Whether he’s quoting sage wisdom from the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie or taking an Inception-worthy selfie, Brandon Sine’s Frank Ape is a vehicle for traversing and understanding the modern, pop culture-laden landscape. His ostensibly basic design — an oafish, Neanderthal exterior, highlighted with broken traffic lines of hair, a set of plump hamburger bun lips, and almost indistinguishable dots for eyes, nipples, and belly button — makes him easy to reproduce, which ensures quick, undetected work in the street, giving him more opportunity to crop up when and where you least expect him. And it’s because of this same endearing simplicity that everything he says, everything he does, and everywhere he is becomes all the more profound, at least in juxtaposition alone. From photo shoots with Miley to commanding the Starship Enterprise, Sine has created a fun, sneaky character that’s easy to appreciate and hard to forget, and we were lucky enough to get a chance to pick his brain about the utterly lovable Frank. To get the full experience, though, you’re going to need to check out his upcoming show, “Dealing with Things is Tricky,” at Specials on C (located at 12th Street and Avenue C) early this May (info below).
When did you first create Frank?
Frank first appeared in a painting I did in 2011… He didn’t have a name at that time. I wasn’t setting out to create this iconic character. I just wanted almost a big foot, primitive human type of person, who feels a lot of emotion but since he’s primitive doesn’t always know how to deal with things, to put in a situation he couldn’t control. In the first painting Frank’s house is on fire.
How far has Frank traveled? Can he be seen anywhere else besides Brooklyn?
I’ve had people visit my studio from all over the world and buy pieces to bring back home. Recently some original Frank drawings have ended up in Japan and Bangkok. I’ve had to ship things to Alabama… I’ve seen some pictures of stickers people have put up in Germany. I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple places…
You’ve integrated Frank into some pretty famous pop culture references (i.e. scene from Jurassic Park, that Janet Jackson Rolling Stone cover, The Scream, etc.). How does pop culture influence your work in general?
Pop culture is one of those things that’s always changing, and as an artist looking for inspiration, it’s a natural place to look to. It’s inspiration. Plus it’s fun to pay homage to older pop culture references that we all feel so nostalgic about and connected to. I think people feel connected to Frank in a similar way. Also, being born in 1986, a lot of the things I reference explain a lot about who I am and what I love.
During your interview with Creatives, you said art is something you do so you don’t go nuts. If it weren’t for art, what would you be doing?
Probably hating my life in an office somewhere until I snap and realize I have to dedicate my life to art. There is no escape.
*Brandon Sines second solo exhibition “Dealing With Things Is Tricky” opens May 3 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m and will be held at an abandon alphabet city bodega. Click through the flyer for more info.