shift elements of our technology everywhere. This world is the same, only they have make-shift technology much like our own, but are also utilizing pre-existing tech that is years ahead of where ours is currently. I feel that this element will be particularly important because it will give the viewer a glance at the direction of our current world and what our society eventually led up to. I feel that people in this day in age (especially in SF) have a both a love and attachment to technology. They are fascinated with it and are completely dependent upon it. It will be a matter of time before people find ways to become one with it. Science fiction often depicts the conflicts that arise between human and machine. These conflicts often lead to wars in which humankind is forced to ban together to overcome this struggle and avoid extinction. It is a story that has been told time and time again through literature and film.
As I continue to develop this world I want to explore the idea, not necessarily of human vs. machine, but of human fusing with machine as a part of this world’s past. This is not an uncommon concept in science fiction, but I wish to present it both as an element of our future and a part of this world’s past. This is a concept not yet immediately present in my work, but will be as time goes on and this series develops itself further.
Most importantly with this world, I want to present a people reinventing themselves. If one does not know their history they have no future. This is a society taking what they can from their past (which is scattered) and using it to build their identity, social order and culture. They have taken elements of everything, from our culture, counter cultures, technology, laws, morals, religions, languages, art, music, social and political structures and fused them into a structure that seems very contradictory to ours, but applicable to the direction of their world.
DIM: What is symbolic of the soldier and military style of the figures in your pieces?
DYV: To put it simply, I wanted to explore the more attractive elements to military order. I had noticed when I first started doing this series that despite the nature of non-conformity amongst my peers and the general element of San Francisco at large, I found a lot of these people interested in my work. Throughout my years of experiencing punk rock music and culture I had noticed a certain military like theme present in the music and uniform of the culture. Despite the fact that this was culture generally directed toward anti-authority, anti-government, anti-military, anti-religion, etc. The music has a chant like quality, its usually geared towards an aggressive nature, there are very specific rules (at this point) to the dress, attitude and structure of the culture, these are generally followed. Even the symbols present in the aesthetic of the culture serve as badges. I suppose this is the foundation for my thinking. This contradiction is immediately prevalent. Once realized, I started to see this very same contradiction present in other ‘counter cultures’ and eventually in many other aspects of our society. It appears that the only truth that I have found at this point is that there is no truth, no guarantee to any principal. Every thought, ideal and belief present in any order has an equally contradictory action in that very same order. In many ways this has destroyed or called into question most of any belief system I had previously, but opened my eyes to perhaps a deeper understanding; or more accurately put, curiosity to the inner workings and actions of our species.
DIM: Where do you get the ideas for your art?
DIM: What inspires your artwork?
DYV: Everything does at some point. I find that my interests and inspirations are constantly in motion.
DIM: Who are some the artists that you admire that have influenced you?
DYV: As far as visual artists are concerned: Blek Le Rat, Shepard Fairey, Emory Douglas, Eine, H.R. Giger, Wayne Douglas Barlowe, Eddie Colla, and the list continues….
In film it’s Neil Blomkamp all the way!
DIM: Where did you receive your art training?
DYV: I received my undergraduate degree at Manhattanville College, and my masters degree at Academy of Art University. I have also worked with and learned from sculptor/painter: Mark Zjawinski (markzjawinski.com), screen printer: Jeff Bruton (the Loin, theloinsf.com) and street artist: Eddie colla (eddiecolla.wordpress.com).
DIM: What is in the future for you as an artist?
DYV: Ideally, I would like to put on large scale installation projects. These projects would include a much more theatrical element that would further explore the world. Some examples of this would be full size mechs, vehicles, blueprints and applications for technology, and works that further explore the social, religious and cultural aspects of this world. In addition to that I want to start making short documentary films that take place in this world. These films would include interviews, sets and special effects. That’s the idea for now, its just a matter of finding the financing, resources and help to make such an endeavor come into fruition. Keep your fingers crossed!