Robin Van Arsdol, better known throughout the art world as RV, is exhibiting his original paintings and sculpture at Kill Your Idol. The show runs through August, giving you plenty of time to head over to South Beach to witness the work by one of the pioneers of the 1980’s New York City street art movement.
RV is and has always been a hyperactive artist. Back in his heyday, he once painted 50 murals in an evening!
“I had a pickup truck, two fives gallons of paint and ten 15 cans of spray. I’d drive around and figure out where all the cops were in SoHo and then pull over then run up three, four, five, panels quickly and then spray them and in ten minutes I’m gone.”
Currently, he prides himself on working with kids. Between 1994-95, he developed the Smart Choices program for the State of Florida which is still in place today. For 10 years, he has been running the Pintura Project, a graffiti watch in Orlando where he “goes into the pit to get the tough ones.”
“We leave no one behind,” RV explains. “The youth are too important and at times they feel abandoned which is why they do what they do. They don’t feel apart of society.”
RV helps them develop from taggers into artist and to create portfolios and take pride in their work. RV was commissioned this past October to paint two murals for world peace in Berlin. On display at Kill Your Idol are 15 original Pinocchio paintings completed in the last two years by Mr. Van Arsdol while in Berlin. As if that doesn’t keep him busy enough he has also been running the International Graffiti Conference for the last 15 years.
AS AN ARTIST, WHAT MEDIUMS DO YOU WORK WITH?
I’m a sculptor, in the beginning, I’m a torch man. I was the head of the sculpture department at NYU but at the same time with me having done 10, 000 murals in the world everyone knows me as a painter so I’m a sculptor that paints. I like metal no matter what but for example if we think of Matisse, did you know that for the first 30 years of his life he was a sculptor not a painter? Yet we know him as a painter, and the same thing is true of Michelangelo. The pope said paint so he painted but his love was for sculpture. The way we sculpt also affects how we paint. My paintings are all pop imagery about the concept of a man’s psychic. My images are metaphors for male characteristics that include everything, including women, but its basically the symbols from our childhood. The concepts of does the man like the color pink? In reality, all men like the color pink.
WHAT KIND OF IMAGERY DO YOU USE TO EXPRESS THESE CONCEPTS?
I have a tulip from my childhood that I painted, and many other men have painter, that represents our sensitivity. The Corvette, when we were little was our favorite car, it goes fast and breaks rules just like us. We can go fast and break rules and we can be contrary. We can go upside-down so I sometimes paint my Corvettes upside down. We can be confused and so I sometimes paint them going in multiple directions.
DO YOU EXPRESS YOUR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES BELIEFS AND VALUES IN THE SAME WAY?
I am Christian. I am devoted to people. I believe that God wants me to love all people. I hate anything that’s war oriented. In 1980, I was in New York City showing with Ivan Carpen and O.K. Harris and I got so upset with the concept of plutonium in the world. Since I had read the bible I related the prophesies of Christ to the end of time to plutonium and nuclear weapons. I was really upset and so I went out to the streets of New York City and painted over 5,000 murals about love, hate, and proliferation. I painted I don’t know how many nuclear landscapes and I’ve been painting nuclear landscapes ever since protesting. If in 1980, we had 11,000, enough nuclear warheads to destroy the Earth three times, what the hell are we doing continuing? And plutonium don’t go away and we know it. So, that’s the gist of my subject matter, I’m socially oriented.
WHAT WILL YOU BE EXHIBITING AT THE SCREAMING MAN AT KILL YOUR IDOL?
The show that is at Kill Your Idol is about Pinocchio’s. It’s a whole exhibition of Pinocchio’s. All of my guys have anxiety, we are all anxious. There are no airplanes, no nuclear bombs or cars. The Screaming Man is about man’s fears, frustrations and paranoias and the woman is the man’s biggest paranoia. We are trying to deal with you girls all the time and we’re completely upside down because we don’t know you. For example, I have a Screaming Man that has a female looking at him and he hands her a flower. The first time that I and almost everybody else hands a woman a flower we don’t know anything about romance, we learn all about romance from you women. So, in the beginning we are naive as heck. I’d hand you the flower just like all my buddies and I’d say, Here, because I don’t know what to say. Now, in my age of wisdom I say, A rose is but a rose by any other name and you are the rose of my heart.
HOW MANY OF THESE PINOCCHIO’S ARE YOU GOING TO BE EXHIBITING?
At Kill Your Idol I have 15 painting that are of the Pinocchio series, then I’ve got a couple of the other Screaming Man’s that are not a part of the Pinocchio series. I started the Pinocchio series started in 2004 when I was in Italy. I was given a puppet, I had been in Milan for some time, I go every year two or three times because I write for an Italian art magazine. The Pinocchio’s are about ourselves. How many times do you catch yourself telling a little fib? Or hyperbolizing or exaggerating the truth? It’s what we do isn’t it? I’m around a whole lot of friends and all my friends have a tendency to hyperbolize, to try to get everything to be the way they want it. In reality doesn’t the truth always end up working out better? I think it does. It’s not that I don’t lie, I just that I try to be very conscientious.
My mother said for a long time, ‘RV you tell the truth too much, sometimes you get yourself in trouble for telling the truth’ and my thought is then maybe I needed to be in trouble because doesn’t the truth in the end free you? No matter what it was, if you got your trouble it gets it out. The Pinocchio uses an okra in red and black and he’s making fun at it. He’s humorous. The show is humorous.
The Screaming Man is about man’s misunderstanding and paranoias. I have an entire series that’s entitled, What Will You Do When War Comes? The first one is Hide Under The Table because when I was a child in school the first time I was conscious of the bomb was when they had me hide under the table. The second, Die In My Car, if I’m driving my car, which I do, and we all do, and we saw a nuclear bomb in the foreground we would all die in our cars. I have an entire of what I would do, drive a tank, because one of my uncles drove a tank in WWII, another one is I’ll bury the dead. If we have a scenario where we are all dying, and I’m dying too I refuse to walk by anyone and not bury them. Since we are all dying I will bury as many people as I can until I die. I will not walk by anyone dead without burying them its just not what I want to do. I want humanity buried and in the ground.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE EXPECT AT THE SHOW?
I’ve brought a few pieces with me that are somewhat rarities. I’m education oriented. With my exhibition, I brought a Marcel Duchamp that I own. How often do you see an original Marcel Douchon? Much less at a bar. Also, I worked for Renny Block in New York City who was the dealer for Joseph Beuys, the performance artist of the Germans who in 1970 I built a cage for that he lived in for a week with a coyote , so I have my signed Joseph Beuys. And then I also have a Mel Ramos of the Babe Ruth series. I have two little pieces by Mel Ramos. Just a few pieces to accent the show…
“Art is performance, performance is art. You never know what I’ll do!”
RV: THE SCREAMING MAN & HIS FRIENDS
Exhibiting July 13th – August 31st
KILL YOUR IDOL | 222 Espanola Way, Miami Beach, FL