Tattooed Babies And Tortured Teens: 'The Kid' Turns Youthful Angst Into Art

How to escape the chains that bind us from birth – that's one of the questions The Kid is trying to answer. At 25, the contemporary artist's young age has no bearing on his work, except for the fact that his pieces address the social determinism that weighs upon the younger generation these days.

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The Kid in front of his painting I go alone, oil on canvas, 2016. (Source: The Kid/Facebook)

A self-taught artist, he is still using the same media (charcoal and ink pens) he started out with in the first pieces he exhibited. But he also excels at oil painting and silicone sculpture, as we can see in Too Young To Die? and As A Flower Chooses Its Color (be warned, this one might be hard to look at).

Today in Paris and Amsterdam, where he's preparing his next exhibit, The Kid took some time between catching trains and painting to answer a few of our questions.

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Rise and rise again until lambs become lions, silicone, 2016. (Souce: The Kid/Galerie ALB)

Konbini | First of all, hi, how is life treating you these days?

The Kid | It’s a very exciting time, I’m in the middle of preparing my next show, constantly traveling back and forth between my sculpture studio in the Netherlands and my painting & drawing studio in Paris.

I’m working simultaneously on my biggest installation yet, which includes several sculptures, and will be an immersive experience. I'm also working on my new oil & tempera paintings. Galerie ALB will be presenting it all at my next show at the end of March at the Grand Palais in Paris, as part of the 2017 Art Paris fair.

What is your favorite meal? Do you cook very often?

Unfortunately at the moment I eat mostly pizza and cheeseburgers. I guess I'm on the same diet as Michelangelo, not the artist, I mean the mutant ninja turtle! Don't have much time to cook, when I’m in my kitchen it’s mainly to mix my pigments and make my oil paints and egg tempera.

Do you like to listen to music when you work? Or do you prefer total silence?

Yes, I listen to music 24/7 and keep US news TV channels on at the same time. I need to have a lot of sounds, images and news around me to be stimulated. The last album I listened to is an old one I used to listen to in high school, Encore by Eminem.

They call you THE KID, but how was your childhood? Do you have a memory you'd like to share with us ?

I hated school, its small-minded authoritarianism and the bullying of anyone who didn't fit the norm, I didn't want to conform to their cookie-cutter mindset.

Actually I think that's what led me to do my first sculpture Do you believe in god? that I made with silicone and oil-paint, inspired by the Columbine massacre. [Editor's Note: The piece was exhibited in May 2016 at the Contemporary Art Insitute Triennal show in France.]

Do you have a personal guru?

I don't really believe in gurus. But I’ve definitely been influenced by the great European classical masters like Bernini, Bouguereau, and Caravaggio as well as a few American counter-culture film makers like Harmony Korine, Greg Araki, and Larry Clark.

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Blessed is the lamb whose blood flows, silicone, 2015. (Source: The Kid/Galerie ALB)

As in the work of Larry Clark, which is a sort of critique of contemporary society and its lost youth, your young models are vulnerable and seductive at the same time, like modern tragic heroes. Is it important to you to include surface sensuality in your work?

I’ve always been inspired by this line in The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde: “behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.”

I think, to a large extent, this is what all of my pieces have in common, despite the youth and apparent beauty of my subjects, they are all destined to fail, like a flower is destined to fade. And I try to capture them in their defining moment, forever caught between innocence and corruption.

What is the symbolism behind the figure of the vulture and the lion in your sculptures Blessed is the lamb whose blood flows and Rise and rise again until lambs become lions? You've mentioned that no animals were hurt during the process?

There are multiple ways to interpret the animals in my work, it all depends on the preconceived ideas of the viewer, which is exactly what I’m interested in. Some may see them as spirit or totem animals, like in native North or South American Indian tribes.

Others may see them as direct references to the classical mythology of Ancient Rome, Greece, or Egypt. In some cultures, the vulture is seen as the liberator of the soul, he picks away the flesh to free the soul from the body.

In other cultures, on the contrary, the “dirty” scavenging vulture is perceived as the exact opposite of the proud and majestic eagle, who is the ultimate icon of freedom and power, a symbol of the infamous American dream, which is currently falling apart.

As for the lion, one possible interpretation lies in the title itself, Rise and rise again until lambs become lions, because in the Bible, Jesus both dies as the sacrificed lamb and will be reborn as the proud and fearless lion.

Beyond these many meanings, I’m a big animal lover and yes, personally, I could never tolerate an animal being hurt for the purpose of my work.

You learned how to sculpt silicone by watching YouTube videos of the artist Ron Mueck, is that true? Are there other techniques that you've learned from watching online artists?

As far back as I can remember, I’ve always felt compelled to draw, paint and sculpt things to create my own world to escape in. I hated school; I did not fit the mold, which created a lot of difficulty for me. But, in the end, not fitting in was a blessing! A lot of my techniques come to me in a very instinctive, spontaneous way.

As I was saying, I was lucky to be naturally drawn to drawing, painting and sculpture from a very young age. And I’ve always been able to see the finished work in my head before I start anything.

For me each one of my pieces is like a very large puzzle, I know what it needs to become. So I start placing the pieces and of course I encounter difficulties, but I just keep on working until every piece falls into place.

And while I cannot stand any form of authority, especially the kind in school, I love discovering and researching things by myself, up to the point when it becomes an obsession. So, yes, if I get stuck, I can spend entire nights searching the internet and YouTube to find the solution.

Are your models purely fictional or are they real people (that you may know)? Do you use live models in your creative process?

All my work is inspired by true events, most of which have taken place in the US in recent years, and by the individuals involved in those events. After that, I use live models that look like them, as well as different visual references, to create my personal reinterpretation so that it is also representative of my generation.

As a flower chooses its color is one of your only art pieces where the subject isn't a young man but a young mother and her newborn (with the exception of Too Young to Die?).

It's also probably one of your most shocking pieces, for some. Can you tell us more about what led you to create this sculpture?

I wanted to represent a newborn baby coming out of his mother already fighting for his right to choose his own future, even though his face is already marked by the gang tattoos of the mother who is giving birth to him.

Is the baby himself giving the middle finger? Does that mean he knows he is already fucked and says “fuck” to life and the world, or on the contrary, that he will set himself free from the destiny imposed on him? This is the whole question I’m asking the viewer!

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As a flower chooses its color, silicone, 2014. (Source: The Kid/Galerie ALB)

And the American flag the mother is lying on is, to me, an icon of the duality between ideal and reality, which makes it the perfect contemporary symbol of the social chiaroscuro we are currently experiencing.

Reactions depend very much on the crowd. But good or bad, they’re always intense. A lot of people, from various social and geographical origins, are visibly deeply moved. They often stay for a very long time in front of my work, as if they're in a state of personal catharsis.

But some works, like Too young to die? can also trigger controversial reactions. Most of the time, it's due to a misunderstanding at first sight, or sometimes because of the viewer’s conservatism. I don’t mind, though!

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Too young to die, silicone, 2013. (Source: The Kid/Galerie ALB)

Is it important for you that some of your pieces shock the viewer? Do you think it makes your message more powerful?

To be honest, it’s not something I really seek out. What I care about is that my work speaks to everyone, from people passing by in the street to seasoned collectors. I believe art should be for everyone, just like education and freedom!

For me, art should be about humanity, about society. It should be a reflection of its time, it should question the viewer, spark debate, and raise awareness by holding up a mirror to people. And I think this kind of questioning has never been so important as it is now, not since the cultural revolution of the 1960s!

Would you mind sharing a few of your favorite Instagram accounts with us?

@larryclarkfilms, @ryanmcginleystudios and @dieantwoord, among others.

You can follow The Kid on Instagram here: @artist_the_kid

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