Bobby Rogers is a visual artist and designer from Minnesota who graduated with a degree in illustration from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. His work examines the essence of black identity and culture through various mediums such as photography and radiates diversity through collaboration. His images are vivid statements that captures the beauty and power of color that has often been overlooked and excluded in mainstream media.
Where did you grow up and how did your environment shape you as an artist?
I grew up in Minneapolis. Which is a dope city if you don’t count MPD.
What is your background in art?
My only formal training came as a senior in high school where I took several fine art and graphic design classes. Prior to that everything I knew about art was self-taught. I used to buy coloring books and Pokémon cards and spend hours drawing them. I’d also watch animated movies and attempt to draw the characters as I watched. It was DIY before it was cool. I then went to MCAD and graduated with a design degree in illustration. I now juggle around various mediums as a freelance visual artist (because why put yourself in a box?), I’m a designer with CRS Architecture & Design, a design assistant manager at Juxtaposition Arts, and a contributing photographer at Royal Magazine.
What themes and concepts do you investigate in your work?
Most recently I’ve examined the deniability of blackness through photography, a medium initially created to not recognize blackness as worthy, to depict blackness as one of the most beautiful creations. In the midst of working on these projects I’m doing more in-depth studying on Pan-Africanism, the rise of black liberation and self-love, the Black-Muslim identity, etc. I’m in an immutable mindset of deep love for my culture and I simply want my work to be an investigation of that. I literally want to take out my psyche and eyes to show you how beautiful I think the world is and could be if only black people weren’t denied basic humanity at every turn.
Who and what are you inspired by?
On any given day I’m either vibing to trap music or a political podcast. I love music and often see being a visual artist aligned with the same grind as being a musician. Secondly, I’m probably scrolling around Behance or Tumblr being enamored by fine art videos or photos of mountains and black people. Many of my concepts start to form during these periods. It’s like my brain is so stimulated that it starts to make up shit. I have hella sketchbooks filled with unintelligible notes full of incomplete sentences. I then later turn it into art so I don’t seem crazy!
What is it like being a person of color creating work in this current cultural climate?
On a political note, POC have been warning the world about the real America for centuries. The current political climate is less shocking the more you think about it. American exceptionalism has always—and very successfully recently— brainwashed and instilled a firewall in the brains of its citizen so malignant that they’re literally causing their own destruction in the false promise of prosperity. For that reason, my work is more important than ever. I don’t make work that is observantly political or reactionary, nonetheless I do feel it’s political in nature. Just as my existence is political in nature, you know? My current work is largely about the black experience. My aim has always been for the viewer to humble themselves at the multiplexity of blackness. The excellence and the struggle. The only difference now is that oppression has a new and undisguised face.
You’ve been putting out so much incredible work in the past year. What was one of your favorite projects of 2016 and the story behind it?
Well, each piece is quite extraordinary I must say. But that’s because I’m biased. If I had to choose one, I’d say my Fill the Void series. It was an intensely collaborative project between Effy Kawira and I. A lot of work went into creating that vision. I view all of my work as fine art and I spend hours crafting, drawing and writing about the vision before I ever get on set. I want the team to know my exact vision and that’s where my illustration skills come in handy. With FTV we had the vision but actually materializing that vision was difficult. There were homies in the studio helping putting it all together and I could tell 5 to 6 hours on set was wearing on everyone. In the midst of shooting we’d be watch YouTube videos about set design, figuring out make-up and would move lights around every other minute it seemed. Fill The Void was a beautiful challenge and those are the moments I live for.
What’s in your forecast for 2017?
Thrive, prosper and I may or may not be having my first solo show this year. It’s been on the radar for a minute and if I’m not posting as much work as usual just know it’s because I’m in the kitchen. Send me good vibes and blessings please.
What’s your advice for other artists trying to create meaningful work?
Persistence, persistence, persistence. Do your work with a rigorous passion by any means necessary. Sometimes it’ll seem hopeless and in those times I always remember a drawing mantra I learned from my 12th grade drawing teacher, Seexeng Lee, which was, simply: light is always next to dark. Whenever I had trouble figuring out a composition he’d repeat: Light is always next to dark. Over time it took on a metaphorical meaning which gave me a very optimistic view on life. I know I have a long journey ahead to get me where I want to be. For anyone on a similar journey, persistence, passion and optimism will always be on your side.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I am probably one of the only people I know who’s never gotten into the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchise. Sorry, not sorry.
What’s your favorite Instagram account of the moment?
I really fuck with @artsyandblack, that page makes me very happy. I also really enjoy @c__l__o as a source of inspiration.
One book and one film recommendation?
A book I recently picked up at SF MOMA that is extremely illuminating and highlighting young creatives killing the game is ‘Africa Rising’. A few films (I can’t choose one) would be ‘Moonlight’ because it is a masterpiece, as well as, I Am Not Your Negro, and Requiem for the American Dream. Because, stay woke.