Speaking with Kosby

January 31, 2013

Kosby in Brooklyn NYC studio Speaking with Kosby

We’ve been huge fans of Kosby since his stickers and paste-ups began gracing NYC’s public spaces a number of years back. Since, his artwork has surfaced in galleries and is currently on view at the Woodward Gallery Project Space.

When did you first become interested in art?

I have been drawing since I was a kid.  I was lucky that my mom loved what I was doing and bought me comic books to encourage me. My mom also taught me to accept people for who they are. I think that shows in my art.

When and where did you first start hitting the streets?

I started in Chicago between 1993 and 1994, and I began bombing buses. Then I met DREL and he introduced me to street bombing.

How did you guys meet?

He sat on a bench – next to me in church — and I was drawing a graffiti character on a piece of paper.  He was intrigued and we kicked it off. He went as Drel of KMD, BTC and MOM Crew. He also got me to do my first fill-in. He said if I did it at a specific spot on Fullerton Avenue – a particularly busy and dangerous one — I would be set, established as a graffiti writer. And I did it.

Kosby red bull artwork winner Speaking with Kosby

How did your family react to the whole graff thing?

I’m sort of the black sheep of my family.  Ironically, though, graffiti saved my life. Logan Square — where I grew up — was gang-infested, and graffiti was a pass. When gang bangers stopped us, we explained what we were up to and they mostly left us alone.

Respect to the writers! Are you trying to get a specific message across with your work?

No specific message, but I like to be brutally honest. When I was younger, I was often isolated and shy because my family moved around a lot. Today, I’m more open. And that’s difficult for graffiti writers, as we usually play the whole smoke and mirrors game. But I like to be honest about who I am. I struggle with that in my art.

From where do you get your ideas?

My head. I have worked with plenty of people like Sure RIP, Overconsumer and Wisher914. Sure inspired me and prodded me to get better. And I’ve always liked what Cost and Revs were doing. Their poetic messages seem spontaneous and off the head. I ran away from home when I was younger to California and that’s when I was exposed to Mike Giant, Twist, Reminisce and Revok.

Kosbe street art in Bushwick NYC Speaking with Kosby

Have you collaborated with any artists?

I’ve done work lately with Cekis, Zato and Crasty. And I have a ton of homies I would like to collaborate with.

Tell us something about your process.

I care less about how something looks and care more about the act of doing it. I did a tribute piece for Nekst RIP recently on a rooftop.I was thinking about how he would never get a chance to paint again, I didn’t like how the piece was turning out, but it was just about doing it. I like having fun and I hope that translates through the work.

What materials do you like to work with?

Anything…spit. ink. markers, vintage paper, cloth.  The other day I tagged with Montana refill paint, mistaking it for an acrylic paint marker.

Have you any favorite artists?

I am a fan of Abstract Expressionism. Some of my favorite artists include: Robert Rauschenberg, Chuck Close, Espo, EKG, Michael Allen Alien, Dee Doc, Anthony Lister, L’amour Supreme, Suck Lord and Rammellzee.

Kosby street art at Woodward Gallery Project Space Speaking with Kosby

Have you ever been arrested?

Yes. I was often bailed out of jail by mom. She always worried about me when I stayed out past my curfew. Even though my disposable cameras – that I stole to shoot my work — were confiscated at the time of my arrest, I always got them back in time to get a flick of my mom bailing me out. ‘sorry, Mom.

What are some of your other interests?

I love photography, spending time with my friends and girlfriend and exploring the city.

How has your work evolved?

I’ve never been a good judge of my work. I am actually dangerous with it because I can’t tell when a particular piece of work is done. I keep drawing on it and drawing on it. I’m more interested in people’s reactions to it. I believe I’ve gotten looser and more chill. I don’t like the trendy. I have been careful not to lose that looseness to my work. It’s really a balance I’m looking for.

What do you think about the graffiti and street art divide?

I don’t think there is a divide. It’s a culture within a culture. I’ve seen street artists going over graffiti not knowing what they were doing. If you’d like to learn the proper etiquette, call me at 1 (800) GRAFFPRO.

Kosby portrait in studio Speaking with Kosby

What do you think about the Internet in all of this?

It’s good. It’s such a part of our mass culture.

Do you see any danger in Internet oversaturation?

Sure. There should be a “Get off the Internet Day.”  I often put messages like this on my stickers, like “Don’t Use Your Cell Phone Day.” I usually use the Internet in the morning when I check out www.theworldsbestever.com. I’ll be checking out StreetArtNYC.org from now on too. But that’s it.

How do you feel about your work being shown in galleries?

I love to share my art; it makes me happy. I like to stand next to people at galleries as they check out my art. I like getting their honest response to it.

When you’re not getting up on the streets, where do you tend to work?

It’s changed over the years. My mom gave me my first studio. For a while, my kitchen served as my work space, and I had collectors call me wanting to see my work. I said, “Of course, just come to my kitchen.” I’d say I’m in a better space now.

Kosby studio artwork Speaking with Kosby

Who do you follow these days?

I’m looking at Lois Stavsky, as well as Martha Cooper, Angelo from Doyle Auction House, Royce Bannon, Brooklyn Street Art, Alex Emmert, SuckLord, who’s a major mentor, and Simeon from Art Hustle.

What do you see yourself doing in the next five years?

Chilling with my family and friends, enjoying a nice glass of wine, while we laugh with some purple kicking it back with my boy, Lenny.

‘sounds cool!

I want to say thank you to StreetArtNYC for being so supportive of NYC artists and to Lois for being so positive. And don’t forget, guys, to check out the StreetArtNYC app!

Interview by Lenny Collado; photos by Dani Mozeson and Lois Stavsky

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