From the moment he set foot in the Peach State in 1984, the renowned muralist Dax Rudnak (AKA Dr. Dax) knew he was destined to make his mark here.
Pinned the Mecca of the South, Atlanta is one of the most historic and culturally rich cities in the United States, ranging from its dominance over the hip-hop landscape to its ever-evolving street art scene. And while the city has certainly changed since Dax arrived, it’s where he’s meant to be, as his strong visual style impacts how others view the streets they walk.
From producing videos for Dungeon Family, the game-changing Atlanta hip-hop collective that birthed OutKast and Goodie Mob, to becoming one of the best-known graffiti writers around, Dax has certainly been a significant figure in making the city what it is today.
Here, CommonCreativ talks with Dax about how his style has developed over the years, the city’s current landscape and his plans for 2017.
CommonCreativ: You seem proud to represent Atlanta — are you from here?
Dax: I’m beyond proud to call Atlanta my home. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. When I was around 2 years old, I moved to the Gulf Coast of South Florida. In 1984, when I was 8 years old, I visited Atlanta and immediately knew I had to be here. At the end of 1985 I was blessed enough to actually move to Atlanta — and in Atlanta is where my new and creative life began and has never ended.
CC: Where does the name Dax originate from?
Dax: Dax is my God-given government first name. Daks is a name I was playing with on and off as a graffiti alias. Around 1994, a graffiti writer from New York named SB1 added the acronym “Destroying All Kinds of Shit” to it. Around the same time, Dr. Daks became my faceless trademark until around 2009 when I came out of the graffiti closet.
CC: When did you first get into art and graffiti?
Dax: I first saw graffiti writing in 1984 riding MARTA with my older brother from Art Center Station to the Lenox Square Station. That experience sparked a huge fire under my ass. I immediately started drawing.
CC: How have you developed your style over the years?
Dax: My style developed from years of painting my name over and over many thousands of times in dark, seedy places without permission. There’s no better way to develop, now looking back. Kind of like picking up on learning a foreign language when you’re a child compared to trying to learn it as an adult. It’s second nature, like speaking my first language.
CC: How do you feel about Atlanta’s landscape right now, with all of the changes around Ponce and surrounding neighborhoods?
Dax: I’ve spoken on this many times, and it’s the same ole shit everywhere and the same ole answer. They removed the heart and soul from many places as well as the full flavor strip of Ponce De Leon Avenue, you can paint a picture in your mind from there.
CC: Do you prefer to work in a large scale?
Dax: I love working on all surfaces from nail art to oversized murals, especially if on display in a public setting. I’m starving for attention.
CC: What’s it been like being one of the originating members of the Dungeon Family, and watching the growth and success of so many influential artists?
Dax: Growing with and around the Dungeon Family has been a tremendous strike of fate. It was meant to be. God put those guys together and in my life. That became the boot camp and breeding ground for creative greatness in Atlanta.
CC: You’re known for artwork on walls, but you’ve directed several Big Boi videos. How did that get started?
Dax: Videos simply began when I was walking around Walmart with Big Boi showing him videos I filmed on my Canon G7. Shown actually at the beginning of Big Boi and Gucci Mane’s “Shine Blockas” video. Shout out to Zach Wolf who I woke up at 3 a.m. to shoot that video. Shit took off from there. I started shooting lots of videos until it got to the point where rap videos beyond working on Big Boi’s were not creatively stimulating. So I quit and focused all my mind back on painting.
CC: I love your “All Dogs Go to Heaven” mural. Could you describe the bond you had with Azul, your pitbull?
Dax: Azul was a blue pitbull that was my soulmate on earth and now my angel in the sky. Love of my life. Miss you buddy. That mural is his memorial that was granted as part of early art on the [Atlanta] BeltLine project.
CC: Who’s been your favorite artist that you’ve collaborated with in Atlanta?
Dax: Favorite artist I’ve collaborated on art with would definitely be Keet D’Arms, the well-renowned tattoo artist. He gets down with me on canvas walls and has done most of my tattoos, all the great ones anyway.
CC: Why do you think this type of public art is important, especially in Atlanta?
Dax: It’s important, it’s everywhere to me — especially Atlanta. For me personally, I can’t stand shit looking drab. I need it to be Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory mixed with South Beach. That’s what I love.
CC: What do you have in the works now?
Dax: I just finished acting in Vandal, a feature film based loosely off of true stories of drama in the graffiti life. We shot on location in Miami and I was blessed enough to play myself in it. I look forward to hitting film festivals with the whole squad. Until then I will be painting.