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June 21, 2005

{     Interview : Kozyndan     }    

Crowndozen has long been a proponent of the work of kozyndan, ever since first spying their work in the pages of Giant Robot magazine. For those who don't know, kozyndan are an unstoppable team composed of (wife) Kozy and (husband) Dan. When these two activate their Wonder Twin Powers, they are able to create much more than a bucket of water and a purple gorilla- they transcend genre, mix media and forever blur the line between fine art and commercial art. There is a balance struck between feminine detail and masculine concept, and what emerges are some of the most compelling drawings and paintings you've ever laid your eyes on. It's not so much the complexity as it is the beautiful layering of images and thoughts upon each other that draws the eye back again and again to their work.

With two gallery shows just launched (see below) and a ton of projects in the works, we were delighted when Dan sat down to answer some questions. (Kozy was sleeping.)

Adam: What would you like us to know about Salaryman Blues, your upcoming gallery show?

Dan: Not too much. It is pretty much a one joke kind of show that started with me wanting to see salarymen dressed up as school girls for some reason. It evolved into thinking that the Japanese salaryman is so constricted in the way he is allowed to act - they constantly have to be polite at work and after work have to be macho when out drinking with friends and co-workers, so any other part of themselves is nearly always repressed, and so we wondered what might be going on inside there. We are debuting the panoramic that we made around this idea plus some small pencil drawings that expand upon this a little. It is a very silly show though, and a little different than our others.

I've been thinking about the contrast between illustration and fine art, how you've found yourselves squarely in the middle- doing commissioned illustration and showing in galleries- with a lot of work that blurs the line between the two. How comfortable is this for you? Do you find either camp (commercial/fine art) approaching you differently because of this?
Well - we don't really separate the two at all. In fact most of our shows have a lot of pieces that were originally created for commercial purposes. For example, we have been showing several large prints in our shows that were all originally created as album covers, but because of the nature of our work, and the fact that nearly always we are simply asked to create "a kozyndan piece", the images work just as well on a gallery wall as on a product or in a magazine.
We don't take a different approach to either particularly - we just want to make something that we like. We are very rarely asked to change anything by a client. I don't know - maybe we are just lucky in that way.
There is certainly some resistance to our work from the art world - there are always gallery owners that are just not with it in terms of the convergence of fine art and illustration, and some gallery owners who just don't like our work regardless, but there are enough galleries out there to keep us more than busy with shows (if we chose to do that full time), but we like doing it all. It keeps things fresh.

Your work seems to be all over the place these days and your star seems to be on the rise, yet you two have maintained an accessability and humbleness that I find endearing and refreshing. Your prints are dirt cheap, and Urban Myths is an exceptional gallery book, much less at the price you offer it. How important is this commitment to accessability to you two? Is this something you feel you will be able to maintain as your popularity increases?
I think it just has to do with how we started out. We were dirt poor (and are now only slightly better off I guess) when we started kozyndan - so we were really concerned with making something that we, and people we knew, could afford. For whatever reason it has worked. We have been able to make a living from selling the merchandise at those prices, so we don't see the point in raising them. The original pieces and the canvas prints of our digital pieces will rise in price gradually, and that is something that is inevitable, mostly because we are slow artists and can only produce a limited amount of work - so as the demand increases we need to somewhat raise the prices. Plus the gallery owners like us better if the work sells for more!

In Portraits From the (Off) Center of the Universe you show the struggle of an independent and eclectic entity against commercialization. Do you worry that this is a struggle kozyndan may have to someday face?
Not really, since it is our approach to always be both commercial and independent at the same time. We started from the beginning making posters that we have sold in shops and have always treated our art in a commercial sense that way. It wouldn't matter to us if some big company wanted to license the poster and produce it, so long as people who like our work can still get their hands on it for a good price. To us it doesn't matter so much whether it is commercial - we are just concerned with whether it's fun or not.

You mention in the "artwork" section of your website, on the �?Hawaiian Girls Have More Fun�? pieces, that a book is in the works. Is this something you're involved in directly, or something the magazine who commissioned the pieces is doing? What type of reaction (if any) do you get from the �?Hawaiian Girls�? photos you have posted on your website?
People love those photos! We get a lot of e-mails about them - and people wonder when the book is coming out. Unfortunately it is something we just haven't had much time to work on, but the idea is to do illustrations around every hawaiian girl photo that we have - in which we kind tell a quasi history of Hawaii from molten lava sputtering out of the ocean floor to today. We would be doing all the illustrations and it would be published in Japan. I hope we'll be able to get to it this year - but it seems like it might be a bit before it comes out since we have so many other things on our plate.

Your �?Bushism�? piece for the Quiet Riot show and your recent contribution to the Clamor/Faesthetic "Make Art Not War" poster series show a strong political stance against the current administration. (Crowndozen hates that bastard too.) Who are you looking at to remedy the situation? Any other thoughts on the current political climate?
Well - does it really matter who is elected, as long as it isn't Bush? The problem is that somehow an extremely ideological, radical faction of the Republican Party has slipped into office. The world has turned upside down in the last 3 years - it isn't a mystery why. The current administration has opportunistically generated and used fear to hoodwink the American people. The administration is quite cunning in taking 9-11 and using it to forward their unilateral objectives, line their pockets, draw attention away from their failure to care for the American people, and their utter lack of fiscal conservatism. I am not a bleeding heart Liberal. I would have voted for McCain if he had won the Republican nomination (which he didn't because Bush lied his way through the campaign with all his talk of "compassionate conservatism").
Now the goal of intelligent people around this country has to be very clear and singular - we need to remove this president and start to repair the damage that he has done.
Sorry about the rant - it is no good to mention Bush around me.

I was flipping through the pictures you have posted on the site and you seem to have done a lot of travel the past two years. Your work is certainly informed from a global perspective, and the panoramic pieces in particular take direct inspiration from where you've been. Is there anywhere you're dying to go that you haven't been yet? Any plans for a trip to Appalachia? (Crowndozen is headquartered in the Kentucky/West Virginia foothills.)
Yeah - I think our main goal is to see as much of the world as we can. I travelled a lot through the US when i was younger and now I want to see what else is out there, and kozy feels the same as I do. Not sure if we'll make it to Appalachia anytime soon, although we just started selling stuff to a gallery/store in Louisville Kentucky, so who knows?

What's your favorite J-snack?
Easy: Hi-chu

You've done cover art for a lot of different bands and artists- what albums are you listening to most these days?
Mostly a lot of Takagi Masakatsu (I don't think you can get his stuff here though), and Daedelus, and Smokey and Miho, and Nina Simone. Oh and The Books! they are great.

Your favorite kaiju flick?
Neither of us are into those actually, we don't watch any anime either (except for maybe Miyazaki stuff), contrary to what people might think.

Your favorite film in general?
Jeez that is hard! So many good movies out there. We don't know. Lately �? �?TheTriplets of Bellville�? is fantastic. Hmm..that is really hard. I like David Mamet's movies a lot and Michael Mann - for some reason I am really into movies with great "alpha male" banter, although I am really docile. I also like a lot of Irish and Australian movies. kozy likes Woody Allen movies. Neither of us like Japanese movies too much.

Favorite comics/manga/zines?
Chris Ware, Jordan Crane, Dan Clowes, Sammy Harkham, Anders Nielson comics. Adbusters and Tokion are good magazines, as well as all the mags our japanese rep. puts out.

Do you have any interest in a kozyndan designed line of gashapon (capsule toys), vinyl figures or plush dolls? Is there anything in the works?
Well our Rep in Japan has gotten (Sony) time capsules produced for 3 of the other artist he reps over there. They told us to come up with some designs, but we have just never gotten around to it. We have some ideas - but they never seem quite right for capsule toys - I don't know. I love toys, but we don't really design "characters" as such, so we may get some toys made or we may not, it just has to be done well or not at all. There are too many toys out there right now - not all of them are that great these days...

Do you have favorite toys/plush? If so, what are they?
I am really into intricate 12 inch figures - I just love the attention to all the little details. I like the 12 inch Lupin III dolls from Medicom and also these 12 inch figures from a company called Da Joint (check them out if you can!).
Kozy likes the little Moomin toys that come in a little box with cookie things.
We also like Friends with You - because those guys and the gal who make them are nuts!!



I like your art, it shows the life in different places.

Posted by: Jennifer at July 11, 2007 7:28 PM
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