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In addition to spray cans, RADICAL!‘s art studio in New York houses a sketchy-looking wood rack of stretcher materials, a chop saw and plenty of tools. The 22-year-old artist paints on found objects, sometimes constructing his own frames out of discarded items like a microwave door or a chunk of bricks. He also paints wall murals on New York streets and oils for art galleries, and is working on his Bachelor’s degree in printmaking. A week before his upcoming group show at the CARTWHEEL Pop Up, the artist discussed his upcoming solo shows and what it’s like to be a young working artist.

What are your favorite materials to work with and why?

Garbage and house paint; anything that I can wipe with a dry cloth and hope paint will stick to for many years to come. It’s laughably scary to think about the archival qualities of the work I’ve made up to this point.  But hey, there’s something about working with oil on a canvas that I am very fond of as well.

You have three solo shows in 2013 – NYC, L.A., and Copenhagen. Will you be showing your illustrative work that we dig so much or your newer oil paintings?

I am very excited and to have shows set up in three diverse locations. My plans are to definitely display new work for each show, which will all consist of paintings. The paintings I have been currently producing are quite different, aesthetically, from the work I’ve produced and have been fortunate to show up to this point; however, the ideas behind the work are pretty transitional, I feel. My fascination with painting on garbage has essentially led to me literally painting garbage [cigarette butts and crushed cans, for example]. The first paintings I produced after a series of studies depict objects which were used as tools for socialization, and then discarded as waste forms. These waste forms are now the only physical artifacts left to these tiny, faded memories.

Illustrative work is not completely gone from my life, however.  I’m just doing what I feel is necessary to keep producing work for my own sake.  I felt that with producing illustrative work over the years, I began to find myself regurgitating ideas, because I was in some ways portraying a younger mindset I didn’t exactly possess anymore.  It just felt sort of right to transition into exploring other ideas, because being stuck can be scary.  But yeah, the work I’m producing is turning out to be more painterly, and with it being in a very preliminary, documentational stage, I can only assume it’s what I’ll be showing a several months from now.  My next decision will be revealed and decided once my current one is finished, so hell — who knows what I’ll be showing in September?  Also on a little side note, being at a point where I still have to finish my Bachelor’s degree (even if it kills me), I am looking to pursue that in printmaking through which I can see the illustrative work heading.

How did it come about that you have been able to work in different contexts at a relatively young age? Do you think of yourself as a young artist? A street artist? A painter?

At a young age I was greatly inspired by others showing work in galleries and on the street. So as a young, naive person I wanted to make and show work badly enough so that I just took the initiative to do so, and had no clue what the hell I could be getting myself into.  Being so young, I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful friends who have encouraged me and steered many great opportunities my way.  I need to say though that I have never really considered myself a street artist as I feel I have hardly devoted much time to putting work on the streets, as opposed to showing work in a gallery context.

What are the themes in your new works?

Much of the underlying criteria in the illustrative work I have produced up to this point has revolved around social observation, social fears, and the seeming use of repetitive drug-related imagery to portray such observations.  I’ve also had this recurring, silly thought that the ideas I depict are found (rather sporadically), in the sense that objects are found.  My ideas are influenced by my surroundings and environment, such that objects are found by where I simply place myself.  It’s all been based upon American culture, seeing as I have only once traveled out-of-country. 

What are some galleries you’d like to visit in L.A.?

I would like to check out L.A.’s MOCA for sure.  As for artists, galleries etc. I wouldn’t know where to begin.  When I was in L.A. last spring I was so stoked to be able to attend the Barry McGee opening at Prism in Hollywood.  Seeing his work in person had to have been one of the best personal experiences I’ve ever had as it answered so many questions I previously had about his work, yet it created so many new ones.

Tell us about your art studio in New York?

My current studio is the first I’ve ever really had of my own, and I LOVE IT.  That being said, it’s really like any other typical studio.  As for my favorite part…that’s a tough question because it’s all utilized pretty heavily, haha.  I have it set up in four cornered areas.  There’s the first section which is just wall space for painting, then across from that is all shelving and storage.  On the other end is my big desk with the big ol’ cutting mat on it, and then across from that is my dirty work table with my little chop saw table and tool cabinet. I also have a terrifying wood rack for stretcher materials above the entrance that’s seems as if it’s going to bust your skull open upon walking in.  Oh, and I just put up a bunch of old spray paint cans etc. on a few shelves which kind of started to make it look like a studio for decoration, like when middle-aged dads strapped with cash to blow put a fancy-ass bar in their basement, but never really use it.

Where does the moniker RADICAL! come from?

It’s really just the common case of stemming from graffiti many years ago.  I have later realized though that the moniker was sort of deconstructive in the sense that the word radical has multiple definitions, and the meaning of the word was being interpreted by what it was being attached to, which I found went with the work well. I figured if I was producing work that appeared less fun, and had harshly contrasted figures with bandanas and Molotov cocktails or something like that, putting “RADICAL!” next to it would evoke an entirely different feeling.

CARTWHEEL Spring Pop-Up Show
March 21-24, 2013
Opening Reception Thurs., March 21
1553 N. Cahuenga Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028

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Photo courtesy of Bob Anderson/




“‘Burger’ takes the self-medicating eating habits of American society into question, along with the strange ritualistic nature behind fast-food culture.”

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Photo courtesy of Bob Anderson/

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Photo courtesy of Bob Anderson/

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Photo courtesy of Bob Anderson/

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Photo courtesy of Bob Anderson/

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Giving In


“‘Dying To Be the Life of the Party’ [on a found curved wood block] observes the socially acceptable nature of substance use as a means of achieving perceived social statuses. The seemingly blissful character’s well-being is observed and taken into question by the minor placement of his finger upon the mousetrap. Subjects of cheating death, in order to achieve it in a slower manner are observed through the imagery and title.”


RADICAL!, aka Erik Savage, at The Exchange Project Series 1 with CARTWHEEL at The Navarro Residence in spring 2012.

1 Comment

  1. THEFL
    March 15, 2013

    Love your work RADICAL! Congrats!


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