Day Of The Dead

Ready for His Closeup: Sweet Toof Sparkles at Factory Fresh

Sweet Toof Brings the Bling to Brooklyn

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A detail from Sweet Toof’s new show at Factory Fresh, opening tomorrow. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The London Street Artist Sweet Toof’s new show, “Dark Horse” at Factory Fresh opens wide to a mouthful of gleaming new pieces as the artist debuts his first New York show solo, having previously been a part of the Burning Candy Crew with Cyclops and Tek33.  A little frisky in the Brooklyn streets, we find that Sweet Toof is exploring more than the usual territory and challenging himself artistically, always with a healthy glob of humor.  Yes, the pink gums and pearly whites continue to have prominence in each piece, but their permutations progress at a dizzying pace.

brooklyn-street-art-sweet-toof-jaime-rojo-factory-fresh-gallery-04-11-web-1All along the gumline. Sweet Toof pimps the alley wall with some help from some friends from the hood. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Sweet Toof has developed a recurring motif that perambulates through periods and platforms – aerosol mural, oil painting, or theatrical prop –  with a certain frank guile and handmade disarming charm. Some of the new tableaus of madly grinning top-hatted drivers atop skeletal stallions are pure Dickensian wonder with animated allusions to extreme social conditions and the play of comically repulsive characters. Others touch on graffiti vocabulary and pop/advertising culture with cheerfully mocking glee, the winking enthusiasm and poppy color trumping your worries that it isn’t making any sense. All tolled, it’s a bit of a romp and a promise of tasty treats to come – and if you arrive early you’ll receive your own set of gold sweet teef atop a popsickle stick.

On the day we visited the gallery the place was a divine chaos of paint and construction materials, with works-in-progress laying on the floor waiting to be completed or hung. The partially lit space proved a helpful foil for the spooky pimped-out characters on the canvasses – the sort you wouldn’t trust with a bottle of milk.

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Sweet Toof . Come in. We are open. It is sweet inside. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Factory Fresh shopkeeper Mr. DeVille, looking very trim and sunny, murmured something about the current artist-in-residence being on a roof somewhere and after further inquiry, Mr. Toof appeared promptly with a warm and genial demeanor. After a brief tour we took to the street to watch him work. He told us a bit about his work and the upcoming show, after starting with the topic of weather of course.

Brooklyn Street Art: How has your experience been so far in Brooklyn?
Sweet Toof: I have really enjoyed it. The rain some days and then sun. But I can’t complain. I have just been eyeing out all these spots but yeah it has been really good. The weather has been very unpredictable but today is a beautiful day and I love Brooklyn.

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Sweet Toof . Detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Is there a difference between working in Brooklyn and working in London?
Sweet Toof: There is a little difference. I mean it’s quiet interesting. This is Bushwick and in London, in East London there is an area called Hackney Wick. That’s an area where a lot of people have been painting but they are cleaning it up now because of the Olympic buff – It is almost like a sister of Bushwick because of all the lofts spaces in warehouses and factories where people now live. So it is a similar type of vibe but I like the character here and the architecture.

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Sweet Toof . Detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: And the people?
Sweet Toof: Yeah I forgot the people…my experience with the people so far is that everyone is really friendly and it is almost like everyone seems to be willing to help and in London none really says hello but here people would say hello…you’re engaged. Brooklyn is more engaging even when you go to the shop and you have been there for a couple of times people recognize you and they start talking and so it feels quite like a community.

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Sweet Toof . Detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Tell us about the use of gold dust in your work. Have you always used it?
Sweet Toof: Yeah I have used it before on paintings. I’ve used gold pigment, I’ve been using quite a bit of glitter and gold dust just to give it a little bit of extra “bling”. I like that whole sparkly thing, the way the light hits it and it gives it just like another layer in a way. But I just like to mix things up. Even pearlescent paint and I like all sort of paint; oil paint, bucket paint, spray paint – I love it all. But the pearlescent glitter is just like another element within that. You know I think teeth are like jewelry anyway but just with that extra bling, you know when you see people’s teeth and are like pearls.

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Sweet Toof . Detail (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Have you been to the south of Mexico and seen the Day of the Dead festival?
Sweet Toof: No but I’m intending to go to Mexico quite soon. I’m fascinated with the Day of the Dead and all of that stuff. It is almost like it has been with me since art school. Since I came across the old woodcuts and the imagery of Guadalupe Posada. The thing I like in Mexico, unlike in England, is that they celebrate death and in early age you are given these candy sweets and they eat it. It’s almost like you enjoy your days and you sleep when you are dead in a way. But death is not just doom and gloom.

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Sweet Toof (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Sweet Toof. Work in progress (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Tell us about your sense of color. Where do you get your inspiration for bright colors?
Sweet Toof: England is very gray. I mean you do see color but I just sort of respond to the environment that I’m in but I love color anyway. When painting out on the streets I used to like the spontaneous part of it about not seeing your colors when you are painting in the dark. You’ve got a rough idea about what the colors are or you have written the colors on the can or you can see the tones in the dark, but then when you are in the studio and you are mixing your colors it’s almost like you have that whole understanding of color – and it’s the same in print making. You might look at the sky and you think “how I’m going to get that intensity?”  It is about looking at the contrast with all the different hues and understanding color, which I think, comes from oil painting a lot but also from mixing colors for the stuff on the streets as well so you understand how the colors work.

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Sweet Toof. Work in progress (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Would you like to talk a bit about you not being part of Burning Candy or is that a sore subject?
Sweet Toof: No, not really. I left last September on my own decision but I really wouldn’t want to go into the politics of it. I just got to the time where I had to get on with my own stuff. I wish them all the best and I wouldn’t want to bitch. I want to keep it simple and getting my head down.

Brooklyn Street Art: What would you like to happen on Friday at the gallery for your show?
Sweet Toof: I’d like for everyone to have a good time and enjoy. Bring people together and just let people mind their own minds about it. It’s one of those things where you never know how people would react to stuff but I want people to enjoy.

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Sweet Toof in Brooklyn with a roof top reflecting pool (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Sweet Toof transforms FF backyard with minty fresh breath (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dude is so tall you need a ladder to floss. Sweet Toof at Factory Fresh. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Sweet Toof. Action shot! (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Sweet Toof  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Sweet Toof’s party favor for the early birds at Factory Fresh (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Sweet Toof
“Dark Horse”

Opening April 29th, 7-10pm at Factory Fresh
On view till May 22nd, Gallery is open Wednesday – Sunday from 1-7pm

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Street Art And The Day Of The Dead

“Dia de los Muertos”

Skulls are everywhere on the street today, and here is a collection to mark The Day of the Dead. The commemoration of people who have passed is observed nation-wide in Mexico every year at this time. Although it is not a national holiday, the strictly religious and cultural observance is revered and, depending on the region, it varies in the ways in which the holiday is marked.

The cultural aspect of this holiday has inspired many artists, filmmakers and poets. Here we have selected images of Street Art culled from our library to mark the Dia de Los Muertos, focusing on the most prominent symbol used to represent this holiday: “Las Calaveras” or skulls.

PeruanaAnaperu (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

PeruanaAnaperu (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Imminent Disaster. Detail (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Imminent Disaster. Detail (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mexico’s  “Dia de los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead” takes place every year on November 2 to coincide with the catholic holiday of “El Dia de los Santos” or “All Saints Day”. The Day of the Dead is not the Mexican equivalent of Halloween. The Day of the Dead in Mexico is a celebration of Death and it does not carry any of the connotations of fear, fantasy and gore that Halloween does.

El Sol 25 (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

El Sol 25 (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

This religious and cultural holiday can be traced as long ago as 3000 years. Before the conquest of what’s now modern Mexico in the pre-Hispanic era the indigenous cultures celebrated death, rebirth and their ancestors by displaying human skulls as memento mori.

Gaia Channels Mexican Artist Jose Guadalupe Posada (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Gaia Channels Mexican Artist Jose Guadalupe Posada (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Booker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Booker (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Elbow Toe (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Elbow Toe (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

When the Spanish missionaries arrived more than 500 years ago they tried without success to eradicate such pagan and sacrilegious celebrations that seem to mock death while converting the indigenous people to Christianity. To the Spaniards death was the end of life but to the Aztecs it was a continuation of a journey not yet completed. The Aztecs embraced death and they celebrated it for the entire month of August, the ninth month of the Aztec Calendar, and the festivities were presided by the goddess Mictecacihuatl or “Lady of the Dead” presumed to have died at birth.

Spazmat/Skullphone (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Spazmat/Skullphone (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The Spaniards were met with fierce resistance in their attempts to vanish the rituals so in frustration they sought and found a common ground with the natives by moving the pagan rituals to coincide with the Catholic holiday of “El Dia de los Santos” or “All Saints Day” on November 2.

Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Modern Mexicans remember their friends and family members that have departed from life by honoring them with extravagant festivities that, depending in the region might include lavish offerings or “ofrendas” in private altars in the cemeteries at the tombs of their loved ones and/or at home. It is a day of celebration and many people elect to stay overnight at the cemetery for prayer, and remembrance but partying, eating and drinking is encouraged and expected always following the norms of respect and decorum for the defunct.

Look at that Bunny! (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Look at that Bunny! (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ludo (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Ludo (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

These “ofrendas” or gifts include the most favored dishes, foods and beverages that their loved ones enjoyed while alive. They also include photos and other personal mementos of the deceased ones. The “ofrendas” are meant to be eaten and shared by the relatives and friends of the departed and sometimes they are very elaborate five course dinners. Other times the relatives might choose to have a daytime picnic at the cemetery and return to their homes at dusk. The “ofrendas” are believed to nurture and help the souls of the dead while in their journey to heaven.

Some people use this day to just take their customary once a year trip to the cemetery to clean and maintain the tomb of their loved ones.

Y The Fuiste (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Y Te Fuistes  (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Regardless of the singular cultural distinction of each region two symbols are common throughout the country: “La Calavera” or The Sugar Skull and “La Catrina” or The Skeleton Lady. The Skulls can be made of sugar and chocolate and often are inscribed with the recipient’s names and are gifts to both the living and the dead. There is also “El Pan de Muertos” or “Bread of the Dead” which Mexicans give as gifts to the visiting relatives for their journey back home.

It is said that Mexicans not only celebrate death they also eat it.

Sweet Toof (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Sweet Toof (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Dr. Hoffman (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Dr. Hoffman (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Smilee (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Smilee (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Faile (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

PMP (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

PMP (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Matt Siren (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Matt Siren (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Viki (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Viki (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Main Banner image credit: Jose Guadalupe Posada “Gran Calavera Eléctrica” Courtesy Library of Congress.

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