Dave Choe - the early years

I first met Dave Choe a few days after I moved to Oakland to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts in September of 1995. We were both teenage freshmen living in the apartment style dorms, but while I was nervous, frightened, and generally cared only for finding skate spots in the neighborhood, Dave was out all night every night having semi-criminal art adventures. He was painting stoplights blue, stealing a meter maid's ransom in quarters, defacing billboards with traditional Roman portraits, and trying to ride his bike across the Bay Bridge. He had rooftop sword fights with fluorescent light bulbs, tossed giant televisions off buildings into the street, and used the dorm's only clothes washer as a drum kit. He was also making art and collecting comics at a furious pace. The dude lived.

Somewhere during our first year he produced a photocopied zine of his and other's artwork, as well as some favorite comic and literature bits and other criminal photographs and ephemera. It was called Pilgrimage and it was sloppy and dirty and free and just crammed with creativity. It was where I first saw Dan Clowes "Art School Confidential" comic strip, which is bar-none the most accurate depiction of art school ever. Too bad the movie was so awful.

I can't find my copy of that first issue of Pilgrimage but I remember it well. I did, however, recently unearth my copy of Pilgrimage issue#2. It is 8.5"x11"about 40 pages, black and white photocopied and stapled in the upper-left corner. It is a strange collection of artwork, photos, reviews, and clipped articles and comic bits that all add up to paint a portrait of a young Dave Choe: Reckless, creative, rebellious, intelligent, crude, entrepreneurial, and absolutely fearless. "Caution is nothing but the word of cowardice..."
Pilgrimage #2 reprints an essay titled "People I Loathe, Installment 1: Artsy Assh*les", advertising clips from Aquaman the Movie, Wesley Willis, Vanilla Ice, the Loompanics book catalog, news clips and literature from the Cacophony Society (who organize the drunken Santa party crashings among other things), Dave's own attempts to market Herbal Energy pills and bootleg copies of the Star Wars Holiday Special, a plug for my zine, Mr. Nice Guy, where Dave intentionally misspelled my name (he did this because I misspelled his name in my zine when crediting him with his "Interview with a Cop" article). And my favorite part of the zine is reprints of Dave's various citations and juvenile court reports where he signs with an "X".
I think #2 was the last issue of Pilgrimage.

But then, in November of 1997 Dave produced what I consider to be one of my favorite individual zine issues of all time: All In The Mind #1. "Alwayz Free! Tons of Artists Inside! Writers! Comix & Doodles! Burners $ Sketchz Up the Ass! Check It Fuk'n Out!"

I feel very fortunate to have attended CCAC with not only Dave, but dozens of other extremely talented and creative artists in the late 1990s. So many of these artists are going on to big fine art careers, and all of them are still working hard at their crafts. I only wish that I had recognized how special a time it was with all these folks working and living side-by-side. Well, I guess Dave saw it then because he spent the first few months of the 1997 fall semester "borrowing" sketchbooks and artwork (sometimes with permission, sometimes without) from the pool of genius and making photocopies. The result is a zine featuring an amazing roll-call of young artists including David Choe, Ezra Li Eismont (who did the cover), Alex "Emuse" Kopps, John Copeland, Ako Castuera, Oki Goto, Emily Counts, Ryohei Tanaka, Jesse Rose Vala, Alex Rosemarin, Jason Deamer, Rob Sato, Joe To, Extra Matt, Rhode Montijo, Fred Sundance, and Ryan Rogers. Plus stuff from non-art school folks . All made in the legendary Art's Crab Shak on Broadway.

Soon after All In The Mind came out Dave declared he was going to be one of the greatest living artists ever and dropped out of CCAC. He then received a grant to self-publish his first comic (Slow Jams), got a solo show at an ice cream shop in Los Angeles, and then spent the next 10 years taking over the world. He currently sells his fine art for more than you can afford, he has designed shoes, shirts, prints, art books, entire group shows, toys, and mannequins. No shit, he has his own line of mannequins. He's done illustration work for everybody and their grandmother, has his own travel show, "Thumbs Up", on Vice's online television network, does interviews for Juxtapoz magazine, and has a documentary coming out about him some day called "Dirty Hands". Like I said: The dude lives.
Here's a link to Dave's website.

Coming up next blog: Slow Jams


Blogger Lucas Aguirre. said...

choe rulz!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

June 30, 2007 at 3:25 AM  
Blogger jessica said...

Hey! i went to school with you guys as well, and still have a few old copies of these zines packed away somewhere. stumbled upon this site from a link you added to mine, thanks by the way for the nice comments about my work in the artists guide. do we know each other? we must, since we went to ccac at the same time, maybe not...your name is Rowan?


July 6, 2007 at 10:01 PM  
Blogger gabe l said...

while i've read this entry in the past, i still kept going to the same page and re-read this entry a few times!

we never met before, but i'm not sure if you'd remember our email when i shot you an email that i stopped over the store all the way from san francisco only to find it closed.

anyway, if i ever make a long pilgrimage to the shop, think you'd be willing to let me take a glance at this zine made by mr. choe?

again, thanks for sharing the history about choe's crazy college life...

May 2, 2008 at 10:43 PM  

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