It Takes a Korean…
A Korean bad-ass with a can of spray paint, maybe one of the more brilliant young American artists working today, David Choe will introduce himself this Saturday to the New York art world with his first gallery showing in Manhattan. … Read More
A Korean bad-ass with a can of spray paint, maybe one of the more brilliant young American artists working today, David Choe will introduce himself this Saturday to the New York art world with his first gallery showing in Manhattan.
Among the other labels tossed at him (postmodern vandal, dirtbag thief, genius, misogynistic moron with a grammar problem), Dave, 30, is the founding art director for Jewcy and my lifelong friend. And he has always made people either very, very happy or very, very angry. Picasso said that "in art one must kill one's father," and the narrative of Dave’s art is in many ways a series of little metaphorical murders: overturning comic book conventions, bringing fine art onto freeway overpasses and graffiti into galleries, and shredding any orthodoxy he encounters. As with the artist in Milan Kundera’s book The Unbearable Lightness of Being, who describes her work thusly, "On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth," the truth revealed in Dave’s work is often dirty, sexual, violent, yet somehow it balances all that animal desperation with the better parts implied by the word human. He’ll tell you all this himself. He’ll tell you how his “shit” kicks the ass of other people’s “shit”. He’ll tell you about his
life and sometimes Dave’s crazy stories seem a little too crazy, a little too designed specifically to create the impression of the “mad arteest.” Which is not to say he's being insincere. Yes, he craves attention. But more importantly, he’s telling the truth: the never-ending scrapes with the law, the freight-train hopping, the violent drumming, the eccentric amount of time he spends in Brazzaville, Congo, and the gratuitous risk-taking that he shrugs off with a smug half-smile that suggests that fear and frailty are your problems, not his. Of course, here I am just adding to the hagiography, which already exists in excess (see the trailer for an upcoming documentary on Dave), and what you really want to know is why the hell would a Korean—who found Jesus after
a stint in a Japanese jail—be the right person to give Jewcy its aesthetic lifeblood. I think Dave did it because he missed the days when we were a bunch of dirty little kids in LA, together all the time, partners in everything. But by the end of his Jewcy tenure, this Christian hero of Asian-Americana had become the truest of true believers, a firebrand who ended up lecturing us on the nobility of Jewcy’s mission and the importance of bringing something new and unfamiliar and necessary to Jewish media. That’s my take. When we recently asked him the same question, he had a take of his own…
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I don’t really hang out with white people, and to be honest if I’m in a room with more than ten of them I start to feel uncomfortable. So when I told people I was going to New York to be the founding art director for Jewcy, a Jewish ideas and culture magazine, they all looked at me like I was a moron.
When I got to NY I went to the Lower East Side to meet up with New York graffiti legend Zephyr and I asked him if he would feel weird being interviewed by a Korean for a Jewish magazine. He said shut the fuck up. He didn’t believe me.
I grew up around Jews, my best friends are Jews, I started a zine that lasted one issue called Leper with Jews ten years ago, and I prefer reubens to kimbob.
What’s the big fucking deal, Koreans and Jews are basically the same people: We have the most tyrannical overbearing mothers, and even if the Jews beat us on the neurosis, self–hatred, and wordplay, we’re both cheap bastards and we’re stubborn beyond belief.
It’s 2006 and some of us KO-reans are still communists?! The last fucking commies on the earth — what the fuck is wrong with us?! We’re the new Russians, the bad guys in all the new spy movies. Can we just kill that North Korean fuck Kim Jong Il and all his family already? End this shit. And unrest in the Middle East is in the headlines, for what, the last two thousand years? I think Jesus and John the Baptist were reading about fighting in Gaza in the Jerusalem Post.
We both have the hottest women in the world, we both get shit on by people of our same color (the Koreans by the Japanese, and the Jews by the Germans and the rest of the white world). We are the most hated people in our regions: Koreans the most hated in Asia and Jews in the Middle East and Hollywood. We both love to name our children after characters in the Bible. We both had a monopoly on liquor stores in South Central and both were so untrusting of dark-skinned people that we incited riots (the Jews in the 60’s and the gooks in the 90’s) and we both eat the most disgusting shit.
Gefilte fish?? That’s worse than dog shit.
I got into the Jewcy office in Hell’s Kitchen and got my first homework assignment, over twenty illustrations about Jew shit, so I started cracking them out. I finished eleven by the first week and every drawing had either a kippah, a hasid, a dreidel, or flowing earlocks.
It’s easy when I do Asian drawings—buck teeth, a coolie hat, and chinky eyes—but the Jews were like “How do we portray Jews without
drawing kippahs on everyone?” Good question. So I called Sammy Harkham, one of my favorite comic book artists and master book designer, and notorious Jew. (He didn’t want to work on Shabbat when we were at Comic-Con a few years ago! And I was like what are you fucking kidding me, you got a dude fisting a chick in your comic you lazy Jew fuck you just don’t want to work!!) Anyways, he says “Hey Dave are you having fun drawing kikes all day??!!” and I tell him my problem and he goes, “Oh, that’s easy just start drawing jewfros and a lot of hook noses.” I like Jew shit, but will other people? I don’t know. I know most people that read Giant Robot are not Asian, but are non-Jews gonna want to read about Jew shit and culture? I don’t know the answer to that but I know I love the self-deprecating humor of Seinfeld, Woody Allen and Ari from Entourage because it makes me feel like I’m hanging out with my Jew fuck friends.