By Sean Alday
Photos by Patrick McInerney
Wizard Skull is a sometimes-bearded, ubiquitous face of the Bushwick art scene. But Alexander Duke is also a super friendly artist who has probably seen more artwork and galleries in Bushwick you ever knew about. He was (sort of) on a quest to be invited to be a part of a show but at first was too polite to ask.
He’s created deck designs for Consolidated Skateboards for over 7 years, produces freely distributed zines of original pop art, and is now getting his full sized artworks into art shows around the neighborhood. The first of which was a one night affair at Silky’s Skate Shop in the Loom replete with McDonalds’s burgers and fries as hors d’oeuvres.
Alex: I tell people that I’m an artist. I work fulltime at a jewelry store. I ride a skateboard. I guess that’s what defines me.
Sean: Do you work at Silky’s or do you silkscreen there?
Alex: I don’t work there. I’m friends with them, they let me silkscreen there. I hang out while they print my shirts.
Sean: So if I went there now I could find your shirts and zines?
Sean: How did you get into producing your zines?
Alex: I wanted to be in art shows. But I didn’t have the space to produce large pieces and I didn’t know how you get in an art show. So each zine would be a themed art show for myself. It’s easily accessible by people and I can just hand them out.
That’s kind of how that started. You know the Sexy Olympics, the Sexy Man book, etc.
Sean: You put together a video of a lot of different art shows that you went to around the neighborhood. How many shows would you say you’ve been to in the past year?
Alex: Uhh… All of them. [laughs] I don’t know, a lot. Sometimes there would be five or six shows a night and I would map out my schedule of where I’m going in Bushwick and what my path is to other shows so… I went to a lot of them.
Sean: Can you name any favorites off the top of your head?
Alex: The one I went to in the video where they’re doing the butt flexing. That was… you know where the church space is? That performance was diagonal across the street from that church. They had a bunch of cool performances that night.
They were friendly. That was another thing. There are a lot of shows you go to where the gallery is just starting out and everyone there will be friends with each other. So you might not get acknowledged unless you’re outgoing yourself and it sometimes feels weird.
Sean: How many shirts have you designed? You wear a lot of your designs, but you always have something different.
Alex: Before I started doing my own apparel, I would design shirts for other companies. So I have a lot from that. Now that I started my company I have eight designs that I’ve released publicly.
There’s a lot of one offs that I made for myself. I just wanted more control over what was on my shirt and didn’t want to wear someone else’s logo.
Sean: When you were out and about, you said that you didn’t know how to get into art shows.
Sean: Did you ever think about just asking if you could be in a show?
Because, I didn’t think that my art was good enough. I would set all these arbitrary goals, one thing I thought was that I had to get a studio before I could have a show.
I guess I was looking for validation from galleries and thinking that someone would ask me. I don’t know if that was ever going to happen. So I called up Silky’s three days before the first Friday at the Loom and asked if I could have my own show in their space.
Sean: Did you pass out your zines at the art shows?
Alex: Sometimes. At first I wouldn’t because I thought it would insulting for me to show up and start handing out my artwork to everybody. It started in bars and coffee shops. There are five different zines and I’ve made 100 of each.
Sean: How did you get involved with Consolidated Skateboards?
Alex: Persistence. I called them, emailed, and mailed them drawings. I kept doing that over and over until they finally used some. By then their art director quit and I knew the process of how to submit the board design so it could be silk-screened, so I started doing a lot. One year I did twenty designs. Now it’s about one or two a year.
Sean: Why didn’t you go that route when you were wanting to get you art into the galleries?
Alex: I thought about it. When I was working with Consolidated I lived in a really small town and these designs would be sold all across the world. But the only feedback I’d get was “Oh this is awesome.”
Or if I saw someone skating I could say I designed that and they’d say “Oh that’s awesome.”
So even though my work was seen all over the world, the feedback I got was a few people telling me it was pretty cool. I didn’t have much self value attached to my art at the time.
Sean: How did you come up with the McDonalds French Fry wrappers for the zines during the show at Silky’s?
Alex: Well, one of my characters is Ronald McDonald. I called them up and ordered $100 bucks worth of food. It didn’t faze them. I didn’t want to do the normal wine and cheese thing, and people ate it up. There weren’t any burgers left after that show.
Sean: Any parting thoughts?
Alex: Look at my work. I’m going to try to be in more shows so that people can see them in person.