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Brooklyn Street Art

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eL Seed and Jaye in New York Nomadically

Posted on May 6, 2013

Tunisian-French Street Artist eL Seed is in New York right now to showcase his unique hand at calligraffiti, a genre of graffiti that has steadily grown in the last few years as traditional graffiti writers have tried their hand at differently stylized executions of lettering. Together with Jaye, a more traditional graffiti writer from Tunisia, the country that began the Arab Spring two years ago, eL Seed is spraying a number of messages in his own adaptation of Arabic on walls in New York for just over a week.

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Born in Tunisia in the early 1980s and raised in Paris, the quick witted and thoughtful eL Seed calls well known calligraffiti artist Niels Shoe Meulman “a legend” and looks forward like a true fan to meeting Retna, even as his own painting exploits in the last couple of years include an enormous script on Tunisia’s tallest minaret, a high profile design gig with luxury brand Louis Vuitton, and a just completed 52 mural project on Salwa Road that features his own graffiti inspired calligraphy honoring Qatari culture and life.

“I spent nearly four months there, and painted almost one kilometer of wall,” he says of the project that traced his progress with a blog and enabled him to teach eager art college students how to use an aerosol can.

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As a culturally bi-national artist who travels increasingly often, it is fair to say eL Seed is one of the new Street Art nomads who now regularly travel from city to city across the globe hitting walls. Maybe that’s why New York feels normal to him.

“I feel like everybody is a nomad in New York. You come, stay, and you leave, you know?” he says while we stand across the street from the still-wet wall he is completing on the Lower East Side with Jaye. What does this hot pink curvilinear script edged in red with the dropped shadow say? “Yeah in Arabic it says ‘We should all be nomads. We should cross ideas the same way we cross streets and cities.’ ”  He sites the Cuban painter and poet Francis Picabia fro inspiring the text. The installation, and another one at 5 Pointz with Meres in Queens next weekend, are both part of “The World Nomads Tunisia” festival organized for the fifth time by the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF).

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I like a lot of pink and black,” he says as he surveys the new wall, which combines his stylized calligraphic lettering with the bubbled aesthetic of Jaye’s early graffiti style that many associate with NYC trains in the 70s. The new collaboration is just the sort of fusion that a multicultural city like New York is accustomed to, and one that it thrives on. “It is a good mix because we both represent a tradition of sorts. What I do is more related to very old traditions, what Jaye does is more relevant to our time, more modern. But the mix is a good combination, you know?”

Brooklyn Street Art: Have you experienced any negative reactions or attitudes while you have been painting?
eL Seed: I was a bit scared to come here and paint some Arabic after what happened in Boston, and actually people have been coming and treating me very well. They are totally open-minded and they accept it in a positive way. That is how we can break stereotypes. Some guys even said, “Yeah, we need more of that”. You know when a white American man comes to you and says, “I would like to see more of that”, you know, I say “Oh that’s cool”.

Brooklyn Street Art: Yeah it’s a good sign, right?
eL Seed: Yeah, it’s pretty good.

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This weekend you can check out a new wall eL Seed and Jaye will be doing in Long Island City at 5Pointz in collaboration with Meres One, one of New York’s well known graffiti writers and founder of the revered graffiti holy place. On Sunday May 12th you will have the opportunity to view their new work during a celebratory reception from 6-8pm at 5Pointz as well.

In the meantime they hope to hit a wall with the Bushwick Collective and maybe a couple of other walls this week before eL Seed heads back to Paris for two more walls waiting for him, including a project that’s already featured Shepard Fairey and most recently, C215. Also a nine story building by the river.

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I’m glad that in Paris they are finally accepting my work,” he says as he recalls his first attempts to get permission to paint walls in the city that prizes it’s unique culture and heritage. “Last year they said ‘We cannot have Arabic script in Paris,’ ” he recalls as he remembers having a hard time getting people to agree to his calligraffiti.

Why the seemingly sudden change in political winds, he cannot say for sure. One might guess that it has something to do with word getting around about his collaboration with Luis Vuitton, the French luxury brand that has collaborated recently with Street Art names like Aiko, Retna and Os Gemeos and has more on the roster for future projects.

Whatever the reason, he wants to take his game up a notch. “Now I have two big walls, so that is good.” How would he challenge himself? “Maybe I can develop a new alphabet,” he smiles.

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

eL Seed and Jaye (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The project is sponsored by The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) and offers opportunities for an exchange of ideas about urban revolutions.
To learn more about World Nomads Tunisia 2013, please click here.

 

A video from eL Seeds’ recently completed project in Doha in Qatar.

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