Dosa Kim: The Interview

Thirty-one year-old Dosa has lived in Atlanta for 17 years and says he can’t imagine abandoning the city that gave rise to his creativity. He started his career in graphic design at the Art Institute of Atlanta, and then went to the University of Georgia for computer animation. His work can be starkly simple, as with his famous black and white bunnies humping, or haunting, as with his graphic novel-like prints. --Erin Behan

Dosa, is that your full name?
It’s Andrew Dosa Kim. Dosa is a Korean name, and it's funny because it's my dad's nickname in Korean, and most Korean people have a hard time calling me that because it means guru or master. … When I was in Korea—I was born in the states—I lived in Korea in the summers. They would really pick on me. They'd really kick my ass.

How did you end up in Atlanta?
I used to live in Knoxville, Tennessee—born in Knoxville, Tennessee--and my parents ended up getting into manufacturing. And they bought out a manufacturing plant in Atlanta. And, we ended up in Atlanta from there on.

What school did you go to?
I went to a Christian school all the way through my freshman year, and then I went to public school—Roswell High School.

How has Atlanta influenced your art?
[During the interview Dosa is wearing a T-shirt of his own design that mocks the KKK.]
Atlanta's locked in the tradition. The South is locked in tradition. The unwillingness to accept new—the struggle—is where the artwork comes from. It's not for the sake of being different. It's more on the content. The impetus [in the art world] is on content in the South, instead of technique or style. I think the struggle is on a very social level. I can look at you in the South—I can look at you, the skin, color, and because of that I don't want to do business with you, I don't want to talk to you. Those are the struggles of the South. … Because of that, that's why I feel I need to stay in Atlanta. It's more important. New York and L.A. have the tendency to drag all the creatives out of the South because [the cities] are not open to new ideas, but there are a few of us who are sticking around and we really want to push our message across.

Have you gotten any reactions?
I did this one thing at Apache Cafe. They invited me for Black History Month, and the first print I did was this black kid getting lynched. And the whole audience is all black, and I'm the only Asian there. And I think they were about to lynch me, and they were really angry about that piece. And I got up on stage, and they're all booing, and I had to explain what all these art pieces meant. And they're all different war images … So I get up on stage and say, “You guys think it's all great that you're on MTV, making money, lawyers and doctors, but this is less than 100 years ago, your grandparents saw this, and your parents probably saw this. The one thing the Jewish community hasn't done, they haven't forgotten the Holocaust, but the black community, you guys, don't remember the pain. It was less than 100 years ago, and it can easily happen again.’ I think a lot of my stuff has to deal with pain and remembering the past. I had this one piece, this one art show, I did this whole Nazi series. Nazi monkeys. Actually a Jewish lady bought that piece. That caused a lot of commotion too. The one I'm known for is this black rabbit humping this white rabbit. I don't think it could ever be done more poetically. It's very interracial, but it's very cute. It's the same design, the exact same rabbit. It's so simple. A few lines and a few pieces of color--trying to break down these barriers.

Do you support yourself as an artist?
I do T-shirts for Soul Monkey. Help people brainstorm ideas. I'm realizing ideas—they're not a dime a dozen--ideas are golden. If you have a strong beginning, you have a strong finish.

What do you like best about Atlanta?
I like it's because it's a city you can get away from. You can be in the city, but not be in the city.

Favorite place?
My backyard.

Tell me what you think about the whole project, the Atlanta Creatives Project.
I think it's a good idea. It's really funny, every time I travel outside of Atlanta, people are always wondering what Atlanta's doing. Atlanta is really hot right now, but nobody knows what's going on. There's a feeling of trendiness to it. Like MTV for example, it's not about the music, it's about the medium. They control that whole sphere of influence. Same way with all these art magazines, Juxtapoz, Beautiful/Decay, and these weird trends. They are controlling the trends. Before you know it you have the same stuff. … And with Atlanta, it's not like that. We're kind of just doing our own thing. In fact, we made it a point to not even look at those magazines.

Why is Atlanta different?
It's the way Atlanta's spread out, and it is the lack of organization. It's really funny, seeing how you and Neda are from Atlanta, you live up here, you guys are really focused. I think a lot of kids who are native to Atlanta are kind of complacent. It takes someone from outside to motivate them.

Will it bring things together?
It has to be done. It's just a matter of time--who is going to do it. We're trying to do a show, Sons of the South. We're going to the same art shows, we're doing the same thing, but we never sit down and talk. I'm just a piece of the puzzle, but if you can see the big picture--I'm pretty sure it's an amazing picture. I feel like those three blind men and the elephant. … It's something big, just nobody's put it together yet.

Why isn't Atlanta better documented?
I've come to the conclusion there's no channels of media in Atlanta that covers what we do. There's nobody that's setting the standards or documenting what we're doing. Anywhere in California, someone's publishing it, putting it on the web, it's being documented. They know who the players are. Even New York. Nobody's documenting Atlanta. That's probably the biggest travesty of Atlanta. I'm one of the few who is making the cut, because I put it in my own hands. … The nightlife scene heavily influences the art scene—that kind of passion, that kind of pure passion. If nobody's covering that stuff, it really doesn't matter. … It's all word of mouth. It's a small city mentality in a town of 5 million people. It's some funny shit going on. I don't really understand it.

To see Dosa's work, check out:
Sneakerpimps Atlanta
live art installation by DOSA on Sept. 22
Atlanta Contemporary Art Center

When Robots Ruled The Earth
opening Sept 28th 7-11 p.m.
Gallery at East Atlanta Tattoo

Underdogs Art Auction
Sept 29 7-11 p.m.
Soap Box Studios