abstract graffiti

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With roots in the graffiti milieu of southwest Copenhagen, where he painted hundreds of walls under his alias KETS, Mikael B has since developed a signature identity fusing elements of wild style graffiti, fine art and graphic design. Aptly titled Reality ShiftMikael B‘s upcoming exhibit presents an alternate reality bursting with bold colors and boundless energy. Pictured above is the artist at work in his studio as he prepares for his solo exhibit opening Saturday evening from 7-10pm at Gregorio Escalante Gallery. Several more images of the artist’s work follow:

Time Bending

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Breaking Out

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Close-up

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 Skyfall

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Located at 978 Chung King R0ad in Los Angeles, Gregorio Escalante Gallery is open Wednesday — Sunday from 1pm — 6pm and by appointment.

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All photos courtesy Gregorio Escalante Gallery 

Note: Hailed in a range of media from WideWalls to the Huffington Post to the New York Times, our Street Art NYC App is now available for Android devices here.

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Speaking with Yes One

July 9, 2014

Bronx native Yes One has been gracing walls, canvases and more with his energetic aesthetic — in NYC and beyond — for almost 30 years. StreetArtNYC is delighted to feature an interview with him.

"Yes One"

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

I was introduced to graffiti by Smiley 149 of the Ebony Dukes when I was 10 years old. He used to chill outside my favorite candy shop where I played Asteroids on the arcades. He sat on a crate right outside, and we would vibe watching the trains go by on the Tremont El. This was about 1979.

When you began writing, what kind of surfaces did you hit?

Illegal ones — because of the rush. I can’t explain it, but it’s like robbing a bank.

How did your family feel about what you were doing back then?

My mom and dad hated it. They saw it as a crime. My mother was scared. She used to say, “Te voy a botar esas latas!” (I’m going to throw your cans out!)  She actually kept some of those cans, and I have some collectables today.

"Yes One"

Have you painted with any crews?

Yes! I’ve painted with BT, 4Burners, GAK, and FX — among others.

Do you prefer working alone or would you rather collaborate with other artists?

I often work alone, but I’m open to collaborating with anyone.

Who are some of the artists with whom you’ve painted?

Dero, Pase, PerOne, Logek, Beasto, Tone MST, Ribs GAK and Shiro  —  to name a few.

"Yes One"

Any thoughts on the graffiti/ street art divide?

I see them as two different things. Graffiti is letters, forms and styles. Street art doesn’t pay homage to graffiti, but I can admire it.

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

I think it’s great! I had works featured in a number of exhibits including Cause and Effect and Board of Art and at the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

What about the role of the Internet in this scene? Do you follow any sites?

I follow 12ozProphet and FreshPaint. The Internet is a great networking and marketing tool. It is how I’m able to sell canvases overseas.

And the photographers in this scene? How do you feel about them?

They don’t bother me. They have learned the etiquette.

"Yes One"

Do you have a formal arts education?

I never went to art school.

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve done?  And why were you willing to take that risk?

Painting in the 2 and 5 train yards in the Bronx with Clark in the late 80s. I was young, and you do foolish things when you’re young.

How would you describe your ideal working environment?

My ideal working environment is the Ya Tu Sabe studio space.

What inspires you these days?

Seeing people checking out my walls, taking pictures and smiling. When I see people appreciating my work, I feel I did my job.

"Yes One"

Are there any particular cultures you feel influenced your aesthetic?

I influence myself.

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

I work with a sketch in my hand, but what goes on the wall is not always a hundred percent what was on the paper.

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

I’m never satisfied. I may “finish” a wall this week and go back the next saying to myself, “I could have added this or that.”

How do you feel when you look back at the work you did two years ago?

I take it as a good reference point for picking up new techniques and elevating my style. I feel that my work has gotten stronger. And I feel a hunger to produce more and further my talents.

Shiro-Yes-One-Part-One-graffiti=5Pointz-Long-island-City-NYC

What percentage of your day is devoted to your art? I know you have a “day job.”

I’d say about 75 percent. It’s work – then, art. I wake up at 5 in the morning and don’t go to sleep until 2 a.m.

What are some of your other interests?

I love baseball and collecting rare items. I also love BMX bikes.

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

The role of the artist is a big one. The artist is there to affect a person’s mind by introducing new ideas and concepts.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos 1, 2, 4 & 5  Lois Stavsky; 3 & 6 Dani Reyes Mozeson; photo 5 is from Yes One’s black book; photos 2 & 4 (close-up) are from works currently on exhibit at the Pop Bar in Astoria, Queens; photo 6 is a collab with Shiro, Part and Meres at 5Pointz 

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Blurring the lines among abstract graffiti, pop art and fine art, Dorian Grey’s current exhibit, Flow, features the works of the legendary Bronx-based artist John Matos aka Crash and UK’s Remi Rough. Some of the works were painted individually; others were fashioned collaboratively. All are distinctly stylish. Here’s a sampling:

Remi Rough and Crash, Make her blue eyes blue

"Remi Rough and Crash"

Remi Rough, Never yours completely

"Remi Rough"

Crash, Fantastic

Crash

Remi Rough and Crash, Letter R reconstructed

"Remi Rough and Crash"

Remi Rough and Crash, Eye 03

"Remi Rough and Crash"

Remi Rough and Crash, Letter C reconstructed

"Remi Rough and Crash"

Flow continues through February 23, 2014 at Dorian Grey, 437 East 9th Street and Avenue A.

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Photo of Make her blue eyes blue by Lois Stavsky; all others photos of artworks by Dani Reyes Mozeson 

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Speaking with Col Wallnuts

January 7, 2014

For over 20 years Col has been gracing our public spaces with his distinctly graceful aesthetic.  His street murals, along with his small works on various media, are among our favorites.  It was wonderful to have the opportunity to recently interview him.

"Col Wallnuts"

When did you first get up?

I began tagging and doing some outlines in Staten Island/Brooklyn about 1993-94.

What inspired you at the time?

I was inspired by the tags and pieces I saw along highways. I always wondered who had done them.

Have you any early graffiti memories that stand out?

I loved seeing Cost and Revs in the Meatpacking District. The area has come a long way from the violence and corruption that once characterized it. But it’s great to see a piece of that time still around.

"Col Wallnuts"

Do you paint with any crews?

I was active with CTO (Check This Out), as both Vers and Edge had taken me under their wings. I’m currently part of Wallnuts, MST, MTA and KD. Wallnuts is comprised of writers from both the States and Europe. Among them are: Muse, Chester, Been3, Ree2, Soco, Riot, Phyme, Met, MadC, Zest, Dos, Free5, Kern and Mad.

Do you prefer working alone or with others?

It depends on the project. Painting with good people motivates me, sets a fire under my ass and inspires me. Painting alone is good too. It’s like nothing else exists.

Do you generally paint with a sketch-in-hand?

Almost never.  A sketch prevents one from being organic. I want to see where my idea goes and to produce what I see in my head.

"col wallnuts"

Do you have any preferred surfaces?

I love to paint on anything. I prefer painting on surfaces and in areas where no one has painted before. I enjoy challenges. Obstacles are fun. And I love working large scale on buildings. I grew up working on walls, so the bigger the better.

What about neighborhoods? Have you any favorites?

I prefer working in bad neighborhoods. There are real people there. In good neighborhoods, you’re faced with bullshit. I’ll take Marcy Avenue over Park Avenue any day of the week! Painting in an impoverished neighborhood gives it life and positive energy.

What percentage of your time — would you say — is devoted to art?

I paint seven days a week. I work through holidays. I’m always working on paper, canvas or on my computer.

"Col Wallnuts"

Have you exhibited your work in gallery settings?

Yes. I’ve exhibited at Art Basel (Miami), in NYC, LA, Chicago, DC, and in Europe.

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

As a painter, that’s progression. And it all begins with the tag. A tag is an art form. It’s a craft that not just anybody can do. Tags, then throw-ups and then you eventually evolve into doing pieces. And galleries have a responsibility to preserve them and share them.  Although I’m still not completely comfortable with gallery settings, it’s a good feeling to make money from my art when my work sells.

What are your thoughts on the street art/ graffiti divide?

Fifteen years ago, it was only graffiti. But we are no longer the only ones getting up. And that’s not a bad thing. I have a lot of respect for street artists. They are doing fresh stuff. Street art actually helped graffiti. Since the emergence of street art, graffiti writers have had more opportunities to exhibit their work in galleries. If you’re a wheat-paste artist keeping the movement alive…how can I hate that? There are rules, though, to graffiti and some street artists need to learn them.

"Col and Muse Wallnuts"

Have you ever been arrested?

Never for graff. But I’ve been chased a lot. Back then, cops used to catch you with paint and write on you. Then they’d let you go with a warning. Those days are over.

How did your family and friends feel about what you were doing?

My family hated it. My family didn’t want the kids doing anything illegal. They saw it as a dead end…not doing anything with yourself, but putting up your name. I also lost some friends over graffiti. But your true family will never turn their backs. Ultimately, you learn, too, that you only have yourself at the end.

Do you have a formal arts education? 

I studied Fine Arts and Advertising at FIT and at the Academy of Art University. But all my spray painting training is self-taught. I learned the hard way with Krylon, Rustoleum, American Accent and Dutch Boy. The kids today have it easy using Montana and Belton.

"Ree and Col"

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

It’s fifty-fifty. Sometimes. Other times I want to just buff and start all over. If you care about what you do, you’re your own worst critic.

What’s the riskiest thing you’ve done for your art and why were you willing to take that risk?

Painting in Israel by the Syrian border right in the line of fire. It’s the sort of thing we as artists live for. Art is stronger than war. And that’s why I did it.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetics?

I love the abstract movement. I enjoy the works of Pollack, Rauschenberg, Fran Stella, Jasper Johns and de Kooning. The abstract movement went against the grain of what was popular in Europe.

"Col Wallnuts"

How has your work evolved throughout the years? 

I’ll say it’s more deconstructed these days. Back then, the majority of my work was 3D, but that got old and boring to me. I went into breaking letters and transitioned from 3D to silhouette.

How do you feel about what you are doing these days?

I’m happy with my progression and where I’m going. I’m glad I didn’t listen to people around me. I’m glad that the progression came naturally, and I can’t wait to see where it goes within the next few years.

What do you think the role of the artist in society?

It’s about being a role model and reaching the youth. You got to give something to them they can grasp. You have to make them feel excited about what you are doing. The artist has to inspire and lead by example. He has to teach others that being an artist is a positive thing.

"Col Wallnuts"

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

It’s a part of you when you wake up; it’s a part of you when you go to sleep. It’s an outlet for everything we do. Before the Internet, guys were grinding…dealing with people first-hand. You had to present physical material. Today it’s digital, and it takes two minutes. There are tons of positives and negatives to the Internet. You have to use it in a way that it works for you.

Any thoughts on the photographers and bloggers out there?

I support them. They shoot my work, they are very supportive and their eye is important. I like that they provide an opportunity to others to see my work.

Any shoutouts?

Shoutout to my WALLNUTS and URNY family. The homies: Hellbent, SeeOne, Depoh, Phetus, KA, Werds, Touch, Rubin. Semz (Rest In Power) and my grandma. Semz did so much for the graffiti scene. His is a name everyone should remember. My grandma was my biggest supporter. She never understood my art, but always pushed. She was a self-taught traditionalist artist. She told me, “Never stop and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you’re not an artist or that you’re not a painter.” She’s with me in everything I do.

Interview by Lenny Collado; photo 1 at the Bushwick Collective by Lois Stavsky; 2 at the East Harlem Hall of Fame by Lois Stavsky; 3 at the Bushwick Collective by Lois Stavsky; 4 in Prospect Heights by Tara Murray; 5 in Bed-Stuy with Muse by Lois Stavsky; 6 in Inwood with Ree by Lenny Collado; 7  in Tel Aviv by Lois Stavsky, and final photo courtesy of the artist.

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One of NYC’s most prolific street artists, Royce Bannon aka Choice Royce is also a first-rate curator.  His most recent venture, SPECTRUM, is on view at Gallery Brooklyn through August 31.

Gallery Brooklyn

Your iconic monsters surface throughout the boroughs – both on the streets and in galleries – and you also have curated some of NYC’s most impressive street art shows.  What got you into curating?

Back in 2005, my sister and her husband ran a gallery space in Harlem.  I loved the idea of organizing an exhibit that would showcase my friends’ work.  And since I had access to a space, I did just that.

Who were some of the artists in your first exhibit?

They were mostly members of my crew, the Endless Love Crew. Guys like Abe Lincoln, Jr., Infinity, GoreB, Anera…

EKG and Royce Bannon

I remember seeing Work to Do at 112 Greene Street a few years back in SoHo. It was amazing!  How did it come to be?

In 2009, Steve Loeb and John Robie offered me their 4000 square foot studio space to curate an exhibit.  With help from my friends, we organized an exhibit with 50 — 60 artists. Work was installed just about everywhere in every manner possible. The response was wonderful and it whet my appetite to curate more exhibits.

What about other spaces? Where else have you curated?

I’ve curated shows at 17 Frost and at the Mishka Store in Williamsburg and at the Woodward Gallery on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. My current exhibit, SPECTRUM, is at Gallery Brooklyn here in Red Hook.

Rubin

Tell us a bit about your process of curating? How does it begin?

It begins with a concept. And once I have the concept, I contact the artists I’d like to feature and, then – sometimes — I have to begin searching for a space.

What about SPECTRUM? What is the concept behind SPECTRUM?

The concept for this show was actually See One’s. He suggested that I curate an exhibit featuring abstract graffiti with works by Col, Rubin and Hellbent and him. I added EKG.

See One

It’s certainly a great selection of artists – all five are active on the streets, as well as in their studiosHow did you hook up with Gallery Brooklyn?

I began contacting various spaces and Gallery Brooklyn – that had hosted Geometrics last year — was welcoming and enthusiastic. It was the perfect match.

And the installation is flawless!

Thanks! I couldn’t be more satisfied. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and the results are beyond my expectations! The works all complement one another.

Hellbent

How did the opening go?

It was fantastic. The response was all positive and it sold well.

What’s ahead?

More curating. More art. More writing. And more interviews for the Source.

Col

Have you any new concepts for exhibits?

I’d like to curate an exhibit on the theme of characters.

That sounds great! I am already looking forward to it!

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photos of EKG and Royce collab, See One, Rubin and Hellbent — in that order — by Lois Stavsky; final photo of Col courtesy of Royce.

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