All posts tagged: Studio Visit

Niels Shoe Meulman: Thank You For Shopping Here

Niels Shoe Meulman: Thank You For Shopping Here

Graffitti. Calligraphy.

Both celebrate the power and expressive ability of the letterform and yet each appear as entirely separate pursuits. Uniting them requires understanding both very well, contemplating their friction, their possibilities, and a lot of negotiation.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Since 2007 Niels “Shoe” Meulman has been investigating, experimenting with, enraptured by this pursuit. From thousands of hand sketches in his black book to the full-body immersion techniques of creating across large walls and floors, using paint and brush by the gallon in premeditated/subconscious all-inclusive gestural choreographies. Shoe knows how to stay in the moment.

It’s this elevating together of disciplines that reveals their contrasts; awakening the inner conflicts and core strengths, parading them on view.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He discovered the perfect transmutation here in Brooklyn. It was that night of art-making with Haze that was a turning point..

“We both decided to go to the art store and get a whole lot of tools and stuff and just started working to see what would come out,” he says as he glances out the 1st floor brownstone window at the pile of recycled cardboard in the tiny courtyard. 26 years as a writer from Amsterdam who had met his New York graffiti heroes like Dondi, Rammellzee, and Haring, Shoe had pursued a career in advertising, and was still in love with fonts and their power to communicate.

“Without a commission, without a brief,” he remembers. “And like that – my old passion, calligraphy, mixing with graffiti, just came out!”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Shoe says he created “calligraffiti” and he ran with it: developing a body of work around it, writing a book about it (Calligraffiti), collaborating with a growing number of artists who also had an affinity for the penmanship of an artful communication modality that spans centuries.

He has developed brushes, tools, techniques, opened a gallery in a garage (Unruly), covered surfaces from cars to museum walls, finished three more books (Painter, Abstract Vandalism and Shoe is my Middle name). It was as if he had finally decided at 40 that it was okay to be an artist, and he left advertising to dedicate himself fully to his craft.

“Because my dad is also an artist- maybe I was finding the right moment to be an artist,” he says as he shows you a stack of many papers from the art supply store, and he contemplates why he had hesitated for years. It’s not that he was concerned about competing with his father, but the stakes were high. Speaking of his father, he says, “I think he was thinking ‘if you’re going to be an artist you better be a successful one’ – because being a struggling artist – that’s the worst!”

Additionally, he thought that before he could call himself an artist, he should have something substantial to show. “It also felt like there was something more profound to it,” he says. “I always thought that to be an artist you have to have life experience and have some knowledge and purpose to bring to the table, you know?”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Whether wide tip, wide brush, or wide cap, the bending letters are cryptic and stern in their old-worldliness. Fluid and stilted, wild and ornate, gilded, in black, in iridescence, in silver and gold. The additional layers of ink burst violently with destructive force in the swipe, the slash, the bash. The splatters are sometimes built up like an aura that glows around the cavorting dark letters – as if bruised and pummeled, their damaged and moistened epidermis now sweating black blood, infusing the air with a miasma of industrial soot.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With broad interests that delve into abstract, into wordplay, even poetry, this moment is the clarity in early morning fog on a quiet street in old BedStuy, now rumbling with the sweet sickness of gentrification. The residency that brings him here is so named to recall history and to look forward, offering a respite for many a visiting Street Artist.

“I didn’t really have a plan when I came here but, like many times, I come up with something on the plane like the day before – and of course it’s brewing in my head.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He points to a couple of handled black plastic shopping bags that he has tacked to the wall. With a capacity to recognize and understand his own emotions and the emotions of an era, he has connected to the pleasantry printed on them “Thank You for Shopping With Us!”. It’s not just the sentiment that captures the late 1970s design hand, for him, it’s the upbeat openness and lyrical bending of the letters and lines that attract him.

The letters are sweet like cherry lip-gloss on a rollerskater in hot pants in Central Park. Suddenly you are flipping through the pages of Eros, Fact, or Avant Garde, a relief of melodic line and sexual liberty.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“Thank you for shopping!” he exclaims like a fan. “That’s so New York for me; that’s exactly graffiti – that 70s Herb Lubalin look,” he says of a time when magazines were so head-over-heels in love with new type treatments that they might feature a 2-page spread of it entirely just for you to salivate over.

“It’s free,” he says, perhaps reflective of the liberal sway of social mores and the swinging romance that advertising had with the Baby Boomer’s ‘me’ generation of the seventies. It’s a phrase rooted in consumerism, cities were in the last throes of an ample middleclass America who had cash and credit to shop with.  That fact contrasted with the suffering of a bankrupt NYC – a spirit that inspired train writers as well, even if used as critique.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I think the whole graffiti scene that started here had something to do with this sort of lettering,” he says. “It came from that freedom that you could see in advertising. The type design was so good.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

For now, this month-long residency is a reprieve for Shoe, a time to examine and relax into the spring that gradually warms New York and brings rose blooms to the bush in the small front yard of this residential street. His new sketches from his black book contain pithy barbs, hidden meanings, pop-culture references, and life truisms drawn in what he might refer to as a monk-like manner.

“I’m not religious. I don’t follow any religion and I don’t meditate but I like this idea of knowledge and introspection,” he says. “This is where Chinese calligraphy comes in and you are reminded of the medieval monks and all kinds of calligraphers”.

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A congenial host, Shoe shows us walls full of new pieces, individual words or phrases on a large variety of papers, textures, and stocks. He describes his inks with as much enthusiasm as his personal relationships, which are sometimes as tumultuous as the intense splashes of midnight here. You can see there is definitely work being done.

“That knowledge comes from that kind of introspection. The influence of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy comes in because at that time if you were by yourself writing…. Those monks either wanted to be enlightened or were enlightened in some way; it’s a search,” he says.

“This is where I am.”

Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Niels Show Meulman. BedStuy Art Residence. Brooklyn, NY. May 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

To learn more about the BedStuy Art Residency, please go HERE.

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Isaac Cordal In-Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain.

Isaac Cordal In-Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain.

The endgame of vulture capitalism. The implosion of the corporate culture. The subtle differences between public housing and private jailing. The melting of the ice caps.

However you have wished to interpret the work of Spanish sculptural street artist Isaac Cordal over the last decade, you probably thought he didn’t hold much hope for our future. Or us. But he says his work is more a reflection of what he sees, and he presents it will a subtle humor.

After a recent visit to his ceramic tiled and flourescent-lit artist studio in downtown Bilbao, we realized that his public art darkness is at least as hopeful as it is critical. All around the studio he has created a variety of rehearsal spaces, vignettes, and theatrical scenarios or displays with his figures interacting with other objects that he collects along the way.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It is at least as entertaining as it is educational. His sad characters and formal scenes of concrete dystopia are also humorous in their unlikely repetition, their utter lack of comfort, their repurposing of common objects as dire ones. His critiques of consumerism, environmental degradation, militarism, corporatism merging into fascism are sometimes couched by his own understated humor and attitude of childlike play as well.

Not that people were chuckling as they encircled the austere and degrading urban jungle scene he constructed in the Spanish capital for the Urvanity 2019 showcase in the courtyard of the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid. The tribal clusters of bald men in suits were situated above, partially submerged in, or up to their chins in gravel from a bombed out lot, perhaps churned rubble created by a drone.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

But did the art crowd also see the two businessmen carrying a stretcher full of wheatgrass? The absurdity is a relief. Are they rescuing a rectangular slab of nature? Possibly cultivating it for farming? Blissing out on a wheatgrass juice cleanse to counter the martinis and amphetamines?

And what about these new human-faced pigs gathered around, looking for a trough? He presents the human/animal hybrids without comment under electric lights that glitter warmly across the compound. They could be a metaphor addressing attitudes or behaviors. They may also be a glimpse into a law-free amoral future where any new life-form you conjure can be sequenced and produced.

(Click here to read our review :Urvanity 2019: Isaac Cordal’s Dire Courtyard Installation”)

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A graduate in sculpture at the University of Fine Arts near his hometown in Galicia, he also studied conservation of stone crafts and trained in London at Camberwell College. He was a founding member of a digital art community called Alg-a.org, a heavy metal guitarist in a band called Dismal, and a publisher of a fanzine called Exorcism.

As you learn these details about his life in the 90s and 2000s, you gain a greater appreciation for the powerful work of a guy who has emerged uniquely on the global street art stage with his Cement Elipses.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As hard driving electronic drums, bass, and cryptic lyric loops pounding from a radio on a shop stool, we witness the fastidious artist at work in the tidy studio area in this converted warehouse on a dead-end block. As he circles the center island in his overalls looking for the appropriate steel bit or resin mold he bobs gently to the beat, skillfully switching attachments on his drill and hand-designed vacuum device.

Here is where you see the craftsman at work; carefully attentive, problem-solving industry in play, possibly more at peace while he is creating than when he is left to think too much. He picks up a pink pig figurine and begins the plastic surgery, the fine reconstruction; a gentle whirring, a whittling away of snout and a defining of chin-line.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The result is rough and unrefined, proportions not sweet. He blazes through these final actions and presents his new hybrid man-pig, a satisfied glint flashing by as he blinks. The drill whirrs downward and he sits on the stool for a minute to flip over the figurine a few times and inspect it.

BSA: I imagine sometimes that people must think that you are walking around with a cloud over your head –  but you’re not really. You’re a happy person who thinks seriously about the world and its issues.

Isaac: It’s not that I am choosing the topics. It is something that came by default. It is my personality. Also I make this work because I do not like the kind of society that we have now. I think about all the improvements that we have from our new discoveries – and I don’t understand what the reason is that we have all of these situations and problems. We should be a smarter society and more just.

We can find water on Mars but we can’t feed people here – what’s the reason for this? Why is our only worry about how we can have more and more and more? In that sense probably in my work it is like that because I don’t understand what we are doing, or our idea of progress. I say ‘Wow, it’s incredible that we cannot work on a common welfare.’ So the work is probably a reflection of what I do not like.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Do you think your work is conceptual art?
Isaac Cordal: I don’t think so because it’s pretty direct. It’s not codified. It’s very easy to understand and with conceptual art there is a semantic idea, meanings. It’s more of a movement of art.

BSA: So you been doing this project using cement for maybe 15 years?
Isaac Cordal: I don’t know maybe the first one was in 2005. Maybe before because I have some others that I made in cement that maybe go back 1999 it’s crazy how fast time goes. Because it was in 1996 that I started to study fine arts at the university in my hometown in Galicia. I also went to stone-carving school for five years. We were like slaves there because we were working with big stones – but I learned quite a lot because I learned to do more in terms of carving and modeling clay.

It was quite an experience for me. Most of the school was nice because it was more conceptual or theoretical – and it was interesting for me to learn more about contemporary art.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: How do you feel about this time of your life as an artist?
Isaac Cordal: The future for me I think is a little uncertain because every day is like a new year. I’m laying in the bed hiding behind my covers just looking over the edge. You say, “Oh my God another day that you have to prove yourself, do your projects.”

There are different venues and situations for artists but I think it is a kind of battle, a combat that first starts inside of you and after splashes onto others – your family or maybe your girlfriend. It’s not easy. It’s quite complex. I’ve had so many friends who were studying with me and they were talented but they couldn’t live their lives in this manner. It is a little bit uncertain. People may prefer to have a proper job. For me, probably not.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Do you have a sense about how people see your art?
Issac Cordal: We have to deal with so many fears that this society is selling to us and it seems that you have to think about them. I think the people can understand my work very easily as it is very simple and representative.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: What perceptions or reactions do you think they are having when looking at the “Yard” installation, for example?
Isaac Cordal: The “Yard” is kind of a reflection of ourselves on a small scale. The topics are a little bit pessimistic but perhaps people can see it as a sort of reflection. They probably think about the topic that is suggested behind the installation.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: Did you feel a sense of tension, given your worldview about politics and power and privilege and all of the societal structures we work within – your politics are so strong. How do you decide what to manifest?
Isaac Cordal: I don’t want to do real political art. I think it is quite complicated. You have to be very clean. When you do political art you cannot make mistakes. In my work I am more interested in creating a reflection of what I see through the window. Sometimes I think I’m only speaking about myself. We are a reflection of the society and the society is always growing and evolving so probably as an artist we have to grow too.

Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
Isaac Cordal. Studio Visit. Bilbao, Spain. March 2019. (photo © Jaime Rojo)
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Futura 2000 In Studio and “The 5 Elements”

Futura 2000 In Studio and “The 5 Elements”

EARTH, AIR, FIRE, and WATER. And FUTURA 2000.

These are the five elements.

“Hey Guys!” he bellows from the doorway and invites us in.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

A non-stop full-voiced welcome fills the air of this factory loft space with stories and smoke and sports talk radio as you ascend steps from the truck-traffic cacophony of cold and rain on this Bushwick thoroughfare. For the next hour and a half, you are warmly surrounded by clothes racks and boxes and spray cans and multi-faceted anecdotes and impressions and fragments of memories that get shaken and sprayed and circled back to.

Here is a fond remembrance of something his mom or dad said from his childhood, an adroitly drawn quip about a curious gallerist, an excited discovery of new Super 8 footage of a mission with famed NYC graffiti writer Dondi in Japan to promote Wild Style. Elsewhere he recounts a meeting with Joe Strummer in a New York studio to share and record his own penned rap lyrics with The Clash, a trip to Berlin in ’85 with Keith Haring, a recent conversation with MODE2 who lives there now, a description of his personal misgivings about wearing his US military uniform into town while stationed at Yakuska Naval Base as a 20 year old.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

An omnivore of ideas and initiatives and world cities, his march as a creative force of nature only gathers speed as he nears 40 years since first emerging from graffiti writing as a studio artist.

“1980 was the breakout year for us because we were all beginning to surface,” he says of the number of events that occurred that year and brought graffiti and street culture to a larger, more mainstream audience, and hopefully, a collector base. That was the year of the “Times Square Show” by Colab that introduced art and performance from the “Downtown” and “Uptown” scenes. It was also the year that Stefan Eins’ Fashion Moda gallery in the South Bronx had its first exhibition of graffiti art – Graffiti Art Success for America (GAS) – curated by artist John Matos (aka Crash), the show included work by graffiti culture artists such as Futura, Lady Pink, John Fekner, Disco 107, Fab Five Freddie, Futura, Kel 139th, Lee, Mitch 77, Nac 143, Noc 167, Stan 153, Tom McCutcheon, and Zephyr.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“We were all willing to come above ground and investigate what was happening,” he says. “That was also the year I did the ‘Break Car’,” he says of the uniquely abstract whole graffiti car he painted that set him apart stylistically from the NYC graffiti writing pack and was captured famously by photographer Martha Cooper. That car and that style would proved to be the Cold War inspired rocketship that launched Futura 2000 into a forty year exploration of the Cosmos.

Fast forward to April 2018 in Lille, France, and Futura toils and emerges with a new body of work incorporating his long-held love for the interconnectedness of the galaxy, the stars, and the planet.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I’ve been a child of the planet since I was a kid,” he says as he recalls the impact of the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens and how it tapped into his innate desire for exploration. “Every nation had a pavilion,” he says, and suddenly you see his collection of miniature architectural wonders from around the world, all grouped together for an idealized cityscape.

“I’ve got Berlin, Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers, Roma, Peru (Easter Island), the Blue Mosque in Turkey, Sheik Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi,” he says. “I don’t have Taj Mahal, but I’ve been to it. I need that.”

“The 5 Elements” is the exhibition that opens this week at Urban Spree in Berlin and of course refers as well to the so-called “Five Elements of Hip-Hop”, of which graffiti is one. But he reserves this reference to a greater sweep, expressed in about an expansive show. “There’s a whole series on water, air, on fire,” he says, “It’s all at some point color coated for each element.” He also creates a series of circular canvasses hung in relation to each other to evoke the planetary system.

“I think they’re like 70 pieces, in terms of that I don’t think I’ve ever done anything this extensive,” he says.

But “The 5 Elements” is not a retrospective show, says Urban Spree founder and curator Pascal Feucher, who has been preparing the show with co-host Art Together. “On the contrary,” he writes, “Futura worked specifically on a large museum-style conceptual exhibition, tackling the ambitious theme of the Creation of the Universe, confronting himself to the cosmos, the planets, the infinitely small, the Big Bang and the fundamental elements, producing a corpus of works that becomes a path to the exploration of the universe as well as providing a backdoor into Futura’s internal galaxy.”

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Coinciding with the show will be the release of a 128-page companion book titled “Futura, les 5 éléments” – certain to be sought after.

For the ever expansive graphic designer, clothing designer, wordsmith, musician, sneaker head, graffiti writer, abstract painter, photographer, the dots are all connected – and it always also connects to his roots.

“I like it when it’s a degree removed, yet connected – when you realize that the whole school – at least the whole New York City school, is vast,” he says. “It has touched a lot of people.”

Rather like Futura 2000.

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Futura sharing a picture of Lee Quinones on a moped in Roma (photo © Jaime Rojo)


Below are images of the 4 screen prints that will be released at the opening of “The 5 Elements”, based on the painting series “Pure”. Each 8-color screen print is hand-pulled by Dolly Demoratti (Mother Drucker/Urban Spree Studio), signed and numbered by Futura. The 50 x 50 cm prints are only sold as a limited edition of 100 sets.

Futura. Pure Earth. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura. Pure Air. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura. Pure Water. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura. Pure Fire. (photo courtesy of Urban Spree Gallery)

Futura (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Strøk in Studio: Isometric Figures, Stencils, and Old Doors in Berlin

Strøk in Studio: Isometric Figures, Stencils, and Old Doors in Berlin

Strøk! If you can say it you should shout it!

And you’ll have to shout it if you want Street Artist Anders Gjennestad to hear you from his perch 60 meters high above you upon the The Victory Column. Berliners call the bronze woman at the center of this six lane traffic circle Victoria, and Strøk has climbed the 282 steps up a spiral staircase to sit at her feet many times to shoot his models down below.

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I like to shoot there because it’s very open and you can move around and there are shadows going in many directions throughout the day,” he says as he shows you images of his subject on the ground on his computer back in the studio. “ He moved and then the shadows are going the other direction- the sun stays there quite late so it’s nice. You pay like three Euros to get in there but its usually not that busy.”

Sequestered in a high ceilinged room of a former school on a sleepy street in the city, the Norwegian transplant has found his home in Berlin for the last few years and he gladly shows you around recent stencils, his custom tilted cutting desk, a crushed car hood now readymade sculpture/wall hanging, and stacks of old heavy doors that he’ll be painting on sooner than later.

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“All of these doors are taken from abandoned houses,” he says amidst stories of urban and ex-urban adventures with friends on the margins of the city spray painting and salvaging.

“We rent a van and I go with my neighbor and bring all the power tools and batteries,” he says of the work that sounds a little like the harvesting he must have done back home on the farm in Norway. It occurs to you that the recycling of materials is also very ‘green’.

“Yeah we put on a fluorescent jacket and a little helmet,” he says as he shows you weathered and deteriorated slabs of wood with occasional metal moldings or hinges, patterns and markings. Like this one he found in a dumpster.

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“I also just find things on the street like this one that a carpenter has used as a cutting board under his work. It has all these handwritten measurements on it – these are good canvasses as well. It wouldn’t be so interesting for me to paint it out of fresh canvas,” he pauses. “That’s why I am a fresh garbage collector.”

The deep baritone and thick shaggy mop add to the story as he narrates his way around the studio and a fall breeze wafts in through the casement windows that remind him of his early days shooting models out of them to the sidewalk a few floors below. His unique technique of capturing movement from above and transforming it isometrically onto other planes has distinguished his street works in countries like Lebanon, Portugal, Taiwan, Iceland, France, Denmark, Italy, and others.

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It has also brought his figures that are barely tethered to the ground except by their shadows to private collections and gallery shows like his most recent solo exhibition “Gravity” at Galerie Friedmann-Hahn here this summer.

A single image may result from 1,000 photos, he says, all shot overhead with an eye for unusual bending and foreshortening and a surprise. He used to shoot friends or strangers but now more often hires a model and gives them scenarios over the phone from above.

“I have an idea and I ask him to do things,” he says, “but it’s more of the stuff that they do in between when they’re not thinking about it that I find most interesting.” He walks over to a new piece with a figure in a striped shirt, his head obscured and his limbs hanging off the edge of the board that he is using as canvas. “Like this guy putting on his sweater. That was something I didn’t think about before I saw the photos. And I think that’s interesting. So I like stuff that just happens.”

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BSA: So it’s the unscripted moment that you are looking for?
Strøk: I try not to give too much direction anyway. I’m always kind of up in the tower and then I called him and I told him to do some things. But it’s the in between things when he is doing things that I didn’t think about or plan I always shoot and then when I come back and look at all the pictures I pick the one that I want.

It is a cyclical pattern he describes as his life in between special sculptural projects or commissioned installations; Salvaging garbage, shooting models, cutting stencils, spraying new canvasses.

“If I had a normal job I would find it hard to justify spending all this time digging in bins and finding garbage, dressing up like a construction worker-and cutting stuff off the walls,” he says with a satisfied expression.

“I love doing all of that and I like to paint so it’s good to have those two interests tied together.”

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Anders Gjennstad STRØK. Studio Visit. Berlin. September 2018. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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BD White Flies Into Space With Astronauts for “Love, Loss and Longing”

BD White Flies Into Space With Astronauts for “Love, Loss and Longing”

Street Artist BD White has always been intrigued by the life of astronauts – so much so that he has them tattooed on his arms. Their desire for adventure, the solitude in space, and their storied longings for loved ones far away provide metaphorical  inspiration for this new gallery show that he has been developing for weeks.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It’s a trip that BD takes through a darkly mysterious, sometimes disorienting, often sparkling world alone – and with you. To prepare for the new space exploration he has resolved to push himself far above where he has gone before to create a new body of work that is the most technically complex he has ever made, using up to 80 layers of cut stencils to create new paintings.

Eager to distinguish his work from others and to challenge himself beyond his comfort level, BD tells us in his Brooklyn studio that he’s learned a lot in this process and he is enamored with a technique of foreshortening the image and mixing the spray paint on the artwork itself, creates depth in the layers, making the image ‘pop’ off of the surface.

In the Street Art game around New York for a relatively short time, his new studio  collection includes 24 original works, 4 original collaboration works, a handful of limited edition screen prints and a statue of an astronaut.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This central new image is one that he’s focused on before: this suited astronaut afloat, tilted at angles in the weightless environment and happily or unhappily disconnected from the earth. With this image in mind, the viewer may gain a better appreciation for the artist, who tells us that his own experience with a broken heart in recent times inspired this theme of “Love, Loss and Longing” – and his prep for the show has proved cathartic, even therapeutic, enabling him to move on.

On a recent evening when we visit his studio BD’s mom and his sister are helping with some stencil production work, clearing the fresh cuttings on the machine cut stencils and silently working while a mid-sized and equally quiet but very friendly orange tabby saunters through the warmly hued space. The feline family member has to be banished from the spraying area and she’s too inquisitive to be easily closed away from the action.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

With this many layers of stencils, the labor can be extensive, BD tells us, and he spends a lot of time just cleaning the new cut layers before he can utilize them. Text passages obscured by the new characters are drawn from lyrics of songs that remind BD of love, loss, and longing – but you can tell he’s not singing the blues as he readies for this new solo show at Castle Fitzjohns Gallery on Orchard Street in Manhattan.

Brooklyn Street Art: How would you describe your style and subject matter to a person who hasn’t seen it?
BD White: Recently I’ve had to describe my new work to a lot of people and I’ve been saying “I do paintings of astronauts and women, which sounds strange but I swear they are cool!” But if I were to try to be more eloquent I would say I make extremely detailed stencil paintings of haunting images of astronauts and women about love, loss, heartbreak and longing. Each painting is anywhere from 50 to 80 stencil layers on a bronze patina background.

Brooklyn Street Art: You have done work in studio and on the street, legal, commercial, and illegal. What is satisfying about working on the street? What are you most proud of in this new show?
BD White: What’s satisfying to me about doing work on the street is the immediate connection you get to have with the public. Not everyone goes to art shows, and you might only be doing a couple shows a year even.  So there is a huge amount of people that won’t see your work.  It’s nice to have it on the street to be able to engage those people as well.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It’s always exciting to me when someone new discovers your work during their daily commute and is able to stop and take a photo before moving on with their day. In this new show however, I’m mostly excited to unveil this new body of work.  These paintings are far and above anything I have ever produced before. I really tried to push myself and create the best possible works that I could. I wanted to take stenciling to a level I hadn’t seen before.

I’m one of those artists who gets bored unless I’m growing and making things that are constantly challenging for me. I could never just make one image and repeating it over and over again. What is the point of that? Now I’m not trying to insult anyone when I say this – I’m not referring to any specific artist or anything like that.  Everyone has their own style with creative expression and they create things that work for them and I have no qualms about that. This is just personally how I feel about my own work. I always want to be making newer and better things.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

I constantly look back on older works of mine with disgust. I kind of hate everything I’ve made in the past, but that seems to happen every time I make something new. I remember loving the child soldier paintings I had done a couple years ago and thinking these are the best works I’ve made. Now I think they are awful. So I’m really excited to be showing these new paintings and I think I’ve been able to reach new grounds in stenciling, but I bet I’ll think all these painting are trash in a year when I’m making my next series.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: How has your work changed since you first began stenciling on the street?
BD White: I think my work has grown quite a bit since I first began stenciling on the street. I’m always trying to make bigger and better things. When I first started I was making political images and pretty much just copying Shepard Fairey. I soon learned that not everyone wants political images on their walls or on canvas and although I felt strongly about the politics I was putting forward, it limited my audience.

BD White at work on a painting. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

My goal has always been to make work that can resonate with everyone. I want my work to evoke an emotional reaction from the viewer in one way or another. So I’ve tried to grow and form into my own unique style. I think I’ve finally left behind my copying of Shepard Fairey and have produced works that are completely original to me. A lot of artists paint astronauts, there is nothing original about that, I know.  But I’ve never seen anyone who has done astronauts with women. And none in these haunting poses about love, loss, and longing.

The works and images I’ve made are 100% mine alone.  I draw everything from scratch. I don’t Google source any of my astronauts. There is no reference photo on the Internet for them. I photograph all the women myself but only use that reference in a loose sense. I change a lot from photo to painting. I never want my work to be just a painting of a photograph. I don’t understand the point of that. True art to me is when you can create something that no one else can reproduce. I’m not sure if I’ve reached that stage yet or ever will, but that’s what I’m striving for.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you feel connected to Ai Weiwei?
BD White: I made that Ai Weiwei painting about 3 or 4 years ago. I had seen that documentary Never Sorry, which was all about him. I felt strongly on his side since he was fighting for freedom of information and free speech in China. I made that piece to basically show my support and help spread his word. It was when I was doing the super political works. It doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m making now though.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Spacemen figure into your pieces periodically. How does the image of a astronaut relate to you?
BD White: I use the image of the astronaut for a couple reasons, first to represent men and myself, but more importantly to represent distance and loneliness. The idea that the astronaut is literally not on the planet and is as isolated as one could possibly be – that is what draws me to them. I’ve always been interested in space and science when it comes to astrophysics, I think everyone at one point in their life wanted to be an astronaut. I think it speaks to our instinctual need to explore and expand our horizons. I also just think they look cool- I’m covered in astronaut tattoos.

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BD White at work on a painting in his Brooklyn studio. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

BD White. Detail. Spray paint stenciled on wood panel. (photo © Jaime Rojo)


BD White “Love, Loss and Longing” exhibition will open this September 7th at the Castle Fitzjohns Gallery in Manhattan. Click HERE for full details.

 

 

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Borondo Studio Visit Before “Animal” Solo Show

Borondo Studio Visit Before “Animal” Solo Show

Spanish Street Artist, expressionist, painter/multi-media explorer Borondo has been on a lot of people’s list lately because his wide-eyed and fearless inquisitions are taking him into many disciplines, and he’s doing most of them incredibly.

He’s excited about his new solo show at Rex Romae Gallery in Shoreditch, London this Friday the 6th, and we’re excited because the photographer Butterfly is sharing these fresh new images with BSA readers. Following the shots you can read more about her visit to the Borondo studios.

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Borondo. “Animal” Rex Romae Gallery. Shoreditch, London. (photo © Butterfly)

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Borondo. “Animal” Rex Romae Gallery. Shoreditch, London. (photo © Butterfly)

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Borondo. “Animal” Rex Romae Gallery. Shoreditch, London. (photo © Butterfly)

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Borondo. “Animal” Rex Romae Gallery. Shoreditch, London. (photo © Butterfly)

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Borondo. “Animal” Rex Romae Gallery. Shoreditch, London. (photo © Butterfly)

From Butterfly’s visit to Borondo’s studio:

“We visited the studio of prolific Spanish artist Gonzalo Borondo ahead of his upcoming solo exhibition ‘Animal’.  Curated by Rom Levy, founder of  RexRomae, and Charlotte Dutoit of Justkids, the show will be set up at the London Newcastle Project Space in Shoreditch . It’s Borondo’s most ambitious show to date and the atmosphere in the studio is buzzing and fun. Prolific is an euphemism when we see the variety of techniques and medium used: wood, mesh, glass, videos and so on…click HERE to continue reading and to see more photos.

Our thanks to Butterfly for sharing this with BSA Readers.

 

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Dain in Studio; Stares, Fashionable Ladies, and AltaRoma

Dain in Studio; Stares, Fashionable Ladies, and AltaRoma

“You’re not taking pictures of me right? I’ll kill ya. I got a coffin upstairs. You’d look perfect in that coffin. I know that.” So begins our delightful first time interview with the elusive Brooklyn Street Artist DAIN. We’ve only published, say, 200 images of his work on the street over the last few years and written about his shows in galleries and occasional movements toward a commercial career, so we probably are respectable. But you know, sometimes a Street Artist is a little cagey and excited at first and when he says “kill” he really just means “choke you until you can’t breathe”.

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We’re in the basement of a suburban home at the end of a dead end street and yes, we actually entered through the back stairs through the ivy strangled yard because DAIN says there is an empty coffin upstairs and he doesn’t want to scare us and it’s a long story anyway. Fair enough. At least we know it’s actually him when we see 10 canvases and the pinched pouts that breathe a smokey sort of sex yet mean all business. The low ceilings mean one of us has to duck and avoid hitting his head on pipes mainly because of innate clumsiness, and the floor is scattered with cut pieces of black and white limbs, painted faces, blank expressions.

“For me it’s always about the eyes. The stare,” Dain explains about those women you have seen in doorways throughout Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, composites of many. “I like happy people but I like something that is staring at me, or maybe staring away,” he says as he talks about the idealized beauties he’s been portraying in stilted, curvaceous sometimes colorized glamouuuuuur.

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Dain. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“You know what’s funny, people have said, ‘Oh your work is so sexy’ and this and that. But the thing is I never show a woman’s body. It’s always a woman’s face on a man’s body, usually. I think women sell themselves short. They think they have to take off all of their clothes for someone to love them – but if you keep your clothes on people still love you,” he says.

In Twiggy’s case, she has kept her shoes on – her head. This image is sort of the siren of the group, which includes more full body shots than in the past, and since this show is going to Italy at the behest of Silvia Fendi as part of the Altaroma shows, the sixties icon seems quite comfortable. Hey, if the shoe fits.

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Dain. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So tell me about this – It looks like you make this large collage figure with all of these different pieces, and then assemble them on the canvass – is that how it is done, can you talk about the process? DAIN: You gonna be giving away all my secrets?

Brooklyn Street Art: Look, I’m observing here.
DAIN: Okay I’m going to put it all away! Well, what do think they are? What did you think they were?

Brooklyn Street Art: When I see them on the street, you know you make a story in your mind, I thought that you first make these collaged figures at home, then you scan it as one piece, then printed it and then hand colored it.
DAIN: Gotcha. Usually for the street it is something like that. But for the work here usually there will be three or four images together. I used to do the whole background collage but now I’ve been painting the background. Like these pieces here I love the painting I love the colors in there. I would like to do even bigger pieces because I think the painting itself, there is something going on in there, and then you have the image. This I really love. This right here is probably four different people in this image. This is Elizabeth Taylor here, the head, you see her face here. You got another face here and another face here, and then a different body.

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Dain. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

We go through each one of the canvasses in no particular order, bouncing back between one and the other, remarking on the colors, compositions, the coolness, the size. The figures are confident and yes, can be very sexy in a cyborg sort of way. He has also been adding patterns and some geometric forms that recalls some of the op art from the 1960a. DAIN explains that he is going bigger than ever before and he is actually leaving more space in some cases, courtesy a hand painted background that sometimes references his days doing graffitti. These are some of the newer developments, along with the inclusion of more of the body of his figures rather than the busts you have grown accustomed to.

We talk about some of his different phases as a Street Artist during the last decade or so and scattered boxes full of old framed somewhat campy pieces and an early screenprint of boxers lie on the floor at the perimeter of the tiled floor as reminders. There is even a small handful of silkscreened t-shirts hanging from a water pipe, and something reminds us to bring up the John Kennedy smoking a cigarette piece that once appeared in a doorway, but DAIN is focused on the present and the future right now.

“Okay, now I’ve just moved into the ladies. I hope my work is getting better. I think its getting better. That’s my goal, getting better and better.,” he says. “I’m doing a lot of painting.” And that is why you’ve been seeing it more in galleries lately – at Folioleaf in Brooklyn this spring and at Avant Gallery in both their Miami and Manhattan locations.

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It wasn’t what he started out to do as a graffiti-writer-turned-Street-Artist and it still boggles his brain a little bit.

“It was just fun. It wasn’t like I thought I was going to be showing at galleries. Who’s thinking of that? I mean I was just in a gallery on Madison Avenue and I’m thinking like ‘this is hilarious’.”

Does he like the experience of being in a gallery as well as the street? “I actually like it because I remember when I first got started and people where doing these street art shows and people just threw everything on the walls and it’s a mess. Not that I’m like – I mean I’m a nobody – but I just like my work to be displayed well,” he says.

The new show is well underway, and his new hand painted, sometimes graffiti tagged, backgrounds are allowing more psychological space around his ladies, giving them opportunity to express their plaintive, mystical, multiple personalities. The press release for Saturday’s opening for DAIN | Tribute to Rome accurately describes the hybrids as suggesting “a nostalgia for a recent, timeless past where faces emerge from an atmosphere of seeming bewilderment.”

We ask him about this exact thing actually.

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Remember when you did that year-book photo stuff on the street? It was like a series of class photos from 1940s yearbooks and it was interesting and also it was interesting that you would find it appealing in some way.
DAIN: I love that stuff. I love black and white. You use your imagination in black and white.

Brooklyn Street Art: You like movies?
DAIN: I love “The Honeymooners”. I love “I Love Lucy”. You know, when I watch “The Honeymooners”, is Alice wearing a red top? I know she’s got red hair but what does this woman really look like? You’ve got to use your imagination. Now the image is thrown right at you. Kids today they don’t even think, their so riveted.

Brooklyn Street Art: No they don’t even seem to process it, they just absorb it. So your stuff really evokes another era. Is that something you have thought through or is it just something you feel and it just comes out?
DAIN: I guess it just comes out. I love simplicity. I love the 40s, the 30s, the 50s. You know I don’t do Instagram, I don’t do any of that.

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Dain. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: So why are you nostalgic for a time before you?
DAIN: I guess maybe my folks. They’re from Brooklyn. Coney Island. And they’re kind of caught up in that. One of my favorite movies, if I watch a movie, is On the Waterfront. I remember being a little kid and my father telling me “You gotta see this movie” and he put it on and it was in black and white. And I was like ‘”You kidding me? This is in black and white!” and years later I really appreciate it.

Brooklyn Street Art: So you grew into it.
DAIN: I think I grew into it.

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Dain. Shot from the “trash” pile. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

He draws attention to the fact that none of the new gallery canvasses feature his women wearing a circular monocle that drips fluorescently – a feature that many on the street know his works for. He appears to be ready to discontinue the practice even though we tell him that it is sort of part of his signature, even his tag. But he’s not sure.

DAIN: If you notice I didn’t put any drips on the eyes here. For some reason I didn’t start any drips.

Brooklyn Street Art: Do you think you are moving away from them right now?
DAIN: I don’t know. I don’t think people know me enough to know the drips.

Brooklyn Street Art: No I think that people actually do know your work partially at least because of the drips.
DAIN: You see I have no idea what’s going on out there, you know what I mean.

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You started off doing graffiti?
DAIN: Yeah

Brooklyn Street Art: And it was a good experience?
DAIN: In those days there was crews, it was kind of hip. It was kind of cool. But there was a lot of beef in those days. I was a youngster, a teenager. I don’t know what goes on now. I don’t know if the guys still have the beef but back then there was so much beef. You couldn’t even go some places. You’d go over somebody and he’s looking for you and they would come at you. I mean it was crazy back then. So it was cool and then I left it but it’s one of those things where even to this day I’m always looking at graffiti, it’s just something in me.

Brooklyn Street Art: You never lose interest in it- from the way people talk about it.
DAIN: It’s like an addiction.

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Dain. Work in progress. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Yeah it’s like even if you lose you hair, your ability to walk, you’re still like, “If you give me a chance I’ll go over and hit that wall right there”
DAIN: Yeah it’s amazing

Brooklyn Street Art: Just because there is some kind of adrenaline involved, it’s like a drug
DAIN: It definitely is so I still keep my eye on what’s going on out there. Especially these old school guys, like when I was younger – like this guy Fib, DC, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of these guys. But when I was a kid they would write everywhere. See everybody knows about the subway scene from back then but there was such a huge scene just on the streets, the highways. The buses were bombed, the sanitation trucks were bombed – I mean everything was bombed back then and I’m starting to see guys who are 40-50 years old who are starting to write again. It’s amazing like 20 – 30 years later they’re coming back. These guys must be married with kids and everything else. It’s like something you never get over.

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In the end, the interview experience is great for everybody. Meeting a Street Artist who we’ve shot and talked about for years, and learning about some of those questions we had banging around our heads for a while. We do a little photo shoot – a little styling that keeps the anonymity and neatly avoids the aforementioned coffin. One shot features the artist crawling under a pile of discarded faces and limbs on the floor with DAIN’s feet sticking out at the bottom. “Like on the Wizard of Oz” he remarks.

So why did he finally agree to be interviewed in person and in studio? “I don’t know. I says ‘let me contact these guys. They’re Brooklyn Street Art, I am Brooklyn Street Art!’ ” which made us think we wouldn’t die after all.

We say our thanks to each other and he shows us to the back door again, where we stumble over a garden hose to get to the top of the concrete steps. He asks if we are going to let him see the article before we publish it.

Brooklyn Street Art: No, we never do that.
DAIN: You guys are killing me!

Luckily nobody was killed in the course of this interview.

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Dain. Shot from the “trash” pile. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dain sits for his portrait. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dain (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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Dain. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

 

Dain’s exhibition “Tribute To Rome” will open in Rome, Italy on Saturday, July 12. Click HERE for more details.

To learn about AltaRoma click the poster below:

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How & Nosm Studio Confessions

How & Nosm Studio Confessions

It is an age of self-discovery, and the twins continue to be surprised by what they find as they attack huge walls with zeal and precision in New York, LA, Miami, Stavanger, Prague, Las Vegas, Rochester, Philadelphia, Rio – all in the last 12 months. Now while they prepare for their new pop-up show, “Late Confessions”, to open in Manhattan in a couple of weeks, the combined subconscious of How & Nosm is at work, and on display are the personal storylines they will reveal if you are paying close attention.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

It’s a crisp sunny Saturday in Queens and we’re in the studio of a secured elevator building with cameras and clean floors and air thick with aerosol. Davide (or is it Raoul?) is on his knees with a tub of pink plastering goo, applying and smoothing and sanding this large oddly-shaped structure. When it is painted it will debut in the newly renovated Chelsea space whose walls were destroyed during the flooding of falls’ super storm “Sandy”. The gallery space of Jonathan Levine wasn’t large enough for the scale the brothers have grown accustomed to working with, so this more cavernous temporary location will take on a feeling of being part exhibition, part theme park.

How & Nosm. At work on a sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The impermanent sculpture of pressed cardboard is rocking between his knees as he straddles the beast and chides his dog Niko for jumping up on it. Rather than a sculpture, you may think it’s a prop for a high school play at this phase, but soon it will become a shiny black beacon of psychological/historical symbolism culled from the collection of objects they gather in travel. Born from the imagination of the brothers and affixed with bird decoys, clock faces, large plastic blossoms, and a rotary dial telephone, these rolling clean lines and saw-toothed edges of these sculptures will glisten under a heavy coating of midnight lacquer soon.

How & Nosm. Detail from a sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Like so much of the work HowNosm choose for their sweeping street murals, these new pieces may be read as undercover confessions of artists on display, but you’ll need to figure that out on your own.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As you walk through the high-ceilinged studio, the excited twins talk continuously in their deep baritones at the same time at you around you and in German to each other. The barrage of stories are spilling out and trampling and crashing like cars off rails; An energetic parlay of authoritative statements and direct questions about work, walls, gallerists, graffers, cops, trains, toys, techniques. All topics are welcomed and examined, sometimes intensely. Sincere spikes of laughter and sharp swoops of fury act in concert: clarifying, praising, and dissing as they swirl in a rolling volley of goodness, pleasantly spliced with a caustic grit.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Looking at the precise lines and vibrant patterns at play in their work today, there is a certain cheerfulness and high regard for design in the compositions and sense of balance. Both of them site influences as wide as early graffiti, later wild style, cubism, and the abstractionists in their work. Fans are attracted to the confident and attractive illustrative depictions of scenes and characters, appreciating the ever strengthening free-hand command of the aerosol can and stencil techniques that HowNosm have demonstrated in their machine-like march through the streets of world over the last decade plus.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Though they estimate they have visited over 70 countries, they still love New York and both call Brooklyn their home right now.  And while the work they do hits a pleasure center for many viewers, time with both reveals that the stories within can be anything but cheerful. Raoul characterizes their work as dark and negative, born from their shared past, the adversity of their childhood.

“Negative sounds… I don’t know if that’s the right word for it,” says Davide, “but it’s not the bright side of life.”

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

And so goes the duality you’ll find everywhere – a study of opposites intertwined. One paints a skull in the half circle, the other paints it’s reflection alive with flesh. You’ll see this split throughout, unified.

“We came from one sperm. We split in half,” says Raoul. “Life, death, good, bad. We’re one, you know. We used to do pieces by ourselves with graff – you know I would do “How” and he would do “Nosm” – then with the background we would connect.  Now we would just do pieces with our name “HowNosm” together as one word. I never do a How anymore, really.”

Their early roots in graffiti are always there, even as they became labeled as Street Artists, and more recently, contemporary artists. But it’s a continuum and the line may undulate but it never leaves the surface.  Davide describes their auto-reflexive manner of moving from one icon or scenario to another seamlessly across a wall and he likens it to a graffiti technique of painting one continuous stream of aerosol to form a letter or word.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

“It’s like a ‘one-liner’,” he says, referring to the graffiti writer parlance for completing a piece with one long line of spray. “That’s kind of far from what we are doing right now but it is all kind of one piece. The line stops but it kind of continues somewhere. We are refining and refining, and it takes time to develop.”

Blurring your eyes and following the visual stories, it may appear that a spiral motion reoccurs throughout the red, black, and white paintings of HowNosm. Frequently the pattern draws the viewers eye into the center and then swirls it back out to connect to another small tightening of action. While we talk about it Raoul traces in the air with his index finger a series of interconnected spiral systems, little tornadoes of interrelated activity.

How & Nosm. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This technique of creating inter-connected storylines is a way of intentional communication and storytelling, and how they describe events and relationships. It is an approach that feels sort of automatic to the brothers. “Our pieces make you think. You look and look and you find more images and you try to understand the whole concept,” says Davide. “I think you can spend quite some time just looking at one piece. You start somewhere and you can develop a story around it but you go somewhere else in the piece and you may do the opposite.”

Would you care to make a comparison to those other well known Street Art twins, Os Gemeos? They are used to it, but aside from being brothers of roughly the same age who began in graffiti and work on the streets with cans, they don’t find many similarities.

“Our stuff is more depressing,” says Raoul, “and way more critical. We talk about the negative aspects and experiences in life.” How much is autobiographical? As it turns out, it is so autobiographical that both brothers refer to their painting historically as a therapy, a cathartic savior that kept them out of jail and even away from drugs growing up.

“We kind of had a very disturbed childhood,” explains Raoul, “Welfare too, so…. I smile a lot and shit but in my paintings I think it is more important to express myself with what most people want to suppress and not show, you know? There’s a lot of love stuff, too. Like heartbroken stuff, financial situations – about myself or other people.”

How & Nosm. The sun goes through a hand cut stencil. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Davide agrees and expands the critical thinking they display in these open diaries to include larger themes they address; deceptively rotten people, corporate capitalism, familial dissension, hypocrisy in society, corruption in government.  It’s all related, and it is all right here in black and white. And red.

“Ours are continuing lines,” Davide says as he traces the canvas with his fingers, “Like this knife here is going to turn into a diamond.”

Niko provides security and inspiration at the studio. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm. Detail of a completed sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm. Detail of a completed sculpture. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm (photo © Jaime Rojo)

How & Nosm’s pop-up exhibition “Late Confessions” with the Jonathan Levine Gallery opens on February 1st.  at 557 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10011. Click here for more details.

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Kosbe: Under the Radar and in the Studio

Kosbe: Under the Radar and in the Studio

Why One Brooklyn Stick Up Kid is Worth Watching

Sometimes on the street you get an inkling of the future. It could be an overheard excerpt from a cell-phone conversation about a club show the night before, or the color and texture of woman’s blouse as it flutters around her while she reads on a park bench, or the sight of the 3rd food truck this week selling spicy meatballs. Something tells you that you just got a glimpse of the future. And while it doesn’t completely reveal itself in it’s fullness, you can see a nascent potential, a storyline developing that may go far beyond it’s current self. Sometimes when you see a Kosbe sticker on a paper box, it feels that way too. In fact, each time you see one of his pieces on the street, it grabs you from above the fray. Yet it seems like he’s been under the radar. He may not stay there much longer.

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

In the ebb and the flow of the Street Art conversation in New York, you keep seeing Kosbe’s wacky characters popping up in doorways and paper boxes. They aren’t tossed off little marker drawings done while watching TV – they’re intense petite character studies. Packed into one slapped on sticker is a lot of cacophonic kineticism; near crazed city characters with primitive wild eyes staring or blinkered, with tight jaws and teeth squarely gritted. The folk faces and forms are framed by an ardent prose, non-sequitors of angst and inside jokes. “What’s the guy saying?” you could ask. And why is he yelling? “Is he okay, is he mocking me? It’s the bundled rage and cryptic cleverness of the court jester.  Layers of reapplied color and repeated lines trap multiple actions on one non-static figure. This is not simple tagging, it’s a stationary tornado.

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Street Artist Kosbe has put in two good decades of practice, and has learned some lessons the hard way. He’s been hitting up New York for a half decade but he comes from a long graffiti history as a kid in his native Chicago. Now a practicing artist readying a solo gallery show for fall, he grew up in a very young single-parent home where his mom created a small studio for the boy in the back of their apartment. “My mom was really supportive of me as an artist. When I was a kid she gave me this little back room that she allowed me to use like a painting studio. So I was always grabbing stuff off the street and bringing it in there, painting it. I was very secretive with my stuff. A lot of people would come over and see my stuff and they were like, ‘Dude, I didn’t know that you painted’. I was very protective of it.”

That hasn’t changed. He still likes to use found materials as canvasses, as he shows us around his small studio hidden in a warehouse in New York. “I’m always using things that I find in the streets. Like this is an old grading book from 1919,” he says as he pulls out a tattered tome with pages ripped out.  “It has all these people’s signatures. I found this outside a high school in Brooklyn. It’s really cool. So that’s what I’ve been using for my drawings.”

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Tough times at home got him in trouble at school and with the police as a youth. Describing himself as hard headed, he talks about running away as a young teen to San Francisco for a while in the early 90s, where he spent a lot of time on the street admiring a new kind of character-based and tattoo influenced graffiti on the street by people like Twist (Barry McGee), Mike Giant, and Reminisce. “I went out and there were these Reminisce horses everywhere and they were great because you were going down the street and you would see this horse like galloping down the street. This stuff really blew me away. So I think the same time this stuff was going on there, over here in NY you had like Cost and Revs posting bills and doing rollers. And back then there wasn’t the internet.”

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Years later here in this fluorescent lit studio filled with his drawings, paintings, books, ‘zines, assorted ephemera, a desk, and a loveseat, his excited retelling of stories reveals how much those childhood escapades running Chicago streets and exploring San Francisco formed his view of Street Art and prepared him for moving to New York eventually in the 2000s. A self-schooled student of graffiti, fine art, and street art, Kosbe can recount names of writers and crews, timelines, styles; drawing etymologies and stylistic connections and talking about migrations. With much fanfare he’ll also tell you the  stories about the famed Chicago “buff” – a citywide anti graffiti campaign in the mid-late 1990s that he says whitewashed the city’s history.

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

But now he’s an artist on his own, and his practice is daily. “Now I’ve learned more that the only way, as an artist, that you can kind of grow and come up with new ideas is you gotta keep giving them away. So that’s why street art is kind of funny. I have friends who are painters that have become painters because of me. They are like ‘Dude, I was totally influenced by your drawings’ and stuff like that.” But the practice of Street Artists putting fully formed works out on the street still confuses some of his peers, “They say ‘Dude you give all your art away’ – you know, they don’t understand the concept.”

His new work on the street and in this studio now bends toward abstract expressionism and his years of comic book reading enlivens that rawness with a furtively bombastic character-driven personality. Almost every piece he does has some sort of commentary- a sort of helpful therapeutic narrative to explain what the character is thinking or feeling at the moment. “I like being bad for the sake of being bad”, “Tupac!”, “deathy”, “not good”, “astro zombie”,”power to the people”,“Kosbe don’t cry”.

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kosbe also credits the street as his formative and evolutionary art instructor. “When I took an oil painting class, my teacher was like, ‘Dude you already know how to paint. How did you learn this?’ and I was like, ‘graffiti.’ ” Even though graffiti still attracts him and captures his imagination, Street Art and fine art have occupied his efforts lately and the combined synthesis of a lifetime studying art on the street and plenty of experimentation is coming together very strongly aesthetically. Combine that individual vision with the maturity that hits a person in their 30s and you may think that you are seeing a sudden glimpse of the future.

Brooklyn Street Art: I want to talk about you and your art and your influences. What are these characters? Where did they come from?
Kosbe: I don’t know. I’ve been drawing since I was real young.  It’s always something that comes naturally. I don’t do any sketches, I don’t plan anything out. I just – for me it’s more a guttural, more natural thing. It’s good and bad.

Brooklyn Street Art: What’s the bad part?
Kosbe: The bad part is that I don’t focus on it, you know? I just have been doing it so long and I really enjoy it.

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: Is your experience kind of like a faucet that you turn on and it all comes flowing out and then you decide, “Okay I better turn it off”?
Kosbe: Exactly, right. So the thing with me is, I try to also look for other outlets. So I’m really into other things. Like I like music, photography, writing, all that stuff. But that stuff doesn’t come as naturally to me like this does. But it’s a great outlet for me and I feel really kind of lucky to have something like that – to be able to express myself in that form and manner. It’s helped me out tremendously to kind of learn how to communicate with people. Every year I realize new things – like this is how I communicate with people. Is it bad? Is it bad that I think that this is the only way I think that I can talk to people? Maybe I’ve gotta learn how to become better with talking with people verbally or something.

Brooklyn Street Art: You don’t seem to have great difficulty communicating verbally. But I’m interested in understanding a little more about how you think of this work and this practice as communication.
Kosbe: There is definitely a lot of emotional stuff in my work, you know,

Brooklyn Street Art: There is! Despair, anger …– you use a lot of descriptive words, verbal narratives throughout – whether it’s a sticker or a wheat paste.
Kosbe: Yeah it’s whatever is always popping into my head and so there are a lot of things that are on my mind and hopefully this is a good way to have an outlet for it. I’m trying to not be so negative anymore. And some people are like “Man, it’s so dark”. You know I use a lot of bright colors now, which has been phenomenal. That has really changed my work. Here you can see some of my earlier stuff and it’s really brown, dark. Actually this is beginning where I started experimenting with more color. And then as I got to New York, more and more color started getting into my stuff.

When you do graffiti you learn the fundamentals of color theory, you know. You learn what works.

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Brooklyn Street Art: You know WK Interact talks about New York being a violent city
Kosbe: I love that guy! You know when I first moved to New York he had that little shop on the Lower East Side and you’d walk in and it was like a locker, a desk, and some Japanese kids standing around. And it would be like, “What is this? Is this a store? Is this a studio?”

Brooklyn Street Art: What made me think of him was I was interested in how you describe the city because WK has said that when he makes work on the street, if it is violent in nature and people walk by it, they sometimes give him the thumbs up! And it runs longer. But if he were to paint a pink bunny it would get crossed out because New Yorkers don’t really respond to positive cheerful stuff.
Kosbe: Oh yeah, and New York has definitely had a profound impression on me in that sense because my work before I got here still had that weird dark edge but it was a little cutesy-er. But like as time has progressed I just think I have kind of matured a bit more, becoming more of an adult and my stuff is getting more serious. But with me everything’s gotta be fun. I think it’s supposed to be fun.

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

Kosbe (photo © Jaime Rojo)

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