L+T: Working with all of those people, as well as Widen + Kennedy, how have you managed to bounce between these areas?
KD: I look at all art as connected and universal. I’ve been a visual artist for as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, and before I figured out how to articulate my point of view, art was like a hidden second life that I couldn’t really share with other people. My friends used to make fun of me because I’d be drawing all the time… inevitably, when I got to middle school, graffiti became my life. It was the perfect outlet for me to be creative and reckless; a merger of artistic expression and adolescent rebellion. In high school, I traded in my guitar for a set of turntables after I watched Juice. As soon as that transition happened, I focused almost exclusively on music and started to make work through that medium. Shifting from the visual end of the art spectrum to the auditory extreme taught me that there were different kinds of stories that were best suited for specific mediums, and that the most interesting results manifested when you explored the spaces between mediums. After that I went to art school at Carnegie Mellon where I had the opportunity to play with technology as a creative tool. I’ve been “bouncing between worlds” ever since. I think what allows me to approach art in this way is that I respect and honor my work in the hopes that one day it will respect me in kind. I’m very aggressive about my work – art is my religion. It’s the lens through which I live my entire life. I consider myself a hunter, and this is how I kill. I love when a project starts off by absolutely kicking my ass. There’s nothing better than struggling with that internal creative battle, eventually getting the upper hand and finally mastering a project.
L+T: How does art and commerce connect in your mind?
KD: Besides being an artist, I also work as a creative director at Wieden+Kennedy New York. W+K is unique for its discerning sensibilities in and outside of advertising. Beyond its walls, there are too many horrifying and embarrassing examples, particularly in the agency world, of how art and commerce “connect.” Look at any shitty commercial and you’ll get what I mean. The integrity of art is always the most important thing, as art is the most fundamental mode of communication and inspiration. I come from a family of artists and entrepreneurs, so this philosophy was clearly instilled in me at a very early age – I’ve always made things, marketed them and sold them. When I was really young, I used to sell the weird Japanese candy my grandmother used to send me to all my classmates and make a killing. In high school, I sold this series of mixtapes I made called Beasts from the East, that, fittingly, was comprised of ’90s NY rap. I’ve had a bunch of other small businesses since then that in some way drew from my creative abilities that also reinforced this. Through seemingly inconsequential and unrelated ventures like these, I learned that the best art, when executed and positioned correctly, yields the best commerce. I’ve always been a quality over quantity dude, and firmly believe that “if you build it, they will come.” It always starts with the art, everything else is secondary.