MCB's Derek Ecker will be heading up our newest addition to the anti-blog called
MOTORCITYBLOG's Detroit Artist SpotlightThis is going to be a bi-monthly video interview with local detroit artists who want a little extra promotion...Derek Ecker is a long time contributor to MCB and a recent graduate from CCS (and a kick ass artist as well) who will be taking this one on in his quest help develop the art scene here in the motorcity.
Our virgin victim is Detroiter Tony Roko who is currently part of the Cpoportunity 2 Exhibit up on the walls of CPOP Detroit for a few more weeks.
Let us know what you think of the MCB-DAS (Detroit Artist Spotlight) or if you would like us to hook into you and your art world please let us know by email
Tony Roko in the MCB Detroit Artist Spotlight w/ Derek Ecker
This months Detroit Artist Spotlight victim is no other than Tony Roko. For those who aren’t familiar with his work, this guy is Detroit’s ultimate artist. He’s unschooled and stripped of all the BS I got thrown at me in art school, his work is totally all his own. He creates these vivid paintings with industrial automotive paint enamels , with subject matter is full of Detroit gritty charm . Tony’s story isn’t like any artists I’ve ever heard. Most artists struggle trying to obtain notoriety and recognition, but Tony Roko just kind of fell into his toxic motor city art career.
From his days as a child Tony was never pushed to excel in his studies. In fact, to his family a career in art was comparable with the life of a methhead. His family came from a hard working background, and that seemed to be the life he was destined to live. Never having any direct influences from what art historians and scholars would consider “High Art”, Tony became fascinated with the readily accessible art of pop culture. Cartoons such as Fat Albert, Loony Tunes, and Kid Dynamite (J.J. from Good Times) as his great artistic influences of his youth. But Tony never imagined that this fascination could ever be something he could make a living at.
Until Tony got his first big gig.
Working at Ford’s Automotive Plant, in the eye’s of his family this was Tony’s golden ticket. Tony never found the job so glamorous, but lets be honest it was helping him pay the bills. Although Tony’s art dreams seemed more and more like an mirage in the distance. He never stopped sketching and became known around the plant as the resident artist. Until one day this term of endearment really went to a whole new level. The higher ups heard of Tony’s skill and decided to hire him to create a large scale mural in hopes of boosting company moral. So here is this everyday blue collar Ford worker thrown into this great artistic opportunity, which to me in our modern times can only be compared to being commissioned as a painter for the Vatican church.
Eventually Tony was doing large murals all over the Ford system, and making a good name for himself. It was in the process of doing these murals that he discovered the beauty of painting with automotive paints; which was the only medium that had the ability to withstand the harsh environment of the factory, while maintaining the vibrant colors and integrity of his works of art. Unlike the painters who were commissioned by the Vatican at the Ford plants he was sometimes forced to paint over walls caked in grease, soot and whatever else, and apparently according to Tony nothing held up against the odds like the industrial and automotive paints did.
So in the process of discovering his affinity with automotive paint in his murals, the technique eventually trickles its way into his more personal work. (Kids as an artist myself I would like to take the time to advise you; don’t do what Tony does. He is a trained professional and industrial/automotive paints are extremely toxic and harmful to your body).
Right now Tony is working on a series of paintings revolving around the lives of tenants living in a loft with distinct Detroit charm to it.
So for a guy who was never meant to be in the world of art, he sure is making a waves and getting some attention in the D. Tony may just be getting his feet wet in Detroit’s gallery art scene, but something tells me he’s going to around for many years to come. He’s making great decisions as to what shows to associate himself with, and staying true to what he feels is relative subject matter for even the snootiest art buyers tastes. His work has been shown at The Dirty Show 08’, Cpopur2unity in 09’ , and be on the lookout for him at The Dirty Show 09’, and the I Hate Lucy show coming up on February 13th.
So be on the lookout for January’s Motorcityblog : Detroit Artist Spotlight victim Tony Roko and buy his paintings because homeboy has a $300 window to pay for.
After this interview Tony found his car busted into, but that’s just more pain to fuel this artists creative fire.