Mixmaster presents "100 Creatives," in which we feature cultural entrepreneurs of Dallas in random order. Know an artistic mind who deserves a little bit of blog love? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the whos and whys.
I'm standing inside a stairwell thumbing through my phone contacts when I hear a slight creak of metal hinges followed by an overly-dramatic voice saying "excuse me, sir." Raymond Butler's face is peeking out from behind the cracked-open door of Swag Dealer, the printmaking shop where he works. As usual, he's smiling his toothy grin.
After inviting me inside, Butler looks down at his hands and shorts. "Man, you caught me in my work clothes," he jokes. His shorts are plastered in hastily wiped-away ink and his shirt sports several Toadies designs all over it--I discover later that Swag Dealer does the printmaking for the Fort Worth natives.
The 26 -year-old Dallas native is a lot of things: a printmaker, a photographer, a collage artist, a curator, promoter and financial backer. Hell, the list of what Butler isn't is probably shorter. And the dude may be on the younger side, but he's already making some serious waves in what you could call (but probably shouldn't) the "underground art scene."
Butler, as his employment at Swag Dealer would suggest, is known for his printmaking--most recently for screen prints of lowriders on dollar bills. But his other artistic fancy currently garners him even more attention. In an ultimate testament of sacrilege, Butler slices apart different paper denominations from countries across the globe and splices them together into a sort of multinational collage. It seems he has a penchant for destroying money.
While Butler's art is fantastic in its own right, it's not the reason he's one of Dallas' most important creatives. For the past few years, Butler has been curating the work of little-known artists for pop up shows. And, it turns out, he's damn good at it. He's reaching the point where the spaces he's been working out of--primarily smaller spaces in Deep Ellum--aren't big enough for the amount of people that show up to the party.
Butler is a hell of an idea man who possesses the unique and ever-important ability to carry out those ideas. Last month his zombie art show, "Dallas is Dead," caught some eyes and packed out the space of Capital L Art and Entertainment in Deep Ellum. He has a recurring pop up show, "Wasted," under his belt, and is looking to add more to his repertoire.
Butler is quickly shaping up to be one an important force in the Dallas art scene by helping to bring recognition to these underground artists. Plus, the guy knows how to throw bomb-ass parties. And you know we love to party.
When did you first start getting into the world of art? I started off with drawing in first or second grade. A friend of mine was really good at drawing and he bet me I couldn't draw. He was like, "Hey, I bet you can't draw this," and I was like, "Nah, I bet I can!" And I did, I drew right on the spot. I drew a picture of Garfield. There was a picture of Garfield on our teacher's door and he was trying to draw it but he kept messing up the line and I was trying to explain to him, "No man, it goes like this." He was like, "Dude, you don't know what you're talking about. You don't know how to draw." And I was pretty sure I could do it, and I did so he shut up. And I did so well that the teacher took it and pinned it up on the wall.
How did you make the shift from artist to curator? I think it was in 2008. The first show I curated was the Mini Art show. It was over at my taekwondo gym over off of Exposition and Park. I was working at El Centro at H. Paxton Moore Fine Art Gallery, I still do, and I'm the gallery assistant there. My boss Eddy Rawlinson was pretty much showing me the ropes. I had known nothing about how galleries work or how things are priced or hung--he pretty much taught me everything. And I took that on the street. So I was like, "Well, why can't we just do shows on our own? What's stopping us? All we need is a space and artists to show and just put the word out."
Was it just you or did you have a team? It was me, an ex girlfriend and two other friends. We started doing it like Art Conspiracy, with the 12x12 wooden boards. And I thought we could probably do that. We could build up a group of artists that would show with us and we'll save up enough money to show at a bigger space. So we'd take all the money we made and put it into the next show. And eventually we'd have shows where the artists would get all the money. We were called the Peanut Gallery. And that went on for about five years, just hopping from space to space.
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Why do you curate pop up shows instead of being a consistent curator for a gallery? I like the idea that I can do things that regular galleries have not done or their space doesn't allow them to do it. I can hop around from space to space and usually change any place that I'm in. I'm trying to create an experience and I can't do that if the space doesn't allow me to use their space the way I want to. That's the whole point of these shows: I want to create an experience that isn't a regular gallery experience that you can remember and get a shirt from. If people are going to be giving me money at the door, I at least want to give them something.
What makes you want to take it to that level? When I go to these art shows I want to see something spectacular. And that's what I want people to think when they come see these shows. I want it to be worth it.
It's just fun. It's so much fun and really rewarding to do. To have other artists that use you as a platform to get their stuff out there. It's always just amazing stuff. That's why I love Dallas. I've got so much love for this city it's insane. It will always be my home. I don't think I'll ever stop doing this. Even though I take on a lot of responsibility as far as money and budget--sometimes I go broke--I bust my ass to make sure it's a great experience.
100 Creatives: 100. Theater Mastermind Matt Posey 99. Comedy Queen Amanda Austin 98. Deep Ellum Enterpriser Brandon Castillo 97. Humanitarian Artist Willie Baronet 96. Funny Man Paul Varghese 95. Painting Provocateur Art Peña 94. Magic Man Trigg Watson 93. Enigmatic Musician George Quartz 92. Artistic Luminary Joshua King 91. Inventive Director Rene Moreno 90. Color Mavens Marianne Newsom and Sunny Sliger 89. Literary Lion Thea Temple 88. Movie Maestro Eric Steele 87. Storytelling Dynamo Nicole Stewart 86. Collaborative Artist Ryder Richards