Incoming!! Chris Dacre: WAR is FUN!

Chris Dacre (rhymes with baker) is the winner of the 2011 Sharadin Gallery Installation Residency at Kutztown University. The residency, which comes with a $10,000 budget, attracted over 150 proposals from all corners of the world.  I visited Dacre’s website to learn about his artwork. Most recently living in New Mexico, he has a BFA in Graphic Design and MFA in Printmaking. An Air Force veteran, his recent work is about how we think about (or avoid thinking about) war. His upcoming Kutztown project is called “War is Fun.” I emailed him a few questions.

Wall Graphic "War Is Fun" installation © 2007 Chris Dacre

Ever do any illustration?

“I learned to draw by copying cartoons out of the paper when I was young and after I enlisted in the Air Force I picked up a copy of ‘Cartooning the Head and Figure’ by Jack Hamm and would use that as my primary reference tool while I was sitting at work trying to stay awake. So I guess the answer is yes and no.”

Why is there suddenly new enthusiasm for printmaking? (when lots of colleges seem to be shutting down their printmaking studios to make way for new media.)

“Hmmm. I believe Drive By Press, that Joseph Velazquez started, has brought more awareness to the medium by taking it across the country and introducing a wide variety of students to some really cool artwork. I think that was an important breath of fresh air that this medium has been waiting for… In the past -in my opinion- a majority of printmakers were making really serious, dark imagery and, of course there is still a lot of that around but Drive By Press has shown that it can be quite a fun medium without all the stuffiness that used to be associated with it.

I went to Southern Graphics this year in Philly after taking a 3-year hiatus and was surprised at the amount of people who attended that conference. It’s great to see that there is a real enthusiasm for a medium that I love.”

"Twice Removed" Chris Dacre inspecting a Bunker, © 2010

Any particular artists you found influential? I thought of Red Groom’s Ruckus Manhattan looking at your installation images.

“I do love Red Grooms and recently bought a copy of his book that is basically a retrospective of his work. After I finished my undergraduate degree in Birmingham, Alabama, I was asked if I would be interested in being an assistant to the Chicago-based artist, DZINE. That was probably one of the best things I could have done for myself. I basically helped him paint this huge painting in the gallery but what was so important was that it was my first real exposure to a “real” artist- who just happens to be blowing up lately. Chris Burden is also someone I looked at lately- I love the way that he seems to just go for it and push the limits. But the first influential artist that really opened my eyes and made me see that you can really push the boundaries is Jonathon Borofsky- in graduate school I found an article that talked about an installation that he put up in LA in the mid-80’s and it was a room that was just crammed with stuff- it may have been his retrospective, I’m not sure, but it made me see that ‘hey, I can do that as well’. Oh, and of course- Chuck Jones- probably the very first artist I looked at who drew my favorite cartoon character- Bugs Bunny.”

Installation with Sculpture, Prints, and Bunker. © 2010 by Chris Dacre

Any advice for young, college age, artists?

“I guess the best advice I can give- well maybe two bits of advice- the first being something that DZINE told me was that you need to learn about the history of artists by reading their biographies, looking at contemporary art publications and by watching movies/shows like ART21. At first when he told me this I was like “yeah, yeah, whatever” but then I realized he was right. Look at other artists and learn from them- when you get out in the art world these people will be your competition.

And the other bit of advice I can give is to make work for nobody but yourself because you have to…the work is what is most important, everything else will follow with a little bit of patience.”

Chris Dacre is looking for a few student volunteers to help him install “War is Fun.”  If you have some time, roughly between Jan. 12 and 18, contact Gallery Director Karen Stanford, stanford@kutztown.edu, or drop by the gallery and meet the artist.

UPDATE: 2/21/11 :  The Reading Eagle wrote a thoughtful review of the exhibition here.

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