Sprinting toward Babylon - Page 2

Conrad Ruiz paints the speed-record horror and hilarity of contemporary life
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I thought, "All must be right in the world if the only thing we have to talk about is Tiger Woods getting hit with a golf club by his wife." If that's what actually happened.

SFBG People are already Photoshopping and digitally animating visions of that.
CR That's my job — to look up all that stuff.

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SFBG Does 1970s cinema have any place in your mind's eye? The Jaws [1975] shark in your painting Rough Riders [2008] and the disaster film or Towering Inferno-like [1974] quality of works like New Fall Lineup made me wonder. I could see that I might be wrong about the latter, since a flaming, exploding skyscraper has other obvious connotations.
CR My work really started with that time period and in painting advertising from that era. The colors were a lot more primary. When I was painting those advertisements, the work was more sarcastic. That beginning body of work was about developing this snarky character that evolved into what I'm making now.

It is about going back and catching some of the ridiculousness of what was so popular at one time. When you watch a disaster film now, you know the history of those celebrities. It's hard for me to relate to that period of time, but it's easy for me to relate to early 1990s movies like the Naked Gun franchise — O.J. Simpson was in those — and the Terminator flicks. Those are ridiculous and fun. I like them, and of course [lowers voice], that's my Governor.

Everyone says "I hate that guy," but even though I think [Schwarzenegger]'s doing a terrible job, I don't want my politicians to be these people I don't know — I'd rather have them be these celebrities I hate. If I'm going to hate who's in office, I'd rather have it be Sylvester Stallone or somebody.

SFBG When you make work that has a contemporary element, there's always a danger of it becoming instantly dated. But I think some of your work is both timely and ahead of its time. Overload, for example, just becomes more and more evocative.

The NASA element of the piece, with the Challenger exploding, is taking on new facets as Obama is increasingly identified with the military and space program. I saw a show at Altman Siegel Gallery by Matt Keegan earlier this year that utilized a New York Times front page photo of Obama boarding Air Force One for the first time. That's a more direct example of what I'm talking about. Six months ago, that image had a different connotation.
CR I was really hoping Obama would get elected, because I started Overload before the election.

SFBG I have to ask about the Challenger's presence in Overload. I was talking with the artist Colter Jacobsen recently about the fact that I'd like to put together a show of Challenger-related art. Within the art world, there are at least a dozen or so people who have incorporated the Challenger one way or another into work. That's not even counting how it has manifested as band and album names and jokes in popular culture.
CR For me, it would be great to ask the artist about the original idea behind making a Challenger painting. Everyone has a different a point of view about what's going on. I always feel like I'm casting with my paintings. There are these scenarios that have never happened, and since I get to decide what's happening, I also decide who is the star —whether it's someone from a B movie, an unsung celebrity, a friend who I'm giving a big break, or someone from a blockbuster, like Eddie Murphy and David Alan Grier.

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Overload is a blockbuster sort of painting.

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