Beyond the Bio is a series that takes you past the canvas, and into the minds of the artists and curators who build the contemporary arts community.
Name: Chad Rea
Primary Medium: Acrylic, pastel, print, sculpture, digital media
Tell us about your upcoming exhibition (if applicable):
#TheGunShow is September 29th and 30th at Lewis Carnegie Gallery. It’s a culmination of a lifetime experiences around American gun culture and the questions that surround it. Growing up in Texas, gun culture has been inescapable for me. From my photographic memory of killing a rabbit with a 12-gauge shotgun as a child and shooting cans with an endless array of firearms from my grandparents’ stockpile to the time in high school when “going postal” entered the cultural vernacular and to present-day when headlines around gun reform continue to fall on deaf ears. The ongoing political and ethical issues that surround guns have conflicted me and have been forcefully expelled through me in a variety of mediums. While my art provides more questions than answers, its message is clear. The time is now. The complicated issues surrounding gun violence and gun rights need to be to at the forefront of the conversation. We need action. And #TheGunShow is an experience that begs to do just that by inspiring attendees to discuss sensible solutions, to vote for lawmakers not beholden to the gun lobby, and to get involved with organizations that fight to reduce gun violence.
What are you working on now?
As I write this, I’m 4 days away from #TheGunShow opening but I will soon be focused on my next show at my 2-month old gallery space. Some might know it as Cobalt Riesling Gallery or Crabtree Roth Gallery in the Flatbed Press building. What they probably don’t know is that the gallery name changes every month to a new name starting with C and R. Apart from the not-so-obvious reason of being the initials of my name, the real motivation is that I like to keep people guessing and have a laugh. And, also because I get to have multiple galleries listed on my CV when it’s really only one. Shhhh. I’m still undecided on what the show will be exactly. It’s between a show where I vandalize my own art and another on the current mood of our country – maybe they’re related. Of course, after two “downer” exhibitions, it might be nice to have something on the lighter side. (I promise I’m fun!)
What draws you to your medium?
I’m not drawn to a medium, per say. I’m drawn to ideas and concepts, then figuring out the best medium to bring those to life. Painting has been the latest love of my life. As a writer by trade, it forces me to get out of my head, be more freeing, and spiritually connect with something more organic than a plastic keyboard and blue light.
How long have you been an artist and how your practice changed over time?
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy fridge magnet, I believe that we’re all born artists who lose our way. The lucky ones find their way back after a process of unlearning. As a latchkey kid, I was fortunate to have an artist grandmother who kept me busy with regular trips to Michael’s. After Jr. High, however, I got more interested in sports and performing rock music. 25 years ago, at the beginning of my career in creative advertising, I decided to paint again and painted a whopping 2 paintings, one of which I kept in a tube. The other I threw away. For the 10 or so years that followed, creative advertising and music were my main creative outlets until I decided I wanted to use my talents for the forces of good. For me, that meant creating my own social impact initiatives, or artivism, that included Project Hello, TRUMPS, and several others that were largely based on collaborations. Now, fast forward to 2017 when I finally unrolled and hung that painting I painted over 2 decades ago. After posting a photo of it on Instagram, an impressed artist friend of mine encouraged me to paint more. So I did. In fact, in 170 days, I purged over 100 paintings based on my visceral reactions to outrageous news headlines. The series became my first solo exhibition as the Artist identity I was finally reclaiming. (Select pieces from that show, “Upon Hearing the #News,” along with new ones are currently on exhibition through October 9th at Crabtree Roth Gallery. Or was it Cobalt Riesling?)
In your opinion, what does the Austin arts community need as the city continues to grow?
Money. Austin isn’t short on creativity. It’s short on support in the form of affordable rent (housing, studios, galleries), grants, and people who buy art. The irony is that money is what will eventually push artists out of Austin. So, in short, “We’re all fucked,” he said doing a joking triplet on his drums. Ba-dum-cha!
Submit a short bio of yourself and your social media handles:
Informed by consumerism, the media, corporate culture, spirituality, self-help, and political and ethical issues, Chad Rea’s work refuses to fit into convenient, traditional standards and definitions. Instead, it challenges all who experience it in myriad ways to look within themselves and try to understand this changing world. Using a variety of materials and mediums, Chad often approaches the many sides of an issue with a singular focus on the importance of having the conversation, even if it’s with oneself.