Something about the aesthetic of graffiti fascinates Brian Raszka. Moving from Connecticut to San Francisco in 1992, Raszka was struck by the “unintended randomness” that resulted from the constant struggle for the city’s walls.
“They’d come and spray paint, and then someone would paint over it, and then they’d come back and spray paint again, and someone painted over it again, and on and on,” says Raszka. The result was a thick, gritty, collage-like pattern that drew in Raszka. Since that time, he’s worked in graphic design and as an illustrator, living all over California before settling in Reno two years ago. The amalgamation of design experience and urban influence affects his work, which includes an eclectic blend of images that span the spectrum from 1950s-era advertisements to skeleton portraits and blue elephant heads.
“I mix media, and I mix the type of images,” says Raszka, 40, a low-key, neo-hippie type of guy who gets around on a bicycle and wears a backpack. “I try to make it relatable, but the viewer doesn’t have to respond to my concept. They can take it in their own direction.”
His exhibition, Process, reflects his idea of art as a means to process his thoughts and experiences. Currently at Sierra Arts Gallery, it’s Raszka’s first solo exhibit in the area, although he has been part of many group shows, and his work has been seen all over the country. The randomness and use of collage make walking into the gallery like walking into the coolest, most colorful, funky junkyard you’ve ever seen. Immediately upon entering, you’ll notice a door with the prominent image of a horned demon-man painted in black and red. There’s an assemblage of other images—faces, roses, fish and cubes. Red clouds rain down blood on the whole scene. This piece is titled, “Don’t Push Me.” It’s like someone hired Ralph Steadman to paint a house. Raszka paints on everything from canvas to the blades of a ceiling fan to discarded construction materials and cabinet doors. Obsessed with texture, he uses glue and paper towels along with gesso on one canvas. Found objects—doors, windows and trinkets—are favorites of his. The vibrant colors and diversity of the images and symbols make the work fun to look at.
Although classically trained in fine art, Raszka aspires to a certain naivety. He tries to approach his art from an outsider’s perspective—as a layman rather than an artist.
“Most people have about a 12-year-old’s aptitude for art,” Raszka says. “Up until that point, they’re trained to create, but, beginning at that age, they’re discouraged from pursuing it.”
Raszka attempts to preserve that child-like way of viewing art. Anyone can interact with his work. The pieces, for the most part, are large and busy. His work approaches pop art status, and the pop culture meaning is intended. Raszka believes that everyone should appreciate—and create—art.
“I found out very early that I couldn’t just draw a sketch and be satisfied,” he says. “I had to do something more. I photocopied them, then copied the copy and did that until I got that graininess. I wasn’t satisfied until I’d processed it.”