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Huron grad takes art to the extreme

Alissa Widman Neese • Nov 16, 2013 at 6:10 PM

While some area residents are satisfied painting tranquil lighthouses and marine art, Rupert finds the most joy depicting personified political statements, vibrant colors and vivid skull imagery.

He’s a self-proclaimed pop surrealist, someone whose artwork stylizes society.

After graduating from college in May, it didn’t take long for the 2009 Huron High School graduate to determine the next step in his journey. He moved to San Francisco this past week in hopes of expanding his creative scope.

“It made sense,” Rupert said. “A second-generation pop surrealist should go where the first generation started.”

Pop surrealism is a contemporary art style that aims to mold and exaggerate political or societal icons to the point of being surreal. It’s sometimes satirical and is very marketable in California, where it originated in the early 1990s.

Rupert’s work is influenced by tattoo and religious imagery, as well as new-age graffiti.

“It takes things out of context and puts its own political or societal spin on it,” he said.

Rupert graduated in May with honors from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, earning a bachelor’s degree in fine art while majoring in illustration. He also studied at Columbus College of Art and Design.

He featured and sold his works in several exhibitions throughout college. From the age of 15, he spent his summers crafting portraits and airbrush apparel while working for Kaman’s Art Shoppes at Cedar Point, earning some extra cash to support his impending trip out west.

This summer, however, Rupert chose to work on commission pieces for area residents, such as painting an expansive foliage mural on an old storage tank in a backyard on the corner of Berlin and Sprowl roads.

Another recent feat: painting a pair of portraits of legendary athlete Bo Jackson, which he autographed soon after.

“The things you sell in galleries around here are similar to the private commissions, which are a lot more realistic and mostly illustrations of people’s interests,” Rupert said.

Rupert is now living with several similarly aged artists in San Francisco, where the group hopes to establish an art shop combining gallery art and screen print branding, similar to his preferred style. He knows he has a long way to go to achieve his dreams, but said he’ll never stop learning.

His advice to anyone seeking a similar career path: be confident in your artwork and research as much as you can about other artists.

“Don’t just look at art you like, also look at art you don’t like and figure out what still makes that art good,” Rupert said. “Take those constants and apply it to your work. Everyone has their own spin, but consistency is what defines an art movement.”

Thomas Woodruff, chair of the illustration department at the School of Visual Arts, worked closely with Rupert in his final year of college. The young artist is fearless, and ambitious and has a bright future, Woodruff said.

“His touch is complex and delicate, his color sense is keen and he understands how to make paintings with a punch,” Woodruff said. “Being an artist is a bit more of a ‘calling’ than most other professions. Alex seems to be one of the chosen ones.”

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