Heart of the City
Kevin O’Rourke is part of a new generation of Motor City artists. This low-key powerhouse fuses elements of graphic design and advertising verve into frenetic rock art that’s cool as liquid nitrogen. He recently produced both the movie poster and onscreen credits for It Came From Detroit, a film about the reincarnation of Detroit’s garage scene by bands like The Detroit Cobras, Bantam Rooster, and The Dirtbombs. Being a rock artist, graphic designer, and illustrator makes Kevin one of the hardest working artists in the Motor City, and his ball-busting work ethic means that he always has multiple projects going. However, despite the long hours, he admits, “I like getting feedback from other artists and music fans. Fine art keeps me sane.”
During his short but prolific career, Kevin has produced concert posters for everybody from Lucinda Williams and Flogging Molly to Sonic Youth and Ween. His scrappy Irish countenance reveals a tendency to forgo artistic arrogance and move between the realm of fine art and more commercially accessible graphic design. Despite his ascending stature in the world of pop art, you’ll never see Kevin wearing a paint-splattered smock or resale store beret. Instead, Kevin looks more like an extra from Martin Scorcese’s The Departed.
Before moving to Detroit, Kevin cut his artistic teeth doing graphic design in Chicago. These days, he’s trying his hand at tattooing and has produced more poster art for the nationally ranked Detroit Roller Derby League than any other artist. But Kevin’s love for Detroit doesn’t stop there — his block art prints of classic Detroit buildings embody his passion for the city.
“I like character, and Detroit has a lot of it. Its buildings are graphically vibrant. Detroit’s one of the coolest cities I’ve ever lived in. Other leagues ask me to do art for them, but I don’t have the time. [The Detroit Derby league] are my girls, and I love ‘em.”
Kevin brings art into every facet of his life, including living in a building designed by the great Dutch Modernist Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe. The complex, called Lafayette Plaza, “is like an Oasis,” states O’Rourke. “There’s nothing like it in the rest of Detroit. It’s a self-contained community. It has a lot of character overall, but each unit is identical. Everything is minimal. Miles van der Rohe even coined the phrase less is more.” However, O’Rourke’s style — if he can be said to have a single style — uses elements of commercial advertising to create a current of bold colors, explosive shapes, and clearly defined messages. Much like a club DJ, Kevin samples influences from disparate sources to create something new, a reconfiguration in which the base elements are powerfully redefined in proximity to one another. Kevin’s art can be seen at www.crownvicproductions.com.