This time of the year, many people become nostalgic, remembering earlier times that seemed simpler, bathed in sepia tones. Walking into the Pop International Gallery a couple of weekends ago – fresh from a Swoon talk with Jeffrey Deitch and on the way to the opening of Graffiti Kings at HOWL – it was a surprise trip to the mid-2000s of New York streets when the graffiti scene was adjusting to a fleet of new street art kids on the block.
Fernando “SKI” Romero was one half of a graphic team called UR New York at the time with co-writer 2Easae, and they were making their own transition from the street to the studio. In the new show at Pop called WON FOR ALL!, Mr. Romero takes us back to see a cluster of youth who were in his orbit, and if you were walking on the streets of Brooklyn and Manhattan, probably yours.
“I’ve known these artists for years,” he says, “Many of us came up together in the art world. They are my friends and family.”
Born and raised in New York, Romero is very familiar with the graffiti scene that made the city famous, even recently curating a show of some graffiti-writers-turned-artists who originally inspired him, like CRASH, DAZE and Tats Cru. After attending Parsons School of Design and selling his own stuff on the street in SoHo for six years, he took a decade to dedicate himself to developing his own deconstructed letter style for the gallery.
Now SKI is reflecting on a golden age for his own development as an artist with WON FOR ALL and shows solidarity with a small cluster of talents who have pursued their professional careers that were supercharged by their experiences on the street and around the culture. Here’s Dark Clouds with his patterned and swooping pockets of rain, alongside the graphic output of Matt Siren that hints at superheroes and graphic novels.
Elsewhere the bright font-centric Queen Andrea evokes 1980s teen mag optimism, while Gigi Chen’s formal painting techniques venture into fantasy and photo-realism. In the main window on the Bowery is perhaps the most recognizable top-hatted character, Optimo, another true born and bred New Yorker whose love for the culture is evidenced by a prodigious mass of street stickers incorporated into one of his canvasses. Partnered perhaps in their historical reverence for graffiti writers are SKI, with his sideways blown layers of bright letterforms and gritty graphic cityscapes, and Cerns’ omnivorous forays across realities – anchored by colorful characters that may remind some of the train writers during the 1970s.
“I chose these people because of talent, skills, and dedication,” he says. “During the pandemic, these artists were the ones who kept me sane and motivated during a time when I felt alone. This show is a way to bring them all together to say ‘Thank You”.
WON FOR ALLI
FEATURED ARTISTS include
Won For All! is currently on view at Pop International Galleries in Manhattan. Click HERE for further details, schedules, and location.