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All images courtesy of the artist and Silverman Ga
All images courtesy of the artist and Silverman Gallery. "Overload" 2009, Watercolor on Canvas


The LA-based painter Conrad Ruiz whose epic Hollywood scapes impressed everyone at Miami Art Basel, opens a new show in San Francisco.

A few nights before the opening of his first solo show, the Los Angeles-based painter Conrad Ruiz is still furiously working away on his final painting. The last minute sprint to the finish line is a fitting end to a whirlwind year, which started with a well-received graduation show (which saw one prized work of Obama riding a corgi land in a museum's permanent collection) and continued into the madness that is Miami Art Basel, where he presented one of the fair’s most photographed pieces.  Adjectives like “euphoric” and “epic” come to mind when encountering the young painter’s work, but these hardly do it justice. Drawing from the spectacle of Hollywood action movies, sports, sci-fi and video games, Ruiz creates an explosive universe that’s entirely his own – all with the fragile medium of watercolor.  The resulting compositions achieve a mind-bending dynamism, all the while re-imagining history painting for a chronically accelerated age.

Dazed Digital: What was your first big experience in the art world like?
Conrad Ruiz: I think I experienced a higher quality of life than I’m used to, considering what we ate and drank. But I don’t think I’m done with Hot Pockets quite yet…

DD: There’s a lot of meet and greet in Basel. Anyone you were impressed or intimidated by?
Conrad Ruiz: It was definitely intimidating meeting Jeffrey Deitch. He obviously meets a lot of people every day, and it’s amazing how he can communicate with just his eyes how important he is. I also met Ryan McGinley. He was much taller than I thought. Actually, everyone was a lot taller. He asked really good questions about questions about my work. And we talked alot about video games, especially Street Fighter 2, and how there’s a lot of energy projection in my paintings.

DD: You only graduated in May. Is all the attention a little overwhelming?
Conrad Ruiz: Miami was a little overwhelming. Until then, I was just at my mom’s house making paintings on her dining room table. And then, all of a sudden, you’re surrounded by all these people you’ve read about online, or talked about in school.

DD: Your subject matter is very testosterone-driven: sports, sci fi, explosions. Tell us a little bit the iconography you draw from...
Conrad Ruiz: I was in a lot of sports when I was younger, so it’s important to me to communicate that same energy. At the same time, I work with watercolors, which is a very sheer medium. So my paintings are a contradiction: I’m making these these large triumphant scenes in a medium that doesn’t quite work. I find that interesting and compelling.

DD: Which classic painters are you inspired by?
Conrad Ruiz: Originally, I was sort of mimicking advertising. And with that I became really interested in composition. I started researching and going back further and further, until I encountered people like Caravaggio and Delacroix, who were masters of compositions that suspended these numerous elements in moments of ecstasy or triumph. I’m definitely borrowing a lot of that.

DD: Your paintings are what some fear happens to children when you let them watch too much TV.
Conrad Ruiz: You can’t get around the fact that television is an effective babysitting tool.  But these images also become part of your life story; they become intertwined with your memories. So media is a part of you.

DD: What does your mom think about the paintings?
Conrad Ruiz: She’s very happy that there’s no nudity. But I think she also gets a good laugh out of them, as much as I do, especially at the crude stuff (like licking bananas). They’re still rated G, but also rated PG-13 if you look long enough.

DD: If you could battle one painter who would it be?
Conrad Ruiz: Like in a cage?  I met Tomory Dodge a little while ago, and I think I can take him. He’s a little shorter than me, and I’m short. I can get him!

DD: What will the art world get from you?
Conrad Ruiz: I want them to think that very serious things can be communicated in a lighthearted manner

Conrad Ruiz: Cold, Hard and Wet, at Silverman Gallery, San Francisco until January 30, 2010