I once visited a group show called Anatomically Incorrect in Brooklyn. It was there that I first saw Kevin’s work–discarded materials restructured to create layers and shapes, hanging from the warehouse walls. Pieces that were once throwaways were revived, revisited and brought to new life as 3-D installations that had creature characteristics. Simply put, Kevin’s inspiration is the usage of industrial waste—or trash.
He said, “The concrete walls of the warehouse were particularly challenging to hang on, but the space was exactly what the work has always been looking for and it felt really at home.”
This home was at the Alternative Arts Association’s annual big show. The AAA is a not-for-profit arts organization whose platform is to bring many different forms of art together. Dance, music, performance, video, two-dimensional, three-dimensional, you name it. It was all inspired work.
What’s your name and where are based? Kevin William Reed, based in Brooklyn, NY (Bed-Stuy)
Title, how do you describe yourself? Artist. Which inevitably leads to the question “what kind of artist?” But for me the specification isn’t necessary. Artist suits what I do without restriction. I’m a creator of things but no longer limit myself to one discipline or structure.
What do you use to create? While I can’t specify a medium I can certainly tell you what I use to create. I’m really into trash. Specifically industrial waste/scraps/leftovers and the possibilities therein. I’m really interested in a Baroque sense of drapery, folds upon folds upon folds, aesthetic elegance/ornateness. However, I tend to find this in the mundane, the wasted. I’m excited by the uncanny valley that is created when two polar opposite aesthetics (garbage and Baroque sensibilities) combine to create an object or a space that is at once beautiful and full yet also derelict and uncomfortable. I think that puts the viewer in a really crazy place. I also love acrylic paint, spray paint, woodblock prints (there’s something really crazy about using a chisel to carve an image rather than just drawing it… Makes drawing seem wimpy. That said I’m also an avid drawer, but chisels, man.
How do you describe your work? Sustainable, aggressive, creepy, billowing, excessive, raunchy, rowdy, dangerous (six-foot, razor-sharp, coiled saw blades), loud as fuck, mindful, unimpeded.
What inspires you? Scumbags (and their environments), Legends of the Hidden Temple, sewer rats, R. Crumb, Hellraiser, sunlit forest floors, raging water, Versailles, hallucinogenic memories, dive bars, T-Rex, velociraptors, Mario ghosts, queer culture, the 90s, Ki-L, my tattoo artists (Becki Wilson & Jason Flanell), getting home covered in dirt, swarms, razor blades, bowl socks, my Grandma, porcupine quills, platypi, Bed-Stuy, Where the Wild Things Are, the Subway, abandoned places.
What motivates you when you may not be inspired? Eg, music, etc. My own sense of stagnation, of not doing enough. There are definitely some bands that I’ll throw on if I’m not feeling it at the moment (Handsome Furs, Cold War Kids, Django Django) but the only thing that really gets me going when I’m out of it is my need to constantly create and one-up myself.
Why do you create? As a way to cope with my brain. Lots of detrimental and circular thoughts up there. When I begin to create something, even if it’s trivial at first it always sorts out my thinking. Then my work is able to serve as the medium with which I can communicate those thoughts… So I guess, in a backwards sort of way I create to articulate my thoughts and vantage point, but out of necessity (peace of mind) not out of a need to be heard (necessarily).
Describe any elaborate activities, rituals you may have done while seeking inspiration. Weird question. I don’t think I perform elaborate rituals to seek inspiration, I think the rituals come from being inspired. I used to walk about 20 blocks of Brooklyn bordering the Navy Yard 5-7 nights a week in search of some sort of discarded material that I could bend, float, drape, pinch, break or paint with and it eventually became the strangest thing I did as I would get waist-deep in a dumpster filled with human trash (the majority of which is half-eaten food I soon found out) fiendishly throwing materials to collect. The few individuals who got to witness it never really saw it in the jovial light I did. To them I was a dirty gutter kid with a fiery glow of excitement in his eyes and armfuls of trash.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist? I don’t know if I ever knew. There was just never any other option. My life is very up-in-the-air and I have very few constants, but I think that is what I always knew from the time I was a self-cognizant child. I never saw one concrete thing for myself or an endpoint or a settling. I guess I always knew I would be living the life of an artist, I just didn’t necessarily know that’s what it was until later.
What do you hope to accomplish in 5 years? To make the best damn chocolate chip cookies anyone’s ever tasted, make an exorbitant amount of work, take over an abandoned church for an art space, show in Eastern Europe, and take over the world.
Which is your own favorite piece or body of work? Describe why. Right now my favorite piece is the giant 3’ x 8’ woodblock print I completed after the trash work you’ve seen. This is both because it’s my most accomplished print and the newest direction I’ve moved in (hypersexual) but also because it got STOLEN in the last show that it was in (after it had already been sold) so there’s a weird enigma surrounding it… the most backhanded compliment ever?
Who is your favorite artist? Describe why. That’s a nearly impossible question to answer. There are so many artists that I am inspired by and naming one or even a few would do injustice to the league of inspirational artists I’ve come across. However, if I could be any artist throughout history it would be Hieronymus Bosch cause that dude was crazy and did whatever the fuck he wanted within a ridiculously Catholic and controlled society.
Any words to live by for an aspiring artist starting out? Hear everyone. Listen to few. Follow none. And do whatever the fuck you want.
Stylist: Sherah Jones
Photographer: Elena Shkoda