PORTRAIT BY JERRY HSU
Kentucky-born, New York-based artist and skateboarder Tony Cox combines his favored disciplines through embroidered cut-and-paste works dubbed "recycled relations." These configurations are shrines to his personal experiences, and incorporate materials like old clothes, toothpicks, bottle caps, and other craft-drawer items he's collected around the world, ever since he began traveling to skateboard during high school. He explained, "I always found skating to be more of a moving meditation than a sport. In art I find the meditative side as well."
His show, opening at the 211 Elizabeth Street project space on October 6, will include miniature elephants Cox picked up in India: "Expect the unexpected," he says, adding that an underground prophet, Egyptian Ray Gay from 191st Street in Washington Heights, will perform at the opening. Describing a Ray Gay performance in Barcelona, during which the prophet used pieces of metal and wooden chopsticks to make complex sounds and rhythms, Cox said, "They created some kind of trance...I'd never experienced anything like it."
The countries Cox is drawn to have "more of a daily routine or religious practice," such as Morocco, India, and Spain. He brings a spiritual dimension to each of his embroideries, allowing masks, church, architecture, and other religious imagery he's seen influence his designs. In his 2007 embroidery Who's There, for example, a triangular formation of toothpicks and a cutout lightening bolt loom above a tribal mask made from lace, feathers, and masking tape. Other mystical themes play an important role, embodied literally in The House of Transformation, through the sun, the moon, and the embroidery on its back, which Cox describes is a subconscious dialogue, "used to create symbolic shapes or codes." LEFT: PERSIAN PRINCE OF THE WARHOLS, 2010. COURTESY THE ARTIST.
Though his work references a wide range of religious sources, whether incorporating diamonds, triptychs, or yellow rays of light, how he makes his work his own is what's most important—a lesson Cox learned from skating. "There are no rules in skating, or right or wrong way of doing it, like in art." He continued, "Its important to own what you do and feel that it is your own. I applied that to my art practice."
Cox began sewing, drawing and making costumes as a child, learning from his grandmother who insisted that "hand crafted work cannot be matched by machine." Even his photographs, which Cox described as "ambient hallucinatory dreams dripped in grain" (to be shown at Fuse Gallery in March of next year) have their own edge—or acid trip. As for the title of his next show, "White Trash Mystic"? He made it up. "It's just stating a root of origin," he said.
WHITE TRASH MYSTIC IS ORGANIZED BY RASSA MONTASER AND GREAR PATTERSON, OPENS OCTOBER 6.