From the Street to Your Wall: Quick and Dirty with Kevin “Pogo” Curtis

Sometimes my interviews are long, sometimes not so much. In the interest of time, and since his show is already hanging (at the Comet bar in Northside thru November 9), this one shall be, rather appropriately, quick and dirty.
Meet Kevin “Pogo” Curtis, who takes his inspiration from the street (not to mention, his materials) and applies them to his work. Watch for his paintings locally, and see if they don’t grow on you. –Lisa
Q. First off, I have to ask where the name “Pogo” comes from.

A. I’ve actually been called that since before I was born. My parents, my mother pregnant with me, were visiting relatives in Louisville, and after dinner got into a

discussion which soon turned into an argument over what to name “it.” My grandfather, stood up and said something to the effect of  “oh what the hell, let’s just call it ‘Pogo’!” after the
comic strip “‘possum.” Apparently, this stuck with my older sister, and some weeks later, on a trip to Mammoth Cave, during a long climb up some stairs, asked my mom “How’s ‘Pogo’ doing?” and it somehow just stuck.

Q. When did you start making art?

No. 1 (acrylic, spray paint & ink on found board, 30x24), by Kevin "Pogo" Curtis

A. As soon as I could hold a crayon in my sticky, little-kid hand.

Q. What makes you decide to paint something?

A. I went to school in Dayton for photography and I was always so bored with what everyone else was shooting, that’s when I really got into “urban exploration”, I was determined to get those shots that no one else was going to get, and from there I got into “street art.”

When the digital revolution came along, I quickly got burnt out on photography…seems everyone is a freakin’ “photographer” these days. No disrespect to digital artists, but my definition of  “fine art” is something that is one-of-a-kind and hand made. Not having regular access to a darkroom anymore, I started painting again in 2008.

Now to actually answer the question – I still drive around and explore a lot, and take “mental snapshots” of what I see – the places I depict are never supposed to be specific, but are definitely inspired by real places, mainly in and around Cincinnati. I’m especially drawn to the hills and the communication towers, retaining walls and city steps. I like the dirty parts of town and try to extract the beauty that’s hidden there.

Q.What materials do you rely on?

Shark (spray paint & ink on found board 171/4x44), by Kevin "Pogo" Curtis

A. My favorite time to go art supply shopping is on trash night. I can usually find broken furniture, cabinet doors, interior doors, shelf boards, table tops, etc. I also get a lot of stuff from Building Value, The Habitat for Humanity Re-Store and sometimes even the broken stuff section at IKEA.

I use mostly acrylics and spray paint, but also handed-down house paint, markers and one of my favorite items – the white-out pen. I’ve also been experimenting lately with making my own inks. Oh, and Mod Podge – I use a ton of it. Unless you see some of my stuff in person, you don’t realize that the foreground images are often done on paper, then cut out with an X-acto knife and then Mod-Podged onto the backgrounds.

No. 3 (acrylic, oil, spray paint, ink, whiteout pen and paper cutout on found board, 35x26) by Kevin "Pogo" Curtis

Q. Any artists or resources that you find inspiring and why?

A. Historically, I’ve always liked all that stuffy “classical” art. Which is why I like the surrealists, especially Dali, Magritte and Man Ray. I never really cared much for the other so-called “modern art.” I think most of it is bullshit. I am and always have been a big fan of “street art” going back to the New York subway car graffiti writers, and the people from the roots of
that movement, like Fab Five Freddie, Jean-Michele Basquiat, Lee & others.

Currently I really dig Sabre and David Choe, and really I’m kind of excited about how big the “Street Art” thing has gotten. It’s nice to see more people taking chances and bucking the system.

Q. Name some of your favorite projects you’ve done.

A. I hate everything I make. Just kidding, sort of. I always think I can do better, sometimes I fuck up a perfectly good piece by trying to out-do myself. I figure I fi don’t keep pushing myself, why bother? Other than that, I really like being a part of group shows.

One of the most awesome and fun things I’ve done was the “BARtists” live art event last spring at Mainstay, I was pretty bummed I couldn’t do the latest one they had, but I’m really looking forward to doing the next one and more things like that. I have some crazy techniques, and make a hell of a mess when I make art, so I figure I might be at least somewhat entertaining to watch.

Q. Do you have any upcoming shows?

A. Whew…yeah, I am just finishing a piece for Fabricate’s two-year anniversary group show, and I already have several shows either booked or awaiting confirmation for 2012 at Melt, Park + Vine, MOTR Pub and Sidewinder Coffee.

Q. Anything you’re hoping to try/experiment with in your art?

A.  I’ve been experimenting with making my own ink, and I’m always messing around with new techniques. I like to mix stuff together that isn’t supposed to mix together, lots of oil vs. water stuff, my art is usually some percentage of mad science…mwuahahah. Also, I’ve been thinking about going three-dimensional. I’m hoping to find a larger studio space in the near future so I can start doing some larger works.

[Thanks to Kevin, and to you, for reading!–Lisa]


About Lisa Dolan

Freelance writer, editor and art lover located in Cincinnati, Ohio.


  1. shawn abnoxious

    Whew! I was feeling kinda worried for myself concernning my fascination of taking photos of cell phone towers… I got accosted behind a Wal-Mart once by its employees.

    “Excuse me sir…Just what exactly are you doing?”

    “Im taking a photo of this cell phone tower Captain Intelligence”

  2. pogo the original

    I used to tag POGO in the 70s and 80s in NYC.

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