Erin Petersen
Ridiculous Art

A Q&A with Chad Edwards

By - Jan 28th, 2011 04:00 am

“Men in Suits” by Kristopher Pollard.

“I like to put on art shows for people who don’t like art shows,” says Chad Edwards, an artist, designer and also the latest art director at Moct, an open-concept space and club on the border between Walker’s Point and the Third Ward.

Edwards is also the brains behind F**king Ridiculous, an exhibit of tongue-in-cheek works by 16 Milwaukee artists, that opens tonight. Working in a variety of media, most of the pieces you’ll find adorning the ample wall space at Moct are influenced by pop culture and –consciously or unconsciously — various iterations of the anti-art movement.

In person, his humor is as dry as it is quick, and his relaxed demeanor sets the tone for our conversation. On a brisk wintry afternoon, we met over coffee to talk about pop culture, the segmentation of art in Milwaukee, and how to make art without taking yourself too seriously.

How long have you been working as the art director for Moct? Truth told, I didn’t know such a position existed.

I’ve been putting on [art] shows there for about 3 or 4 years at this point. The owners didn’t really have anyone to organize them on a regular basis, so I stepped in to the position.

Aside from the obvious reasons and your affiliation with Moct, why do shows there and not other, more well-known destinations for art?

It’s an unconventional space…showing in a place like the [Milwaukee Art] Museum would be grand, but it’s sort of like the Catholic Church to me in terms of relevance. It’s a testament to dead artists, and not necessarily the living, breathing art that’s happening in this city right now. But the space at Moct is just earthy enough to accommodate the sort of show I’m interested in.

So tell me about F**king Ridiculous. Or is that explanation found in the title?

The thing about this show, and also about another popular exhibition that I do every year called Childhood Revisited,  they’re art shows for people who don’t like art shows. If you want to come out and enjoy the art and really want to sit and examine it, good. But you don’t have to.

You can show someone a piece at a museum, explain its significance, what era it’s from and blah, blah, blah. But if it means nothing to them, it means nothing to them, and you move on to the next piece. So [with these shows] I want people to be in a relaxed environment where if they want to check out the art, cool. If not, if they just want to drink and socialize, that’s fine too.

“Eugene Simmonson — 1872” by Timmy K. Kramp

So you’re sort of offering the best of both worlds in terms of the experience.

I like to not take myself too seriously, and not take my shows too seriously. I still put together more fine art, intellectual shows, too,but this is more fun. [F**king Ridiculous] is a sort of one-up pissing competition with art, so to speak. It’s like a dare to your friends; when someone crosses the line with a joke, you try to go even further.

So was the theme informed by the work, or the other way around?

Actually, the theme came to be after seeing the band that’s actually going to play on Friday night, Dude X 2. They’re just so…f**king ridiculous. It’s so over the top…it’s so politically incorrect and it was just a great time. I thought to myself “I want a show like that, taking low brow art and making it even lower, you know?”

{ed. note: a visit to Dude X 2’s Myspace page confirms this, with hilarious songs like “Hundredaire,” a slow jam rap about digital converter boxes, Nokia cell phones that have texting capability and paying the electric bill. They’re most definitely NSFW and not for the easily offended.}

Give me an example of how some of the artists involved have extrapolated on that theme.

At this point, I’ve only seen a few pieces, but for example, Chris Dix has this piece that’s kind of 1970s Sci-Fi minimalist, but  like a poster for the greatest B-movie that never was. Jon Murray is a tattoo artist who does some really amazing work; Eric Hancock who’s more well-known as an illustrator and does Digital Snowman, Jason [Belmonti] from…I wanted to mix it up, but they all kind of run between graffiti, airbrush, painting, illustration and photography.

Some of them of trained classically in art, but I don’t think that most of the work here would be considered ‘fine art.’[laughs]

“Sushi” by Chris Dix.

You mentioned curating other shows — have those had the same sort of anti-art ethos?

I put on a semi-regular show Childhood Revisited and F**king Ridiculous is sort of an off-shoot of that, in terms of the spirit behind it. In doing more serious shows and putting my work out there, I found that having to explain the meaning  of my work to people over and over again got to the point where I sort of felt like such an ass trying to sell why my point of view was important and trying to explain that which I can’t necessarily explain. I want to express myself and I want to create, but I like some ambiguity.

I guess I was getting a little jaded. So with Childhood Revisited, I decided to take it back to the reasons I started drawing in the first place, like Transformers and Star Wars — all those things that got my heart pumping when I was a kid. To me, adulthood is coming to terms with all the joys and traumas of your childhood.

[In that show], artists would take something that they loved as a child and look at it from an adult perspective, and infuse it with real emotion and contemplation. And when we do that show, people who don’t particularly like art would see a piece and we would be able to have this sort of unspoken shared experience.

What’s your background in art?

I went to MATC for Visual Communication because I always made and loved art, but I thought that going to school just for art would be kind of pointless. You’re basically paying for a degree that says “I logged this many hours drawing,” and I wanted to have more technical skills and varied interests.

I wasn’t quite happy when I graduated because I wanted to do more, and one of my goals was to move to Japan, but you need a four-year degree to work over there. So I went to UWM and chose art, because it was the only thing that I could sit still in for four years. I never finished though — I’m one math class away from completing my degree…it’s on my ‘to do’ list.

F**king Ridiculous opens at Moct (240 E. Pittsburgh) on Jan. 28, at 8 p.m. There is a $5 cover for the opening, featuring music by Dude X 2. For more information, visit Moct online, or check out Chad’s blog, Eskimos and Egg Rolls.

0 thoughts on “Ridiculous Art: A Q&A with Chad Edwards”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think this is going to be f*cking great

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