Tony Roko at Birmingham Gallery June 9th

May 31, 2012
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Detroit artist Tony RōKō goes green with “Art and Environment” exhibit for the grand opening of the new Birmingham Gallery on June 9th. More information here. Read the cinematic story of RōKō’s life below and learn how a first-generation immigrant got pulled off the assembly line to become Ford Motor Company’s creative ambassador and a nationally renowned post-industrial artist.

Detroit Artist Tony Roko

Tony RōKō grew up in Detroit as the only American-born child in a blue-collar immigrant family. His childhood was not filled with creative aspirations and he did not attend art school. Instead, like many others in his tightly-knit Yugoslavian community, RōKō entered the assembly line at the age of 18. During lunch breaks, RōKō would escape his new reality by sketching the “characters” he encountered in his factory environment. After a year of factory labor, RōKō was literally ripped off of the assembly line by Ford executives who took notice of RōKō’s poignant talent.

Detroit Artist

Overnight RōKō was assigned to paint murals on half-century-old factory walls in an effort to boost company moral among the “blue collar” workers he had worked beside; a tall order considering RōKō hadn’t had any experience with painting. “I had no idea what materials to use, but I did know that there was no paint in a tube that would hold up to the harsh factory environment.” RōKō asked to for access to automotive paint, and when the executives brought him to the painting room, RōKō saw a sea of brilliant color. He dipped his finger in one of the buckets of auto paint, smeared it on the wall beside him, and knew he had found his medium. After working as the corporate artist of Ford Motor Company’s corporate for 20 years, RōKō made a decision to create “from the heart” again and his creative expression exploded. He started painting on scrap metals and reclaimed pallets, repurposing traditionally industrial materials combining the gritty feel of the factory with a fresh, urban flair.

Detroit Artist Tony Roko

Today, RōKō’s artwork can be seen at venues such as the Charles H. Wright Museum, the Motown Museum, the Michigan State Capital Building, and in various galleries across the country. RōKō has also recently been featured in Ford Motor Company’s new “Go Further” Ad Campaign. RōKō has commissioned by many corporations including Ford, Coca-Cola/ vitaminwater, The Dance Theater of Harlem, and VIBE Magazine. RōKō has recently been selected to show at the prestigious NAC Gallery’s Grand Opening, at their new Miami location on June 2, 2012. In addition, RōKō’s work will be exhibited at The B.O.B. in association with September’s 2012 ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, MI.

Detroit Artist Tony Roko

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Jane Fader

Jane Fader received a Master’s degree from the Wayne State University Department of Communication, where she also completed her doctoral coursework in media studies and instructed courses in film, video production, and television criticism. She has written widely on the topics of sexuality and pornography, and produced an internationally awarded documentary about female ejaculation. Currently Jane does creative direction and marketing in the sexual wellness industry, instructs courses in Cultural Diversity and Information Literacy at IADT Detroit, and maintains her blog, janefader.com.

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