Last month we visited the studio of Oakland based painter Rocky Angel. For years Rocky has been an essential player in the Bay Area art community. He is exhibiting works in local galleries and is always in attendance, showing his support during opening receptions in Oakland and San Francisco. We think its important to support those who support the community and that's Rocky. Check out his studio visit and interview below!
Where ya From Rocky and How did you make it out to Oakland?
Originally from Andover, Massachusetts, Jay Leno's old home town (I got to tell him so when the Tonight Show sent a crew to Bay to Breakers, and see his reaction to learning that when it aired). I spent some time in Lowell, Cape Cod, and Burlington, Mass., too. I got tired of New England, a lack of opportunity there, and art galleries barely looking at my work and decided to split. There were a few locations I considered, but a friend from Lowell moved to Oakland the year before I did, the same year the Raiders moved back, and invited me, and I chose Oakland.
Where did you go to art school and what did you get out of it?
The University of Massachusetts at Lowell, back when it was still the University of Lowell. Didn't get a lot out of it, I already had academic burnout by the time I started college, and was partying pretty hard at the time. That was after going to a high school that didn't have art or music classes. One thing my time there did confirm was my suspicion that I wasn't very good at working in 3 dimensions, having to make things that had sound construction and aesthetic value. I knew I had something, though. There were times, in 3D Design class, when I tied for the lowest grade in the class on a project, but the class got to decide whose project to discuss, they wanted to discuss mine first, and spent so much time on it that we didn't have time to get to everybody's project. Later on I took night and Saturday classes at the Art Institute of Boston, the Boston Museum School of the Fine Arts, where I also modeled for figure drawing classes, and Silicon Valley College, to learn computer graphics. The only computer art class offered when I had been a full time student was called Art With the Computer, it was optional, and I didn't take it.
How would you explain your work to someone? How do you want them to feel and to take from the experience with your work?
I would call the style surreocartoon - kind of surreal, kind of cartoony. I want them to feel a wide range of thoughts and emotions, varying from piece to piece, and a realization of other worlds, in other places but also on other planes of existence, but mostly I want them to be visually attracted, pleased, and excited by it.
Do you ever sketch a piece before painting?
Sometimes I do a rough sketch in charcoal or white conté crayon, but the most likely time for that is after the first layer of paint.
How do you compare the SF and Oakland art communities?
There's some similarities, some great work in both, but I feel more sense of community in Oakland. The Upper Polk Art Walk in S.F. doesn't compare to the Oakland First Friday Art Walk. They organize open studios differently. Oakland has all areas open for 2 weekends, while S.F. does different neighborhoods each weekend, lasting for about 4 weekends.
Who are some of your favorite artists right now and why?
Dan Lydersen, Mear One, Igor Tuilpanov, and Todd Schorr, they all do very fascinating, well rendered work with bright colors, and great technique.
What are some of your favorite galleries or things to attend in the Bay Area?
Oakland Art Murmur First Friday and Second Saturday Art Walks, 2025 Telegraph, Krowswork, Classic Cars West, Johansson Projects, Chandra Cerrito, Mercury 20, 1AM Gallery, Athen B., Turpentine Gallery, George Gross, 111 Minna, Spoke Art, and Hashimoto Contemporary.
At your openings you prefer to be nude and like to do face paintings. Is that something that has been apart of your aesthetic since art school?
It started just a couple of years after I was in art school full time, and I've also done performance art from time to time.
Where does your desire or inspiration to be nude all the time come from?
It started out as something I just tried for the experience, and I found that I like it, and don't like clothes. They can be very constricting and uncomfortable. As I went nude more, I found it's the most natural feeling in the world. Body freedom is a very basic personal liberty, and the one from which all others spring.
A lot of people, including yourself, keep things around their studios as reference or inspiration. What things in your space would you say inspire your work the most?
Some of the music I listen to most is Expo 70, Lustmord, Sunn O)))), Earth, Sleep, and old mp3 files of my late friend Cy Thoth's radio show Firebunker. They're downloadable for free on the KFJC web site. Some of my favorite streaming audio internet radio stations are Rockadrome Radio, Ghost Box Radio, Moon Phase, Grip of Delusion, and Psychedelicized Radio. Books by UFO contactees, especially from the 50's, '60s, and '70s eras give me ideas. William S. Burrough's cut-up technique style writing can be difficult to read, but I get a lot of ideas from them. Dan Donahue's 'Ultra Violet Black light Posters Book' is great, and I like to look at old sci-fi art, especially Virgil Finlay. His work inspired me to try scratchboard.