Artist of the Week

Brian Kokoska

May 15, 2012

Brian Kokoska is an artist based in New York. He received his BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Publication and online projects by the artist consist of Chiclet Teeth (2011) and Atmosphere Shoulders (2012). Upcoming shows include A Sad Ballad, Preteen Gallery (Mexico City), Painting Bitten by a Man, Vox Populi (Philadelphia) and a solo project with Et Al Projects (New York).

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.  I’m an artist currently working in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Right now I’m making paintings as well as a new series of sculptures. Both of which are heavily involved in mask aesthetics, hairstyles, flowers and decoration.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like?  I tend to use relatively traditional materials, but I like to mess things up. Like, for instance – the paintings are often oil on canvas – but I’m incorporating non-traditional application and imagery. The sculptures are much the same way – they begin with clay – but are taken to a different place by addition of industrial and beauty materials: paint, fabric, wire, hair, gold, eyelashes, etc.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now?  I’m influenced by sensibilities of portraiture, masks, androgyny, youth and post-gender identity. Both historical and imaginary concepts of ritual, fetish and costume appear in my work. Mask history is of importance in terms of its roots in aboriginal, religious and ceremonial usage. I’m interested in ideas involving faces – their relationship to disguise, theatricality and beauty – and how these concepts translate to painting and sculpture.

What are some current projects you are working on?  I’m about to fly to Mexico City. I have a show at Preteen Gallery opening May 19. It’s basically an exhibition of corresponding face paintings that deal with mask, fetish, beauty and disguise. There will be some fun little surprises in the show. I’m super excited: my first time in Mexico City.

What artists are you interested in right now?  A$AP Rocky. I really have a thing for French braids, and he’s fulfilling that fetish for me at the moment.

What’s your favorite thing about New York?  My favorite thing about New York is my own history here. The first experiences I had in this town as a teenager were kind of tragic in a way. I have all these crazy emotional memories. It’s sentimental for me. I feel so at home here but lost at the same time.

If you could go anywhere in the world where would you go and why?  Los Angeles. I went as a child, on my way to Disneyland. I have this craving for it now. That Hollywood sort of lifestyle really does it for me. Like just getting lost in the night.

What were you like in high school?  I was shy. I was a big observer, and that’s how I learned a lot of things early on. I grew up in a small town and always knew that I wanted to be somewhere else.

If you had one wish what would it be?  Fearlessness.

Any upcoming shows we should know about?  Literally as soon as I get back from Mexico I have a show opening at Vox Populi Gallery in Philly. June 1st. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a big one!