The June ArtWalk crowd at Mobile Arts Council was captivated by artist Conz8000’s exhibit. It’s not the first buzz he’s made with his work, but it was a bang that almost did him in.
No metaphor — the noise was a head-on collision with a truck on Moffett Road just a week before his opening. Conz said it totaled the car, “pushed the motor in” on the passengers and the odor of imminent explosion arose.
“When I opened the door, all I saw was tombstones. I’m thinking I’m dead, but he hit us right in front of a monument and headstone business,” Conz quipped.
The accident crimped his exhibit plans. He wasn’t able to include some sculptures, some customized shoes, a few paintings … but what was there was plenty.
His images implied the storyline: a young girl in a post-apocalyptic Mobile scavenging for life and love. There was enough allusion to action and enough mystery between story segments that imagination and mystery became dominant elements.
The style was obviously derived from comic work and graphic novels. It was easy to see through subtleties of form, composition and hue the artist is talented.
“I’ve been drawing all my life, oil painting, sculpting, making vases, all kinds of stuff. I went to Mary B. Austin, Dunbar, LeFlore High School. I took after-school classes. They had a thing called ‘Culture Black & White’ that was at Bishop State and I took classes down there,” Conz said.
He credits his grandmother as a pillar of support. His goal then was to work at Disney.
Shortly after high school, Conz fell in love with music. He pushed visual art aside for about a dozen years as his drive and frustration put him on the road.
Conz and his cousin FDR hit the ATL. They brought equipment with the intention of building a studio but the visual muse whispered to Conz. She finally coaxed him homeward.
About the time he returned to Mobile, what Conz saw on Instagram spurred him further. Artists built vast networks around the globe and where ideas were the currency of relevance and acclaim. That’s how he met another Mobile artist, Diplomat.
“Long story short, we end up linking up and we had the same vision, same ideas and trying to go the same direction. I was working [as a tattoo artist] at Medusa’s Art and Soul Diplomat walked in and was like ‘I really want you to help me build this brand, this Red Cup Revolt,” Conz said.
Both men wanted to recreate what they saw in Atlanta, a surge in attention for those outside the usual artistic circles. They saw opportunity wasted.
“There’s not like street art or urban art. Everything’s kind of the same down here, but there’s so much more to art, a whole other side. Art doesn’t have to be political and edgy or whatever but there’s so much more than just trees and beach scenes and flowers,” Conz said.
So what’s with the name? What’s the Red Cup about?
“People come together at house parties or events, they always have the red cups in their hands. Usually when you have the red cups out, it’s a diverse crowd,” Conz said.
In that light, the cup is a signifier of a union of minds. The movement has built momentum. Red Cup Revolt gathered more artists and has had a pair of shows: a 2016 affair at the Ultra Lounge and another in May 2017 at Alabama Contemporary Art Center. The collective’s most visible product was the elaborate mural on the building at 401 Dauphin St., an effort that likely landed them their 2017Arty Award nomination.
Of their members, Conz has the current individual show at MAC. Noelle Goodson has designed posters for area festivals and previous nominations for Best Artist in readers choice awards.
For Conz, there may be more tangible results. He just has to find the time.
“I’ve got one graphic novel that is about 75 percent done and it looks more like ‘Akira’ or ‘Ghost in the Shell.’ I’ve got stories for about 10 more so I need to find help. I’ve been trying to go recruit a lot of younger artists in Mobile because I know they’re here and not seen,” Conz said.
Through auto accidents, home burglaries and other setbacks, Conz’s determination remains.
“I just turned 37. This life only happens once that I know of so I’m going hard to put my stuff out there,” Conz said.