Artist of the Week

David Heo

August 7, 2018

David Heo (b. 1992) is a Chicago-based artist. He recently received his Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Focusing on themes of casual intimacy and nightlife culture, his works reflect on the irregular rhythm of pleasure and leisure, fleeting moments and mundane relationships, while simultaneously addressing the complexity of Asian-American identity.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.

My name is David Heo and I was born and raised in Georgia. I moved to Chicago around 2010 which was one of the best decisions of my life but I definitely wasn’t prepared for brutal winters. It’s been like 8 years and I still can’t get used to the cold. But I usually make paintings and collages. There’s something extremely satisfying about creating 2-dimensional works for me. I like transforming an object that’s physically flat and see how it can activate a wall or space.

Foresight (oh. that pause) crayon, flashe and latex paint on canvas. 72 × 65 in. (182.8 x 165.1 cm) 2018

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like?

I mostly use house paint, crayons and construction paper. First of all, there’s something comforting about using materials that echo nostalgia. With the materials I primarily use, I think everyone can associate a memory with them. Memories like playtime, a big change, or boredom. Second, (and personally,) it’s fun to see how I can manipulate a material that’s cheap into a visually sexy and compelling image.

Vase Study (Taylor) construction paper, crayon, gouache and colored pencil on paper. 12 × 9 in (30.4 × 22.8 cm) 2017

What is your favorite thing about collage?

My favorite thing? Honestly, the freedom of it. Paper is not precious, it’s not like you have to overthink and worry about fucking it up. If I want to try something, I’ll just rip it up and go for it. It’s a very whimsical material and I love it for that.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you?

The “Grass and Trees” show at Richard Gray Gallery. Jesus, those paintings were loud and titanic.

What’s your favorite thing about living and working in Chicago?

The art world is so small here that EVERYONE knows everyone within it. In my opinion, people in the Midwest are really good at seeing through bullshit so there is a sense of sincerity with every interaction I have with anyone. Because of that, I feel like the art communities that exist here are actually supportive and close-knit.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on?

Aside from a couple new paintings, I’m creating a series of tiger rugs made out of pink astroturf.

What is influencing your work right now?

Do you know those hand-crank toy vending machines that shoot out in a plastic ball? They’re called gashapon. Lately, I’ve been researching the history of it and looking at the huge variety that exists. I’ve always been drawn to them my whole life and now starting to conceptualize it. So I’m really excited to see what comes out of that.

me @ myself construction paper, crayon, gouache and colored pencil on paper. 14 × 11 in (35.5 × 27.9 cm) 2018

Do you collect anything?

I enjoy collecting cigarette packs from different countries. Whenever one of my friends travel abroad, I always ask if they can pick me up a pack.

What do you do when you’re not working on your art?

When I’m not working on my art, I honestly need to do the furthest thing away from it. I enjoy bar hopping and Chicago has an amazing bar scene. So it’s always rewarding to find new bars. For me, it generates the most information and motivation for me to continue making.

These Nights (Installation View), Young Chicago Authors, Chicago 2018

What the best advice you’ve ever received?

Someone once told me I should “fake it till I make it” and I think about that often. Because I was struggling with that phrase. Why “fake it till I make it?” What happens if I make it then? Am I gonna slow down and get comfortable? So I morphed that advice into “fake it till I die.” Because I don’t want to lose any momentum or my work ethic. It’d be scary to no longer challenge myself. So I’ll just keep faking it till I die.