In Jonathan Swifts Letter to a Young Poet the satirist writes at length about the daily exigencies and the less obvious qualities that will be necessary to pursue a life of letters and creativity.
“..it is to me a plain account why our present set of poets are, and hold themselves obliged to be, free thinkers.”
Outside the rigors of academia and the confines of the white box, our street artists continually challenge all of us to be free thinkers. Of course, we’re not all going to be free. Maybe because thinking is only one route to understanding.
Among Street Artists who can suspend their limiting thoughts and embrace an inner discovery of the creative spirit, Overunder is fluid enough to explore and discover before your eyes without concern about matters that may hinder his peers. To him, process trumps product, and exploring may produce an expertise previously unfound. The act of collaboration colors the experience in ways he could not possibly have accessed singularly. His roots in graffiti are not reason for stylistic rigidity, rather a route to other paths that may include Street Art and fine art, abstraction, absurdity, symbolism, signage.
In a grueling journey by bicycle with street artist OTHER this spring, Overunder traveled by bicycle through 7 countries in Europe with little more than a backpack and sketchbook. He stopped in small towns and hamlets after exhaustive hours of plumbing an inner world he accessed on mind-numbing rhythmic rides in silence for hours. Somewhere along the way Overunder pierced the veil of his conventional thought and opened a portal for his creativity. Since returning to New York, he’s discovered brand new work that is flowing without judgment, and he is reveling it it’s direction without questioning it. A free thinker yes, and a free spirit too.
Brooklyn Street Art: You recently returned from a trip across Europe. For seven weeks you pedaled your way through seven countries in your bike. Was that trip the inspiration for your new art?
Overunder: The trip definitely exposed me to a new way of working and inspired me but I can’t quite pinpoint where these new figurative works came from. On the surface it makes sense where these pieces came from. I mean I’m on this crazy bike ride with OTHER, a guy that has mastered portraiture and creates phenomenal situations where life-like characters are decked out in beautifully crafted patterns and goofy demeanors but, to me, my new works are more connected to graffiti.
The new pieces on paper are actually letter studies in the guise of nudes. I use traditional graffiti and signage as my muse to paint these spontaneous and dirty translations that take on human form. I’ve never been one into nudes or figurative work but these pieces came out of somewhere inside of me and I’m the type of person that believes in chance, serendipity, and all the hogwash of following where the wind blows you; such as biking across Europe with a sleeping bag and a mean streak.
BSA: You are now drawing and painting males and females nudes. Do you use a live model or are you painting from your imagination?
Overunder: All the new work is not from live models or photos or even really my imagination but my hand. I don’t know if that makes too much sense but what I’m getting at is a looser, gestural, non-overworked or over-thought process.
Painting should be fun so I try to treat it playfully. The pieces are excuses to loosen up and laugh at myself. Coming from a graffiti background will tighten ones’ bolt, most likely strip most of ’em, so what I love about these new wheat pastes is that they balance my two worlds while giving me incentive to get up.
BSA: With the colorful head portraits you are collaborating with ND’A. Many artists shy away from collabs. You seem to thrive doing them. Why?
Overunder: I think collaborations are important for artists, and people in general, to understand themselves. When I work by myself I may tend to have a higher output and tailor the work to exactly how I see it in my mind but the work is more closed. It’s like working behind a castle wall. For me, collaborations allow me to drop the draw-bridge and open up the work to new concepts, aesthetics, even accidents. The pieces with ND’A are testament to that and we bounce a lot of ideas off of each other. I’m excited to see where he takes his work in the next year and it’s a pleasure to merge our styles. In some ways each collaboration is an extension of oneself, almost more like a separate personality, that you can let run its course or its mouth.
BSA: You lived briefly in San Francisco. What’s the difference, at this time in your life as an artist from living in SF and living in NYC?
Overunder: I can’t really speak generally about the difference but for me personally SF is a dead city. I grew up in Reno and would go to SF in the early 90’s when it was crushed. There were abandoned buildings, foundations, tunnels, you name it. It was all up for grabs and it was a graffiti writer’s paradise. That city erased its graff-cosmetics and replaced it with an urban-tummy tuck and facelift. You can still find good work there but I believe that a city has a responsibility to an artist. A city needs to nurture a person like a mother or a lover. It needs to inspire them and afford them places to explore, run wild, and f*ck sh*t up a little. You can do that a bit in SF but it will be a one-course meal and you’ll still be hungry when you’re through. At least that’s my take on it after moving to NYC. I think NYC is the best unadvertised residency program an artist could ever have. It’s got a constant flow of new work on the streets, visiting artists, and resident artists. Rent is affordable when you get out a bit and the further out you get, the more it forces you to explore the city. SF was just too expensive, obsessed with food, and like the try-hard little brother of NY. The big apple has fermented and is intoxicating with absurd realness.
BSA: Are you being inspired by other artists now or by music to do your work?
Overunder: There are so many artists that inspire me but just the other day I was walking through Brooklyn and thinking that my favorite artists are my close friends. CASH4 inspires me with his work ethic, bluntness, and invented visual language. OTHER inspires me with his proclivity to travel, storytelling, and use of the word “wicked” in most sentences, ha! READ MORE inspires me with his typography and lifestyle. Adriana Valdez Young influences my drive to have fun while being smart about it. The list is long but the ones on the top are buZ blurr, Matthias Wermke, ADAMS, Broken Crow, JoinsOne, NohJColey, and Specter. As far as music I’m on a kick of Reno bands like Bindle Stiffs, Molesters, and the Frontiersmen.
BSA: How important is it for an artist to take risks?
Overunder: If art was baking, risks are like the eggs and flour of art-making. Now I’m not trying to make some Vegan cupcakes or some bullsh*t like that; I’m talking about fried-chicken-and-waffles-at-5a.m.-art. For me personally, I wouldn’t have a lick of work to show for if I didn’t take risks. It’s not something one should really discuss or think about, it just is part of the whole picture.
People take shits, artists take risks.