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An Interview With Eric Lebofsky

By Lauri Apple in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 23, 2009 8:40PM

tumblr_kqqhs1I3aO1qzjiuq.jpg The Personal Space Invader, the Inarticulator, and Anachronism Man are just some of the exciting characters you can befriend at Superfreaks: an art+website project that Chicago-based artist and musician Eric Lebofsky started on his 32nd birthday. Every day until his 33rd birthday (in August 2010), Lebofsky is posting a different Superfreak — "a superhero whose powers are derived from character flaws and/or transgressive behaviors, distinguishable from their civilian counterparts only by ornate costumery and/or literal embodiment of their issues." Lebofsky's creations are currently on display at Western Exhibitions, which represents his work.

In addition to making colored pencil magic happen, Lebofsky also sculpts, paints, teaches, creates books, and sings/saxophones/electronicks with Avagami — the duo he formed a few years ago with former Atombombpocketknife member Matt Espy. Recently we interrupted his multi-tasking to ask him some questions.

Chicagoist: Tell us about the inspiration and beginnings for your newest show and project, Superfreaks.

Eric Lebofsky: The idea came to me from two other activities: running and practicing the guitar. I started running a few years ago, and I really love how I get better at it over time. That led me to decide to take guitar lessons. While practicing one day this summer, I had the thought to apply a similar type of structure to my drawing. I'd been painting, composing, performing and making sculptures for the past few years, but had neglected my drawing practice, and was looking for a way back in.

C: Does the title have any relation to the Rick James song?

EL: Sure. Not overtly, but Rick James is the original Superfreak. Elton John trails right behind him; though he didn't make the song, he has that Donald Duck costume.

C: Some of your earlier drawings — Tape Head, Ashkenazic Cyborg — might be considered ancestors of Superfreaks. What makes these new characters different?

EL: It's more of a conceptual realignment. In the way that having the band Avagami has applied a name to what would otherwise just be "my music," it feels right to name this element of my art practice. So Superfreaks is the band name for my drawings, and Ashkenazic Cyborg was a Superfreak, he just didn't know it.

C: Why a one-a-day series?

EL: I think the one-a-day aspect reflects my desire for discipline. It's much harder than I imagined, when I was like, "wow, that's a cool idea!" I definitely have challenging times, along with easier times. It helps to break it down into groups of drawings spanning a week in my mind, or even a few days if it's rough.

C: Do you have any favorite such series done by other people?

I have definitely enjoyed series-based work by other visual artists, but my inspiration to work this way is probably more a result of the serialism of certain novels, columns, and podcasts. I've often worked on series before, but not within a time frame. In the past, I've made drawings about Alma Mahler, groupies and the bands they like, books I like, and the things one can do to occupy time in the event of an ice age.

C: Do you have any plans to turn some freaks into characters for stories or comics?

EL: No, my brain doesn't like to work that way, and I try not to force things. But I would like to make some Superfreaks drawings that are comprised entirely of text.

C: Do you have a favorite Superfreak yet, and which one is it?

EL: My two favorites so far are "Anxiety Man/Anxiety Woman" and "Egodissolvortexman," because I think they efficiently summarize the two polarities of my personality. I use my own hangups and triumphs as content for most of the drawings, though other people occasionally gift me with irresistible material.

C: Do you think you might publish a book when you are done?

EL: At the end of the project, I'm planning to publish a book through WesternXeditions, the artist book/multiples project of Western Exhibitions.

C: Your last show at Western Exhibitions focused on sculptures. Any desire to continue with sculpture, or are you sticking to 2-d for the foreseeable future?

EL: I will continue with sculpture. Because I have a lot of interests, it's important to make sure all my plants are watered in rotation. I found the sculpture show to be surprisingly difficult, which is why I know I will return to making them. But there are still some other endeavors I need to cycle through before the sculpture card makes it back to the top of the deck. After or toward the end of Superfreaks, I'm hoping to score music for a big band project.

C: In addition to art, you also make music. How do you see your art and music connected?

EL: The art and music are vitally connected. The narratives are the same, the humor is similar, and the rococo elements are there in each. But drawing is like self-analysis or practicing. Musical performance is actualizing the fundamental point. It is really what keeps me going.

C: What kind of music do you listen to while you draw?

EL: Recently, I like to listen to Wu-Tang when I draw. It gives me courage.

Western Exhibitions is located at 119 N. Peoria, Suite 2A.

The Inarticulator, by Eric Lebofsky