I’m Mac Blackout from Chicago. I’ve lived here since 1999. I moved from Indianapolis where I pioneered the local graffiti movement with a handful of other writers in the early 90s. Shortly after moving here I stopped writing and started a series of bands, The Functional Blackouts, Daily Void, Mickey, New Rose Alliance, MBB, Mac Blackout (solo recording project), and currently The Armageddon Experimental Band. My last name is McKenzie so the name Mac Blackout came about with the formation of the Functional Blackouts in 2001. I’ve used it ever since. Throughout my years making music I’ve done a lot of flyer, poster, and album cover art. Recently I’ve switched my focus to making visual art full time.
When did you first start getting involved with art?
I’ve been making art my entire life. My Mom, Elizabeth McKenzie (Instagram @lizbethannart), is an amazing artist. She’s been making big eye art since the 60s, was an elementary school art teacher, and exposed me to art at an early age.
How much influence does music have on your artwork? And, what’s in your current rotation?
Other than music being an emotional/creative outlet and subject of many album covers and posters, lately I mostly use music as mental stimulation while creating. In the past, I would listen to music as something to relate to. I loved to blast records all night, party, and get out my frustration. Now that I’m making art full time my habits have changed. I listen to a lot of jazz. Music without lyrics tends to stimulate abstract thinking. I still like it heavy and energetic though. Lately a lot of soul jazz, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock…. also James Brown and heavy funk, psychedelic stuff too… Hawkwind. I always throw on the classics in between, T Rex, Bowie, Beatles… late 80s-90s hip hop… mostly positive stuff… dream stimulators.
Since your pieces are very eye popping, I want to go into a few of them and the concept behind them. First, A Galaxy of Muted Pastels with Bohannon Knee.
I created this piece as one in a series of two pieces for the Sick Fisher curated “Naked People” group show. Many of my pieces are manifestations of compiled visions. In this case, I began making these naked creatures and other beings began emerging from the shape-shifting body. I had recently been listening to a lot of Hamilton Bohannon and his image popped up in the knee. I let the thought process and mental play dictate the image in most of my work.
While narratives may be sometimes suggested, I always like to leave my work open to interpretation. I am constantly interpreting my own work as it’s created. Many images are created subliminally and sometimes later enhanced. There is never one way I intend a piece to be viewed or interpreted. It’s up to the viewer .. sometimes there may be a narrative.. other times a piece may function as a mirror of sorts. An object to feel and relate too. I’ve found most of my best friends in art and music.
One piece I really like of yours is Utopian Being. Talk about the inspiration behind this piece.
In 2005 I made a mixed media drawing called “Two Headed Dog Dummy,” a loose stream of consciousness piece depicting a dog and human with a conjoined head. I loved working really loose and automatically with the piece so I wanted to revisit that approach and idea adding the technical drawing elements of recent works balancing the two approaches (the same basic approach as discussed in the previous question). It’s part of a series called “Utopian Visions” and “Utopian Beings” depicting visions that I have… reality juxtaposed with the dream world. I feel like we’re basically in perpetual utopia or dystopia whichever way you choose to see it… in dream state and reality. Without bad, there would be no good. There are a lot of parallels. Viewing both sides of many coins simultaneously. In this case, the cup is half full of loud shiny metallic bats.
And last but not least, your Silent scream series.
This series was inspired when doing some album cover work. I began working on a loose automatic marker drawing and I had the idea of the band’s name appearing through a crack or hole in the picture. I tried that, didn’t like it and changed it to a pair of eyes peering through. From there I decided to create a cover for Mac Blackout Band’s “Burning Alive” LP centering the face/pencil drawn eyes and mouth, with the remaining facial area covered by abstract marker drawings suggesting mental/emotional energy radiating from the piece, like a mask or reveal whichever way you choose to see it. There are 4 pieces in the series. When hung together in a square they relate to each other’s presence in the same way the heads in the Brady Bunch intro relate.
You recently stated, “accept and learn from other artists in the past. Build on what they’ve done and the creative energy that they’ve given to create something new.” What one artist has impacted and influenced your career the most?
Besides my mother, I would have to say, Basil Wolverton. I found his art early on and have learned volumes by studying his work. Zap Comics and graffiti were huge early influences and continue to inspire as well.
Next month you have an upcoming solo show at Galerie F. What can we expect in this show?
The show will have a ton of new work, drawings, painted boomboxes, painted objects, reverse paintings on glass, plexiglass, etc. showcasing a wide range of expression. It’s going to be intense for sure!
You also have your book “Madman’s Eye: The Art of Mac Blackout” releasing the same day. What is this book going to be about?
The book is basically my life story as an artist/musician in pictures. A comprehensive art monograph. While focusing on visual art it covers my early years as a pioneer of the Indianapolis graffiti movement, through my life in the underground music scene, to my recent mural, street art, and studio work. It’s 240 pages covering 25 years, published by HoZac Books also known as HoZac Records, an amazing independent record label based here in Chicago. Really excited for this. It’s been a long time in the making!
Link to order book: http://hozacrecords.com/madmans-eye/