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Artist Rob Judges: A boombox of creativity

by Mio Yamada

Name: Rob Judges

Age: Irrelevant

Nationality: Canadian

Occupation: Artist

Likes: Some art (Philip Guston, Jack Kirby, the Hairy Who), some music (Bird, Mingus, the golden age of hip-hop, Ariel Pink), most humans

Dislikes: Most art, most music, some humans.

1. How would you describe what you do without using the word “art”? I pull pictures out of my head and put them on paper, canvas or wood using pencil, ink or acrylic paint. I also cut up and reassemble images into new ones. And I make videos. I don’t know why more people don’t do these things.

2. If you were sitting for a portrait, what symbolic object must be included in the painting? My boombox, which is kind of like my trademark. I can’t live without it. It’s an instant party machine.

3. How would your best friend describe your personality? He would say that of all our friends, I’ve “kept it the realest.”

4. Of all the reasons why you chose to base yourself in Japan, what’s the weirdest? I like not being able to read the Japanese language. If I could, I’d be instantly reminded how boring the meanings and messages are in advertising, signage and the general visual world. To me, everywhere I look, it’s all just line, shape and color.

5. If you could inject one album into all iPods/smartphones what would it be? While it’s not my favorite by any stretch, I think that if Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon” were to creep up on any unsuspecting smartphone users who didn’t know it, with that eerie heartbeat intro, it would blow their minds and maybe, just maybe, snap them out of their little smartphone comfort zone for a minute.

6. What’s your most surreal celebrity sighting? I was at Kiddy Land, crouching, looking at toys on a bottom shelf. Someone with nice Italian shoes came and stood right next to me. I looked up and it was Tim Burton, who is a director I adore, looking at the same toys. I was like, “You’re Tim Burton,” and he said “Yeah, I am.” He signed my Moleskine and I thanked him for “Beetlejuice.”

7. Street slang appears important to you and your work. Is there any new slang that drives you nuts? I love slang. But I don’t want to see it written on the internet. If you put slang in what you write online, normal people are only going to steal it more.

8. If you could go back in time and live perpetually in any era, which would it be? Definitely get me out of this whole internet matrix world we live in. S—- is wack. I’d rather live in any time before computers became a daily thing, when folks walked around the neighborhood and just bumped into friends, and every day was filled with randomness . I would love to live in New York in the late ’70s-early ’80s, during the birth of hip-hop and graffiti. I’d be like another Basquiat or Keith Haring type dude, making art, partying and getting famous.

9. What do you have too many of? I have too many unsold paintings, because people in Tokyo are basically afraid to put nails in their walls. It kinda makes me sad.

10. What’s the best stimulant on earth? Live music. Experiencing my favorite music in concert, and feeling that connection with it — loud, here, now, in the moment — always pumps me right up, and it takes a while to come down.

11. The world would be a better place without what? Religion, meat eaters, people who walk too slow, unnecessary plastic packaging … so much stuff.

12. Best art ever made? I’m gonna say the Gambino trilogy by Wu-Tang Clan is the greatest thing ever. It consists of “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx,” “Liquid Swords” and “Ironman” by Raekwon, GZA and Ghostface Killah, and it is perfect art. Perfect music, perfect words, perfect in every way. Do the knowledge.

13. How do you source the photography in your collages? I always keep an eye open for weird, old books and magazines when I travel. I go through them and rip out the pages with usable images and recycle the rest. I like patterns and people’s faces a lot. It’s hard to explain, but I know what I want to use when I see it.

14. What’s on your desk right now? Cashew nuts, two unpaid phone bills, pens, pencils, string, rope and a bottle of anti-nail-biting nail polish.

15. Do you do anything unusual as part of your creative process? Not really. I drink coffee and listen to bebop and hip-hop. Nothing too unusual, but visions of paintings I should make often come to me in dreams, so I wake up in the morning and try not to forget.

16. You’ve featured dogs, bears, even a beaver in your artwork; what’s wrong with cats? I love cats, but they are played out in the image world. Too commercial. They’re also hard to draw in profile, whereas dogs are just a few French curves and you’re done. Canines communicate that stunned, clueless look better than cats, too. I like that about dogs. They drool.

17. Real or fictional, who or what is your all-time hero? My dad. He helped give me life, then saved it once when I was two and fell in a window well that was slowly filling with water. All through my life I’ve tried to be more like him: sweet, hard-working and generous.

18. What advice would you give a kid who says “I want to be just like you?” Avoid being like everybody else. That’s what I do. I don’t worry what people think except for my tight crew of friends. Everything I create is really trying to please just a few guys I know. I’d also warn that kid to be better at making money and learn to use computers and cameras — all of which I suck at. That would make my life easier.

19. It’s the dystopian future, art is illegal, what’s your vocation? If being a rapper is also a no-no, then I’d be a zookeeper or rainforest biologist.

20. Is there anyone you need to apologize to right now? My girlfriend, for over-relying on her sooooooo much. Sorry babe! One love!

If you’re interested in seeing Rob Judges’ work, visit “Tokyo 1999,” running until April 8 at the W+K+ Gallery, 1-5-9 Kamimeguro, Meguro-ku, Tokyo. https://m.facebook.com/wktokyogallery.