Friday, April 03, 2009

Art Space Talk: Rassan Cobbs

Rassan Cobbs is an artist from Newark, NJ. Cobbs describes his work as “Dirty Mythology” due to the fact that he infuses elements of the fantastic into ordinary scenes. In Cobbs world, which has been described as urban gothic, a grazing rhino becomes a device for time travel while a businessman deflects bombs and birds with his umbrella.

Childs Play by Rassan Cobbs

Brian Sherwin: Rassan, tell us about yourself. At what point did you gain an interest in creating visual art?

Rassan Cobbs: I've always drawn. I was probably making little doodles before I could walk. Ma Dukes was an artist herself, but dropped out of art school to become a nurse. I guess you could say the bar was set pretty high early on. I'll never forget asking her to draw me a warrior or something like that and she drew me a Spartan soldier in full battle regalia. There were no stick figures in the Cobbs household.

Fast forward a decade and a half. After a failed attempt at becoming a rapper my ex-wife's mother bought me some oils and brushes. I started playing around and whaddayaknow? I actually managed to impress myself. This is when I painted "Gorillascape" based on photos of gorillas and astronaut suits. Up until that point everything I did was comic based. Nothing serious at all. It wasn't until the ex and I split that I decided to brush up some drawing and general foundation principles at the Tidewater Community College of Visual Arts. A modest little school in Portsmouth, VA (where I was stationed) with an immensely talented faculty.

Head Hunter by Rassan Cobbs

BS: So is photography an important aspect of your work in general?

RC: Aside from the obvious comic influence in my freehand work, I'll work from the occasional photograph. My pops was a pretty decent amateur photographer in the good ole’ days. The "Hayes Homes PJs" piece was rendered from a photograph he had taken long before the city blew up the projects.

BS: Tell us more about your art-- give us some insight into the thoughts behind your work?

RC: I've been told that my art has a dark tone to it. Perhaps urban gothic? I use the term "Dirty Mythology' as an umbrella to describe my work in general as I tend to infuse elements of the fantastical into the mundane or ordinary, which makes up about ninety percent of what I do. I've always enjoyed the freedom of being able to create my own personal mythology.
Time Traveler by Rassan Cobbs

BS: Rassan, can you discuss your process in general? Are there any specific techniques that you utilize?

RC: My creative process is pretty typical I think. I usually scour the internet, magazines and old postcards or photos until something grabs my attention. The occasional found relic. After that I'll take stock of whatever materials are on hand, mix a drink, turn on some music and zone out. As far as technique goes, I'll use anything from cheap brushes to pieces of dry sponge. I go through a lot of old socks. Anything goes when your on a budget.

BS: What about other influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists?

RC: That's a hard one. There are quite a few artist I admire. James Jean. Will Barras. As far as influence goes that's a tough one. Sam Keith's work with The MAXX. Mark Texiera's work with the Punisher and Ghost Rider. Vaugh Bode's Cheech Wizard. Frank Frazetta. My young mind was tainted by his paintings when I was about five or six. One of dad's homies had a hardcover volume of his paintings I would drool over while they were hanging out doing what adults did in those days. Kung Fu flicks, Planet of the Apes, and Cheech and Chong. Pop's always had copies of Heavy Metal around.
Technology by Rassan Cobbs

BS: So what is the specific message you strive to convey as far as your work is concerned?

RC: I like to stay away from making statements in my art. Political or socioeconomic. I get my daily dose of pain and suffering from the CNNs AND BBCs of the world. Keep in mind that I'm exposed to more than my fair share of death at my day job as a surgical technologist. Art for me is an escape. A blank surface for me is the playground where that last shred of innocence can roam free and unopposed. The casual observer or art critic is more than welcome to whatever interpretation they desire.

BS: What are you working on at this time?

RC: Balance between networking, work, painting, being a father and squeezing in time for a love life. The love life tends to spend an inordinate amount of time on the back burner these days. All work and no play as the saying goes.

BS: Rassan, what are your thoughts concerning the internet and utilizing the World Wide Web in order to gain exposure for your art? In your opinion, why is it important for artists to embrace the internet?

RC: I love the internet. Sites like have provided a forum for artists of all kinds . Where else can an outsider such as myself gain any positive exposure without the benefit of a contact heavy "rolodex". Some of you kids may have to "Google" rolodex.
When it Rains by Rassan Cobbs

BS: Will you be involved with any upcoming exhibits?

RC: No exhibits at the moment. Now is the time for experimenting and finding my "voice" as a artist. I would love nothing more than to start a collective of like-minded artist for group shows and mutual support but as an outsider the process can prove challenging. New York and New Jersey people get at ya boy!

BS: Finally, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

RC: I sincerely hope you all enjoy what I'm doing.
You can learn more about Rassan Cobbs by visiting his profile. You can read more of my interviews by visiting the following page--
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor
New York Art Exchange
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