June 19, 2010

Noah Butkus “Slippery People” Exhibition at HVW8 Gallery

Slippery People
New Works by Noah Butkus

Opening Night: Saturday June 19th 7 - 10pm

Growing up, Noah found himself spending all of his time with skateboards and comic books. This is where he found all his inspiration, and for the most part still does. Aside from art and design for the band Death Threat, his first widely recognized output appeared on graphics for Burton Snowboards. This work was followed by commissions for posters, ads, catalogs, and product applications from a wide variety of companies.

There is an intangible feeling of nostalgia embedded in so much of Noah Butkus’s work. It’s a quality that’s vividly displayed in his stark black and white illustrations and whimsical paintings, but nearly impossible to explain, and his illustrations often delve into darker, even stranger territory. Mysterious hooded men disembowel one another with swords while jousting on skateboards; squishy, intestine-like tubes (with tongues) serpentine through homes that are actually hamburgers; and skull-faced men with empty eye sockets look on, faces melting. And while it may sound like the work of a deeply troubled mind, Butkus flawlessly pulls it of, treading a thin line between serious and surreal.

A child of the 1970s, and a self-taught artist, Butkus cites comic books as a key influence on and inspiration for his work. But not just any comic books, Mr. Butkus has standards, referencing the output of artists who dominated the scene in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Illustrators like Jim Steranko, Moebius, and Richard Corben are among the names he quickly rattles off. But there is more to Mr. Butkus than illustration, he is also a successful graphic designer, having done work for a range of clients from Burton Snowboards (where he honed his design skills) to Stussy to Nike. And while Butkus mentions that he’s been drawing most of his life, he claims he originally got the bug to pursue art after doing t-shirt and album cover art for his brother’s hardcore band, Death Threat . A five-year stint in the trenches at a screenprinting shop followed before he broke off to design snowboard graphics at Burton.

Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, Butkus now lives in Manhattan. At 32, he has already paid considerable dues in the art world. No longer tied to a company desk he spends his days at his studio, balancing commercial and personal work. In recent years he has also begun exhibiting his work in both solo and group exhibitions. Having worked with Mr. Butkus in the past, he contributed a page to an anthology I edited in 2005 called Young & Reckless , I wanted to catch up with him and talk at greater length about his work. I hope you enjoy.

Rest of the interview

HVW8 Gallery
661 N. Spaulding Ave.
West Hollywood, Ca. 90036
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