Ric Ocasek doesn’t give many interviews. And when he does, he’s often reticent.
But the famed frontman of the Cars, the ‘70s and ‘80s synth-pop-art-rockers who stormed the charts with a trove of hits including “Shake It Up,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “You Might Think” and “Magic,” can also be thoughtful and forthcoming, especially when talking about his other passion — art.
Ocasek will visit Atlanta from 6-8 p.m. Saturday at Wentworth Gallery at Phipps Plaza, where his vibrant drawings and canvases with acrylics will be on display and for sale (the appearance is open to the public, but RSVPs are suggested via the gallery website).
Calling from New York Wednesday afternoon, the soft-spoken Ocasek, 69, talked extensively with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Kaedy Kiely of 97.1 The River about his artistic process, the Cars’ overdue induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year and why he (jokingly) considers himself “sort of like an anti-social extrovert.”
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On the Cars’ long-expected induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
“I’m glad we did get inducted. It was kind of weird because we hadn’t played in a good while. (Cars drummer) David Robinson said, ‘I’ll have to get the drums out of storage.’ We thought (getting the band back together) was going to be pretty hard, but we went to Cleveland a few days before the (ceremony) and rehearsed and it was just like we played yesterday. The only thing obviously missing was Ben (Orr, the band’s bassist and co-singer who died of pancreatic cancer in 2000), which was very strange. … Ben was very sweet. … He just had the most beautiful voice and was a beautiful person. … But it worked out pretty nice. It was quite a night.”
On the evolution of his art:
“I’ve been doing it for a really long time. It’s one of those things you do but you never bring out. I kept things for whatever reason and never had the intention of showing it or doing anything with it, really, except leaving it in a pile. I didn’t want to throw stuff away (either). That’s why it never really came out until I did a few gallery shows in Manhattan (a couple of years ago) and some people saw that and Wentworth wanted to show it in galleries and I thought, cool. … My favorite has always been pop art. I never really thought of myself as an artist who draws. … It’s hard to me to draw anything that looks realistic. When I happen upon something that looks realistic, I think, ‘That looks like a real drawing!’ I couldn’t really draw a real person or a face.”
On his artistic preferences:
“I do buy specific things to use, like these Japanese markers and funny kinds of pens that are hard to find. Sometimes brushes. But I like the Japanese (pens) because they have a brush tip instead of hard tip, almost like a paintbrush. Photographs are a huge part of things I do. I’ve been shooting photos since I was a kid — I used to develop them as a kid. Then I really got into Polaroids for many years. I have to say, when the Cars were on tour, I never really took a camera with me. I think I was too busy to even think about it. I regret not doing that while on tour.”
On the influence of Andy Warhol, who directed the Cars’ video for “Hello Again”:
“He was a pretty good friend of mine at the time. He definitely was a hands-on artist. Everything he ever did, I liked. I liked his idea and philosophy and how he approached art. We never really talked art. Andy was kind of a quiet talker, but he had a lot to say. He talked about life and people and gossip. But he kept the arts scene going in New York City. If you saw Andy with an artist at dinner, you knew they were going to get recognized. He was sort of a patron of the arts. And when he died (there was no one to continue it).”
On interacting with people in a more intimate setting at the art galleries:
“It’s kind of odd in a way. I go to these galleries and meet people who are coming … and it’s weird! It’s like Polaroids and chicken fingers, that’s what we used to call those backstage things. It’s nice to meet people, but you get put into a room to meet people. I’m sort of like an anti-social extrovert. It’s hard to go in and be a smiley guy, but I’ll go ahead and do it (laughs).”
6-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1 Wentworth Gallery, Phipps Plaza, 3500 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta. Open to the public, but reservations requested at wentworthgallery.com or 404-233-0903.