Tits, ass, and goblins. Bare-chested chicks straddling hellhounds. Perverse imagery has long permeated graffiti artist David Choe’s work, including the infamous murals he spray-painted at Facebook’s first headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif.
Adult film actress Asa Akira arrives at the 29th annual Adult Video News Awards show at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Jan. 21, 2012, in Las Vegas. (Ethan Miller/Getty)
The company’s then president, Sean Parker, allegedly told Choe to “go crazy and draw as many giant ‘cocks’” on the walls as he wanted. Choe was paid for the job in Facebook stock, which was valued at $200 million when the social media behemoth went public last February.
Choe, 36, was instantly one of the most buzzed-about names to emerge from the IPO, but the Korean-American artist shunned the media attention, agreeing to interviews only with Barbara Walters and Howard Stern.
A year later, Choe is opening up about his new gig with porn star Asa Akira: DVDASA (Double Vagina Double Anal Sensitive Artist), a free online podcast featuring 90-minute episodes in which they talk about anal sex, relationships, race issues, Asa’s AVN award for Best Double Penetration and more anal sex. The explicit podcast will come as no surprise to those who heard Choe discuss masturbation techniques with Howard Stern, or anyone who has seen some of his X-rated video collaborations with Vice Media.
The first two episodes of DVDASA feature comedian Yoshi Obayashi as a special guest, though Choe hopes to lure actors, rap artists, and other “legitimate people” into the podcast studio, which is conveniently located in his 20,000-square-foot painting studio in Los Angeles’s Koreatown. Skrillex, celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, and RZA from Wu Tang Clan are frequent visitors.
“We almost got Bill Murray to stop by,” says Choe. “These guys just come for my work, but I don’t think it would be that hard to get them on the show if I painted their portraits for free. And Asa has offered to blow anyone who comes on,” he adds dryly. Choe’s characteristic deadpan delivery makes it hard to gauge whether he’s being sincere—or just fucking with you (as when he told me a girl had “asked to blow him” during our phone interview). He claims he created the podcast as a forum to voice personal transgressions and divulge bizarre fetishes and fantasies.
“When you talk about everything openly, it’s hell on your personal relationships,” he says. “It’s weird, because it feels good and yet it’s also really self-destructive. But [Asa and I] have already figured out that we’re self-destructive people anyway, so it’s like, fuck it.”
To be sure, Choe’s checkered past has contributed to his fame in L.A.’s street art scene. It started when he was a teenager with misdemeanors—shoplifting and other petty thefts—and looting during the 1992 Los Angeles riots. At 21, he enrolled in the California College of Arts and Crafts but dropped out after two years. Since then, Choe has battled a gambling addiction and been to jail five times for everything from credit card fraud to beating up an undercover security guard. But his work—phantasmagoric, schizophrenic, and unapologetically sexual—flourished all the while. He became a successful commercial illustrator, contributing to magazines like Vice and Giant Robot and doing cover art for Jay-Z and Linkin Park’s 2004 Collision Course. In 2010—two years after the release of his celebrated documentary, Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe—he was showing alongside Banksy in London and selling $250,000 works to the princess of Azerbaijan.
Choe doesn’t like to talk about his jackpot-winning Facebook gamble—rejecting $60,000 in cash for his murals in favor of stock in the company—which put him in the same financial league as today’s wealthiest contemporary artists.
“I didn’t become an artist to sell things to rich douche bags. So I’m trying to find other ways to share my work.”
“I made more money than all those guys without having to sell my soul to the devil,” he says. “I haven’t changed how I live my life at all. The glamorized version of the [Facebook] story is, ‘Oh, this is the shitty starving artist who made a ton of money through this Facebook thing.’ But I already made a ton of money before that.”
Money has clearly never bought Choe happiness, and happiness seems to be of little interest to him anyhow.
“I need therapy, and I do believe in helping yourself,” Choe says, adding that he used to see four shrinks in a week. When he got to a place where he felt “good, the best I’ve ever felt, I thought my art got shittier. It may have been all in my head, but I was like, fuck this. My mental health comes second to my art.”
Where, then, does a self-indulgent, raunchy entertainment podcast fit in the tortured artist’s portfolio?
“It’s kind of like group therapy, and it causes suffering, at least for me. I didn’t become an artist to sell things to rich douche bags. So I’m trying to find other ways to share my work.”
Lizzie Crocker is a researcher and reporter at the Newsweek Daily Beast Company.