Last Look: Artist Charlie Roberts, The Storyteller

By ERIN DENNISON
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Charlie Roberts has a lot going on, kind of like his paintings. Take our cover, for example: we’ve got Rambo, an avocado, a bong, brass knuckles, a cigar, a skull, and a cat—among other seemingly random items. We discovered Roberts’ work at the Richard Heller Gallery (page number) in Santa Monica and quickly fell in love with his haphazard, testosterone-infused narratives. Although a lot of pieces lack symmetry and order, his work is carefully considered. Roberts draws parallels between big ideas and objects, often humorously. His work uses symbols, movement, and grouping as means to examine our social landscape. Above all, Roberts is a storyteller, and an innate observer of the human condition.

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“It’s a mixed bag,” he says of his daily life. The artist now tucks himself away in a Norwegian forest, but Roberts grew up in Kansas. In high school, an influential teacher had turned him on to painting and art. But it wasn’t until his time at University of Kansas when an art history professor’s stories of fine artists and their work compelled Roberts to go all in. Soon after, he enrolled at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver, BC, and dove head first into the international art world.

Today, he dabbles in everything from sculpture to large-scale murals. This summer, he’s stepped foot in the fashion world by joining forces with Danish menswear brand Soulland, known for their progressive artist collaborations. Roberts created the backdrop for the design house’s Spring/Summer 2016 presentation for London Collections: Men. His largest work yet, the piece was made with several mediums and is a rhythmic compilation of iconography, contradiction, and direct pop-culture references. We caught up with the contemporary artist to talk art world, sporty girls, and his personal favorite rapper and record producer, Chief Keef.

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LAC: Who are some of your favorite artists?

CR: [Henri] Matisse, [Pieter] Bruegel, Chief Keef, [David] Hockney, Alice Neel, [Helen] Frankenthaler.

LAC: What kind of music do you listen to while you’re working?

CR: Rap music. Right now, the rotation is heavy on Dej Loaf, Lil Herb, Meek Mill, Katie Got Bandz, K Camp, Angel Haze, Rich Gang, and always Chief Keef. You were drawing smaller figures a few years ago.

LAC: These days your subjects are more singular. What inspired the change?

CR: It happened unconsciously. I think it is probably natural to begin to pare down and refine things as you mature. When you are 20, all you have is dumb energy and you are
swinging for the fence every time, but as that wanes, you have to adjust your game, work the angles, and use your patience and experience to your advantage.

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LAC: What’s your favorite thing to draw these days?

CR: I have been drawing sporty girls for a while, but am now in the process of switching things up. I’m in the lab…. tooling around with some new subjects, TBA.

LAC: When did you start sculpting?

CR: I’ve been making the sculptures in a serious way for around six years.

LAC: Which do you prefer right now?

CR: Each has a time. Sculpture: spring, summer. Painting: fall, winter.

LAC: How’d you end up linking with Soulland?

CR: I met Jacob and Silas through David Risley and his gallery.

*Ed. Note: Roberts has had three solo exhibitions at this renowned Danish gallery, where pieces from some of Roberts’ favorite artists, Hockney and Neel, are exhibited regularly.

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LAC: What was that collaboration process like with Soulland?

CR: They are wicked dudes, we are on similar frequencies, it’s all been very cool, laid back, and a total pleasure to do. I gave Silas a stack of drawings and paintings. He did all of the design work—it looks sick. Dropping spring 2016.

LAC: How big was the mural you just did? Did you get a headache when you painted it?

CR: I think it was four by fourteen meters. No I always wear a mask and hand protection. Which is stranger, the art world or the fashion world? I can’t speak on the fashion world, I just saw a slim sliver of it, but I’m guessing it is also a hideout for freaks, which is perfect and the whole point. I’m sick of people complaining about the art life; if you can swing it in whatever way, on whatever scale—it’s a great zone man, enjoy it. Quit bitching, buck up.


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