Atlanta rapper Pill has been a lover of art for almost as long as he’s been rapping and while he set the paintbrush down and picked up the mic during high school, he still loves visiting museums.
Complex sent the "Trap Goes Ham" artist- whose "The Epidemic" mix tape released earlier this month-to the High Museum of Art in his hometown to check out the KAWS: DOWN TIME exhibit last week. Pill critiqued the exhibit and talked about being an artsy guy, memories of the High Museum, and the impact of KAWS in entertainment.
DOWN TIME, which features three new major works from New York-based artist KAWS, remains on view until May 20, 2012. The show was organized by the High’s Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Michael Rooks, who took Pill on a walk through of the exhibit.
Continue on to read Pill Visits KAWS: DOWN TIME at Atlanta's High Museum of Art.
I’m excited to hear about your time at the High Museum. How was it?
It was great actually, I enjoyed the whole KAWS exhibit. One really interesting thing was that they had a lot of his drawings as well and it just showed different designs that he designed before he actually turned them into art, like the pre-stages before he painted it. They had one drawing that he did for like Kanye and a lot of different drawings and stuff - it was dope.
I know you're from Atlanta but was that your first time at the High Museum?
No, I’ve been going to the High Museum since I was a kid.
What got you into art and visiting museums?
I always was into art since I was a kid. I’ve been drawing and in advanced art classes, I’ve painted, I’ve always been a student of the arts whether it was poetry or stage plays or writing music. I’m just an artsy guy, I guess.
What museums have you been to that you really enjoyed?
My favorite museum is in London at the Natural History Museum when I was on tour with Mark Ronson. It was down the street from my hotel up in Kingsgate and it shows you all the different dinosaur fossils and human anatomy. It was a wild exhibit - just seeing [the dinosaurs] and T. rex and the span of it and the length of the tail and just all types of other dinosaur fossils. It was dope.
I’ve always been a student of the arts whether it was poetry or stage plays or writing music. I’m just an artsy guy, I guess.
What is your favorite type of art?
P: I like contemporary art, I also like abstract art. I’m trying to think of another one but I think those two are my favorite.
What did you know about KAWS before going into the museum?
I’ve been wearing his t-shirts already. They make the t-shirts with the Mickey Mouse hands performing different gestures and I don’t know if people know that’s originally from KAWS. I guess they just thought it was a cool thing but I was wearing it for those particular reasons.
I know he started off with graffiti as well but the guy is just all around dope, he’s been one of the most influential guys when it comes to just entertainment all around - from cartoons because a lot of SpongeBob is incorporated and Mickey Mouse, as well. He did Kanye West’s last album 808s and Heartbreak too. He’s just an all around dope artist, I’m a very big fan of his work.
What did you learn about him through this exhibit tour?
I learned that his real name is Brian and learned about different magazine ads and magazine covers that he designed for Captain Morgan and some dated all the way back to 1995. The guy has been around doing art and design for a long time.
So you met up with the curator and you all toured the exhibit. Tell me about your day there.
The people were very nice - the curator was Michael Rooks - they were all very nice people. They gave me a great tour and ran me down with a history of KAWS. A lot of it I already knew about but they let me know that whenever I want to come and bring a couple of friends that everything’s good. They gave me a couple of the actual High Museum KAWS t-shirt they have for sale. It was dope.
What was your general impression of the KAWS: DOWN TIME exhibit?
I think it was excellent, it’s a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. Just seeing all the kids running through the exhibit and checking out the artwork reminds me of my days when I was a lover of art. I still am a lover of art but my early days when I was first getting into art. I remember when we were kids on field trips and it kind of took me back, seeing those kids in the art exhibit for the first time or being at the art museum for the first time and just seeing their reaction and the smiles on they’re faces and taking pictures. I think that was one of the great moments as well and just seeing the art itself was great.
I think that’s one of the things about it, that he’s able to take those actual designs and actual figures and put his own touch on it and have it actually be dope and attract people to it.
What was your favorite part of the exhibit?
The black Michelin man (CHUM) he has the large one in the exhibit and it’s pretty dope. I like the depiction of it, the way he put his signature on the top of the Michelin man’s head - it has the same stance as the Michelin man but it’s painted black and I think that was my favorite part of the exhibit
What did you think the overall meaning of DOWN TIME was?
KAWS just putting his signature on different pop culture things whether it comes to the Michelin Man or to Spongebob or to Mickey Mouse - he puts his own signature on it and shows his sense of creativity. I think that’s one of the things about it, that he’s able to take those actual designs and actual figures and put his own touch on it and have it actually be dope and attract people to it.
What did you think of the Companion (Passing Through) figure that was outside?
P: I think it was dope. You could still tell that it’s Mickey Mouse because of the clothing and the signature things that Mickey Mouse had on but when you add his tagline - which is the two X’s on everything - that’s what it made it a little bit more dope to me. I thought it was really creative. That’s the one where he said it’s something that he likes to take everywhere with him and that shows him being shy so the one in the courtyard with his face in his hands and bending down - pretty dope. That was a great one.
What about the actual Down Time piece?
The level of creativity, just the way he can put his own signature on it, I applaud an artist that can put his own signature on something that was preexisting. A lot of people see these paintings and don’t even know the preexisting history on it because he’s that good, so it’s pretty dope.
What about the Companion figures - the Darth Vader, the Mickey Mouse. What did you think of those?
The Mickey Mouse one that was half his figure and half with his anatomy (OriginalFake companion). I think that came from somewhere in London where the guy, I forget the name of it, did a big sculpture of the anatomy where it shows all the organs and stuff like that.
I applaud an artist that can put his own signature on something that was preexisting. A lot of people see these paintings and don’t even know the preexisting history on it because he’s that good, so it’s pretty dope.
Overall, did you enjoy the exhibit?
I love the exhibit, I love the artwork. I wear t-shirts depicting the images with the hands and stuff. My favorite t-shirt is the hand that looks like a gun, you know how you would shoot with your fingers. That’s the dopest one.
Do you plan on going back again?
Most likely on one of those nights when I want to impress some people and show them that I am also into art and not just into music. Definitely.
Did you happen to walk around the rest of the High Museum that day too?
No I walked around a little bit more and checked out a few other pieces but I was mainly in the KAWS exhibit so I couldn’t even tell you exactly which ones they were but it was a lot of physical art, not too many paintings that I saw.
What do you think of the High Museum in comparison to other museums you’ve been to?
I think the High Museum is a pretty dope museum. The architectural design is wonderful and the people are very nice. You see a lot of field trips and whatever and that’s always good that they’re making sure the kids are always into the art. Just everything about it. The people they pick to exhibit there-I went to a Dali exhibit there and a Warhol exhibit. It’s always dope to check out that place. The architectural design is mind-blowing.
Can we expect any art from you in the future?
Of course, I designed my t-shirt that I have out-my “No Sleep Gang” t-shirt-but I may pick up a paintbrush in the near future. When I was younger, my art was displayed but I haven’t done anything in my adulthood. I sketch a lot but I don’t actually paint anything anymore like I used to when I was younger. I think I stopped painting when I was in high school. When I was in advanced art, I was a really dope painter - I’ve always been artistic when it comes to drawing.
I think after high school I just focused more on music more than the painting because I was doing everything from playing an instrument to painting to poetry to rap music to football, baseball, basketball so I had to set a few things down. I had to set all of them down and concentrate on rapping. Mainly, I sketch tattoos nowadays-the Pill tattoo I have on my arm I drew that and took it to the tattoo artist and let him tattoo it on me. I do mainly tattoo designs or something that I want to have as a record label design for Medicinal Records, a company that I’m launching, or t-shirt designs-just different things, whatever comes through my head and I feel like drawing it. I have an old notebook full of drawing and raps everywhere like stacks of raps when I used to write on paper a lot back in the day, I still have it. A lot of my raps and sketches are still on there. It varies, honestly.
I just focused more on music more than the painting because I was doing everything from playing an instrument to painting to poetry to rap music to football, baseball, basketball so I had to set a few things down.
Absolutely well if you ever do come out with anything you have to let us know.
Anything else you want to add?
That it was a wonderful experience and it’s always a wonderful experience. I want to thank all the staff that walked me through the exhibit and showed me a lot of hospitality so shout out to all the people at the High Museum and shout out to all the people at Complex as well.