5Pointz

Speaking with NEPO

November 7, 2013

Nepo

We are thrilled that Puerto Rican native Nepo has brought his superb skills to us here in NYC, delighting us with his wondrous characters, sensuous styles and bold colors.  He’s been busy in Bushwick these days, where he will be painting live and exhibiting his work with New York Street Gallery next Friday, November 15th.

When and where did you first get up?

I began bombing and tagging my name back in 1996 in Puerto Rico.  I was 16.

What inspired you to start writing?

At first I didn’t write. I used to help my friend Ensa with his fills when he did pieces. I also served as his look out. Eventually I started tagging. And Ensa was the one who gave me the name Nepo. It was kind of a joke, but it stuck.

Had you any preferred surfaces back then?

No. It was location that mattered. We focused on getting a spot where as many people as possible would see the work. Surface didn’t matter. Although, I’ll say, I do love shutters. They present a challenge I enjoy.

Nepo and Rimx

Do you paint with any crews? Or do you paint alone?

Both. I get up by myself and I also paint with El Coro and NST – both here and in Puerto Rico.

Have you exhibited your work?

I have. In Puerto Rico, I contributed to Carry On, a collective that went on to tour in Boston and in Oakland. I had two solo shows back home, and I’m working on an upcoming one here. I’m also now preparing for a group show with Bushwick’s New York Street Gallery.

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

Artists need to make money. In Puerto Rico, there are underground art galleries that support graffiti and really show love for it.  I haven’t felt that here in NYC.

How does your family feel about what you do?

My mother and father didn’t get it for a long time. They thought it was crazy that I was spending so much time and money without getting paid. But then after they attended some of my shows and read about me in the news, they knew that I was progressing as an artist. And they grew to appreciate it.

Nepo

What percentage of your time is devoted to art these days?

I’m almost always working on a canvas, flyer, T-shirt, print, painting or wall. It may not yet be 100%, but I hope it will soon be.

Have you earned any money from your artwork?

I have. I designed a sign for the Well Project that brought me some money. And I will soon begin working for the Roberto Clemente Center, painting outdoors with five other artists.

Any thoughts on the graffiti/street art divide?

I have tremendous respect for graffiti and I identify with it. But these days I’m more of a street artist or muralist. I like doing legal walls because I can take my time. There is a divide, though, even though many street artists started as graffiti writers.

Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with?

I’d like to do something with Os Gemeos. And if they were still alive, I’d work with Diego Rivera and Basquiat. Ha-ha!

Nepo

Do you have a formal arts education?

Yes. I studied art with a focus on traditional graphics, silkscreen, etching and printing.

Are there any particular cultures you would say have influenced your aesthetics?

The many bright colors that I use and the animals I reference are influenced by Puerto Rican culture.

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

For murals, yes, I use sketches, especially for proportions.

Are you generally satisfied with a completed work?

Yes. When I have given my all to a particular project, the quality is there.

Nepo

When you look back at what you’ve done in the last two years, is there anything you would have done differently?

I’d have done bigger work, larger scale murals and more of them. Here in NYC, I’ve done four and that’s not enough.

How has your art evolved throughout the years?

Initially, I began with paint brushes. But because I love to learn and expand, I moved on to spray paint and became obsessed. I continue to enjoy learning new spray paint techniques.

What was the riskiest thing you’ve done as a graffiti writer?

Ha-ha! I actually tagged the door of a Senator’s house in Puerto Rico. My friends and I were drunk, and we decided to tag it at four in the morning. Since we didn’t have our cameras with us, we ran home to get them. But by the time we returned, someone was already power-washing the tags off the building.

Nepo

How do you feel about the photographers and bloggers on the scene?

We need them. Their job takes time and love.  It’s not just about the artists; it’s also about the people who share their love for what we do with others.

What’s ahead?

I’m part of the first New York Street Gallery group exhibit that will take place next Friday, November 15, at 272 Messerole Street on Bushwick Place.

Interview by Lenny Collado; Photo 1 in Bushwick by Tara Murray; photo 2 at 5Pointz by Dani Reyes Mozeson; all others courtesy of Nepo

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Active on the streets of NYC for over 30 years, James Sexer Rodriguez has also achieved wide commercial success as a designer.  His works on canvas, fusing elements of graffiti and realism, have been exhibited in galleries in NYC, the Caribbean and in Europe. His upcoming exhibit, Urban Convictions, will feature his new works — alongside new paintings by Zimad — this Friday evening at Rogue Gallery Chelsea, 508 West 26th Street.

Sexer

When and where did you first get up?

I started tagging in notebooks when I was about 10. By the time I was 13, I was hitting the walls in the South Bronx with tags. And within a short span of time, the tags evolved into pieces.

What inspired you?

My ex-brother-in-law was a writer with B.A. (Bronx Artists), and my entire neighborhood was a breeding ground for writers.

Have you any early graffiti-related memories that stand out?

We used to steal ink from the supermarket and make our own markers. I remember spilling the ink all over myself, as I was getting ready to go bombing.

Sexer-on-canvas

Did you represent any crews?

I was president of BA (Bronx Artists); other crews I represented include OTB, SYB, SSB and12 Disciples.

Have you ever been arrested?

I was caught several times, but booked only once – for a misdemeanor for public defacing.  Basically, the police didn’t want to do the paper work, and so they just let me go. Things were different back in the day and they actually let us finish the pieces.

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

My mom was oblivious to just how illegal graffiti was, but she always knew where I was going and what I was doing.

Sexer

What is the riskiest thing you did?

Painting pieces in a tunnel with a one-inch clearance between the train and the wall.

Why were you willing to that that risk?

I wasn’t thinking! I was looking for fame. You couldn’t pay me to do it now!

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

About 90% of the time I work with a sketch. What I do these days is largely conceptual, and it takes planning.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? 

I work on it until I am satisfied with it.

Sexer and Zimad

Have you a formal art education?

I went to Art & Design High School, where I was around writers like Doze, Crash and Seen, Paze, Size, Ence.  I also attended FIT and did some courses at Parsons.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

95% of it. I live off my art. My kids and my art are my life.

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

I wouldn’t say I’ve been influenced by any specific cultures. But life, itself, and growing up in the South Bronx and New York City have probably been my main aesthetic influences.

Sexer

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I don’t like labels. I’m originally a graffiti artist, but I like street art.  Street artists may use different techniques and tools, but they have given us all – including galleries — a new lease on life.  Just look at all the attention Banksy and the art community have been getting since he began his residency on NYC streets!

How do you feel about that – the attention that Banksy has been getting?

It’s good. It keeps the art community healthy.

Why do you suppose the art world has been so reluctant to embrace graffiti?

Probably because of graffiti’s association with vandalism. It’s problematic to many.

Any favorite arists?

Certainly Picasso. He had so many styles and could do just about anything. Among graffiti writers, my favorites include Seen, Doze Green, Duro, Pase and Crash

Sexer and Zimad

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

It’s a blessing. You don’t have to have a million dollars to market yourself. The Internet has become a vital tool.

Have you any feelings about the photographers in the scene?

I am thankful for their coverage. But it’s important that they ask the artist’s permission and that they credit the artist whose work they are photographing.

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

The artist has a responsibility to share his God-given talents with the world.

Urban-Convictions-Rogue-Gallery

What do you see as the future of graffiti?

Graffiti is here to stay. It’s exciting and invigorating, and it is attracting an increasingly diverse following.

What about you? What’s ahead for you?

Well, after so many years of painting and striving for better and better, there’s only one direction for me: UP. I refuse to stop. I will continue to document my imagination and my emotions on whatever surface is in front of me. I love sharing my art.

Interview by Lois Stavsky; photo 1, close-up from Sexer’s new self-portrait, courtesy of the artist; photos 2 and 3, from Sexer’s solo exhibit at 5Pointz, by Dani Reyes Mozeson; photos 4 and 6, with Zimad at 5Pointz, by Lois Stavsky; photo 5, Sexer painting at 5Pointz, by Tara Murray

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Speaking with Dede

September 11, 2013

Prolific on the streets of his native Tel-Aviv, Dede aka Dede Bandaid has spent the last two weeks leaving his mark here in NYC — in Brooklyn, in downtown Manhattan and at 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens.

Dede

When did you first get up?

When I was 13, I found a spray can as I was wandering around my neighborhood. I’d always been drawing on just about every surface, but I’d never used a spray can. I was curious. And so I went to my schoolyard to try it out!

What was that like?

It was amazing. I looked up to the sky, and I began to paint a galaxy with stars and more. But it was years before I got up again in any public space. The walls in my house and in my friends’ houses became my canvases.

And when did that change? When did you first hit the walls of Tel Aviv?

It changed when I was in the army. Army service in my country is compulsory, and I hated it.  And so during one of my vacations from the army, I sprayed a pro-peace stencil on a public space. That was around 2000.

Dede

Do you paint alone? Or do you get up with any crews?

I’m almost always on my own.  On occasion I’ve collaborated with Latzi. I feel that I’m more influenced by Israeli culture, politics and aesthetics than many of the other writers here. I’m, also, not involved in “the scene.”  I’m more intent in getting a message across and – at this point – developing my own distinct style.

What other aspects of Israeli culture – besides its fraught politics — have influenced your aesthetic?

I infuse iconic Israeli symbols into my artworks– such as the white pigeon for peace and various plants that have Biblical references. But my main inspiration comes from everyday Israeli life – all the discussions that Israelis engage in daily regarding the army, the government, the economy…

Do you prefer to work legally or illegally?

I definitely prefer working in unauthorized spaces. That’s what street art is about. I can do whatever I want, without having to show sketches to anybody. The beauty of getting up on the streets is the freedom it gives you. And there’s the adrenaline rush – that only comes with working illegally.

Dede

Tell us something about the band aid. You sign your work Dede with an image of a band aid alongside it. How did that come about?

About five years ago, I was seeking a way to express and heal my wounds. The band aid then became a symbol for all kinds of difficulties – personal and societal — seeking remedies.

And what about the houses? I’ve been noticing lots of houses – in different shapes and positions – in your work. What do these houses represent?

When I first started including houses in my works, they represented the notion of “home” – and not feeling at home anywhere. But then they came to represent so much more – a search for home, the high cost of housing, the political situation…

Dede

Have you exhibited your art in gallery spaces?

Yes.  Back in Israel, I’ve exhibited in Tel Aviv and in Jerusalem. I’ve also exhibited my stencil work in Berlin. And here in NYC at New York University’s Bronfman Center.

Any thoughts about the movement of street art into galleries?

Well, when it’s in a gallery, it’s no longer street art. And when my work is in a gallery, it is judged more harshly than anything I do on the streets.

Dede

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

All of it. I’m either painting or sleeping.

Is art, then, the main source of your income?

Yes. I sell paintings and I do commissions.

How does your family feel about what you do? 

They love it. My mom loves seeing my work in the streets, and she always photographs it.

What is the riskiest thing you did and why were you willing to take that risk?

I’ve taken lots of risks. But the riskiest was probably navigating a lengthy, unruly river in the rain to install a yellow submarine.

Was it worth it?

Definitely!

Dede

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I don’t feel it in Israel.

Have you a formal art education? 

Yes. I graduated from Bezalel in 2009. I learned a lot, and it was lots of fun. But I’ve learned far more from the streets.

Do you work from a sketch or do you just let it flow?

I usually just let it flow.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? 

Never.

Your work seems quite different from when I first saw it on the streets of Tel Aviv a number of years ago. How has it evolved through the years? And why has it changed so radically?

I began by stenciling and found myself too easily influenced by other stencil artists. And when I began to make my stencils more detailed, I developed an infection from cutting them. And so I began painting more free hand. And now it’s evolving into a fusion of painting and collage. I am working more and more on developing my own voice.

Dede

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

It’s definitely more positive than negative. It seems that most people first discover street art on the Internet. And online I get to see work from lots of artists I haven’t met. But the Internet can also strip you somewhat of the ability to develop a distinct, personal style.

What about the role of the photographer?

The photographer’s role is very vital to the movement.  Many artists either don’t document their work or document it poorly.  And since the Internet does have so much power these days, the photographer’s role is increasingly important.

What’s ahead?

Evolution and advancement.

Photo at 5Pointz by Dani Mozeson; all others courtesy of the artist

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Dozens of new artworks, representing a wide range of cultures, styles and approaches, have surfaced this summer at 5Pointz. Here are a few from NYC’s ever-evolving open-air gallery:

Veteran graff artists Bis and Vor 

Bis and Vor

London-based artist Christiaan Nagel installs his iconic mushroom with a little help from Meres

Christiaan Nagel

 Austrian artist Roofie

Roofie

Japanese artist Shiro with PartYes1 and Meres

Shiro, Part, Yes One and Meres

ND’A and Bishop

NDA and Bishop

The Mexican Har crew, close-up

Har graffiti

Har Crew, complete mural

Har Crew

French artist Zeso

Zeso

Brooklyn-based international muralist Joel Bergner

Joel Bergner

Barcelona-based artist Dase

Dase

Photos by Dani Mozeson, Tara Murray and Lois Stavsky

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This is the second in a series of occasional posts featuring images of children that surface on NYC public spaces:

Chris Stain at the Bushwick Collective

Chris Stain

Alice Pasquiniclose-up from huge mural at the Bushwick Collective

Alice Pasquini

James Rubio in the East Village

James Rubio

Sonni at the Bushwick Collective

Sonni Adrian

Icy and Sot, close-up from huge mural in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Icy and Sot

 El Niño De Las Pinturas, close-up from huge mural at 5Pointz in Long Island City

El Nino de las Pinturas

Fumero in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Fumero

Lisete Alcalde at the Bushwick Collective

Lisete Alcalde

 Photos by Tara Murray and Lois Stavsky, except for Lisete Alcalde, courtesy of the artist

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The walls at 5Pointz continue to showcase some of the most vibrant public art in NYC — or anywhere. Here’s a sampling of some artwork that has recently surfaced:

Puerto Rican artists Rimx and Nepo

Rimx and Nepo

Queens-based Kid Lew’s tribute to Trayvon Martin

Kid Lew

Jasper — in from Queensland, Australia

Jasper

New Jersey-based graff masters Demer, Rain and Kasso

Demer, Rain and Kasso

The Parisian Nok Crew

Nok

Serrano, Mas Paz, Rimx and Cortes fashion letters “PROC” for the Artist Process, a 5Pointz annual project coordinated by Marthalicia Matarrita 

Serrano, Mas Paz, Rimx, Cortes

Close-up from huge mural by French TD4 member, Zeso

Zeso

Photos by Dani Mozeson, Tara Murray & Lois Stavsky; image of Ked Lew’s mural courtesy of the artist

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Speaking with Spidertag

July 18, 2013

Based in Madrid, Spidertag is known for his masterful geometrical and abstract artworks fashioned with yarn and nails. I recently met up with him during his visit to New York City, where he left his mark at 5Pointz.

Spidertag

When did you start getting up?

I started doing graffiti in 2000, and in 2008 I began working as Spidertag.

Have you any preferred surfaces?

I like abandoned places. Just like a spider, I only build my geometrical webs in out-of the way, deserted spaces. When people are present, a spider’s web does not last.

Have you ever been arrested?

Not for this, but I was arrested in Berlin for bombing.

What was that like?

They pepper-sprayed me and punched me. They kept me over night.

Spidertag

Wow! And I thought the authorities in Berlin were lenient!

Not if you’re caught bombing.

What percentage of your time is devoted to your art?

All day, all night.

What is your main source of income?

Freelance photography and design. Selling artworks.

Any thoughts about the graffiti/street art divide?

I try to connect them both. But, clearly, street art is more acceptable, and street artists have more freedom than graffiti writers. In some ways, street art legitimizes graffiti.

Spidertag

Do you prefer working alone or collaborating with others?

Both. I like working alone, but I also like the mix of techniques that comes with collaboration.

With whom have you collaborated?

Back in Spain, I collaborated with Señor X, Gaucholadri, EC13 and El Niño De Las Pinturas. And in Berlin, I collaborated with Hottea.

What do you see as the role of the Internet in all this?

It’s important  — because what we do is so ephemeral.

Have you a formal art education?

I studied sculpture, but most of what I do comes from what I taught myself and through reading. I’m an avid reader.

Spidertag

What’s the riskiest thing you ever did?

Doing art while standing in deep cold water. It was irresistible.

Your work is certainly unique. What is the source of your inspiration?

I love to experiment with different materials. I’m inspired by geometrics. And I’m always trying to do something different and better. Particular spots, also, inspire me.

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

I usually don’t work with sketches.

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Sometimes. If I like it, it feels like magic. I jump for joy. And if I don’t like it, I forget about it.

Spidertag

Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?

Egyptian.

How has your work evolved through the years?

I’m more engaged with the materials that I use. These days nails have a hold on me. And I’m more particular with the spots that I choose.

What’s ahead?

A movie is coming soon. More experimentation, more geometry. I don’t want to repeat myself. I would like to Spidertag an entire abandoned town, my dreamed kingdom.

Gee – that’s quite ambitious. It sounds great! What do you see as the role of the artist in society?

I wish the artist did have a significant role in society. I’m not sure he does. But the way I see it — his main goal is to teach others to follow their hearts.

Interview by Lois Stavsky. First two images photographed by Lois Stavsky at 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens. All other photos are courtesy of the artist.

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Speaking with Wes21

June 24, 2013

A member of schwarzmaler, a collective of outstanding graffiti writers, street artists and illustrators, Swiss artist Wes21 creates stunning, detailed works that blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy.  We recently spoke to him during his visit to 5Pointz.

Wes2, Semor, Onur and KKade

When did you first start getting up?

I was about 11 years old when I hit my father’s garage.

Where was this?

In a small town near Berne.

What inspired you at the time?

Graffiti was all around me. I grew up without a TV, and I was always drawing. So it seemed like the natural thing to do.

Wes21

How did your parents feel about what you were doing?

They encouraged me.  My father used to bring me photos of graffiti.  They love it.

Have you any preferred spots?

I love painting anywhere but I especially love rooftops and places near water.

Have you ever exhibited your work?

Yes, and I do many exhibitions every year.  I’ve shown my work in both group and solo shows in Switzerland, Germany, Hungary and Italy.

Wes21

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

I feel fine about it, so long as it’s well-done. Showing in a gallery pushes me to the next level. And then I’m a better artist when I paint in the streets!

Have you a formal art education?

Yes. I studied graphic design and illustration in art school for four years.

Any thoughts about the role of the Internet in all this?

I don’t pay much attention to it.

Wes21

Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece?

Not completely. If I were, I wouldn’t be motivated to paint another one!

Is there much of a graffiti/street art divide back home

Not really. Most of the artists who hit the streets are open-minded.

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

To capture a moment — real or imaginary — for eternity.

All photos courtesy of the artist

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As part of the fifth edition of the World Nomads festival, Tunisian artist eL Seed brought his soulful, lyrical calligraffiti to NYC last month.   With its synthesis of Arabic writing, calligraphy and graffiti, eL Seed’s distinct style made its way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side and to 5Pointz in Long Island City, Queens.  While he was here, we had the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

eL-Seed

When and where did you first get up?

I started in the late 90’s in the suburbs of Paris. I was 16.

What inspired you to do it?

As a B-Boy, I was into the whole hip-hop culture. And I always liked art.

Have you any early graffiti memories?

A standout is when Zefa from the GAP Crew painted me doing a head-spin.

Any favorite spots?

I especially like abandoned places.

el-Seed

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

I do everything freestyle.

Do you prefer working alone or would you rather collaborate with others?

I tend to work by myself, but I also love collaborating with others.

What is the attitude of your family towards what you are doing?

I studied business at the university, and then I worked as a business consultant. My parents were somewhat concerned when I left that world. But now, when they see how happy I am, they’re fine about it.

Any thoughts on the graffiti/street art divide?

I don’t like the definitions. I don’t like the terms.

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

On one level, it’s cool because it gives us opportunity to share our vision with other people. But, on the other hand, artwork loses its context when it’s online

eL-Seed

What is the riskiest thing you ever did?

Painting on top of a mosque 47 meters high in Tunisia.

Why were you willing to take that risk?

It was a way of returning to my roots.

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

I do everything freestyle.

What inspires you to paint in public?

It’s a quest for identity. I was born and raised in France, but French people tell me that I’m not French – that I’m Arabic. And I want to maintain pride in my native culture. I do not want to lose it. That’s a reason why I write in Arabic.

eL Seed, Meres and Jaye

Do you have a message to convey?

Despite our differences, we are all the same. We’re all human and we all have the same struggle.

How has your work evolved through the years?

I’ve learned to adapt to any surface, and the flow and shapes of my letters keep on evolving.

You’ve travelled to many cities. Have you any favorites?

My favorite city is Gabes in Tunisia. I have a strong emotional connection because it’s my family’s native land.

eL Seed and Jaye

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

I’d rather paint on walls, but to sustain myself, I’ve shown in galleries.

What are some of your other interests?

I love to cook. I cook everything for my family. And I love to read, especially about history.

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

To give visual expression to what people think. The artist is the ambassador of our society.

Photos by Dani Mozeson, Tara Murray and Lois Stavsky; the fourth photo also features Meres and Jaye, along with eL Seed, and the fifth features a collaboration between eL Seed and Jaye

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Speaking with Kkade

June 10, 2013

Swiss artist Kkade shared his splendid skills with us last month at 5Pointz. While he was here, we had the opportunity to find out a bit about this talented member of the Schwarzmaler Collective.

semor and kkade

When and where did you begin writing?

I started writing in my hometown of Murten, Switzerland in 1999. I was 16 years old.

How did you get into it?

I used to love looking at graffiti magazines and watching films on graffiti bombing.

5pointz rooftop

How did your parents feel about what you were doing?

They didn’t like the police calling them. But they were always supportive.

Any early inspirations?

My crew members Kese 27 and Mower gave me my first, big start. And, since, I’ve done lots of writing and traveling with them.

Kkade

Have you any favorite writers?

This is hard to answer, but crews like HA or JBCB are dope.  And my favorite Swiss writers are Kesy, Irons and Toast.

Besides 5Pointz here in NYC, where else have you painted?

I’ve painted throughout Switzerland and in many European cities. Among them are: Milan, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam and Budapest.

Kkade

Have you exhibited your work?

I have my first solo exhibit coming up on June 27 at the Trace Gallery in Zurich. And I’ve exhibited many times with the Schwarzmaler Collective.

Any thoughts about street art and graffiti divide?

Street art wouldn’t exist without graffiti. Graffiti started on trains and made its way onto the streets. Some people think they can do stickers and stencils and that they’re graffiti artists. But that’s not what graffiti is about. These days, street art has a bigger hype than graffiti. Back in Switzerland, the media recently promoted Wes 21 as a street artist – rather than as graffiti writer – when he was exhibiting his work in a gallery. It’s scene thing. But we don’t let the hype get to us. Graffiti saved my life. It kept me from doing drugs and behaving aggressively.

How do you see the Internet in all of this?

I think it’s really good in connecting people with the art. But it also exposes people to too much crap. And not everyone can tell the difference.

KKade

Do you have any formal art education?

I went to art school and got an apprenticeship in graphic design. I studied it for three years. It taught me to be more open-minded, and it did push me to do better and better.

What’s ahead?

Perfecting my letters and sharing my skills with others.

Interview by Lenny Collado. First photo by Lois Stavsky; all others courtesy of the artist

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