Kinsey is no stranger to the art world. He’s been a staple in the L.A. scene for over a decade, but has also exhibited in galleries throughout the country and overseas. And while he is known best for his large-scale street installations, primarily his influential “Unlearn” campaign, Kinsey’s work has begun to change in recent years. He’s distanced himself from his street art, at least for the time being that is. And his gallery work has evolved too. Straying from his figurative, character-based approach, Kinsey’s latest collection of work is more abstract in nature. His signature character studies are still present, as are the social and political commentary in his pieces, but in a different way. As he puts it, “I’m trying to push the viewer into a more confrontational place.”
Format: What was the first big project you did that paved the way for your introduction to the world? In other words, what do you consider to be your big break?
Dave Kinsey: Well, I designed the DC logo, but really, it was a series of projects that sort of built a foundation that started to get positive attention. This lead to bigger and bigger projects until, eventually, BLK/MRKT, my design company, was hired to redo the Mountain Dew can and that seemed to really set things off in the corporate arena.
Format: BLK/MRKT was founded to bring art to the public among other things. How has BLK/MRKT achieved this since its founding?
Dave Kinsey: Initially, in 1997, BLK/MRKT was about putting art back into advertising. I believed then, and still believe, that you’ve got to respect your audience if you want to get their respect in return. We set that forth as our goal and it worked. We basically developed creative advertising design and campaigns that had a super-effective visual message. Later, in 2001, we started the art gallery and that added a whole new dimension to the company; my partner and I were also interested in fine art, so this was a logical area of interest for us.
Format: It was written that your purpose is to capture the human condition, please elaborate.
Dave Kinsey: I’m not sure I’d say my purpose is to capture anything in particular, but the concept of a universal human condition is something that I find complex and intriguing.
Format: Which of your portraits or exhibits have one of the strongest underlying meaning in relation to the universal human condition?
Dave Kinsey: As far as exploring this, I’d say my painting ‘Unintended Consequence’ is pretty powerful. In a broad sense it’s about the dire consequences of the disruption of the natural order of our planet as a result of humankind’s interference and the gradual depletion of the Earth’s resources that renders us ultimately helpless.
Format: ‘Audacity’ is one of your latest releases, please elaborate on the emotion that you were trying to portray with the use of zebras.
Dave Kinsey: This print was created from the original painting ‘The Audacity of Hopelessness’ which was basically a comment on the futility of struggle – the more you fight the more you become the same. Or it could be about the recent Black Friday where a shit-load of people stampeded each other to get to a department store sale leaving someone dead on the floor. I don’t know. I honestly prefer to leave my work somewhat open to interpretation. The use of Zebras as a metaphor is not meaningful in and of itself—it could have been tigers or beetles—I just thought the dynamism of the stripes would allow me to visually convey what I was after.
Format: People who follow your art can identify it anywhere. If you could go off on a tangent and do a project that was different from your recognizable style what would it be?
Dave Kinsey: I actually have fun going off on tangents all the time in the design studio. Not many people know that I created the NERD ‘brain’ logo, the Black Eyed Peas ‘Elephunk’ icon, DC Shoes and Epitaph logos, and conceptualized the branding of the 2005 iPod campaign. It’s a lot of fun to be able to switch it up in the design arena, but my fine art will always reflect a certain sensibility and style.
Format: What are you working on now and what can we expect from Dave Kinsey in the near future?
Dave Kinsey: Currently I’m working on some design projects, including creating artwork for a benefit in Tokyo to bring awareness of the shark-finning crisis. I’m also producing prints for BLK/MRKT Editions and beginning my next series of paintings that will be exhibited next year in New York.
Makula Dunbar for Format Magazine