All posts tagged: Joe Franquinha

Happy New Year! BSA Highlights of 2010


As we start a new year, we say thank you for the last one.

And Thank You to the artists who shared their 11 Wishes for 2011 with Brooklyn Street Art; Conor Harrington, Eli Cook, Indigo, Gilf, Todd Mazer, Vasco Mucci, Kimberly Brooks, Rusty Rehl, Tip Toe, Samson, and Ludo. You each contributed a very cool gift to the BSA family, and we’re grateful.

We looked over the last year to take in all the great projects we were in and fascinating people we had the pleasure to work with. It was a helluva year, and please take a look at the highlights to get an idea what a rich cultural explosion we are all a part of at this moment.

The new year already has some amazing new opportunities to celebrate Street Art and artists. We are looking forward to meeting you and playing with you and working with you in 2011.

Specter does “Gentrification Series” © Jaime Rojo
NohJ Coley and Gaia © Jaime Rojo
Jef Aerosol’s tribute to Basquiat © Jaime Rojo


Imminent Disaster © Steven P. Harrington
Fauxreel (photo courtesy the artist)
Chris Stain at Brooklyn Bowl © Jaime Rojo


Various & Gould © Jaime Rojo
Anthony Lister on the street © Jaime Rojo
Trusto Corp was lovin it.


Martha Cooper, Shepard Fairey © Jaime Rojo
BSA’s Auction for Free Arts NYC
Crotched objects began appearing on the street this year. © Jaime Rojo


BSA gets some walls for ROA © Jaime Rojo
Dolk at Brooklynite © Steven P. Harrington
BSA gets Ludo some action “Pretty Malevolence” © Jaime Rojo


The Crest Hardware Art Show © Jaime Rojo
NohJ Coley © Jaime Rojo
The Phun Phactory Reboot in Williamsburg © Steven P. Harrington


Sarah Palin by Billi Kid
Nick Walker with BSA in Brooklyn © Jaime Rojo
Judith Supine at “Shred” © Jaime Rojo


Interview with legend Futura © Jaime Rojo
Os Gemeos and Martha Cooper © Jaime Rojo
Skewville at Electric Windows © Jaime Rojo


Specter Spot-Jocks Shepard Fairey © Jaime Rojo
“Bienvenidos” campaign
Faile studio visit © Jaime Rojo


BSA participates and sponsors New York’s first “Nuit Blanche” © Jaime Rojo
JC2 © Jaime Rojo
How, Nosm, R. Robots © Jaime Rojo


Faile “Bedtime Stories” © Jaime Rojo
Judith Supine © Jaime Rojo
Photo © Roswitha Guillemin courtesy Galerie Itinerrance


H. Veng Smith © Jaime Rojo
Sure. Photo courtesy Faust
Kid Zoom © Jaime Rojo


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The Simple Street Art Stencil: Cut To the Truth

“All I want is the truth. Just give me some truth” – John Lennon

John Lennon, a guy who lived in the eye of a hurricane of hype for a major portion of his adult life once screamed at the top of his lungs for something called truth. At a time when we are condescendingly shouted at to give up our previous conceptions of personal privacy for security and cookies, naked air travelers and torture victims and spillcams and spreadsheets and state secrets are now streaming live via the world wide buffet and everybody is seeing more truth than they were ready for.

Amidst the data storm, something about the simple, uncluttered straight-forward real deal is straight-up appealing. Maybe that is why the one layer stencil, however ornate it can be sometimes, is an enduring favorite of street art fans and artists. Effective visual communication doesn’t have to be fussy, filigreed, or high-falutin’, and some would argue that it takes real courage to let one stencil do the simple truth-telling.


C215 (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Care (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


$howta (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Nothing To See Here Sir Carry On (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


Bishop 203 (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


American Family With Red Son (photo © Jaime Rojo)


The Ghost of tax cuts past. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


GILF does Betty White? (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Joe Franquinha Peace and Sport (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Silver Ghost (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Um, nice socks.  Olympia (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Look who’s on the TeeVee. Sunset Boulevard (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Poison Rabbit (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Walt Whiskers Alley Cats (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Reading under the learning T. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

On the 30th anniversary of Lennon’s death in NYC… We love you John and Yoko.

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Pop Surrealism? Aisle 2. French Realism? – Check the Shovels

As the lines continue to blur between HI/LOW Art, Outsider Art, Public Art, Fine Art, and Street Art, a stunning show hides in the garden hoses.




As we wandered the aisles at the new show at a Brooklyn hardware store (and garden center) that is thick in the migration of hipness between post-cool Williamsburg and wild untamed Bushwick, a lightbulb went on. BA-ZING! This show is not mere novelty! This is where we are in 2010. The walls are being torn down before our eyes.

Dave Tree "Peasants on Shovels" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Dave Tree “Peasants on Shovels” (Photo Jaime Rojo)

The massive democratization of arts and culture, with tools ever cheaper and more accessible to any artist with the inclination, is handily jack-hammering the pillars of hallowed art institutions and clipping the locks on the traditional art clubby gates and their keepers.  Call it American anti-intellectualism but when you feel no sense of irony or discomfort stalled out and contemplating a tire rubber ram sculpture while next to you a couple is looking at a lawn chair and a greasy handed guy is talking to a salesman about re-wiring a lamp, we’re pierced a veil.  While meandering past two young women I overheard them discussing rather deeply their feelings about an illustrated book they had discovered on the shelf and what kind of memories it evoked.

Ji Young Ho "For.Elk 1" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

“For.Elk 1”

Ji Young Ho  (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Deatail (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Ji Young Ho (detail) (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The 198 pieces by more than 140 artists are each hardware themed or inspired. Some are “crafty”, true, and others are merely clever. But a number of pieces utilize their space so well, submerging themselves in their surroundings so completely, or bending your expectations so far, that you’ll have to admit that there may be a genius in the geraniums.

Darkcloud (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

It was the same color of lightbulb that illuminated the day in the early 2000’s when I had attended a conceptual/sculptural/animation show at the now defunct Roebling Hall in Williamsburg and, in a dizzy haze I hit the street and looked at the sky. Overhead the jet stream to JFK and the planes rhythmically appearing in line every 2 minutes across the sky so closely mimicked the installation I had just seen indoors that the transition from art to artful reality was completely seamless. And no mushrooms were involved. Suddenly Street Art, this new explosion we had been documenting and exploring, seemed of the same cloth as any other art that was entrapped behind closed doors.

Chris Collicot "Manny" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Chris Collicot “Manny” (trying looking at this with your cellphone camera) (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

If you are not too suspicious or jaded, this may be one of the best shows of the season – one that feels equal parts installation and performance, one that challenges common conceptions without an accompanying 4 page exegesis on the inner workings of the mind of the curator.  Joe Franquinha is a bright gentleman of course, and it is because of his vision and wanderlust that these artists gladly participate in this show. But as you walk the aisles with your artwork guide in hand you’ll find yourself slipping seamlessly back and forth through worlds you once considered distinct, at times questioning which one you are in at the moment.  For my money, it’s a priceless view.

General Howe

Installation by General Howe (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Joel Adas (Photo © Jaime Rojo)
Joel Adas (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Mark Houston "Every Job;s a Nightmare" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Every Job’s a Nightmare”

Mark Houston  (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Julian Zee "Marulin Marley Will Kill Pop Art" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Marylin Marley Will Kill Pop Art”

Julian Zee  (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nomade "Bust with Burgundy" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nomade “Bust with Burgundy” (Photo © Jaime Rojo) (Silent auction piece benefiting the programs at Free Arts NYC)

Skewville (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Subtexture "Loggin Saw Sunset" (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Loggin Saw Sunset”

Subtexture  (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


(Through July 30)

558 Metropolitan Ave
(between Union Ave & Lorimer St)
Brooklyn, NY 11211
(718) 388-9521

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Fun Friday 06.18.10 : We Have a Winner!


Contest Winner for “For Your Eyes Only”

You guys are good!  And so many got so close in guessing the full list of “Eyes” last week.

So here are the answers:





The big sticking points for most people were Number 2, which a lot of people guessed was Os Gemeos, and Number 4 which some thought was Neckface or Royce Bannon.

But don’t feel bad if you didn’t get them all – nobody did.  Our winner is Sandrine from Montreal, Quebec, who was the first person to guess 7 out of 8 correctly (she guessed #4 was Neckface).  Congratulations to Sandrine and your original and signed piece from Chris of Robots Will Kill will be in the mail Monday!

Thanks everybody who participated. We’ll have another contest soon!

Where Are You Getting Up This Weekend?



Read about the Mighty Tenaka show here.



Read about the Pandemic show here.



Read about the Crest Hardware show here.


Ya Hearrrd? BSA on HUFF PO


Yo homey, still doing a Snoopy dance on the subway this morning because your favorite Street Art blog was up on yesterday. Arianna Huffington is one of the few straightforward truthtellers in a storm of darkness year after year, and this is like when it is your turn at Double Dutch and Malcolm McLaren  happens to be walking up your block. Okay, big difference is I don’t wear striped red disco shorts and grew up on a farm upstate and never heard of Brownsville or Buffalo Girls till “Duck Rock” came out —but otherwise it’s totally the same yo.

Leave a comment at Huffington Post and tell them how good BSA is at swinging those ropes!

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From White Box to Tool Box: CrestFest 2010 and Crest Art Festival

From White Box to Tool Box: CrestFest 2010 and Crest Art Festival

Local Family Business Showcases Artists Of All Stripes

You won’t find a more excited community-minded, artist-loving dude than Joe Franquinha, who is the second generation owner of a hardware store in Williamsburg/Bushwick, Brooklyn. Crest Hardware, founded in 1962 on this same block by Joe’s dad and uncle, is the hardware store for the multitude of artists who have moved into the neighborhood over the past decade or so.

A new art piece in the store for the Crest Hardware Art Show (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

A new art piece in the store for the Crest Hardware Art Show by Mike Graves (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Nine years ago they had the first Crest art show in the store itself using hardware materials to make and inspire the art. The eclectic and frequently humorous show drew attention to the bursting artist community and grew larger each year.  In 2008 ago Joe expanded the show to include musicians and DJs from the neighborhood and started calling it “Crest Fest.”


This year the festival has 140 artists, 15 DJ’s and 8 bands. Joe says, “There is an abundance of musical talent in this area as well as art and I wanted to take the opportunity to showcase them too. It’s been getting progressively bigger, and it’s always free to attend. That’s the main thing. We want people to be able to enjoy it, come on in, have fun and take a day off and absorb culture in so many of it’s facets.”

Crest Art Festival

Crest Hardware Art Show, Mike Graves (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Joe took a few minutes from installing art to talk about the show that left the white box for the tool box:

BSA: I see a lot of hardware of course, but do you also sell art supplies?
Joe Franquinha
: Spray paint is definitely an option I’ve been weighing recently. I think probably in the next year or so our spray paint section will probably expand, including companies like Montana, maybe something like IronClad 1. But Montana seems to be what is on most people’s radar. Then it’s a matter of them figuring out which one they want, the Spanish one or the German one.

Matt Caputo "Everybody's Got Pipes"

Matt Caputo “Everybody’s Got Pipes” (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Do you have any people who do street art in this show?
Joe Franquinha: Yeah there are a couple of people – there is Peat Wolleager from St. Louis, he goes by Stensoul.  General Howe has a piece in the show and I’m excited for people to see the piece he made just for Crest Hardware. He’s doing some really cool work so I’m proud to have him on board. We still have a couple of days for people to be doing installing up to Saturday. (editors note: while the complete artist list was not available at press time, there are a number of street artists in the show including Royce Bannon, Celso, among others)

General Howe

General Howe piece closed (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

General Howe Open

General Howe Opened (Photo © Jaime Rojo)


BSA: Why do think it is important to show the work of local artists?
Joe Franquinha:One hand really has to wash the other as far as supporting your local artist goes. Artists shop at my store to get their materials and if I have the ability to help promote their art and their passion side by side with mine, I’m gonna do it.

Crest Hardware Art Show (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

For the trendier upscale home improvements, a Louis Vuiton hammer by Eric Parnes (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

But it is fun and artists are here every day in the store and in the neighborhood. They eat at these restaurants, they shop in these stores, they frequent these bars… so to be able to give them a chance outside a gallery show to showcase their work, not only to their fellow artists but maybe someone who has no idea about their work …. It brings your work to a whole different demographic. If they are a street artist, maybe someone has only seen their work out on the street. To be able to show people that the artist is capable of also putting their fine art work into a show – it can bring it to a whole other level for them and opens up people’s minds to different experiences.

Street artist Duece Seven entered this door in last year's art show (photo courtesy Crest)

Street artist Duece Seven entered this door in last year’s art show (photo courtesy Crest)

BSA: Do you have any favorite street artists off the top of your head?
Joe Franquinha:Off the top of my head, I really love ROA’s work. I think it’s nice clean work – it feels like pictures ripped out of animal anatomy books. Like old books made of pulp paper that feel like they could crumble. But the animals he does are redrawn at this incredibly magnified size so I really dig his work a lot.

C215 is another artist who I really admire. I also really admire his world traveling capabilities and he just gets up everywhere he possibly can. I was in Morocco, a small town called Esoria right on the water and I was in this square and about 50 yards across from me I could see this stencil on the wall. It was kind of blurry from where I was and I was curious to see whose it was and sure enough it was his work. So it is pretty cool to see his work everywhere I go.

Crest Hardware Art Show (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Happy Plunging!  Mike Graves (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

A very entertaining stop animation film made for this years art show in the store. Joe would like to thank @ and then the friend’s name” href=”″>Anthony Ferrara, @ and then the friend’s name” href=”″>James Peach, Gustavo Roman & Buck Merritt for their creativity, energy and support. You’ll also notice some street art by Chris Stain, Skewville…. who else?

Crest Hardware Art Show (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

The bed-head look is so popular that it’s spread to chandeliers. By Mike Marra (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Is there is a piece in the show this year that you are very excited about, either due to it’s complexity, or a new technique that was used?
Yeah every medium is different, and it’s not that I love one more than I love the other but I also have my personal preferences. In a show like this, it’s not just about hardware because it is in a store that has been here nearly 50 years, a lot of the people who are in the show aren’t just making their work for a hardware store, they’re making it for us, the Crest people. So one piece in particular that I’m excited to showcase is by Chris Collicot – when you look up close at this piece it’s just a bunch of washers and screws and you step back about 20-30 feet, and because it’s a perspective piece, it’s a picture of my father. To know that my dad struck a chord with this artist when he moved here from LA and he came into the shop looking for some help and he found something more than that. He found a place that he can rely on. So that is one of the more special pieces for me.

Chris Collicot (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Chris Collicot (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Street artists Peru Ana Ana Peru (image courtesy Crest)

Street artists Peru Ana Ana Peru also participated in last years show (image courtesy Crest)

SPECIAL SILENT AUCTION at Crest Art Show (In Store)
NOMADE Piece to Benefit Free Arts NYC

Street Artist Nomade has donated this piece to be silent auctioned during the Crest Art Show. 100% of the proceeds go to the arts and mentorship programs of Free Arts NYC, which serves NYC kids from disadvantaged backgrounds with arts and mentorship programs. Drop by the store to place a bid before July 31, 2010.

Street Artist Nomade has donated this piece to be silent auctioned during the Crest Art Show. 100% of the proceeds go to the programs of Free Arts NYC, which serves NYC kids from disadvantaged backgrounds with arts and mentorship programs. Drop by the store to place a bid before July 31, 2010. Auction is in conjunction with

For general information regarding Crest Hardware Art Show and/or Crest Fest please contact

or go to

Crest Hardware
588 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn, New York 11211
(718) 388-9521

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Flying High With ROA in Brooklyn, NYC

Flying High With ROA in Brooklyn, NYC

As the sun sets, a mighty and serene Ibis rises 35 feet on a battered Brooklyn wall

ROA begins his portrait of the Ibis, a wading bird common in the marshes on the mid-Atlantic coast of the US. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA begins his portrait of the Ibis, a wading bird common in the marshes on the mid-Atlantic coast of the US. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Today we continue with our coverage of ROA’s arrival into New York and his second piece this week, a stunning long-necked Ibis on a tattered and weathered former rope factory in Brooklyn.

We all took turns on the cherry picker (hooked up by our buddy Joe F. ) which was a blast to operate and after we scraped the wall free of ivy and managed to not smash any windows, ROA hopped inside and put on his safety harness and drove that bucket smoothly, like your grandpa on a Sunday drive through the countryside.

Using only his eye, his spray can, and a confident hand, ROA mapped out the shape of the feathered creature with no false lines, and no chance of erasing.  Periodically he brought the mechanical bird to the ground to step way back and assess his progress and make adjustments: the wild animals’ belly got a little fatter, the feathers more shading for depth.  As the sun receded and the lights came on, the painting of the Ibis felt more like an “event”, a performance onstage in the floodlights by one of Street Arts’ rising talents who can command a stage and keep it real.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In Part 2 of ROA’s interview, he talked to BSA about his roots in graffiti, his transition to Street Art, and a few words about our move to the second wave of the street art movement.  (see Part I here)

Brooklyn Street Art: How long have you been making animals?
I think I had a big period when I did all kinds of stuff – from letters to whatever when I was younger. Then I started doing characters. Then for myself I really changed my way of painting and I found out that I really wanted to paint animals.  This is a couple of years ago. But then when I look back to the stuff I did when I was younger, there were some earlier tags that were, at that point, not important for myself but when I look at them now I realize that they were already there.  In the last few years I think I really know what I am doing.  There were signs that told what I might become.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So you were writing graffiti first, lettering, tags?
Yeah, I started when I was like 13 so we copied things out of Spray Can Art and Subway Art – these things were for us like The Bible or something.  So if we had a vision of how a piece should be it was like things we saw in these books — colors and a black outline and a white highlight. So for a long time that was what we did.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: These books were like textbooks for the school of graffiti.
In a way, definitely. When I started doing that I started skating and listening to Public Enemy. As a Belgian kid growing up in the late 80’s – early 90’s that was the strong influence, these kinds of things – so graffiti was one of these things.  So in our minds, it should be done like that. So I think at that point nobody was doing anything else, there was just old-school graffiti..

Brooklyn Street Art: It had become globalized at that point…
And it is still there. It’s still being repeated now.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: When did you first see that there began to be a little divide in the graffiti/street art evolution? When did you first get an inkling that things were changing?
I think because I started to do different stuff, I started to see that there was different stuff.  It was not really obvious.  People were doing things that were more “characters” like a hip-hop MC with a cute female with a big butt and a chain around (the neck) and a big ghetto blaster. Then at certain points people started painting less of the MC styles  – they started to paint extra old-school and “crappy “– in a deliberate way because they wanted “crappy”.  A few years ago this was the first “unconventional” graffiti that I started to see – they tried to look crappy.  That was for me the first moment that I started to notice a change. And that was the moment when I started to say “you have new styles”.  It shouldn’t just be just the old style.  You have new styles.

Brooklyn Street Art: So perhaps you had exhausted that vocabulary. You had done everything that you wanted to do and you wanted to discover something different.
I realized that I wanted to do something different. I had been drawing all my life and I sketched a lot.  Most often my sketches were way more powerful than the finished pieces on the wall.  So the moment I started to “sketch” with a can, that was the moment when I started to see for myself the change. When I stopped doing surfaces and I started doing lines… It is just a way of painting or drawing. You have a certain kind of culture where it came from but aside from that – it’s just paint and a surface to paint on so at that point I realized that there are so many things you can do and ways you can try to do it with spray paint.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So now the proverbial horse is out of the barn and there is no use closing the door..
Yeah, I think so. It’s too late, that’s for sure. Of course you don’t know what the future will bring and I’m not saying I’m going to do forever what I am doing now.  I try to keep on pushing it farther and sometimes I take two steps back and re-examine.  It is not always clear, that’s the nice thing.

Brooklyn Street Art: So, for you it is like an evolution.
Yeah, I think so. It’s an endless evolution. That’s what is so nice about drawing or making stuff.  It’s like a piece – when is it finished? Never. You can work on it for hours and hours more and then “Is it finished?” – you never know, eh? It’s like with drawing, too..… when are you a skilled artist? When you die probably, then. Then you are at the end of your journey, then you know what you know. Then you can not know more. Until then you can learn every day.  With drawing it is not like a game you can complete.  There is always a new level.  Even if you get to the next level, then you have ten new levels.  That is a nice thing about it, there is no ending.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Regarding the first wave of Street Art:
…everybody found a style and repeated it over and over and it was all around and people saw it and it was crazy what you could do with one small logo. Then at a certain point, it gets boring too.  If you have the same logo over and over — I’m not the guy who says what other people should do, though.  I want to do what I want to do.

Brooklyn Street Art: So you feel like now we can identify some of those practices as being a part of the “first wave” of street art?
I think that made a big difference. Then people made logos and t-shirts and toys and calendars and condoms and whatever, which is ,in a way, really funny.  You can do it with stuff like that and you can be all over.  But at this point I think we are at a new level and people can do stuff like that but it is more interesting if somebody does stuff with it and it continues and it grows and it lives and you can be surprised by most of the new work.  It is not like this symbol repeated again and again with a different color and a little slight twist.  In the end, it’s been done.  Sometimes it is time to move. When DuChamp put his urinal in the museum it was really one of the biggest statements of the last century. Definitely. But the next guy who did something similar was less interesting.  If you see what was done later in the same tracks, it’s really boring.  It’s good that things get knocked down and rebuilt and knocked down.

The finished Ibis by ROA in Brooklyn, NYC (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The finished Ibis by ROA in Brooklyn, NYC (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Don’t miss ROA in his first New York Solo Show at Factory Fresh May 14.

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Winging It With ROA – FreeStyle Urban Naturalist Lands Feet First in Brooklyn

Winging It With ROA – FreeStyle Urban Naturalist Lands Feet First in Brooklyn

While city birds sing and traffic swells and murmurs, Street Artist ROA shows BSA how his great unsung animals are made.

One of ROA’s new Brooklyn birds (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The eagerly anticipated arrival of one of Street Arts’ spray can naturalists in New York was begun with a marathon 15 hours of painting of two walls in Brooklyn that in the early morning hours of today.

Energetic and excited to be here fresh from a successful show in London at Pure Evil Gallery, where he sparked great interest with his loud-speaking silent animals inside and outside the box, the down-to-earth realist ROA began his NYC tour with two incredible gifts to his host city. With days to go before his first New York solo show at Factory Fresh gallery in Brooklyn, it only seemed natural to ROA to get up strong on BK walls before heading inside to knock out new pieces.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Brooklyn Free Style” was the word ROA decided to describe the approach he had yesterday to his work – a nod to the hip-hop culture of creating on-the-fly as well as the sometimes chaotic path a day in Brooklyn can take for a jet-lagged Belgium who didn’t really know where his new walls were, let alone what they would look like. Just like you might expect from a former graffiti/skater kid who still listens to Public Enemy and Suicidal Tendencies to keep balanced, this guy only wants to hit higher more difficult walls than the last time, and he does.

ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As we saw throughout the day, a bit of chaos is a natural environment for ROA and one he relishes creating within – embrace the imperfect world. He likes to take what comes flying at him and deal with it with dexterity and an intuitive flow. Our day included rented cars, roaring trucks, ladders, chairs, bricks, soil, plants, trees, a monstrous cherry picker (thanks Joe), pleasant sun/punishing sun, high winds, dark skies, blowing rain, flying garbage, old vines, utility lights, fat caps and thin, good paint and bad, rollers, a harness, utility lights, hand-rolled cigarettes, and some of Brooklyn’s best family biz food.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Like a wild willow sprouted from a patch of SuperFund soil in an abandoned industrial city lot, ROA bends and twists and re-configures effortlessly, ultimately standing strong no matter what flies his way. His credo is to find inspiration in adversity and yesterday he made obstacles seem effortless – welcoming the challenge, incorporating design issues and moving forward. It makes sense that his chosen subjects are the animals that get overlooked, are many times missed, yet persevere despite man’s dreadful determination to destroy.

ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In this first of a two-part interview, ROA talks to BSA about his approach to his work and his animals.

ROA: I’m not really prepared, but I have a lot of things with me. I have a lot of cans, caps, things with me so I can decide what I want to do at the point at whatever point I am in the piece.

Brooklyn Street Art: A little Brooklyn Freestyle
Yeah a little Brooklyn Freestyle.

Brooklyn Street Art: How did you decide on this particular bird today?
I think because of the shape of the wall and with the stuff that is in front of it, it makes sense. It is really important when you enter a place that the animal looks at you. If not, it would not the same dynamic. Also it is not necessary to fill up the whole wall – it is filled but it is not filled.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: It genuinely occupies the rest of the wall without really being there.
Yeah. That is not always possible, sometimes you have a ladder, sometimes you do not have a ladder to reach, some times you have a pole, some times you do not. What you make all depends on what you have and how high the wall is.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So that is one of the first things that art students learn about : how to recognize and deal with positive space and negative space compositionally. A lot of your work definitely utilizes the negative space surrounding it.
Yeah, I think it grew by doing so many walls. In the end you begin to feel how something should be on a wall. It’s logical when you are a little kid and you begin painting graffiti and you have six cans and a wall and you just start right there. As you paint more and you paint bigger you begin to see the thing in its totality. I think placement is kind of important for the piece. But it is also the possibilities that exist that tell you what you can and cannot do. It’s always depending on the possibilities. You can see immediately what it should be, and you see what is actually possible. If the two come together then you’ve got the perfect situation.


ROA (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So you do what you can with what you have.
Yes, I think that is the main rule. And the wall is part of that. In a way, the wall tells you what you should make.

Brooklyn Street Art: You do tend to favor more difficult surfaces instead of smooth flat pristine surfaces.
Yeah, I like texture: I like when a wall, or an area, or a building tells a little bit of a story. It is sometimes really boring to paint on a wall that is just one color. It is always better to start from something that is interesting. That is probably the same reason why I don’t paint normal canvasses. There is not a lot of inspiration. But if you’ve got some dirty materials, it’s got a little bit of the story already. In that way it is like the walls… The shape and the textures tell you immediately what the possibilities are. There’s always more than one way.


ROA  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you have any animals at home?
Yes I have a cat and a turtle. The turtle was a gift from a really good friend of ours and the cat chose our home as its home so that’s how the cat came. At a certain point she was there and she didn’t want to leave so she stayed. We had moved to a new house with a basement and we were there for a month and I decided to check out the basement and I left the door open. At night we were watching TV and the came in. I thought it belonged to one of the neighbors so I put it outside and the next day she was back in the basement. So probably she was living there for a long time before us. We moved to 3 different houses and she moved with us and 10 years later she is still our cat.


ROA  (photo © Jaime Rojo)


ROA  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Did you ever do a portrait of her?
ROA: No. That’s not true I did some sketches of her – her form, a study of a cat. But I never painted her on a wall or something like that. I think animals like cats, even though they are powerful and beautiful, when you draw them you you can end up really easily with something that is a clichéd image of them. I have done an image of a cat with its skeleton inside but I’m always a little bit scared of doing cats, dogs, tigers – you know what I mean?


ROA  (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Have you seen the cats that C215 does? He does those pretty successfully while avoiding “cute”.
ROA:Yeah, it’s true. The way he does it is not like a postcard or a cheesy album cover from the 80’s, you know what I mean? Anyway I like to paint unpopular animals. In a certain way I think it’s nice to paint animals that people expect.

Brooklyn Street Art: You also like rats…
ROA: I like rodents. Birds and rodents. Without having made a choice, I feel really good painting birds and rodents.


ROA (Photo©Jaime Rojo)

ROA (Photo©Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you feel like you are telling their story?
ROA: I’m definitely representing for them. That’s for sure. Regarding their “story”; I don’t know what they want to be told. If you could ask a bird what they are thinking about what I’m doing…. Definitely people eat chickens, pigs, and cows but they are not so familiar with the animal itself. They know it as food and these animals are more useful animals in a “product” sort of way so I think it’s good to confront people with what they are eating or what they are not familiar with. But I leave it more for people to see what they want in the animal. There is not a message – maybe for myself but it should not be seen that way. It’s just nice to do animals that are not typical. A lot of people hate pigeons and rats but I like them a lot. I think it is fascinating that certain animals really did not die out because of humanity but instead they use humanity to survive. I think it is interesting to see birds making nests in old buildings.

Brooklyn Street Art: They persevere..
ROA: in spite of our total f*ckups and global destruction. So I think it’s really fascinating – more than our cats and dogs that are totally domesticated as pets.


One of ROA's two new Brooklyn birds (photo © Jaime Rojo)

One of ROA’s two new Brooklyn birds (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Tune in tomorrow for PART 2: Amazing images of ROA’s giant second Brooklyn piece and we talk about his start as a graffiti kid, how he transitioned to street art, and why we may be entering the “second wave” of street art.


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