Aesthetics for Birds

Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone

Interview with Artist The Sucklord

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Grayscale photograph of the Sucklord.

SUCKADELIC is an evil arts organization based in Chinatown New York City. Specializing in Bootleg Toys, illicit remix records, and duffed out Supervillain Soap operas. More of a degenerate con-game than a real company, Suckadelic is universally regarded as the sleaziest brand in the game. Ruled from a hidden Sweatshop by the intergalactic criminal and self-serving megalomaniac, the SUPER SUCKLORD, Suckadelic has continued to pump highly addictive pop culture crap into the veins of willing victims since 1997. Greatest hits include the legendary STAR WARS BREAKBEATS album, The GAY EMPIRE Homotrooper action figure, and the epic TOY LORDS OF CHINATOWN misadventure serial. Despite revealing a softer side of himself on Bravo TV’s hit Show WORK OF ART: The Next Great Artist, The Sucklord remains a reviled gangster, feared for his smooth tyranny and the ruthless exploitation of his fans. He is the Greatest Supervillain ever to operate in the world of popular culture. Made in USA.

Despite the fact that it is increasingly common to find these works created by well-known, well-respected, and extensively credentialed street artists, many seem hesitant to place Designer Toys (Urban Vinyl) under the banner of Street Art. Certainly insofar as one thinks Street Art requires some transgressive element or criminality, your Designer Toy work with its emphasis on bootleg (unlicensed) action figures looks as good a candidate as any. Do you consider Designer Toys in general or your own work specifically to be part of some larger Street Art tradition or perhaps instead more in the Fine-Art Appropriationist tradition (e.g., Andy Warhol, Elaine Sturtevant, Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine)?

No, I don’t consider what I do Street Art. For something to be Street Art, in my opinion, it needs to actually be up on the street, and illegally so. Otherwise it’s a mural. I suppose the attitude or stance of the Suckadelic work could possibly be lumped in with street art, but I wouldn’t put that limitation on it. I think the notion of street art as an art movement unto itself is kind of an artificial invention created by gallerists, critics, and hipsters in an attempt to package, sanitize, and sell whatever rebellion the cool kids happen to be doing today.

I also think it’s a trend and a label that is running it’s course. People will always continue to bomb the street no matter what. But I think the “Art Establishment” that co-opted it in the first place is getting tired of it, mostly because they are sick of taggers fucking up their bathrooms every time they have an opening. That said, I think it is possible to say that the Suckadelic bootleg series has things in common with what people perceive street art to be, which is pretty much the fuck you attitude, the law breaking, (aka copyright infringement) and the sloppy, shitty, cut and paste I-had-to-do-this-quick-and-run-away look to it. It does have other elements of Pop art, collage, appropriation and all that other shit that real artists do, but I don’t know if that makes it art. It’s also not a toy either, because you can’t open it up and play with it, and it would possibly kill a young child if you gave it to them. (choking, toxic, etc).

I’m also not sure if designer toys in general are really art either. Some of these independent toys are nice looking, well made, creative etc, but are more design than art (or at least Art with a capital A). For something to be Art in my completely useless and uninformed opinion, it has to have some meaning, or opinion, or argument being made. It has to reveal something about the artist, or society, or the human condition. Shit like that. Just because something is cute and colorful and made by hand, doesn’t make it Art. And just because the cute thing has a little plastic spray can in it’s hand and a boombox, that doesn’t make it street art either. but I don’t really think about any of that when I make my crap. I’m guilty of all those cheap gimmicks I just criticized in the last sentence. But I don’t really care. I just do what I find interesting and what I think my customers will buy. Where it all fits in with the rest of the art world (if at all) is up to others. I’m just trying to make money expressing myself and this is what turned up by me doing that.

Also, it should be noted that I have absolutely no authority expressing any opinion about Street Art whatsoever as that I was kicked off of an Art Competition Reality show for making a terrible piece of Graffiti, so what do I know?

There seems to be a sense in which much of your work attempts to please (or to piss off) two masters: one “low brow” (mass art), the other “high brow” (fine art). I suspect the fine-art audience, unlike their “low brow” kin, far better equipped to appreciate the way in which you situate yourself both inside and outside the artworld (and so perhaps less inclined to attribute the churlish qualities of your art persona to you yourself) but also, unlike the “low brow” crowd”, ultimately unable or unwilling share let alone understand the reverence you have for certain pop culture ephemera. Do you find yourself playing more to one side than the other at this point in your career as opposed to when you started?

To what extent do you think the success or failure of your work falls along such a “low/high brow” division? For example, many of your works have themes that at first blush seem unrepentantly sexist (Another Bitch You Didn’t Get to Fuck) or  homophobic (The Gay Enterprise) but in fact are satirizing or mocking those very attitudes [something which should be clear to those with knowledge of the ridiculous anatomical caricature that is the female action figure or even a passing familiarity with the history of slash fiction and its Star Trek origins (Kirk/Spock)].

Shirtless action figures of of Spock and Captain Kirk in packing that says "Gay Enterprise"
Backside of the above packaging with the text "I don't care...if the whole ship knows...transport me across the starts...into your vulcan arms...not everything is logica..." interspersed with images of Spock and Kirk in loving embraces.

How does this low/high division play into the production side of your work? For example, you routinely use non-archivable material (fade-fast inks, scotch tape, cardboard, sharpie signature), which though no doubt in step with the bootleg spirit of your work also runs directly counter to the fine-art tradition of facilitating the work’s display.

Action figure of a woman with pink hair, wearing gold spandex and high rise boots in packaging that reads "Another bitch you didn't get to fuck"

I don’t really know for sure. At the end of the day, the only master I aim to serve is myself (and he’s an asshole). I suppose it is kind of a tricky balancing act to both mock and revere something in the same sentence, but it may be the one thing I am sometimes good at. Some people understand it instantly, other people just take one look and keep moving. What I think fewer people understand that all of the work is autobiographical in a way, and that I’m really mocking myself for liking these things. I suppose by extension I am also mocking whoever buys it for liking me mocking me mocking them.

For a long time I was decidedly against the so-called Art World and was quite content making a living outside of that system in the Toy Game. However, once you become some kind of legend in any creative field and reach the highest levels that that realm offers, there is nowhere to go but down. You begin to be restricted by your status. I lately feel hamstrung by my fans expectations, and I would happily tell them all to fuck off, but as of now they are still paying my bills, so I can’t do that.

Also, one can become arrogant and lazy (horrible combination) once they achieve some success and start phoning stuff in while at the same time raising prices, and I’ll tell you, that practice has some harsh and quick backlash, and you suddenly find yourself becoming the thing you were rebelling against in the first place. (At least it happened to me).

It’s also tough to try to make something shitty and cheap looking, while at the same time exercise a high level of quality control. That’s why I can never really find good assistants. All of this stuff is getting made under duress and financial pressure. Corners have to be cut in order to make stuff fast and cheap so it can be sold quick and I can pay my bills. But the right corners have to be cut, and nobody else can do it with the same touch. I’m not saying it’s a good touch, but it is one that I haven’t been able to teach to someone else. We have attempted outsourcing parts of this operation to other people, with mixed results. Some figure come back too good and clean, and therefore aren’t Suckadelic enough. Others come back really crappy and lack the Sucklord’s “feel.” People who care can tell the difference and won’t buy it. Also, others have chosen to label the work “Important” and catalog, preserve, and archive it. Which is nice, but it sometimes makes it difficult to create a sloppy, shitty piece of crappy “Fuck you” when you know somebody is insisting it be made with archival materials and wants it in a certain size so it fits into the custom plexiglass boxes they had made. I get lost sometimes. It might be fun to throw it all away and start over in another world as a nobody and see if I can avoid the same mistakes in a higher stakes game.

Small action figure wearing sombrero and ammo belt in packaging that says "Desperado" covered in an image of two men strapping the arms of another man with glistening muscles and exposed penis to a wooden log.

There is a somewhat impressive tradition of artists with extensive backgrounds in philosophy (Robert Motherwell, Phillip Glass, Ethan Cohen, David Foster Wallace, Errol Morris, Freeman Patterson) and of course, one of the most influential art critics of the last few decades, Arthur Danto (who died just a few months ago), was first and foremost a philosopher. Have you had much exposure to philosophy of art (or philosophy in general)? Do you think art and the ways in which we create, appreciate, and interact with it to be something worth theorizing about?

Sure, I have taken plenty of LSD and was a philosophy major for a minute. I love to hear myself talk about “Grand themes.” We smoke pot all day and try to understand and explain what is it that we do (That being myself and my collaborators and contemporaries.) I can’t speak for everybody, but personally I think the theorizing and pontificating is the funnest part. For me, all the work I make starts out as words and ideas, and takes the form later. I don’t think any of this shit is really about the thing itself, but rather the intangible place it comes from, which I suppose is the collective subconscious. Other people paint pretty pictures, and they do well for themselves. I’m chasing after something else. The fucked up part is that ideas are perfect, the things not so much. Whatever I pull down from the ether gets shitty as it takes crude physical form (Yoda has some wisdom on this) and it will all eventually fall apart. That’s just the way of things. It’s the nature of our bodies as vessels for the immortal soul. (I sound like a pretentious windbag) But the short of it is, for me, if you can’t get high and blab about what it means for hours and hours, then it’s probably not worth doing.

Finally, one of your exhibitions was titled You’re an Asshole for Buying This. As a philosopher of art who owns several of your works [including two signed The Gay Enterprise in a front/back shadow-box frame displayed behind anti-reflection conservation-grade UV protection museum quality glass], I was curious if you thought it takes a special kind of asshole not just to buy your work but also to philosophize about it. 

The Sucklord wearing Boba Fett's helmet from Star Wars.

Sure, I suppose the work asks plenty of ultimately unanswerable questions, like for example “what the fuck is this guy’s problem?” I do have a lot to say and take great pleasure in saying it. It may not be important or relevant or intelligent in any way, but I have managed to surround myself with other like-minded cretins who love to get stoned and bandy about what the meaning of is is and how does that relate to Star Wars and porn. Someday it will all be collected into a book, which can be read in it’s entirety or used to bludgeon someone over the head with. Either way the results will be the same….

One Comment

  1. Interesting website and read!

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