My great friend Jesse J*RYU wrote his view of 6 years of my art career leading up to my solo art show. Enjoy!. Thank you Jess
The notion of collecting and gathering personal treasures to commemorate where we have been and what we have done in our lives has been an intrinsic part of helping us as humans, to remember how far we have come, as well as give us aspirations as to how much further we want to go. Whether it is a souvenir of an exotic far-flung land that we never thought we’d reach or just a seashell hastily grabbed off the beach that one walked on with their first love, these objects are precious reminders, personal and resonating to a life that only truly makes sense to ourselves. At the end of days, long from now when all that is left of each of us is just an accumulation of baubles and treasures left in our wake, it is with some hope that these objects that we so coveted will give some semblance of just who we were so that the makeup of our person and our personalities, will shine through and say “I was here…and this is who I was.”
Sometimes we are also so moved by the events in our lives that we are driven to create, to be a purveyor, in the hopes that we can convey through tangible and tactile means, how it was to have lived our specific and unique life. To share our vantage point. To reach out and connect with a complete stranger with an unknowingly shared vision as the conduit. To be the creator of such things that others will come to cherish and eventually leave behind as evidence of their unique timeline. It is just not enough to grasp onto small tokens of our finite journey; it is an unrelenting drive to proactively create a physically realized vision and be able to say “I was here…and this is what I created.”
Unearthing and discovering the art of Alex, AKA DrilOne, is akin to sneaking an accelerated peek into our futures, where the material remnants of our existence have weathered the rigors of a fully-lived life but savaged exponentially by a man consumed with telling the world that “The End is Here.” Visions of a bleak future, his is a post-apocalyptic shell of a world where hybrid creatures are engaged in a never-ending battle, where military rules and everything adheres to a crush-or-be-crushed mentality. Glimpses of what was once whole and cherished are hidden under layers of corrosion and decay, a stark reminder that nothing is impervious, nothing is safe, and nothing is untouchable. If the scars and battle wounds that are naturally incurred on a day-to-day basis weren’t enough, Alex ensures that the harrowing truth that eventually, everything turns to dust, is undeniably present and austerely realized. That said, it only took him 5 years to reach a point where he could be assured that the rest of the world was ready to see what was really going on inside his head.
Alex and I first met in 2006 when we were both members of the Kidrobot message boards and even at that time, his enthusiasm and love for the designer toy scene was fully realized. However, he had not yet coalesced a signature style and his work was reflective of many of the motifs drawn from popular culture, most specifically skulls, executed with a level of technical prowess that was ahead of the curve in the nascent customizing scene. Being new to the scene myself and inundated with a litany of artists and styles to absorb and admire, his work immediately spoke to me and I approached him for my first-ever commissioned piece, a Kidrobot Munny. Upon receiving the piece and finally being able to fully admire his work in person quickly solidified me as a fan of his art. We would dialogue intermittently and through our conversations, snippets of his personal life were revealed, but it was very apparent that he preferred to let his work speak for itself. Nonetheless, we became fast friends over the years and being able to witness his ascent as an artist was inspiring. As the show invites started to become more frequent, he would excitedly send me emails letting me know of each new opportunity and I would be happy for him, knowing that for a person who worked so hard and was so passionate about his work, it must be such validation that someone out there, in a position of influence, was also watching and appreciating his efforts. As his popularity as a toy customizer grew, his style also started to change as he experimented with different techniques culled from his fine art background and then one day, he showed me a piece that changed everything. I looked at it. I studied it. I grinned. And I wrote back “YES!” And it wasn’t just me – the message boards were aflutter with his new industrial-derived style and even though the application was nothing new, it was the context and execution. The divergent nature of what Alex accomplished was antithetical to many of the sleek and distilled designs that were proliferating at the time; perhaps it was because of the monotony of what was trendy at the time that his plaintive, but well-executed treatment on a toy was in many ways, a much-needed kick in the pants that had been sorely needed for the scene. Whatever the case might have been, Alex finally found his niche, enjoyed the exploration of this new direction and was gaining fans by the day. I was really proud of my friend, and his success was well deserved.
In 2009, we finally met up in person at SDCC after 3 years of being friends online and had a chance to hang out with other members of our burgeoning toy scene as well. It was a ridiculously great time as it was the first year that many people whom we only knew from the boards came together and actually spent time getting to know one another outside of the common interests in art and toys. Alex’s natural apprehensiveness was present as he was far away from his wife and two daughters, and he kept fretting that it was a financial burden to be indulging himself in such a bacchanalian event, but being around such like-minded people quickly assuaged his shyness and reticence and he came away from the con saying that it was one of the best experiences of his life. It also helped that his fanbase had grown to a point where more established artists were recognizing his hard work and efforts and it only served as more motivation to work harder and hone his craft more when he got home. With a supportive wife and his two girls to think about plus a day job career change to consider, Alex made the decision that all creative people wish they had the balls to make at one point in their life – go full-time as an artist and really push the boundaries of how far he could really go. It was this critical decision, made with the blessing of his family and with his girls and passion for art in mind, that allowed him to finally take things to the next level and really show the world what DrilOne was really capable of. Over the next two years, his output of work, participation in shows and reaching out to his fans was in overdrive, and each piece that he completed only served to elevate his status further, not only as one of the hardest working artists in the scene, but also as an artist that was never satisfied with being complacent, nor stale in his art. From his humble beginnings using paints and stencils, to adding found materials to increase the complexity of his themes, Alex has never taken one step backwards in his quest of personal artistic exploration, an natural extension of his interest in graffiti, decrepit buildings, his upbringing in NYC, and more. His accomplishments have not only been heralded by the legions of fans that he now has, but also the companies that he used to dream of working with – his production toys with Toy2R and Kidrobot bring him full circle back to the days when he and I used to just imagine a day where we could also be recognized for our art and persistent hard work by the companies who produced the toys we admired. Add in the fact that he has stayed the same best friend and now colleague through great times as well as difficult times, both artistic and personal, is a testament to the type of person that he is and that I know he will always remain.
As I write this, it’s September, 2011 and it’s the eve of his first solo show to be held at Dragatomi in Sacramento, CA. The teaser photos of what he has done to transform the gallery into a scene pulled straight from an imagination, that could only come from the dark recesses of DrilOne’s mind, are down-right insane. Going above and beyond with the installation is in addition to the hordes of pieces that are sure to be talked about as being yet another pivotal point in the career of Alex, as he explores new themes, new materials and new sculptures that aren’t reliant on customizing an existing platform. I sit back and watch, bemused and feeling privileged to have been an observer, confidant, friend and brother for almost 6 years. In many ways, Alex was instrumental in my becoming involved more in the scene from a participatory standpoint as an artist, leading by example and assuring me with encouragement as we traverse the world and cross paths at the various shows and cons. His future, contrary to his aesthetics of that crumbling world, is startling bright. Alex is our guide to that ruined place in his bald head, showing us that even though it’s all just stuff in the end and that everything will eventually break down and blow away as if they never existed, the time we do have with these curious little objects and what they mean to us as well as define us, can never be taken away.
Keep killin’ it son.
Sept. 8, 2011