Interviews

Speaking with Sienide

August 13, 2014

sienide portraits rooftop Bronx NYC Speaking with Sienide

Bronx-based Sienide aka Sien is one of NYC’s most versatile artists. His delightful compositions — in a range of styles from masterful graffiti writing to soulful portraits — continue to grace public spaces throughout the boroughs. I recently had the opportunity to interview him:

When did you first get up?

I started tagging and bombing on the Grand Concourse in 1981 with my older brother. I was living at 176th street and Morris Ave. I did my first piece in 1985 with my then-bombing partner SEPH. Jean13 was also there, and he helped me shape up my letters. Ironically, my first piece was also a legal commission.

What was your preferred surface back then?

I really wanted to get into the yards. But I couldn’t, so I hit trailers instead. There was a great lot over in Castle Hill, where we painted and made a tree-house to store our supplies.

What inspired you to get up?

Everybody around me was writing.

sienide street art Bronx NYC Speaking with Sienide

Did you paint alone or with crews?

Both. In 1986 IZ the Wiz put me down with TMB after he saw my black book. Since, I’ve painted with the best of the best: OTB, FX, KD, GOD (Bronx) and GOD (Brooklyn), MTAInd’s,  Ex-VandalsXMEN, and TATS CRU

What about these days? Do you paint only legally?

Oh, yes! I’m too old to play around, and I want to get paid for what I do. I also want to paint in peace.

How did your family feel about what you were doing back in the day?

They weren’t happy. When I was arrested for motion tagging with my cousin on the 6 train, my uncle — who was my dad at the time —  told me that no one would ever hire me because I defaced public property.

Sienide paints Biggie Speaking with Sienide

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

At least 85% of it.

What is your main source of income these days?

It’s all art-related. I sell my work, earn commissions for painting murals and I also teach.

Have you any thoughts about the street art and graffiti divide?

I love them both. I have forever been trying to marry them.

sienide paints  Speaking with Sienide

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I think it’s cool. I love to see my stuff hanging on walls, and when someone asks me to be in a show, I feel honored.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about its engagement with graffiti and street art?

I have no problem with it. If the corporate bank writes me a check, I’ll cash it.

Is there anyone in particular you would like to collaborate with?

I would like to collaborate more with Eric Orr.

sien paints graffiti 5Pointz NYC Speaking with Sienide

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all of this?

The Internet is useful. It works for me.

Do you have a formal art education?

Yes I have a Masters Degree in Illustration from FIT.

Did this degree benefit you?

Yes, I now know my worth.

Sienide paints graffiti. NYC Speaking with Sienide

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

Outdoors, Florida-type weather and a generous paint sponsor.

What inspires you these days?

I’m inspired by the life I live and by the students I teach.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced you?

The human culture.

sien b boy on canvas Speaking with Sienide

Do you work with a sketch in hand or just let it flow?

I work with a rough sketch, but I never have colors in it. This prevents me from becoming a slave to my reference, and it allows my creative mojo to experiment freely.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Never.

How has your work evolved through the years?

My work keeps evolving and changing because I allow myself to experiment.  I don’t like being stuck in one particular mode. That bores me.

sien and Kid Lew graffiti Bronx NYC Speaking with Sienide

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To give back… to share a gift that we artists have with others.

How do you feel about the photographers in the scene?

I think they’re helpful, but they should share any profits they make with the artists whose works they photograph.

What’s ahead?

I hope to be still doing what I’m doing while advancing my skills. I hope never to lose my passion.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos 1, 2 and 8 (collaboration with Kid Lew) by Sienide; 3, 4 and 7 (on canvas) by Lois Stavsky; 5 (collaboration with Eric Orr) and 6 by Lenny Collado

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Born in Argentina and now based in Brooklyn, Lucia Reissig is a young photographer and artist with a deep passion for street art and documenting the streets. I met her in late spring in Bushwick when I was interviewing the Argentinian artist Cabaio, whom she had photographed at work earlier that day.  We met again last week at Exit Room, and I had the opportunity, this time, to find out a bit about her.

lucia reissig cabaio new york Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

When did you first become interested in photography?

I was 12 years old and living in Buenos Aires.  I had told my mother’s friend that I was interested in photography, and he gave me a camera. It was a 35 mm Canon.

And then what happened?

I didn’t know what to do with it. And so I took my new Canon to a camera store, and the shop owner installed film for me and set it on “Automatic.” He said, “Just shoot!” So that’s what I did! And I fell in love with the art form at once.

Did you ever study photography on a formal basis?

Early on, I began visiting photographers’ studios, and I started taking classes with them. The classes were informal – with no more than five students in a class.

cabaio street art NYC Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

What — would you say — is photography’s appeal to you? What is it about this art form that so engages you?

With a camera in hand, I feel that I am somewhat in control of my environment. And it allows me to create compelling narratives. I am obsessed with paradoxes – and recording them.

What brought you to New York City?

I felt a strong need to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone.

How has living here affected you and your passion for photography?

I quickly found myself seeking other Spanish speakers and other immigrants. And the streets became even more important to me. I see public spaces as a reflection of society.

Lucia Reissig Rockaways Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

And what about street art?  You’ve documented hundreds of images. When first I met you, you had just finished photographing Cabaio at work over at the Bushwick Collective and you seem to be quite involved over here at Exit Room – one of my favorite spaces. What is the appeal of street art to you?

It serves as both a mirror of society and as a perfect expression of resistance. I love the way the artists take ownership of the streets, and their work on city streets looks amazing. Street art has the power to change a city – visually and psychically. It also makes art accessible to people who wouldn’t otherwise see it. It’s an always-open free museum. And documenting the art I discovered on these streets – along with its people – saved my life!

Have you any favorite artists who work on the streets?

Among my favorite ones are: Cabaio, Iena Cruz, Werc and Ever.

Lucia Reissig Lucia Reissig on Photography, Street Art, Community and more

What’s ahead for you?

Since coming to NYC, I’ve become more aware – than ever – as to the importance of community. There is a lack of community here, and there is a need for more alternative spaces where people can come together to create and to share. I am beginning an informal series of workshops on photography – similar to the ones I attended back in Buenos Aires. They are on a pay- what-you-can basis. I can be contacted at lucia.reissig@gmail.com.  And on a personal level, I am continuing a series I began earlier focusing on immigrant life here in NYC.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photos by Lucia Reissig.

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A multi-media artist who translates energy into mesmerizing artworks, Brooklyn-based Michael Alan is also the founder and director of Living Installations, where human beings are transformed into living art images. Michael Alan’s art has been featured in nine New York solo shows, over 200 group shows and in over 200 living installations. We were delighted to interview this gifted, prolific and passionate artist.

Michael Alan subway art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

How did you first get into art? What inspired you?

I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember. My first inspirations were the Muppets and baseball. As a kid, I would draw cartoons.

Could you tell us something about the subject of your artwork these days? And the process?

My subjects are often people I observe while sitting here in McCarren Park.  I try to read their energy. I start by drawing a particular person’s body with a pen. And then when I’m back home, I often add watercolor or markers as I interpret the energy that I’ve felt.

What about your Living Installations? What was the initial idea behind them?

I wanted to create a space where people could come together in a positive way.  I wanted people to feel that they could accomplish whatever they set out to do. And I also wanted them to know that they don’t have to follow any pre-determined path.

Michael Alan public art installation Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

How has your family responded to your passions?

They’re proud of me. My mom actually participated in some of my performances.

What percentage of your waking hours is devoted to your art these days?

Including music, about 95%.

Can you tell us something about the role of music in your life?

When I’m working at home, I listen to music. And I always have music playing during my living installations. Music and art become one.

Michael Alan mixed media art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

Have you collaborated with any other visual artists?

I’ve collaborated with my cousin Moody and with a few fine artists including Alex Katz.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in the art scene?

If it weren’t for the Internet, I don’t know if I’d have a career.

Do you have a formal arts education? And was it worthwhile?

I have a BFA from the School of Visual Arts. As an art student, I received lots of positive feedback and, yes, that did make a difference.

Micahel Alan Mixed media art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve ever done? And Why?

After damaging my spine at the Dumbo Arts Center, I continued moving and dancing.  Why? Because I was ignorant.  Also – setting my hat on fire while performing in Spain was quite risky.

Were you ever arrested?

A few times. Once the cops assumed that I was going to use a mask I had made for an installation to rob someone. And assorted materials – like photocopies of living installation projects – that the cops have found in my car have also led to arrests.

What inspires you these days?

Different people I meet and the energy they give off. Things that happen and how they make me feel – like my grief over the death of my dear friend DG.

Michael alan fine art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

I’ve been influenced by indigenous cultures, punk, new wave, African art, growing up in NYC and everything I’ve seen at the Museum of Natural History.

Do you work with a sketch in your hand or do you let it flow?

I work from line drawings.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Making art — in general — satisfies me. And if a drawing doesn’t work for me, I will somehow reuse it.

Michael Alan Mixed media art Speaking with Multi Media Artist Michael Alan

How has your work evolved in the past few years? 

It is more mature, smoother and freer. I’m always learning in art, just as I’m learning in life. Art is life.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

To touch as many people as possible and to set people free.

What’s ahead?

I can’t even think about it. If I could, I’d be scared. But I know that I will keep going. More art and more struggle. And currently I’m at work on “The Muppets Take Manhattan,” a Living Installation for children.

Have you any message to others?

Whatever you do, push yourself and work hard at it. Working hard and creating art have kept me sane.

Interview conducted by City-as-School intern Travis Hicks with Lois Stavsky; images courtesy of the artist.

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Speaking with Tone MST

July 18, 2014

Characterized by bold strokes and a vigorous flow, Tone MST‘s graffiti surfaces mostly in Brooklyn.  Lenny Collado aka BK Lenny had the opportunity to interview him earlier this year:

Tone graffiti mural NYC Speaking with Tone MST

When and where did you start getting up?

I was in the sixth grade back in 1992. I was making my own markers at the time and practicing on 200-page packs of paper that I used to rack from the corner store. I had to make my own markers because I was dead broke.

How did you make your markers?

I took men’s Brute deodorants, popped off the balls and emptied the containers. I then filled the containers with ink.  I cut up my school’s black board erasers to serve as felt tips.  It was markers until ’94. That’s when I started street and train bombing.

Did you have any preferred surfaces back then?

I liked the train ads in the subway stations, because I would write on them smoothly with my home-made markers.

Tone graffiti art Speaking with Tone MST

Any major influence at the time?

My major influence at the time was Ski MST. He was rolling with writers and he got me acquainted. I was a loner for the most part. He got me to rack paint, and we would vibe off each other for style. We would rack cans on Steinway Street and go to the freight yards to empty out the cans.

Any particularly memorable events?

There was nine of us — Ski MST, Dope, Neke, Cloke, Vare, Pane and a couple of others. We all set out to do a lay-up in the tunnel between 36th street and Queens Plaza and video tape it. One of us hid the paint and a video camera in a sandbox where the tunnel workers kept their supplies. We scoped out the station for a while before setting out on the mission.

How did you guys get into the tunnel?

Some of us through the hatches on the streets above and some through the station.  We started catching wreck on the two trains that had parked between the stations. As everybody’s painting them, Pane, Cloke and me went to the other car and started on some bubble letters. Just as we started, one of the train’s lights turned on and began to move into the station. I saw too that the police had made their way down towards us.

Tone graffiti with character NYC Speaking with Tone MST

So what did you do?

We bounced. When I got out of that station, I must have run about a mile before my lungs gave in from the burn. It was a thrill like no other, and I enjoyed it. I loved bombin’!

Were you in any crews at the time?

I only push MST.

What was the attitude of your parents and your friends towards what you were doing?

My mother hated it, so I lied to her. I built a compartment in my closet to keep supplies. She would find my cans and throw them out. My friends would always point out how dirty I was.

Tone tag1 Speaking with Tone MST

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

It’s a thin line. Both project the same language and image, but they take different avenues. It’s like a GPS. All get to the same point, but through different avenues. The concept of graffiti needs to be explained to people who don’t understand it. Street art is a different entity. I like when the two are combined, like what Shepard Fairy and Cope do when they collaborate. I will say that street art is an extension of graffiti. It originated from graff.

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I think it’s dope! It’s progress — a positive thing. My gallery, though, is the streets. But if a gallery asks, “Hey, Tone, can you put a show together?” I’m flattered and take it as a step forward.

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

Both! When I started bombing early on, I would do so alone with my Walkman on. I would listen to WKCR with Bobbito Garcia and Stretch and Tag. At one point, I was a vandal. They called me a vandal. But I didn’t get up as much as I wanted to. I didn’t do it to get status. I didn’t go all city, but I love what I did. It was who I was.

tonegraffiti Brooklyn NYC Speaking with Tone MST

Did you have a formal arts education?

I never pursued art school.

What is the source of your inspiration?

I’m inspired by Hip-Hop – rhyming and making beats.

Any particular artists who inspired you?

My influences are Hush, Gaze, Sub 5 and Emit of Sports Crew, MQ and Frantic and Free5. Giz from Queens also made impact on me. And there was Teck BS, Smith & Pink, Ve, Slash and Web13.

ToneMST graffiti Speaking with Tone MST

Do you work with a sketch in hand or do you do free hand?

It’s fifty, fifty. It depends on the situation.

What are your thoughts on the Internet in all of this?

The Internet is a tool, a means to communicate. Someone in Australia can get a look at what you’re doing here in NYC. But I think that graffiti has also been exploited because of it. It wasn’t meant for the masses, and the Internet made it accessible to everyone.

How has your work evolved throughout the years?

I’ve improved and honed my techniques. My pieces have gotten better.

TONE MST graffiti Greenpoint NYC Speaking with Tone MST

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’ll say there’s always space for improvement.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky. Photos 1 (collab w/KA), 3, and 4 (combo) courtesy of the artist;  2 (collab w/UR New York), 5 & 6 by Lois Stavsky; 7  (collab w/Shiro and Yes One) by Dani Reyes Mozeson

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Alice Pasquini New Journey close up street art  Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

In my meanderings around Jersey City this past year, I came upon a number of first-rate murals by a wonderful array of artists signed Savage Habbitalong with the artists’ signatures. Just who or what is Savage Habbit? I found out this weekend as Inez, its founder, gave me a tour of Savage Habbit’s walls and answered some questions about its mission:

Mr Mustart street art Jersey City Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

Just what is Savage Habbit?

It is foremost a blog that was founded in 2011.  It is dedicated to showcasing the best art that has made its way onto the streets across the globe.  Among Savage Habbit’s missions today is to bring more street art to our local community.

What motivated you to launch Savage Habbit?

I wanted a blog that represented the art that I love, and the only way I could do that was to start my own.

Li Hill paints street art Jersey City Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

And what about the murals?

I’m a New Jersey girl. I was born and raised here. I wanted to walk around my neighborhood and see art in my community. And I wanted to give back to my state. These murals benefit everyone!

When did your first mural surface?

Last year — in 2013.

Ekundayo street art nyc Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

What has been your greatest challenge?

Finding walls.

You seem to have facilitated quite a few murals. How do you find the artists?

Some contact me, and others I contact when I see that they are in town.

sean lugo street art jersey city Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

What’s ahead?

There are five confirmed walls.  Savage Habbit’s next wall will feature Nanook and Mata Ruda.

And what about the name “Savage Habbit?” What does it represent?

The name is derived from a Wu Tang quote:  Ricochet Rabbit had a habit, he was a savage. We are savagely passionate about our habit, art!

case maclaim street art mural jersey city Back to Jersey City with Alice Pasquini, Mr. Mustart, Li Hill, Ekundayo, Sean Lugo, and Case MaClaim

That sounds right!  We look forward to seeing more art on the streets of Jersey City.

Brief interview and photos by Lois Stavsky

1. Alice Pasquini, close-up

2. Mr. Mustart

3. Li-Hill at work yesterday

4. Ekundayo

5. Sean Lugo

6. Case, MA`CLAIM, close-up

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Chris RWK Woodward Gallery Project Space1 Speaking with Chris RWK

Founder of the much-loved Robots Will Kill, Staten Island-based artist Chris Rwk Chillemi’s creates delightful character-driven artworks that find a home on the streets, in galleries and — most recently — on WAT-AAH!‘s premium bottled drinking water.  I was delighted to interview him.

When did it all begin? When did you first get into graffiti?

It was back in 1988 in Huguenot, Staten Island. I was 11. My brother and his friends started doing graffiti back then, and I would tag along and photograph it. About two years later, I began doodling on public surfaces.

We associate you with your hugely lovable, iconic characters. What was the inspiration behind them?

Letters didn’t hold my attention for all that long, as I’d always been so interested in cartoons and comics. I loved Gary Larson, Jim Davis and Disney stuff. Their styles were all different, but they all had really strong imagery and messages. My first illegal piece, in fact, was the wizard from Hagar the Horrible with a spray can doing a throw up! I can still remember the colors!

Chris RWK Speaking with Chris RWK

What about Robots Will Kill? Can you tell us something about its origin?

Back in 1999, while on a fellowship in Vermont, I came upon a friend, Chris Rini, painting a giant cellphone holding a man! That’s when I came up with the notion that “robots will kill.”  If you do something too much and too often, it becomes robotic, and you lose your love for it.

Robots Will Kill – that began with you – has evolved into an informal global collective. Who are some of its members?

At first it was just me. Then Kevin and a bit later Veng joined. Since, we’ve collaborated with such artists as Peeta, ECB, Flying Fortress, JesseR. OverUnder and Mike Die.

Would you rather paint alone? Or do you prefer to collaborate with others?

I love both. In my studio, I’d rather work alone. But I love painting with others outdoors as it pushes me to another level.

Any thoughts about illegal vs. legal graffiti?

Ideally — what begins illegally evolves into something legal.

Chris RWK Veng RWK street art NYC Speaking with Chris RWK

You’ve exhibited your work in dozens of galleries. How do you feel about showing in formal settings?

It’s great. There are lots of folks who would never notice my work on the streets.  But when it’s in a gallery, they will have to pay attention to it.

What about the graffiti/street art divide? You seem to successfully straddle both.

Street artists need to respect graffiti writers. They don’t always do. They need to learn the history.

What about the corporate world? How do you feel about sharing your talents with private comporations?

Things aren’t black and white anymore. It’s not a matter of us vs. them. I don’t mind working for a corporation, so long as it’s an ethical one. The corporate world makes money. Why shouldn’t we artists benefit from it?

Chris RWK and Veng RWK street art Bushwick NYC Speaking with Chris RWK

What is the riskiest thing you’ve ever done?

I play it safe. I’m not a risk-taker. When I was in high school, my tag was ND – No Drugs…Never Drunk…Never Dull! I’ve been straight edge my whole life.

How does your family feel about what you were doing?

My family has always been supportive. When I was a kid, they built a wall in my backyard, so I could practice!

You have a 9-5 day job here in Manhattan and you live in Staten Island. How do you manage to find time to do so much great art?

My weekday schedule is tough.  I have to wake up at 6am to leave my house at 7, and I’m often not back home until 7 in the evening. I then have to help my son with his homework. I generally don’t begin working on my art until 10pm, and I don’t get to sleep until 2-3am.

Chris RWK and Veng and Gilf street art WilliamsburgNYC Speaking with Chris RWK

Wow! That is a rough schedule. When you work, do you sketch first or do you just let it flow?

About 70% of the time, I work from a sketch.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Yes – but my satisfaction is increased when I get a positive response to it from others.

Have you any ideal work environment?

I need background noise, so that I don’t overly think about what I’m doing!

Chris RWK stickers character on canvas Speaking with Chris RWK

Do you have a formal art education?

I earned my Associate degree at FIT and a BFA in painting from Hunter College.

Do you feel that you benefited from it?

Definitely, as so many elements – from choice of colors to spatial design — are involved in creating a first-rate piece.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

The comic book culture, the sci-fi one and the graffiti culture. I’ve also been inspired by hot-rods and the urban culture, in general.

Chris RWK wat aah Speaking with Chris RWK

What is the source of your inspiration these days?

I’d say my family, my friends and my personal experiences.

How has your work evolved in the past few years?

It’s become more personal. My use of layers and colors has become more important to me. And when I paint, I tend to take my audience into consideration more than I used to.

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all this?

I think it’s amazing that something I do here can be seen minutes later by someone in Australia. But I also think we’ve been oversaturated with blogs and Instagram.

Chris RWK street art character NYC Speaking with Chris RWK

Have you any feelings about the photographers/bloggers in the scene?

On the positive side, they help get artists known. But I don’t think much thought goes into much of what makes its way out there.

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

He’s a muse for the general public. Without art, there’d be a lot less for folks to see, feel, think about and talk about.

What do you see as the future of street art and graffiti?

There’s too much going on right now, and too many people trying to get into the game. And so it is likely to fizzle out. But those who are true will survive its fallout. And what will emerge will be even stronger.

What about you? What’s ahead for you?

I will continue to do what I do. Create, paint and get my stickers out there!

Note: Chris will be a featured artist of WAT-AAH!’s upcoming exhibit in Chicago on July 18-20 as part of WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets art campaign, which connects today’s leading street artists with the brand’s mission to fight childhood obesity and promote healthy hydration among kids and teens. Joining the likes of Kenny Scharf, Swoon, Shepard Fairey, Haze and Chicago-based POSE, Chris has created a one-of-a kind WAT-AAH! label design featuring PHA’s “Drink Up” drop, as well as an original piece of art (shown above) that becomes featured in the brand’s traveling art campaign, which has been touring the country since its launch in NYC this past February. For more information, visit  wat-aahstreets.com  and follow @wataahstreets.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos: 1. and 8. Dani Reyes Mozeson; 2. Original artwork created for WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets art Campaign. Chris RWK.  I Tried to Stop.  36″x48″. Mixed media. Image courtesy WAT-AAH! 3. With Veng, Tara Murray; 4. – 6. Lois Stavsky  7. Limited edition bottle design for WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets art campaign. Image courtesy WAT-AAH! 

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Rime graffiti art Jersey City Somethings Brewing Over the Hudson: In Jersey City with Rime, Post, Li Hill, Sean Lugo, SP.One, Mata Ruda, LNY, Enoe and more to come

On my recent visit to Jersey City, Gregory D. Edgell aka the Green Villain gave me a tour of some of the city’s first-rate graffiti murals, including a number of recent ones that he had facilitated. Upon further exploration, I came upon some amazing street art walls.  What follows are samples of both and a brief conversation with Greg:

Poser graffiti art Jersey City Somethings Brewing Over the Hudson: In Jersey City with Rime, Post, Li Hill, Sean Lugo, SP.One, Mata Ruda, LNY, Enoe and more to come

What brought you to Jersey City? And when did you first come here?

I moved here in 2009. My best friend – at the time – had moved into a huge warehouse that seemed like the ideal venue for artistic expression. And that’s what brought me here.

Li Hill street art Jersey City Somethings Brewing Over the Hudson: In Jersey City with Rime, Post, Li Hill, Sean Lugo, SP.One, Mata Ruda, LNY, Enoe and more to come

What changes have you observed since moving here?

Jersey City is increasingly attracting more artists and is slowly developing a street art culture, but there are still far too many blank walls.

LNY Mata Ruda close up Jersey City Somethings Brewing Over the Hudson: In Jersey City with Rime, Post, Li Hill, Sean Lugo, SP.One, Mata Ruda, LNY, Enoe and more to come

Where do you think it’s all going? 

Jersey City has the potential to be just as creative as any neighborhood in NYC. It could even be more so, as it’s not as expensive. Within the next five years, this will happen!

SP.one graffiti Jersey City Somethings Brewing Over the Hudson: In Jersey City with Rime, Post, Li Hill, Sean Lugo, SP.One, Mata Ruda, LNY, Enoe and more to come

Mana Contemporary has certainly enhanced Jersey City with its studios, exhibition spaces and more. And soon it will be launching the Mana Museum of Urban Arts, the world’s first permanent space dedicated to street art and graffiti. Any thoughts about that?

I think it’s amazing and particularly wonderful for the global street art and graffiti community, as Mana Contemporary has the backing to create a first-rate educational platform for this art form.

sean lugo artist Jersey City Somethings Brewing Over the Hudson: In Jersey City with Rime, Post, Li Hill, Sean Lugo, SP.One, Mata Ruda, LNY, Enoe and more to come

And what’s ahead for you?

I am currently facilitating a series of murals by some first-rate artists. Among them are: Sheryo & the Yok, Rubin, Jerkface, Mr. Mustart and Distort & Then One.

Enoe graffiti art Jersey City Somethings Brewing Over the Hudson: In Jersey City with Rime, Post, Li Hill, Sean Lugo, SP.One, Mata Ruda, LNY, Enoe and more to come

That sounds great! We’re looking forward to seeing them — as Jersey City is just minutes away from Manhattan!

Interview and photos by Lois Stavsky

1. Rime aka Jersey Joe

2. Post

3. Li Hill

4. Mata Ruda and LNY

5. Sean Lugo

6. SP.One

7. Enoe

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Speaking with Shiro

June 25, 2014

Huge fans of Shiro’s vibrant, playful aesthetic, we were delighted to meet up with her this past week at SoHo’s gallery nine5, where she will be participating in the gallery’s summer show, GROUP INK.

Shiro graffiti art welling court 2 Speaking with Shiro

When and where did you first get up?

Back in 1998 in Shizuoka, Japan.

What inspired you at the time?

I remember seeing a video with graffiti as the backdrop. I was impressed!  And soon after, I saw the movie Wild Style.

Any early memories stand out?

I remember having to create my own tools. I couldn’t get hold of any spray paint in aerosol cans at the time, and so I had to be inventive. I mostly used hair spray and mosquito spray containers that I filled with paint.

How did your family feel about what you were doing?

At the time my mother didn’t understand it, but now she appreciates it.

Shiro street art mural at 5Pointz NYC Speaking with Shiro

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

When I am in NYC, 100%. But back in Japan, I work as a nurse, and I can’t devote as much time to my art as I would like to.

Wow! A nurse and a graffiti writer!

Yes, a nurse heals, and so does art.

Have you exhibited your work in galleries?

I’ve shown my work in galleries in the U.S., Germany and Japan. And I’ve participated in projects in India, China, Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Have you any thoughts about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

I’d rather paint on a wall than on a canvas. But when I create work for galleries, I learn and perfect new techniques.

shiro yes1 tone sans 2 Speaking with Shiro

What inspires you these days?

I’m inspired by my own experiences in different situations…and by my imagination. In my art I can be anything!

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetics?

The entire graffiti and hip-hop culture, along with, I suppose, my Japanese roots.

What is the riskiest thing you ever did?

I hadn’t planned it to be risky. But back in 2002, I found a deserted wall in Forest Hills, Queens that I thought would be the perfect canvas for me.  As I began painting, a group of boys suddenly appeared and stole my spray paint. One of them had a gun. Soon they were hurling stones and although they weren’t aiming the stones at me, some rocks did hit me and injured me.

Gee, that sounds traumatizing. Do you generally paint alone?

I love painting alone. I am very independent! But I’ve also painted with crews and collaborated with other writers.

shiro meres demer street art graffiti 5Pointz Speaking with Shiro

What are some of the crews you’ve painted with?

TDS (The Death Squad), SUG (Stick Up Girlz), FX and UZNJ (Universal Zulu Nation Japan)

What’s it like being a female writer in what is so much of a man’s world?

I forget about gender when I’m painting. It’s irrelevant.

Do you work with a sketch in hand or do you just let it flow?

Sometimes I work with a sketch; other times I just let it flow.

Shiro and Ree graffiti NYC Speaking with Shiro

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

I mostly feel very happy with it!

How has your work evolved through the years?

It is more detailed, and I paint more quickly. I’ve developed much better can control than I had earlier.

What’s ahead?

I just got my artist’s visa, and so I’m looking forward to spending more time here.  I will just go with the flow!

Note:  Shiro will be participating in gallery nine5‘s summer show, GROUP INK. Along with TATS CRU, Bisco Smith, Alan Ket, Vor138 and Rubin415, she will be transforming the private space over at 24 Spring Street into a public one. It all begins today, Wednesday, June 25 with TATS and bare walls! Keep posted to our Facebook page for updates.

Photos: 1. Welling Court Mural Project, Dani Reyes Mozeson; 2. 5Pointz, Tara Murray; 3. With Sans, Tone and Yes One in Greenpoint, Dani Reyes Mozeson 4. With Meres and Demer at 5Pointz, Dani Reyes Mozeson & 5. On uptown wall with Ree on right in Inwood, Lois Stavsky

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Solus street art Bushwick Collective 2 Speaking with Dublin Based Street Artist Solus

Based in Dublin, Ireland, Solus returned earlier this month to the the Bushwick Collective to participate in its annual block party and to share his aesthetic vision with us.  We also had the opportunity to find out a bit about him:

When and where did you first get up?

About seven years ago I started doing illegal stencils around Dublin.

What inspired you at the time?

I was working at a job that I hated. I thought that’s what everyone does! But I knew that I needed to make a change in my life. I was on a very self-destructive path. And so I started creating stencil art and never stopped. Street art saved my life!

Were you influenced or inspired by any particular artists?

Maser was, probably, my biggest inspiration, along with Will St Leger. They were very prolific around Dublin at the time.

Solus street art saced my life Speaking with Dublin Based Street Artist Solus

Have you any preferred surfaces or spots?

Obviously flat surfaces are better in high-traffic spots.

How do you feel about the graffiti/street art divide?

I don’t think about it. It’s not relevant. I just do what I love.  But I’ve always been a huge fan of the TDA Klann, Ireland’s premier graffiti crew.

Your work has been exhibited in galleries world-wide and your new solo show is about to open in Montreal. Any thoughts about the movement of street art into galleries?

I think it is a good thing that it is being recognized as art and that people want to purchase it. I generally feel a little out of place at gallery shows because most of the time my clothes are covered in paint. I prefer being at the studio or tackling a wall.

solus stencil art on canvas Speaking with Dublin Based Street Artist Solus

Have you any other source of income these days?

I earn money from prints, canvases and commissions. I put all the money I make back into my artwork.

How do you feel about the increasing linkage between the street art world and the corporate world?

Only time will tell. It has become so mainstream that it may become oversaturated.

Why do you suppose graffiti is held in higher esteem in Europe than it is here in the States?

Probably because here in the U.S., it is associated with vandalism.

What inspires you these days?

The concept of a boy in a man’s world, punching above his weight and being victorious against all odds.

Solus street art Bushwick Collective NYC Speaking with Dublin Based Street Artist Solus

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetics?

After visiting Korea, I did a series of works influenced by what I’d seen and experienced there.

Do you work with a sketch in hand or do you just let it flow?

I work with a sketch or a photo.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Increasingly so. But when I look back at what I did even one year ago, I feel I could have done better.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

100% of my time; it’s a 24/7 gig!

Solus with spraycan Speaking with Dublin Based Street Artist Solus

Any other interests?

Traveling. I’d love to paint everywhere!

Have you any favorite cities?

New York. There’s something in the air here. And it’s very competitive. I’d love to live here!

What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

It’s the most important role one can have! Art makes people feel good, and it makes people think!

Solus street art Bushwick Collective Brooklyn NYC Speaking with Dublin Based Street Artist Solus

Note: Solus’s solo exhibit UNDERDOG opens this Thursday, June 19, at the Clark Street Mercantile in Montreal, Canada.

Photo credits: 1, 4 & 6. Lois Stavsky; 2 & 3. Courtesy of the artist; 5. Dani Reyes Mozeson

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A 3000 sq. foot gallery and performance space housed on the 5th floor of 67 West Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, Succulent Studios opened earlier this year with an exhibit featuring over 30 artists of diverse backgrounds and cultures. Currently on exhibit —  through June 21 — is PALABRA, an installation-based show featuring works by Rubin, Sek3, Iena Cruz, Beau Stanton, El Sol 25, S. Rose, Katie Balloons and Michael Alan. On a recent visit, I had the opportunity to speak to its owner and founder, Sek3.

Sek3 at Succulent Studios Sek3 on Succulent Studios, PALABRA, Whats Ahead and more

Could you tell us something about the birth of Succulent Studios? What motivated you to launch this space? It is quite remarkable.

The idea was born in Miami at Art Basel back in December.  Cern, Cekis, Bisc, Stefano Alcantara and I had set up a pop-up show in Wynwood.  It was so successful – with one of my paintings selling the very first day — that I decided I wanted to continue doing shows back in NYC. Cern introduced me to Daniel Weintraub, who soon took on the role of Creative Director. I see street art as the last vestige of originality and this space as the ideal venue for street artists to bring their visions inside.

S.Rose at Succulent Studios Sek3 on Succulent Studios, PALABRA, Whats Ahead and more

Folks are still talking about your Inaugural Show that opened in early spring.

Yes, it was amazing! More successful that I could have imagined! 33 artists – including legendary writers like Daze and Ket — were represented. A piece by Old School writer FIB was sold raising $800 for dog shelters  –  with an additional $200 donated by Succulent Studios. And despite heavy rains, thunderous storms and issues with public transportation, hundreds of people showed up.

Rubin at Succulent Studios Sek3 on Succulent Studios, PALABRA, Whats Ahead and more

What about your current exhibit? What is the concept behind PALABRA?

It is installation-based with each artist given a particular section to engage in any way he or she pleases.

Beau Stanton at Succulent Studios Sek3 on Succulent Studios, PALABRA, Whats Ahead and more

How has the response to this exhibit been?

It’s been tremendous with lots of media coverage and great sales.

What would you say has been your greatest challenge?

The sheer amount of work that running this space requires. It’s a 24-hour day job. I need to hire someone just to sleep!

iena cruz at Succulent Studios Sek3 on Succulent Studios, PALABRA, Whats Ahead and more

What’s ahead?

There will be a closing party for PALABRA next Saturday evening — June 21 at 7pm — presenting The Living Installation by Michael Alan.  And then the following week we will be exhibiting a selection of murals created for Governors Ball.  Much more in the months ahead including a show featuring the artwork of fine artists Akira Beard and Jaclyn Alderete and more exhibits with works by street artists. There will also be projects and classes that will directly engage members of the local community.

It sounds great! Good luck!

Interview and photos by Lois Stavsky; photo info: 1. Sek3 2. S. Rose 3. Rubin 4. Beau Stanton 5. Iena Cruz