Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Ink Tank

For this edition of Fan Mail, David Culpepper of Ink Tank in Austin, TX has been selected from our worthy reader submissions. Two artists are featured each month—the next one could be you! If you would like to be considered, please submit your website link to with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line.

Ink Tank has been together for less than a year in Austin, executing several group projects rather quickly. Their birthplace is Richmond, VA, where David Culpepper and VCU professor Matt Lively began their collective as a gallery and screen printing shop in Plant Zero’s studios. Current members include Andrea Hyland, Chris Whiteburch, Emily Cayton, Nate Ellefson, Matt Winters, Vladimir Mejia, Austin Nelsen, Julia Clark, Landon O’Brien, TJ Lemanski, and Casey Polacheck.

The Purge, Chris Whiteburch, Last New Year, Ink Tank, 2012

Celie Dailey: You guys look like you’re having fun!

David Culpepper: We are serious about having fun. The Last New Year project in particular was a unique experience where we were able to almost live where we were working. It became a club house atmosphere with everyone hanging out and making stuff, eventually leading to the addition of a couple more members.

In regards to having fun, putt-putt is a recreational sport centered on goofy ways to challenge the player. Part of the research for PARmageddon was playing putt-putt and watching countless apocalypse movies.

PARmageddon, Ink Tank, 2012

CD: What captivates humanity about its total destruction?

DC: Whether it is an actual date, Nostradamus’ predictions, or an ancient culture’s artifacts, the end of the world both panics and excites us for whatever reasons.

When discussing 2012 and specifically Last New Year, we all began sharing Y2K stories and reflecting on the hysteria that surrounded the new millennium. At least a few of us knew people who hoarded goods or prepared emergency bunkers. Those stories were a major jumping off point: how would we as a group prepare for Armageddon? What would we want to preserve, save, and prepare for the future?

It is a ubiquitous theme across cultures, with religions prescribing the end, scientists predicting our planet’s timeline, and filmmakers illustrating the disastrous scenes. We are a species that knows we will die, and there is something fascinatingly terrifying yet strangely enticing about thinking through the end.

CD: What does collective art-making look like? I imagine a party with materials exchanging and a nice selection of fine beers.

DC: Collective art-making has a lot of brainstorming involved, with each of us getting pumped about different aspects of an upcoming project. Each person presents what he/she wants to make, and then address how singular ideas can become united. This process provides opportunities for members to break off into smaller collaborative teams when there are similar ideas. When we’re not meeting in person, we have various avenues of communication set up so we can work out ideas remotely. When the actual work begins, it is social and seemingly endless until our final install.

We run more on the cheap stuff, indulging ourselves with Austin-based craft brews when possible but mostly choosing quantity over quality during work hours. We don’t generally believe less is more, except when it comes to paying for beer.

Future Diorama, Ink Tank, 2012

CD: How do you keep up the momentum?

DC: We have a core group of members that work on most projects. Some members come and go based on their particular level of interest while others put in hours on every component. In order to supplement our skills and interests, we often invite other artists to contribute to a specific aspect or aid in fabrication. For example, Jeremy Burks, Michael Abelman, and Daniel Vargas all lent their expertise for PARmageddon.

I think it’s easy to keep up the momentum with the type of people involved and the kinds of challenges we set for ourselves. It is truly refreshing to embark upon a large project with many different types of artists and allow it to develop and change, ending with a piece we are all proud of and included in.

CD: Do you have a physical space for executing projects?

DC: We are thrilled that we just acquired a studio space. While working on PARmageddon we were working out of Matt’s garage and backyard. Now that we have a studio space, anyone is more than welcome to hang.

CD: Two of your members work at Co-Lab Projects, an art space. How do collectives interact with galleries in Austin?

DC: It is extremely rare to walk into Co-Lab and see everything hung 60” on center, and even more unusual to see the same exhibition for more than a week. We are an art collective that creates projects that depend on spaces like Co-Lab. Sean Gallagher and everyone affiliated with Co-Lab have been extremely supportive of our endeavors, and the other artists that have exhibited in the space.

The community aspect of creating seems to thrive here and people come out for events in numbers I haven’t experienced elsewhere. It is a place that nurtures creativity and demands multifaceted events, which is something that an art collective is well-suited to provide.

Upcoming Ink Tank exhibitions include: Hello Studio, San Antonio, opens August 11; More Awkward than Heavy, UP Collective, Austin, opens September; Armageddon Outta Here (conclusion of their apocalypse trilogy), Co-Lab, Austin, December 21, 2012.