Culture » Visual Arts

John Radabaugh learns by doing with his first art exhibition


  • Griffin Swartzell

By the strictest definition, August won't mark John "MadBot" Radabaugh's first gallery showing. As a UCCS student, he did a live, improvised graffiti piece for an art club exhibition. But there's a big difference between showing up with spray cans and filling a gallery with framed, wire-hung pieces.

"I have a little bit of classical training, not much, but I've always done [art] here and there," he says. His work drew the attention of a co-worker, who helped him get a show at the Gallery Below.

"More than anything for me, it was the concepts that he had for his art show [that stood out]," says gallery co-manager Amory Reed. "[It was] almost going to be a build-your-own-adventure art show... and his comic art, it was definitely solid."

Radabaugh (who, full disclosure, is an old friend) describes the show, Psychotic Fun #1, as the product of sorting through "the pop culture vomit that exists in my brain." Stylistically, he draws from street art, comic book art and the work of illustrator Ralph Steadman.

"The logistics, the money aspect, is the most taxing part," he says. Radabaugh works in relatively affordable media — ink and graphite on paper — but it adds up, especially as his ideas evolve and his rough style grows more polished. The cost of framing all of his pieces, which get as big as 22 by 30 inches, caught him off guard, possibly his biggest expense per piece.

He's also surprised at how much the success or failure of the show weighs upon him. He's tempering his expectations, but it's hard not to get invested given the amount of labor he's put in.

"I just don't want it to bomb," he says. "If I sell one piece and there's 10 people checking this out, I'll be happy. That gives me hope to keep doing this."

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