A Message from Artist Alex Rudin
In the throws of 2020, I discovered great purpose as an artist. In the darkness of lockdown, a window of opportunity began to open. I realized through the distillation of issues into a single image, I can communicate succinctly and powerfully the problems set before us.
In keeping with our American tradition of great image makers provoking social change (think Emory Douglas, Kara Walker, Dorothea Lange, and the Guerilla Girls), artists have always been the fulcrum of evolving social change. As an artist, I possess this same entirely unique set of tools. As I discovered this past year, I carry an individualized way of connecting people to issues that affect and inspire us towards actionable generosity and civic engagement. Art is the great communicator and it is my firm belief that artists are the gateway to a deeper truth about the human condition.
Over the past year, my growing social media presence and subsequent press coverage, (USA Today Magazine, Grit Daily, Yahoo.com) has enabled my art to be viewed by people with vastly different viewpoints. This is precisely the point. One must realize that art is not simply to cater to those who agree with your messaging or like a pretty picture, but to provoke thought in those that do not. Art acts as a conversational catalyst, an emotional trigger point. In an age of disinformation and falsehoods, we must look to art for inspiration.
We must look to art for truth.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background, where did you grow up?
I am a 25 year old NYC based artist & illustrator focused on social justice and abstract political theory. I graduated from Parsons New School for Design in 2017 with a major in Illustration and a minor in Fine Arts. I am originally from Wilmington, Delaware and attended Wilmington Friends School, a Quaker school, for 14 years. I am from a typical New York Jewish family, which in turn influences almost everything I set out to do. As a child, I always felt a pull to New York, as if my ancestors were calling me home. I moved to the city in 2013 and have never left.
Where did your love for art stem from?
Art is in my blood. My grandfather attended the Art Students League in NY and pursued a career as a menswear illustrator. My mother is an artist and interior designer, and my father is a talented builder with a passion for architecture. The arts were something I was naturally inclined towards, and I was fortunate enough to have a family that was able to recognize my talents and passions at a young age and encourage their growth. Most of my childhood memories center around the arts in one form or another, whether it be listening to opera epics in the car with my grandmother, or sketching at the MET on my birthday with my mom. In turn, art has become my bridge of connection and way of communication. My life without art simply does not make sense. Art is everything I’ve ever known, and the best friend I’ve ever had.
Where do you find the courage to create art that reflects such controversial issues?
Artist’s have a duty to reflect the times we live in. My purpose is to create dialogue, promote actionable change, and to spark personal introspection and growth. I have always been very drawn towards social issues and standing up for the oppressed. Having gone to a Quaker school for 14 years, social awareness and empathy were ingrained in my psychology. In addition, being raised Jewish, has given me a level of awareness around injustice that is tremendously personal. The Holocaust is a cultural trauma that can never be forgotten or removed from the Jewish conscience. While these are developmental conditions, concrete events surely spurred me to shift gears and focus on making work that sparks conversation.
It started with Covid-19. Suddenly, I found myself far away from the studio and print shop I call home. Struggling with what to make and how to help, I decided to create a series of paintings to auction off to homeless and trafficked youth in NYC. Soon to follow were the atrocious murders of George Floyd, Ahmed Aubry, and Breonna Taylor, which brought racial justice to the forefront of the American conscience. While our President continuously fanned the flames of racism, the cries for equality and allyship were deafening. It was time to allow my artwork to reflect the times and struggles of our country which so deeply affected me and so many others. Then the election reared its ugly head. An election where so much was at stake. On the docket: racial justice, women’s rights, climate change, science, and healthcare, to name a few. History called upon all with a voice to rise up and speak, and that is exactly what I have been doing ever since.
What is your favourite art piece from 2020 and why?
My favorite piece from 2020 would have to be the first piece I made in quarantine called “A Guernica.” This is a mural sized painting measuring roughly 8 feet long by 3 feet tall. It is made with acrylic and india ink on Canva-paper.
While the devastation of Covid-19 circumnavigated the globe, I was constantly drawn to examining historical moments that mimic or paralleled our current times. Whether it be economic instability, racial inequality, war, or disease, art history continually provides a visual narrative of human experiences. One of the most pervasive metaphors circling the media-sphere was/is the concept that we are engaged in a “war.” That being said, I was most intrigued by the power, commentary, and conceptual suredness of anti-war paintings, such as Picasso’s Guernica.
Guernica portrays the suffering of people torn by violence and chaos. It is an image of innocent, defenseless humanity victimized. As can be said for the COVID-19 pandemic. Guernica should be seen as Picasso’s comment and expression of what art can actually contribute towards protecting the individual and communities against overwhelming forces such as political crime, war, and death. As we continue to sit quarantined in our houses in 2021, we as a people are confronted with paralleled fear and terror. Coronavirus has brought Picasso’s Guernica closer to home.
A Guernica is the first in a series that attempts to conceptually and formally revisit Picasso’s Guernica through a modern lens.
What do you hope to achieve in 2021 and how can we support your journey?
The events of 2020 have completely changed my art practice. I am committed more than ever to making work about social change. I am dedicated to using my artistic voice to fight for human rights, equality, climate change, racial justice, and human decency. A great history of image makers and artists alike have molded the very heart of this country. From Rosie the Riveter, to the posters of Emory Douglas, to Kara Walker, artists have been the backbone of social change. Art allows viewers to connect, empathize, and feel on a deeper level through powerful images. Effective art begs the viewer to contemplate, to sit in discomfort, and to confront. I hope to contribute to this dialogue by bringing a modern visual narrative to the unprecedented times we find ourselves in.