Street Talker Interview

“Chicago Street Art” Debuts with an Exhibition and a Book

Author Joseph J. Depre has been traveling around the world to photograph and write about Street Art for the last few years and and when he returned to his hometown of Chicago he rediscovered his love and appreciation for the art in the streets of his city. The images in his first book just released give a very good documentation of the current scene while his essays are personal, poetic and passionate.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-CHICAGO-STREET-ART-bookOpening tomorrow at the Chicago Urban Art Society is a retrospective of work by many of the artists on that scene today.  With brand new works curated in this not-for-profit gallery environment developed by Lauren Pacheco and Peter Kepha, visitors will have the chance to see the Street Art talent that is growing in their community, including pieces by Artillary, Bonus Saves, Brooks Golden, Chris Silva, CLS, Senor Codo, Cody Hudson, CRO, Cyro, Chris Diers, Don’t Fret, Emen, 80 Legs, Tom Fennell IV, “It’s Yours, Take It”, Goons, The Grocer, Juan Angel Chavez, Kepto Salem, Melt, Nick Adam, Oscar Arriola, Poor Kid, Safety First, Saro, Sighn, Solve, Tiptoe, The Viking, You are Beautiful, among others. More information about the show at the end of the post.


Debuting his book “Chicago Street Art” for the first time at the opening, Mr. Dupre is very excited to see the show come to fruition after nearly a year of planning. Brooklyn Street Art asked him about the Chicago scene today and his new book and he gives us some insights here. We also had an opportunity to shoot some art on the streets of Chicago last month – see photos by Jaime Rojo after the interview.

Brooklyn Street Art: How long have you been preparing this book “Chicago Street Art”?
Joseph Depre:
I originally had the idea for a book on Chicago Street Art when I started to integrate into the Chicago Street Art community in 2004. I think that is about the time I started writing. I was fascinated by these unique artists and was lucky enough to be able to talk openly with a good number of them, bounce ideas off the artists and they helped me refine my thoughts. As I traveled I was able to get together with Street Artists in cities like New York, Berlin, Barcelona, and Sao Paulo. After experiencing the Street Art in these cities and got back to the States my thoughts reflected back to Chicago and the incredible history of Street Art we have here and I thought it was important to give Chicago the recognition it deserves. So I’ve sent the last 9 months talking to all of the Artists and putting this all together.

brooklyn-street-art-chicago-street-art-Solve-Combo-Oscar-Arriola-webBrendan “Solve” Scanlon (photo courtesy of the author © Oscar Arriola) from “Chicago Street Art”


Brendan “Solve” Scanlon (photo courtesy of the author © Oscar Arriola) from “Chicago Street Art”

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you introduce us to the Chicago Street Art scene at this moment from an artist and creative perspective?
Joseph Depre: I won’t be so forward to say I can tell you anything from an artist perspective, but as a conscious observer I can say there are a lot of good things happening in Chicago at the moment. Nice-One seems have refined his characters with an air-brush technique that looks really nice. Don’t Fret has really been putting in his time and effort. His characters are always fun and expressive. He’s turning into to a great storyteller. Mental 312 has been hitting the streets hard and doing some really beautiful work. He’s one of my favorite artists right now.


TipToe (photo courtesy of the author) from “Chicago Street Art”

Brooklyn Street Art: Chicago has a very active anti-graffiti program, which cleans or “buffs” pieces, good and not so good, quickly with brown paint. Can you talk about how Street Artists have responded to the efficient and rapacious pace of buffing?
Joseph Depre:
Most of the Street Artist I know really hate the buff and attribute the fact that Chicago has so little international Street Art respect to “the buff.” But all of these Artists just work harder in spite of the Buff. In New York one piece can stay up for years, in the Chicago the Street Artist has to do 20 pieces just to stay up through the season.

Brooklyn Street Art: Street Artists like Chris Silva and Cody Hudson have gone beyond two-dimensional painted works to create sometimes expansive sculptural set installations. Do you see more stuff like this around Chicago these days?
Joseph Depre:
Oh Yeah. The first artist that comes to mind is CLS. It is really amazing what he has been able with scraps of wood and branches he finds on the street.


Photo courtesy of the author (© Thomas Fennell IV) from “Chicago Street Art”

Brooklyn Street Art: Borrowing a tenet from the flash mob street manifestations of the last decade, Street Artists like BonusSaves devised something called “It’s Yours, Take It”. Can you talk about this practice of giving art to the public and how it has become an international programmatic approach to engaging communities?
Joseph Depre: The Internet has really helped out with this. Through sites like Flickr, BonusSaves is able to organize and direct hundreds of people from all over the place. All with the same state of mind and love of giving art to people and bringing communities together through gifting creativity. But it is not solely his doing… All the artists really believe in the idea and have been running installations in cities all over the world all by themselves. It really is a testament to the power of people to come together and do something really good just for the sake of doing something good.

brooklyn-street-art-chicago-street-art-Nice-One-Let-It-Rain- Chris-Diers-web

Nice One (photo courtesy of the author © Chris-Diers) from “Chicago Street Art”

Brooklyn Street Art: You dedicate a few pages of your book to the occurrence of a piece attributed to London Street Artist Banksy on a wall in Chicago, and the response of the city and other street artists to it. Is there such a thing as a “Banksy Revolution”?
Joseph Depre: I cannot say what Banksy’s actual intent is – only he knows what that is. For my part, I hope he’s attempting a revolution. If not then we are all the butt of a pretty sick joke. I also hope that he doesn’t get discouraged, I think people are just starting to listen. Maybe not the people who were introduced to Street Art through “Exit, Through the Gift Shop” but others.


Mental 312 (photo courtesy of the author © Thomas Fennell IV) from “Chicago Street Art”

Brooklyn Street Art: What do you think distinguishes the Chicago scene and why do you feel an affinity for it?
Joseph Depre:
Other than Chicago being my home and my introduction to Street Art, I think there are quite a few things that distinguish it from the rest of the world. The sculptural history exemplified by the likes of Juan “Angel” Chavez, Cody Hudson, and Chris Silva would be a good place to start. The other thing is that all of the artists are personally close here. Everyone knows everyone. They don’t just meet up at shows and events but talk on a regular basis and are invested in each others’ lives and success.

Brooklyn Street Art had the fortune to be in Chicago for a day recently where photographer Jaime Rojo got an afternoon to run around shooting as much as he could find. Brooklyn artist Gaia had recently been in the city and he left some nice gifts for the Chicago art lovers to enjoy.  The images below are from that visit to Chicago and are not a part of the book “Chicago Street Art”


Mars Dynamo (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Gaia’s tribute to photographer Martha Cooper (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Gaia (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Gaia (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)


“Left Handed Wave” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Artist Unknown (photo © Jaime Rojo)


“Left Handed Wave” (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Buffer Chicago Style (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Chicago Urban Art Society, 2229 South Halsted. The show will run until June 4.

Book Cover Artist: Chris Sliva

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Ready for His Closeup: Sweet Toof Sparkles at Factory Fresh

Sweet Toof Brings the Bling to Brooklyn


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


Sweet Toof (photo © Jaime Rojo)


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.


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.


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


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


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


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


Sweet Toof  (photo © Jaime Rojo)


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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Isaac Cordal’s Miniature Magic Moments in the Real World

Fairy tales mash fantastic with ordinary, playing with perceptions of both. Street Artist and public artist Isaac Cordal lives in these two worlds and finds one that is a waking dreamscape. The fastidious and attentive scene maker somehow brings his little cement people alive by placing them in the real world; creating a new context where his figures take on stirring, humorous, nearly profound qualities.

“This is a project I’ve been working on since 2006. I make small sculptures with cement and many times when I go out these small sculptures come with me. Public space has become their habitat,” explains Cordal.


Isaac Cordal. Survivors. Anvers. Belgium. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)

Recalling our childlike ability to transform everyday locations into kingdoms, realms, domains, and enchanted lands, Cordal impeccably places vignettes into ordinary settings. His miniature gray mortar people are often being wronged by totally evil monsters, human and animal but are frozen for you to study the dynamics at play. The portraits that emerge of his somewhat battered and banal humans plodding through life occur in a multitude of scenes: Here we have a picnic. Over there we see a wedding, a funeral. Sometimes his sculptures are in a kitchen or in a living room. Other times they are outdoors waiting in line to go to work, to buy consumer goods, or to be ground like hamburger in the wheels of The Machine.


Isaac Cordal. Survivors. Anvers. Belgium. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)

Most recently Mr. Cordal has created ‘survivors’ who inhabit an environmentally taxed and burdened world, continually expecting toxic fumes or airborne viruses to invade their lungs. His cement fairies in these urban settings are stoic protagonists of our eternal misadventures, progeny of our excess. The lucky passerby who stumbles upon his vignette may be moved by its stoicism, may pause at the effort of an artist who creates such a scenario in the middle of their everyday, and may smile at the wit.

Brooklyn Street Art: There is a distinct uniformity the appearance of your little people – is the uniformity a metaphor for conformist thinking and behavior?
Isaac Cordal: I make copies of many of my pieces using molds. By repeating the same model in series I manufacture a prototype that represents a collective identity. I am interested in representing prototypes that represent human beings in modernity. I try to do scenes that summarize recognizable behavior patterns.


Isaac Cordal. Survivors. Anvers. Belgium. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)

Brooklyn Street Art: Sometimes the staged scenes have elements of comedy and light heartedness. Does the process feel like play for you?
Isaac Cordal: I think my friends have begun to be worried about me. I really take it seriously and I always am perusing the streets with an unusual amount of interest. A couple of days ago, I was climbing a wall and suddenly the wall collapsed; I was very lucky because nothing serious happened. It was a curious situation because my mother was visiting me and she was the person who was helping me with my installation. I felt as if I was a child in the wrong place.


Isaac Cordal. Survivors. Anvers. Belgium. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)

Brooklyn Street Art: With clever placement, the figures interact in the man made and natural environment in a surrealist way.  Do you have any favorite surrealist painters?
Isaac Cordal: The world we have created is very surreal in itself. There are strong doses of surrealism in our society. Regarding Surrealism as a painting movement, I always liked Dali. Recently I quite liked the photo project The Architect’s Brother.


Isaac Cordal. Survivors. Anvers. Belgium. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)


Isaac Cordal. “Naure of the Zone” Brussels. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)


Isaac Cordal. “Naure of the Zone” Brussels. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)


Isaac Cordal. “Naure of the Zone” Brussels. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)


Isaac Cordal. “Another Cement Island” Brussels. 2011. (photo © Isaac Cordal)


Mr. Cordal’s new monograph Cement Eclipses: Small Interventions in the Big City will come out this spring, published by Carpet Bombing Culture.


To learn more about this book click on the link below:


Read our article on Isaac Cordal last September in The Huffington Post :

Little Cement Urbanites: Isaac Cordal’s Street Art Installations

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Creepy Gets Way Up in NYC

The Australian Street Artist Does a New Wall in Brooklyn (Video)

He calls it narrative-driven character-based folk art, and Street Artist Kyle Hughes-Odgers AKA Creepy has been taking his skinny armed and legged people to walls around the world since he started doing work on the street in 2005. Not uncommon for artists who work on the street, Creepy didn’t initially have any idea how to get his stuff into a gallery so his real audience began when he started hitting walls.  Now New Yorkers are getting a chance to see the tightly droll and clean Creepy aesthetic.

brooklyn-street-art-creepy-jaime-rojo-03-11-web-1Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Comfortable with tiny canvasses and massive walls installations, the startlingly sane Creepy had a pretty banner year in 2010 with his first solo show at Turner Galleries in his home town of Perth, including over 100 pieces on wood and 8 large works on canvas. He also painted for weeks on a commission for Murdock University’s art collection; a 7 piece project of large panels totalling 150 ft in length (45 meters) when finished. As the year ended he had some fun in Sydney with the Lo-Fi Collective on a show called “Microcosm” with Beastman, Max Berry, and Phibs.


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Now he’s in New York for a visit to really get the rhythm of the street, meet cool peeps and hit up walls (and a van) while doing some sight seeing with his lady. Brooklyn Street Art had the opportunity to watch Creepy work with cans last week on a new piece in the BK that speaks of his signature brand of whimsy, and his affinity for textural patterns, symbols, and shapes. Peculiar and blithe, his illustrated characters go solo or hang out in pairs usually, contemplating ennui or maybe heavier thoughts, but somehow you can’t feel too dark looking at the playful juxtapositions and color palettes.


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Kind of cold up on the roof, no? Were you expecting it to be so cold?
Creepy: Freezing! I couldn’t bend my fingers at the end of the day.

Brooklyn Street Art: What is the inspiration for this piece?
Creepy: Currently my new works are based on ideas of burden, memory and nostalgia. I was trying to show a sinking feeling of lost time or of being somewhere else in your head apart from the immediate reality. I’m thinking of great moments of the past that you could never replicate – that kind of thing.


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Your sense of color, proportion, and geometry are excellent. Would you describe your style as being illustrative?
Creepy: I’m not sure – color and balance are really important to me. I came from a drawing background but I would rather paint these days. A lot of illustrators seem like painters to me. I don’t know what the different rules are that make you an illustrator or a painter.


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You like using patterns, and you sometimes you go back replace the pattern on part of the piece with something new. What are you evoking with the mix of shapes and colors?
Creepy: I like the idea that many smaller details (patterns) in life exist individually but make up a much larger picture or story, and each tiny detail is just as important as the next. They need each other to make up the bigger idea – like a city or a personality. Sometimes I replace the pattern while painting if I feel like the color balance is not quite right.

Brooklyn Street Art: We’ve seen a lot of monsters and women in your figurative pieces. Are they favorite topics?
Creepy: I just try to tell stories in my work from ideas and events I have experienced in life. Sometimes those stories need creatures, women and men.


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Thematically, where do you draw your inspiration?
Creepy: From dreams, memory and the harsh and humorous everyday.

Brooklyn Street Art: How has your visit to New York been? Have you seen any interesting art?
Creepy: It’s been such a great trip and really interesting. Scope/Volta/Armory week was on when I first arrived and I got tickets to those events (thanks to you guys!) which was a rocket launch into the NYC art world. I have seen a lot of inspiring works in galleries and on the street. My friend Sean Morris was in NYC for his show at Bold Hype in Chelsea, so it was great to be able to go to his exhibition as well.


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You have done tiny little 2 inch square pieces and massive building size mural installations. What size do you prefer to work in?
Creepy: I like working on all scales. It’s nice to get outside and paint massive works and then switch it up and head into the studio and do a small painting with tiny brushes.

Brooklyn Street Art:What are you going to try to do before you leave?
Creepy: Hopefully a couple more paints. I went to a Knicks game the other night so that pretty much made my year – even though they lost.


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Creepy (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With a special thanks to Kara Peacock for her time lapse of the installation.

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AVOID PI: Street Art, Graff, Fine Art, and Pantheon

In a few weeks the former Donnell Library on 53rd Street across from MoMA will be host to a grassroots funded and curated historical view of New York’s art from the streets. That phrase is specifically chosen by the show’s curators, Joyce Manalo and Daniel Feral, as an inclusive term for all manner of public art on the streets here since the 70s including graffiti and Street Art.  A show visible through the giant windows from the street, Pantheon will feature live performance as well as installation, printed materials for you to read about history, guerilla librarians, and incognito street docents – a sparkling job description that sounds like a naughty librarian fantasy involving Julie Andrews.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Copyright-AVOID-nowhereaction-CRAvoid “Nowhere Action” (photo © Chelsea Ragan)

We recently spoke with one of the exhibiting artists of Pantheon who goes by the name Adam Void (or AVOID pi) and who plumbs the murky depths between fine art, graffiti, and Street Art with no apparent desire to align himself with any one of them. An experimenter and explorer, a lot of his early stuff looks clearly like a small survey of graffiti’s modern vocabulary. Sometimes raw gestural markings with perhaps cryptic meaning, his love for symbolism, data, abstraction, wordplay, and a recently begun formal art education all are a swirl inside his head. Where it all settles will be a surprise to everyone, including him. This search also seems emblematic of the moment.


Avoid “Everything Small” (photo © Mike Sachse)

A wisenheimer of the highest order, he describes himself this way; “AVOID likes to take long walks on the beach, riding freight trains, and destroying the dominant paradigm.” We’ll just say that he’s a rebel inquisitively looking for a cause, making art along the way.


Avoid “Do I Have a Voice” (photo © Mike Sachse)

Mr. Void spoke with Brooklyn Street Art about labeling art movements and the current state of a very fluid story of art on the streets and in the galleries.

Brooklyn Street Art: As you look at the evolution of graffiti and street art some people have observed that there appears to be an erosion of once distinct practices. Where do you see these two going at the moment?
AVOID: The distinctions between the two genres are disappearing. Graffiti Artists are becoming multi-media with the inclusion of zines, posters, stickers, rollers and blasters into the already full table of tags, throws and pieces. Street Artists are experimenting with the use and importance of signatures as well as expanding into sculpture and video. Both groups have a dialogue on the streets and in their personal lives. Recently Graffiti and Street Artists have shown their fine art together with many big name art world’ers at big name galleries. This is an exciting time for the intermixing of worlds.


Avoid ADH (photo © Chelsea Ragan)

Brooklyn Street Art: Is it crucial to the understanding or appreciation of someone’s work to describe it as Graffiti or Street Art or Fine Art?
Often times the artist’s intentions are misunderstood. I personally enjoy the ability to make a painting either in the street or in a gallery and not have to explain the meaning, to have it remain an enigma. A word or phrase can be interpreted a million different ways by a million different viewers. Am I a Graffiti Writer, a Street Artist, a Fine Artist, a Musician, a Writer, a Filmmaker, or am I just an artist? This is decided by the context the work is seen and the viewer’s interpretation.


Adam Void, “Luckystrike”, a work in progress. Detail (photo © Avoid)

Brooklyn Street Art:What role does Street Art play in New York today?
Well, if anything, Street Art has allowed for the illumination of the giants of my personal history. Through shows like PANTHEON as well as 112 Greene St. and many others, the once unsung heroes of graffiti’s past are coming to light, thankfully while many of the writers are still alive to see it happen.


A rather painterly painting by Mr. Adam Void, “Seaside”; a brand new collaboration with Ryan Neely. Detail (photo © Avoid)

Brooklyn Street Art: How has your artwork changed in the last year?
AVOID: The literal “street” art of Brooklyn and NYC has been replaced by spotwork on Baltimore’s abandoned spaces, freight trains and track sides. I get more time to experiment as well as a chance to hang out and soak up some mental space. I am continuing to not categorize my work. I’m just making what I want, when I want, where I want.

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3 days left to Support Pantheon – if they don’t hit 5K, they lose it all. @pantheonnyc #streetart
Please help Daniel and Joyce, the curators of “Pantheon” by donating to the Kickstarter Campaign. They are very close to reach their goal and you can make this happen. With only less than three days left on the Kickstarter timer your involvement is crucial. Click on the link below and please give:

PANTHEON extends its gratitude to its Media Partner Brooklyn Street Art, it’s Media Sponsors , Hyperallergic, The Street Spot, Gothamist, Streetsy; the Exhibition Sponsors WM Dorvillier & Company, Inc.; Crescent ArtistsConveyor Arts. Special thanks to the Woodward Gallery, NYC for the loan of Richard Hambleton’s, Fountain of Youth, 1982.

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A New Clown Comes to Town : Clown Soldier in Studio

All the World is a Circus! Says I.

brooklyn-street-art-clown-soldier-jaime-rojo-03-11-web-10Clown Soldier Silk Screen (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Jugglers, acrobats, trapeze artists, bareback riders, high wire walkers and of course the stern Ringmaster to smartly sharply keep them all on task.  Enter the clown, bobbing along on the stage periphery, gamely plumbing audience notions of propriety for absurdity.

Winter sun floods the old factory stable, crowded with tall boards, small canvasses, art and history books stacked on handmade shelves, multiple screens leaning 5 deep against a light table.  An oblong work table with flat files underneath holds myriad constellations of actual clip art arranged and stuck together in endless combinations on rolled paper. For the first public interview with the Clown Soldier you’ll have to gingerly squeeze yourself into the unkempt low-fi cyborg factory, lest you knock something off a nail.  Once you are in, the merrymaking is evident, and so is the well studied industry behind the images.


Clown Soldier Silk Screen (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Since Clown Soldier first appeared, people have wondered what the hell it is, and what it means. The incongruity of a military jester in cool poppy color standing 8 feet tall amidst a field of detritus on walls across the city has mystified a number of Street Art watchers. Behind each image is 15 years of fine art, academic study, fascination with chance and experimentation. The collage process is not haphazard, but it is part divination. In the end, the work of Clown Soldier it is about the absurdity of the world and engaging the spirit of play and discovery.

(Ed Note: For people in town to see the art fairs – the most recent piece by Clown Soldier can be viewed right now at the Fountain Art Fair on West 26th Street floating on the Hudson River.)

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you think that people realize what goes into making your work for the street?
Clown Soldier:
No I think that when they see it they think that it’s a computer printout. They probably think that I scanned in the image, blew it up to 8 feet and printed it out in two seconds at Kinkos.  And they might say, “Where is the art in that? Where is the skill?”


Clown Soldier The screened image. Work in progress (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Clown Soldier in the wild. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So what do you do, how do you make these, what is the process?
Clown Soldier:
I start with collage. I cut up thousands and thousands of pieces of imagery until something works. What’s great about collage is you come with things that you wouldn’t come up with if you were drawing.  So you cut up all these fragments, you know – it’s inspired by (William) Burroughs and it goes back to Picasso right? Anyway that process, you cut up these things and you put them together and not in a million years I would put these things together or come up with… so when I find this gem, this absurd thing.

There was a photographer who’s name I can’t remember right now who said that they felt like they were Richard Dreyfus in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”  –  He’s got “Devils Mountain” in his mind.  And he’s making Devil’s Mountain with his mashed potatoes his family thinks he’s crazy. And he’s ripping apart his house and he takes everything including the garbage and makes this Devil’ Mountain in his living room. It’s like he knows something – he’s like “this is something” – he’s channeling something…… And that’s what I feel like when I’m cutting up the stuff. I’m channeling something. Something is there and I’m going after it. And I’m not exactly sure what it is.


Clown Soldier Detail of a finished canvas (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How would you characterize that something? Is it the creative spirit? Electicity.
Clown Soldier:
I don’t know. It’s beyond anything I can comprehend. I mean I’m cutting up things and something happens and you can’t believe you created this thing and it didn’t exist a minute ago. These two objects that you put together and it didn’t seem like it worked yet and you are making a realization.  I was originally inspired by (Max) Ernst and the idea of automatism.  So you get at the subconscious. So I’m getting at my ideas and it doesn’t look contrived. I really don’t like work that is contrived and as a painter I worked that way and I worked through color and form and I like when it just evolves naturally.


Clown Soldier. Silk Screened images in progress for Fountain Art Fair (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Clown Soldier collage in the wild (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You mentioned Burroughs and I think of him and I wonder, did he just accept the outcome of the process or did he select his favorite outcome?
Clown Soldier:
That’s a good question, I mean he and Brion Gysin were working a lot with chance. I mean I think in a way they were very similar to the Da-Da-ists in the 1910s but I think that they were trying to push it much farther.  I don’t think they were selecting their preferred outcome, and I think that would be a difference between me and Burroughs process because I am only taking the cream of the crop from what I make and then it becomes really powerful to me.

But also there is a consistent absurdity to me of all the work. There’s a sense of humor. I feel like there is a whimsical quality and my sense of humor comes across.  But it’s the same strangeness, same absurdity. Writing is not my strength, and I can’t nail down exactly what it is saying.  It’s beyond that, beyond words for me.  Maybe if I actually found out what this about maybe it would not be interesting for me or for other people.


Clown Soldier. Collage  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Can you describe, for someone who hasn’t done it before, how do you make a screenprint.
Clown Soldier: That’s cool, that’s a good question. Basically you start with making a film, a positive transparency, a photocopy on a transparency for example.  The way the screen printing process works is you have different meshes of screens, and it can go from 80 mesh to 300 mesh for example. So 80 mesh is not that tight a weave,  and the higher you go, the tighter you go and the smaller the squares formed by the weave.  It’s like thread counts, or in Photoshop you have different resolutions, or dpi. Same thing with screen printing.

Then you take silk that is stretched on your frame and you coat it with a photo-sensitive emulsion and put it on a light table with the film you made. Wherever the light goes through and hits the emulsion, it hardens. The light doesn’t go through where the black is, so the emulsion stays soft and it washes out with a water hose. So that’s it.

Brooklyn Street Art: So each Clown Soldier is made of three screens?
Clown Soldier:
It’s like 7 screens for each one! I mean, the thing is, it takes me a whole day to make a clown soldier. People don’t realize that. I have to print the head and then dry it with a hair dryer and then print the next section because they’re tiled together and then I paint it – the skull cap, the lips, the blue of the suit, and the yellow belt. Then I cut it out. So, yeah, the whole process takes a day. And people look at it for 2 seconds. I think they can tell it’s hand rendered.  There’s a lot of time and effort put into it.brooklyn-street-art-clown-soldier-jaime-rojo-03-11-web-5

Clown Soldier. Collage in progress. Detail  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You know what people would want to know the most – What is the significance of the Clown Soldier? The name? The image that goes with it?
Clown Soldier:
I’ve been thinking a lot about that. Originally I liked it because I was watching this movie “Bomb It” and there were a bunch of Street Artists who were talking about being soldiers of the street. Not that I compare myself to people who jump into trains or over fences and risk their lives in that way. But I feel like every time you go out on the street you put yourself at risk so you are sort of soldier. In no way do I want to compare myself to a real soldier and I highly respect real soldiers. I really thought of it like; The incongruity of it was interesting to me – just having the two names combined – clown and soldier – is an oxymoron.  But about the clown portion; I want to know when did clowns get a bad rap? It’s like everybody thinks clowns are scary. I tell people my tag and they say, “Clowns are scary”.  I mean, in no way do I think that that clown is scary. I mean when Picasso did it everybody loved it.

Brooklyn Street Art: But his clowns were more like a harlequin, though.
Clown Soldier: That’s the thing though he sort of looks like a harlequin. What’s the difference between a harlequin and a clown?

Brooklyn Street Art: I think a harlequin is this sort of foppish character from a royal court, maybe from the Renaissance.
Clown Soldier: Oh, maybe he’s more like a harlequin. I was thinking about myself more like a clown. I definitely connect with this image of a clown soldier.  For me it had no political connotation – I certainly respect soldiers and I don’t want to give the wrong idea about that.

Brooklyn Street Art: It’s about the absurdity of the pairing.
Clown Soldier: Yeah, the absurdity! It’s obviously such an innocent image, I think. It’s also interesting that he has a Dutch ruffle, a French Revolution uniform, and a clown head. It’s three different cultures and time periods.


Clown Soldier. Work on paper in progress  (photo © Clown Soldier)

Brooklyn Street Art: It’s like someone got lost in a costume shop, trying on different things.
Clown Soldier: Right, that’s what it is like for me. I’m trying different things, combinations, having fun. I think life is a circus.  Like this Fountain Fair is a circus.

Brooklyn Street Art: So what has your experience been like at the fair so far? What are you going to do while you are there?
Clown Soldier:
Well, I’ve been looking at a lot of circus imagery and I think that is a direction I’m going to be going in. I’m going to try to create a piece that looks kind of like those banners you see going into a circus.  Like those banners that advertise ‘freaks’ – a culmination of things you’d see on the way into the circus.  I want to make it look very circus like.

Brooklyn Street Art: I always think of what Fountain does as a kind of punk circus.
Clown Soldier:
It is. It’s avant-garde. I love what John and David do. I think that they are incredible guys because they put so much into it and it’s amazing what they are able to achieve in such a short amount of time.  They take this boat, canvas it with a tent, which is a huge feat, put walls all around it and get all these different galleries, set it up, and then throw this incredible party. You know? I mean they get a lot of help from their friends but basically they do it themselves and I’m like, “How do they do this?”  and it winds up being a success.


Clown Soldier. “beef, bef,” An early work  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Clown Soldier’s work will be on display at Fountain Art Fair in New York City. To read more about Fountain click on the link below:

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H.Veng Smith Solo At Pandemic: Studio Visit And Interview

Aerosol, Arsenic and Squared-Jawed Vikings

Forging Identity in “Identifiable Reality”

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-1“Visual Thought”, by H. Veng Smith (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A traditional A-frame wooden easel smacked up with street art stickers sits in a tiny pitched roof attic studio. The focused artist sits, poised brush in hand, staring intently at his palette of carefully selected and mixed pigments with linseed oil, deciding how to recreate a spray painted tag by Street Artist Dark Cloud onto the stone walled bridge in his canvas.

“With these pieces I’m more interested in trying to have fun with them. I want to give you a reality, but at the same time an alternate reality,” so explains Veng of Robots Will Kill, now H. Veng Smith.  The name itself indicates his desire to consolidate two extremes in his career so far – “Veng” from his days as a graff/street artist and member of the New York collective Robots Will Kill – and the formal name “H. Smith” under which he first showed his finely rendered oils on canvas.

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-2Detail from “Visual Thought”, by H. Veng Smith (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As Veng painted canvasses over 3 months for his first solo show as a “Street Artist” on display indoors at Pandemic Gallery this Friday, he found himself again reconciling his two distinct interests – graff culture and the Dutch Masters. Looking at the oil painting of a survey of the expanse of a river alongside a non-descript European town from perhaps a few centuries ago, you see he has included tags from Street Artists circa 2010 like ECB, Chris from RWK, and Dark Cloud on walls in the village.

Brooklyn Street Art: I like the way that you pay homage to street artists and graffiti artists in these formal, painterly, old-world settings

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-19Veng: That to me is the ideal world. I really enjoy that piece because it mixes the things that I like all in one. It’s got the street art, which I like, it’s got the graffiti, which I like, it’s got some modern conveniences like trucks moving because obviously you need to drive. I don’t want to be sitting around with a horse and buggy or something. Airplanes…. I like my laptop.  At the same time I like the simple quiet old times, and the ideas of them, the old buildings.  You know if you look at the city today I don’t think it looks as nice as it did a hundred years ago or in the 1800’s.  If you go to some of the old Brooklyn or Manhattan buildings, you see that they’re beautiful. And the Manhattan skyline is beautiful too – it’s world-famous obviously. But I’m for classy, rustic, old world aesthetics. And I hope that’s what you get when you look at these pieces.

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-4“Jerome”, by H. Veng Smith (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Identifiable Reality”, his first solo show as a Street Artist will showcase his own version of reality, which is to say, fictional.

Brooklyn Street Art: What does the title of the show refer to?
Veng: Just to all the pieces in the show that are realistic – you know what you are looking at, nothing is abstract in the design. But at the same time the ideas are a little abstract. You don’t usually see somebody with a hat made of books on their head with candles.  Even though the candles on the hat is a realistic idea, because in olden days they would put candles on their hats for visibility to paint at night.  Michelangelo and Goya both wore hats with candles when they were painting. A lot of people assume that this is all fantasy but it is not completely fantasy.

Brooklyn-Street-Art-Goya- Self-Portrait in the Workshop, 1795Goya’s ” Self-Portrait in the Workshop”, 1795, shows the artist with candles in his hat. (Courtesy Museo de la Real Academia de Bellas Artes, Madrid)

Out the open hinged window comes the sound of two Black-capped Chickadees calling each other in the branches of the blazing fall yellow trees. The conversation turns to the poker-faced man who appears throughout his giant street pieces and in these smaller canvasses. Veng calls the reappearing ever morphing costume-changing dude his “character”, and his blunt center stage presence is always beguiling with a hint of the comic.  Truthfully, these “characters” are all probably versions of Veng, exhibiting different qualities of his own character, if  only slyly.


Detail of “Jerome”, by H. Veng Smith (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: In a lot of your work there is a healthy dose of humor, however subtle.
Veng: Yeah – I wouldn’t consider it too serious. It’s kind of playful.

Brooklyn Street Art: Your character for example; It’s got this expression in this piece. What is that expression? Is he tasting a sour lemon?
Veng: He’s an unhappy Viking. You know, he’s plundering and he’s just not in the best of times I guess.

Brooklyn Street Art: I’ve noticed the shape of the face of the character has now become completely square, even with corners now.
Veng: I started off doing a more circular shape and I like it because it is recognizable and I always want to stick to more simple shapes, and I like them to be unrealistic. So no matter how realistically you paint an eye or a nose, no matter what you ever do to it, it is never going to look real because the shape alone is going to kill that for you totally.  I would never use, say, a triangle or something.  I like the idea of having that clean edge circular or square shape to break up the reality that you might otherwise get.  I think it separates it from other things that are going on.  I could sit here and do all of these with more realistic facial proportions but I feel like, for me, it would take out some of the fun of the character.

Brooklyn Street Art: And in fact, the character is fun.
Veng: Yeah, you look at first and it almost looks “identifiable” but then you realize it’s completely square. You take away the eyes and nose …..

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-11(image © Jaime Rojo)

For a minute you forget you are talking to a well known aerosol wielding Brooklyn Street Artist in this cozy Staten Island hideaway. It’s stillness is free of clutter and there are neatly stacked glass jars of pigment, oils, a mortar and pestle. Reconciling these two worlds must be work in itself.

Brooklyn Street Art: Recently there was a show at 17 Frost Gallery with Erik Burke & Cahil Muraghu where they married graffiti techniques and vocabulary with the Hudson School of painting.  When I saw some of their pieces I was impressed and I was also thinking of the way that you are marrying two styles are a few centuries apart from one another.
You know if you look at the books I have on my shelf, people usually get a kick out of it because there will be a Chuck Close book next to a book on Jan van Eyck, or some Dutch guy. I personally find great interest in all of them and I reference them and I think when you can combine them using creativity it is a great luxury. Technique-wise, we have a lot to learn from the past.

Brooklyn Street Art: I’ve heard you talk before about having within your style these polar opposites and you’ve withstood some criticism from people like your peers for example. When you were doing graff on the street and you started to do Street Art based stuff – let alone Dutch Masters influenced pieces- what were some of the responses you were getting?
Veng: It’s definitely been tougher from the graffiti crowd than the Street Art crowd. But the graffiti crowd, especially here in New York, has loosened up on it’s ideas basically due to a lot of Europeans coming over doing graffiti too.  The graffiti scene was always sort of A-B-C-D.

Brooklyn Street Art: In what way?
Veng: You spray paint, you use your caps, that’s it. You do it illegally, you never get too artsy. Whereas with Street Art, you can kind of get almost as artsy as you want.

Brooklyn Street Art: So you are saying that those people who might have given you a hard time before might not be doing it now.
Veng: Now they don’t do it at all. But at the same time, a lot of people won’t consider it graffiti. They’ll say, “Oh, he uses spray paint to do it but it’s not graffiti”. So I think a lot of the borders have all been cut down.

Brooklyn Street Art: So would you say a certain level of respect exists across all of it?
Veng: Yeah. I mean I’ve always been pretty peaceful and I’m pretty easy going. I’ve never really had any personal problems.  I mean some people give their opinions, which is fine obviously, because not everybody likes everything the same and thank God.

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-12(image © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So you pick all of your paints.
Veng: Yeah, a lot of the paints, about 85% of them, I mix myself from the pigments.  There are certain pigments I don’t use.

Brooklyn Street Art: What do you mix the pigments with
Veng: Oil – linseed oil or possibly walnut oil. – Which you can kind of smell in here. And then I add to them different stuff like resin, which will speed up the drying and give it a glossy hardened feel.

Brooklyn Street Art: Where do you get your pigments and supplies?
Veng: A lot of the supplies I get from a local colorman in Brooklyn, Robert Doak in Dumbo.  His business has been around longer than I’ve been living.  A lot of the pigments and materials I use come from him. It’s really specific, not just to oil paintings but to traditional materials.  Also I get a lot of stuff from a company out in California called Natural Pigments, which specializes in all the hard-to-find pigments. Also I use the more dangerous stuff like lead-based paints and paints that contain arsenic.

Brooklyn Street Art: Really? Arsenic?
Veng: Yes, it’s a color called Opiate. It’s a really gorgeous yellow, but it contains arsenic.

Brooklyn Street Art: So do you have to wear a mask using some of these pigments?
Veng: When I mix the pigments I have little dust mask on for the super dangerous ones.  – Not that I feel like I really need one because I’m dealing with it in very small doses. Obviously I don’t have the window open in front of me or the fan going. But just to be on the safe side I do wear a dust mask. Some are more dangerous if absorbed through the skin.  Like Vermillion – (takes the glass bottle to show) – it’s a really really nice red.  But if you absorb it through your skin it’s dangerous.

Brooklyn Street Art: This is a pestle.
Veng: It’s a grinder for the paints. You put it on here with the oil.  Here are different oils, here is the walnut you can smell if you want.

Brooklyn Street Art: Yeah I think I can smell the linseed. That is really understated.  I think people use linseed oil for furniture.
Veng: Yup, linseed oil – if you would ask people, probably 80% of them use linseed oil for their paints.

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-13A partial lineup of pieces by H. Veng Smith (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How does it feel doing a solo show?
Veng: It feels great. I’m nervous. I hope everyone enjoys the work and likes it and shows up. It’s been good to get a body of work together in this genre because I’ve never really had a full collection of these pieces before that is more influenced by my Street Art. I’ve done a single piece for a commission or a group show here or there. So I’m really excited putting them together and coming up with similar ideas, breaking them down into groups, and having them all come together.

Finally it’s like a family of these street art pieces.  To be honest I’ve never seen so many of these character paintings together in the studio.

Excerpt: Painting Birds


Veng photo © Jaime Rojo

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-9A Nuthatch by H. Veng Smith (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think they are the neatest things to paint. They give you all sorts of texture, they give you colors. I just think that technically they are great to paint, they give you the details, you can keep them super rendered. I’ve always been a big fan of birds in general – watching them, taking pictures of them. When I lived in Pennsylvania I did a lot of bird watching.  So I just like them in general, and to paint them it’s a lot of fun and so far people have shown a lot of interest in my birds.”


“Alone in Thought” by H. Veng Smith (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Excerpt: Swedish/Norwegian Architecture



“Gotland” by H. Veng Smith ( photo © Jaime Rojo)

We had relatives from Sweden here and they gave me this tile, which has a Stave church in it, which I thought was really great. So I looked up these churches and they all have these really good architectural features, so I did my character like them. It’s a church. Instead of saying church building, you would say “stave”


Norwegian Stave Church (photo © Sue Renault)

“I thought the buildings looked amazing so I automatically thought of  putting it in.  I just like the old wooden buildings like that.  They are fun to paint and not a lot of people reference stuff like this.  It’s not secret, everything I have at home is kind of European, or fantasy based.  But at the same time, this church is an actual architectural design that exists.

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-8Detail of “Gotland” by H. Veng Smith ( photo © Jaime Rojo)

brooklyn-street-art-veng-jaime-rojo-12-10-web-15Portrait of the Artist by Jaime Rojo ( © Jaime Rojo)


“Identifiable Reality” at Pandemic Gallery with H. Veng Smith

Friday December 17, 2010, 7-9 pm

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Brian Adam Douglas AKA Elbow-Toe : Inside Out

Brian Adam Douglas AKA Elbow-Toe : Inside Out


Brian Adam Douglas née Elbow-Toe stands inside looking out a third floor Brooklyn window down the block as late autumn winds whip and churn leaves and debris across the sidewalk, blowing lids off garbage cans and a Yankees cap off a bike messenger.  At his feet and all over the blond hardwood floor behind him are scattered piles of loose ArtForum pages; poked, pocked and carved with a sharp blade to cull their very particular hues.

“There’s a certain amount of chaos but I know where everything is. This is the brown palette, right? This is all browns. This is greys, oranges, violets, blues, yellows, greens. I use that palette (pointing) – I have that set up. That’s how I learned how to paint – with that particular palette. The chromatic values are laid out in a grayscale value,” says the artist as he explains the disarray.
Brooklyn Street Art: I don’t know what that means.
Brian Adam Douglas: So basically the color goes from white to black. If you were to take a black and white photo of this right now, you would see. That yellow would be a real light grey, and it works it’s way down to black.

brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-tow-jaime-rojo-11-10-web-15Photo © Jaime Rojo

His Street Art peers a few blocks from here, the Brooklyn Street Art collective Faile, have been exploring a new technique this year they call wood painting; not quite collage, nor sculpture or painting. Since the leaves that are blowing outside these windows first began to bloom in March this year, Brian has been exploring another difficult to categorize method of “painting” by assembling thousands of custom cut pieces of paper to create nearly 20 new canvasses. Its a process he calls collaging, and it’s effect leaves viewers stupified.

Brooklyn Street Art: You’ve been doing status updates on your Facebook and Twitter feed forever saying that you are collaging.
Brian Adam Douglas: I know! (laughing) That’s all I’m doing man! I can’t wait to say, “Today I’m sleeping”.


“Cocoons Come And Cocoons Go. It’s The Transformation That’s Key”. Photo © Jaime Rojo


Sketch for “Cocoons…” Photo © Jaime Rojo

Technically, yes, they are collage; a composition of materials and objects pasted over a surface. But it’s so easy to miss this obvious fact as you look at the painterly forms, their musculature, expression, gesture and puzzling symbolism. Each one of these new pieces fits somehow into an overriding theme that revealed itself to the artist only while Douglas labored. Surprising even the author, it took his wife and friends sometimes to help him see what was right in front of his exacting scalpel; through dream inflected symbolism he has unwittingly written a treatise about family, parenthood, and how they profoundly impact the formation of character. Without intending to, his inner world pushed it’s way to the outside, where he will be displaying this new powerfully personal collection December 4th at The Warrington Museum of Art in England with a show called “Due Date”, followed by a March show at Black Rat Projects.

brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-tow-jaime-rojo-11-10-web-8“Knitting Circle” Photo © Jaime Rojo

But the artist won’t reveal to you their exact meanings necessarily when you are standing with him looking at a new piece at the easel or laptop, throwing out possible interpretations. “This is what I enjoy,” he says a bit mischievously, “people bringing in their own sort of meaning into the pieces.” Other times he’ll gladly offer a backstory. Even then, you are left to your own observation skills to intuit the relative intensity of the symbolism.

brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-tow-jaime-rojo-11-10-web-10“Knitting Circle” sketch Photo © Jaime Rojo

Brooklyn Street Art: How successful have you been at fielding questions on what these pieces are about?

Brian Adam Douglas: Pretty good. There are certain things within them that I don’t talk about. I mean I think that they are kind of universal enough that they could mean a number of things. As far as I’m concerned with the work, I’d rather people bring their own interpretations of the work in. Rather than me saying, “This is what this work is about, this is my idea and this is what it has to be,” I find the most interesting art becomes better when you make it personal.

Even so, some of these are quite unusual depictions to trust oneself to interpret accurately. We did take a few guesses, and with time Brian also decided to help us uncover the meanings in these new paper paintings. One thing is not nebulous; this methodical and meticulous cutting and pasting has taken over his imagination so much that he’s confident that he’ll be doing it for a long time.

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you want to continue to explore this technique? Have you gotten tired of it? Is it still capturing your interest?
Brian Adam Douglas: As far as I’m concerned I understand the medium really well. Each piece builds confidence. Now I’ve got something and I want to really see what I can say with it. I’ve got so much inspiration about things that I want to really plump into that I want to figure out that I could do this for like 15 or 20 years.

And Street Art? What about the twisted forms and ephemeral poetic passages that put Elbow-Toe plainly on the public radar a handful of years ago? Now that he has a gallery presence, has he abandoned his street persona? “About the street stuff – I’ll do that but it will be purely for fun. An outlet, like it was at the beginning. It kind of became a pain a year or two in. It got very stressful for a while, it wasn’t fun anymore,” he says.

“Now that I’ve kind of got my ‘gallery voice’ I just want to have a street voice that is it’s own thing. – strictly for the street and completely ephemeral.


brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-toe-After-Goya“After Goya”  photo © courtesy of  the Artist

Brian Adam Douglas: You get all this loaded meaning that’s happening behind it. The fire that’s happening in the backyard. This one is partly autobiographical of when I was a kid.
Brooklyn Street Art: The split-level ranch?
Brian Adam Douglas: Well, we didn’t live in one like that but I had to find a photo of the suburbs. It was wintertime, I was pretty young, maybe 12 or 13, and I was playing around with my paper airplanes. I had this great idea – I can light these on fire and it will look like World War II planes coming down crashing. Right? And I had the hope that they would burn up before they hit the ground. It’s winter time. Texas. I light this thing on fire and throw it and it’s one of those trick planes. Instead of curving up and flying it goes down into my yard. I see it land and it is like, “Floom!” – the ring of fire is running across my yard.
Brooklyn Street Art: And that’s how you burned down your house and killed your parents?
Brian Adam Douglas: Yeah, exactly! No. This piece is all about the fact that your kid is going to f*ck up a lot. But as a parent, the kid gives you that look and you are going to be like, “Oh, right, it’s okay” Like you still love them regardless the insanity they can produce.

brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-tow-jaime-rojo-11-10-web-9The sketch for “After Goya” photo © Jaime Rojo

brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-toe“The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” photo © courtesy of the Artist

Brooklyn Street Art: Ha! Now that seems like a metaphor, doesn’t it?
Brian Adam Douglas:
Yeah, but also it comes from life. My Dad is a landscaper and one day when I was in high school he was up in a tree and he’s got the chain saw and he cuts the branch off. He’s so busy in the tree – he’s like “zhrooom!, Vrooooooom!” And he’s like 30 feet up! And so he’s falling, with this chain saw going in one hand as he’s failing. He grabs a branch as he’s falling and he’s hanging there swinging. He drops the chainsaw. Then he climbs down the tree. This is so….. I can imagine that moment when you find out you are going to be a parent and you are like, “Fuck! Everything is changing”. In order to take care of something else you are having to let a lot of other things go, and adapt. You are pruning things in your life. Certain things are taking precedence that maybe didn’t before.


“Sweet Dreams” photo © courtesy of the Artist

brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-toe-tradition“Tradition” photo © courtesy of the Artist

Brian Adam Douglas: This one is called “Tradition”
Brooklyn Street Art: So the elders are in a supportive pose.
Brian Adam Douglas: Yeah
Brooklyn Street Art: And there is a lantern and a nest on your head?
Brian Adam Douglas: On my head. Yes.
Brooklyn Street Art: Well I like the body language of the guy in the middle. I suppose that could be a father figure.
Brian Adam Douglas: Yeah.
Brooklyn Street Art: It’s supportive, but directional also. With intent.
Brian Adam Douglas: Yeah.
Brooklyn Street Art: Wow, that says a lot of love there. That’s very nice.

brooklyn-street-art-brian-adam-douglas-elbow-tow-jaime-rojo-11-10-web-13Sketch for “Tradition” photo © Jaime Rojo


Brian Adam Douglas will be showing these pieces and more beginning December 4, 2010 at The Warrington Museum of Art . He is currently preparing for his solo show at Black Rat Projects in March 2011

To see more images for “Due Date” visit the artist’s web site at:

“Due Date”
December 4, 2010 – February 19, 2011
Warrington Museum
Museum St
Warrington, Cheshire WA1 1JB, United Kingdom

Black Rat Projects
through Cargo Garden
Arch 461, 83 Rivington street
London EC2A 3AY

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Broken Crow, “When Trust Is the New Money”


A neighborly nod to the Minneapolis Street Art duo Broken Crow for this successful indoor show, “When Trust Is the New Money” at The XY and Z Gallery in South Minneapolis. Now extended to November 30th, this is an opportunity to see a large indoor installation that evokes the mural work they usually do on the street, transforming the interior of the white box and enabling you to buy part of the mural directly off the wall.


In an ongoing evolution of their stenciling realism style, John and Mike are again meditating on the preposterous value system that allows man to destroy the natural world with impunity, with a dose of gentle humor.  Their archetype animals depict integrity, puzzlement, and whimsy. Like many artists developing a vocabulary, they re-employ their favorites again and again in different configurations and tableaux.


BSA had the pleasure to meet these gents in Brooklyn last year and they had us at “Hello”. With a sweet disposition and effortless-looking execution, their priority is painting. No drama, no gossip, no classist kid stuff; They won’t blather or diss and what-not, what-have-you, or whats-for-supper. Well, maybe whats-for-supper. Painting is what they like and that’s what keeps them focused. Proud fathers and loving husbands, these guys juggle their time so they can fulfill family obligations and have plenty of time to stop and smell the aerosol along the way.

If you find yourself in The Twin Cities run to catch the show. XY and Z Gallery is located at 3258 Minnehaha Ave South in Minneapolis. Below is a recent interview Broken Crow did –

P.O.S. on Broken Crow

Doomtree Rapper Interviews Two of His Favorite Local Artists

By Stefon Alexander Wednesday, Oct 27 2010

If you’re not familiar with the work of Twin Cities-based art team Broken Crow, it wouldn’t be too difficult to get up to speed. In the last few years they have managed to paint walls on four continents, everything heavily documented. A quick Google search pulls up tons of images and time-lapse video clips of their signature style: massive and intricately detailed stencils covering urban structures, barns in the middle of nowhere, and everything in between.

Click here to continue reading

Images courtesy and copyright of Broken Crow. See Broken Crow’s Flickr page here:

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Quel Beast: Street Art, Hip Hop, and Cross-Undressing

Quel Beast: Street Art, Hip Hop, and Cross-Undressing

Quel Beast. Chicky in Chelsea (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Feeling cocky in Chelsea. Quel Beast (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


BSA guest writer Robin Grearson talks about herself, the Street Artist Quel Beast, and the unknowable beast within.

I headed to Bushwick’s Wreck Room last week to talk to Quel Beast about art and see how he’s doing.  He’s pasting up some work indoors this week, at Kings County, and a new street piece was almost ready for Chelsea.  The Wreck Room is an unpretentious spot where secrets flow easily, and so, over beer and fried pickles, Quel Beast confided to me his frustrations, some obsessions, and what he would do if he couldn’t make art. But he remained quiet about the street piece, which made me nervous.


Quel Beast. Detail (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Quel Beast. Detail (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


Until today, I hadn’t seen it. It’s a woman; full length, but cocky. She taunts passers-by to check her out once, maybe twice.  She’s not wearing much. That much I remembered. She’s like his Chelsea kiss, or, postcard: Dear Art Crawlers. With love from Brooklyn, Quel Beast.

He shows me on his iPhone some of the portraits for the show, called “Back That A$$ Up,” after the Juvenile/L’il Wayne song and video. It’s hours, many beers, two more locations and some wine later, before I ask about the Chelsea girl. Quel Beast answers offhandedly that she’s…weird. I’m sure he knows a better word because he says it like it’s a question. He’s into the piece, and says it exemplifies the direction he sees his style heading. But his question mark says, maybe I’ll hate it, a possibility I hadn’t considered.

I posed for the photo he’s working from to create her. So she’s me, and she’s not. I start wondering if, while painting testosterone-soaked me, her sneer has maybe gotten to him. But then, art is supposed make you feel something, which is the conversation we’ve been having. And I wonder what I will feel when I see her.

Quel Beast (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Quel Beast (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


Quel Beast compares art to music, harshly. Placed side by side, art gets its ass kicked. “Art isn’t good enough,” he says, with reverence for music’s power to evoke feeling, stir memory and stir senses. People quickly filter out tags and stickers as visual noise, he points out, adding, “You don’t have a personal experience with someone’s name, the way you can with music.”

“I hate art. Art sucks,” Quel Beast declares, and we laugh. He’s describing his exasperation with the impossibility of art to realize his ideal of it.

But even as he’s describing most art as dismissible in contrast to music, he is a little distracted, scanning stickers and tags on the tables and walls, naming the artists. “Why can’t art do what music can do?,” Quel Beast wonders, and lays down a gauntlet.  “An artist has a responsibility to reach out and grab someone the same way a ridiculously awesome song does.”

So it’s natural that Quel Beast’s portraits would have music in their souls; for him, “Back That A$$ Up” is the track that conjures the flow and energy of shared experience that he aspires to render in his paintings. But the series is no fan letter: Quel Beast is looking through the video’s lens at his own agenda. He’s retrofitted his painted subjects as though they were plucked from frames of the video, undressed them, and reversed the gender roles.

Quel Beast (© Jaime Rojo_

Quel Beast (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


He designed the portrait series as his inquiry into the source of our judgments. Where do conclusions come from, for instance, about a two-dimensional woman who may be posturing instead of pouting but in other ways remains unknowable? “Why is it that just because you put your body into certain positions, people will assume anything about you, your identity or your sexuality?,” Quel Beast asks, without knowing the answer.

Juvenile and L’il Wayne provide Quel Beast with audio inspiration for his paintings, but their lyrics tow the misogyny-and-hetero line. Quel Beast reveals only a cool nonchalance about this apparent collision of cultures. By co-opting the rappers’ revelers in an effort to unlock an insight or two on identity politics, won’t Quel Beast ostensibly alienate those fans who would be drawn to a show inspired by hip hop? The more secrets he tells me, the more a picture emerges of someone who doesn’t mind making people uncomfortable.

Early this morning, Quel Beast showed me the Chelsea girl. She has my straight, boyish hips, and a casual, male confidence that is impervious to judgment. Within that masculinity, though, something remains defiantly feminine. He looked at me and said with a shrug,  “If there’s one thing I learned from rap, it’s how to deal with haters.” —Robin Grearson



Quel Beast, “Back That A$$ Up”, October 16, 10 PM, Kings County, 286 Siegel Street, Brooklyn, NY 11206.

Robin Grearson is an independent writer and essayist living in New York. She has written for The New York Times.

Robin Grearson:

Quel Beast:,

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AIKO’s biggest Stencil So Far: Power, Sex, and the Saxophone

AIKO’s biggest Stencil So Far: Power, Sex, and the Saxophone

Aiko Nakagawa shows off her newest stencil (photo Martha Cooper)

Street Artist Aiko worked with the Younity Collective to put up a large mural as a gift to the community recently right next to the Williamsburg Bridge. The all-woman collective, started in 2007 by Alice Mizrachi and Maria “Toofly” Castillo, empowers individuals as artists by creating projects together and celebrating the strengths that each one brings to the game. Now nearing 60 artist members, including multiple disciplines and many names in Graff Art and Street Art you might know such as Lady Pink, Swoon, Drexel, Martha Cooper, and Shiro, the Younity Collective offers much needed support to artists through comraderie and community projects.

When asked about her approach to the project, Aiko agrees that it is very personal, “It made me feel happy to keep working on the mural. It’s a nice feeling to create something beautiful for everybody’s everyday life. If I have a talent to encourage people, make them smile and to cheer them up, that’s totally great.”


Aiko plays her cards with a full hand (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Is it fun to work as part of the Younity collective?
Aiko: It was fun to be part of Younity’s project and I’m glad they called me up. Even though I rarely go bombing with boys, staying away from illegal street activities and focusing on indoor works these days, it brought me all the good energy about working in public space and spending time with other artists again. Plus all girls were very chill, no beef.

AikoAiko (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: The stencil is quite large! Do you usually work that big?
Aiko: A big wall is such a great challenge. I love listening people say “Holy Sh*t, Aiko!!!” from behind me while I’m painting. Actually a lot of people who have been following my exhibitions might notice that my works are getting bigger and better. Stencil is my favorite tool to paint with and I’m so good at using the knife. It took me at least a few days to cut such a giant stencil like that. It killed my fingers and the material is really delicate to handle, transport, and place on the wall. Winds and a bumpy surface is enemy for painting. But what a wonderful feeling to see the finally sprayed image on a wall after all this effort. Big stencils are such joy.

Detail of mural by Aiko (photo Martha Cooper)

Brooklyn Street Art: Your main image is a woman playing a saxophone – is that because
of the jazz club inside?

Aiko: The image of the sexy lady with saxophone was also the request from the owner, who runs the historical live music house, WMC Jazz (Williamsburg Music Center). I love music and dance, and I’m very happy to contribute to the local community in Brooklyn.

Aiko (Detail)

Aiko (Detail) (photo Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Your colors are very feminine and strong for this piece. How do
you choose your colors?

Aiko: If we can say that paintings are results of an artist’s conversation with themselves and it appears as color and image on the wall, I guess that color is my feeling at this moment. I am in the really feminine, very sexy and super strong phase of my life.


Lady Aiko embarks this fall on a long trip to participate in shows abroad.

Aiko’s Website

Younity Collective

The Younity Collective are: Alice Mizrachi, Maria “Toofly” Castillo, Albeni Garrett, Aiko Nakagawa, Alexandra Casula, Alexia Webster, Jane Dickson, Amanda Lopez, B.I.C., Cece Carpio, Dee Keating, Diana McClure, Diana Schmertz, Diva, Drexel, Erotica, Faith47, Female Sneaker Fiend, GMO$, Heather N. Hayashi, Helene Ruiz, Katrina “RUKUS” Knutson, Kelly Jeanne Lever, Krista Frankln, Lady Pink, Laura Meyers, Lexi Bella, Lichiban, Lisa Case, Lisa Marie Thalhammer, Mad C, Martha Cooper, Meridith McNeal, Muck, Nancy Rodriguez, Nanibah “Nani” Chacon, Naomi Martinez, Niz, Not Bad For a Girl, Kerri O’Connell, Paulina Qunitan Jornet, Petra Moser, Queen Andrea, SHIRO, Sofia Maldonado, Stephanie Land, Swoon, Nanilla Medallions, Andrea Celilia Bernal, Gabriella Davi-Korasanee, M.I.S.S., Nubby Twiglet

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