Chris Rummell Upcycles Ideas Into Art
An art powerhouse brings graffiti, graphics, and tattoos to his mixed-media pieces.
"What's Old Is New."
Courtesy the artist
Chris Rummell stands behind the counter at St. Vincent de Paul’s Redux Studios & Gallery in Alameda in his signature Buddy Holly glasses, a long way from the dairy farm and sawmill on which he grew up in Northeast Ohio. He studied at Al Collins Graphic Design School in Phoenix, later attending San Francisco State University. He moved to Alameda in 2008 and, wanting to pursue a “socially conscious” profession, managed SVdP’s e-waste program before “ultimately running this creative reuse venture” at 2315 Lincoln Ave., known for encouraging artists to incorporate discarded items into their “upcycled” artwork. But Rummell is not only a conduit for materials and a catalyst for the creativity of others but also an exhibiting artist himself.
As a skateboarding, teenage punk rocker, Rummell discovered street art. He draws inspiration locally from the wife-husband graffiti artist duo of Margaret Kilgallen and Barry McGee, graphic designer Shepard Fairey, and tattooist Mike Giant, to name a few. They “all kind of blend in and are now part of my visual language that I feel I’m trying to push past and not just straight-ahead ape,” Rummell says. “It’s funny how a lot of what was essentially viewed as low culture … something that was meant to be ephemeral, like graffiti, ended up informing this whole generation of young people who are coming up.”
In his mixed-media work Rummell incorporates technical manuals, blueprints, and a guide to criminal investigation published by the War Department. “There’s something about the power dynamic there. There’s this sense of authority that comes from a form or a book of regulations and incorporating it into my work. Maybe it’s the roots in that punk rock culture of subverting or grabbing these elements and telling your own story with them.” He affixes them on fibreboard, paints them with enamel or acrylic, and sometimes includes gold leaf on glass, elements of traditional sign making combining artistry and mechanical skill to produce an “unmatchable effect, like a jewel,” he says.
His mixed-media “What’s Old Is New” was selected for the Power Box Project, a partnership of Alameda Municipal Power, Park Street Business Association, and Rhythmix Cultural Works, and is installed at the corner of Central and Everett. He is taking part in a group show along with the 10 other artists selected for the project at Rhythmix, on display through the end of October.
More of the artist’s work can be seen at www.BlackSphynxOfQuartz.Tumblr.com.