comic art


Organized by Oscar Arriola and CHema SkandalZINEmercado, the inaugural Logan Square Independent Zine Fest, is happening tomorrow, Sunday, October 23, from noon to 6pm at Comfort Station. While in Chicago this past week, I had the opportunity to meet up with Oscar Arriola and check out a few of the zines.

When I first met you in NYC several years ago, we discovered that we are both huge zine fans! What is it about zines that appeals to you?

I love that you can make a zine on any topic that appeals to you and can share it with everyone. There are no rules! And you can use any materials you choose.


Do you remember the first zine that you discovered thet spurred your interest in this particular medium?

I started collecting them before I even knew what the term zine meant or even that it existed! My favorite was the one I bought at Barry McGee’s solo exhibit at Deitch Projects in 2005. It was $25.00, a lot of money at that time!

Wow! That is a lot of money for a zine — even now! But no doubt it was worth it! Any other favorite zines?

Just about any zine by Barry McGee and his crew DFW or Down for Whatever.


You, yourself, have created zines. When did you design your first zine? And what was its topic?

I designed my first zine five years ago, although I’d been thinking about creating one for some time. I work for the Chicago Public Library, and so I’m around all kinds of books all day  I became intrigued by the covers of Indian books, and I began scanning them. My first zine was a collection of these images.

What spurred you to become engaged in this upcoming zine fest?

I love zines, and I love the idea of bringing the community together for an event like this.



Have you ever done anything like this before?

I was one of the organizers for the Chicago Zine Fest three years ago.

How many folks will be exhibiting at ZINEmercado?

There will be 14 tables representing about 30 artists.


How did you get the word out to the participants?

We spoke to people we knew, and we’ve been using social media. You can check us out, in fact, on Instagram.

What is the biggest challenge that you and CHema Skanda have faced in organizing this event? 

Making sure people know about it! We’d like to engage as many folks as possible. Our flyers include text in English, Spanish and Polish, as we want to include members of the local community. Admission is free.


In addition to viewing, trading and purchasing zines, are there any other activities taking place?

During the fest, ZINEmercado will present a range of activities including art talks by Johnny Sampson and CHema Skandal, a performance by Wet Wallet, and DJ sets by Amara Betty and Esteban La Groue of Impala Sound Champions!

Good luck! It’s looking great!



1. CHema Skandal

2. Gabriel Alcala

3. DFW Crew with Barry McGee & more

4. & 5. Tom Guenth

6. Alex Lukas

7. Sonic Visual Graphics

8. Flyer for ZINEmercado, designed by CHema Skandal, featuring image of  Oscar Arriola

Interview with Oscar Arriola conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

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Best known for his iconic Robothead and his subway collaborations with Keith Haring, South Bronx native Eric Orr can now be found most days in his new Hunts Point studio. I recently had the opportunity to meet up with him there.

What a great space! When did you begin working here?

It’s been four months now. It couldn’t be more perfect, as it’s just a short ride from my house and convenient to just about everything.


How does working in a studio differ from working in your apartment?

It’s an entirely different experience. There’s a lot less traffic here. I can leave my paint on the floor and know that it will still be there when I return. I have the freedom to create without having to put things away. And my family is happy too! No more fumes and no more paint in their way!

How does having your own space impact your work as an artist?

Bigger thoughts and bigger pieces. I’m planning to design huge sculptures and paint on larger surfaces. Can you imagine what I’d be doing now if I had a space like this 40 years ago!

Dennesa-Andrea Usher-and-Eric-Orr-collab

You are currently participating in Leave a Message, a group exhibit — curated by Tes One at St. Petersburg’s Morean Arts Center. What’s next?

I’m showing in Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination, an art and design exhibit — curated by John Jennings and Reynaldo Anderson — at the Schomburg Center’s Latimer Edison Gallery. On exhibit are photos of the 1984 Eric Orr and Keith Haring subway drawings, along with an original 1986 cover of my Rappin Max Robot comic book. I will also be exhibiting five new Robothead masks recently created in the new studio space. Then later this year I will have a solo exhibit at WallWorks Gallery.


What about the upcoming New York Comic Con? Can we expect to see you there?

Yes! I will have hand-embellished mini posters of the cover of my Rappin Max Robot #1 comic book available for purchase. I will also be speaking on the Hip-Hop & Comics: Cultures Combining panel discussion with Depth of Field‘s, Patrick Reed on October 8, 2015 at 11 AM.

I am looking forward to it all! 

Note: Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination opens tomorrow evening, Friday, September 25, at the Schomburg Center’s Latimer Edison Gallery, 515 Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem.

unveiling-at-schomburg center

 Photo credits: 1 & 3, courtesy of the artist; 2 & 4 Lois Stavsky; interview by Lois Stavsky


"Eric Orr"

Legendary for his collaborative artwork with Keith Haring on the NYC subways, Bronx-based artist and designer Eric Orr also produced the first-ever hip-hop comic book.  I recently had the opportunity to find out more about this multi-faceted artist who will be participating tomorrow – Friday – evening at the New York Comic Con panel discussion Hip-Hop and Comics: Cultures Combining, presented by Depth of Field.

You were one of the first graff artists to develop a distinct icon. Your “robot head” has since appeared on a wide range of surfaces – from T-shirts to record labels to international fine art exhibits. It has even made its way into Sotheby’s and Christie’s auction houses and catalogues. Can you tell us something about it?

It was inspired by the space age and the robotics era. I grew up in the age of Star Wars, Space Odyssey and the Robot Dance. And as tagging on walls and traditional graff didn’t do that much for me, my robot actually made it to the streets of the South Bronx where I grew up.


You may well be best-known for your collabs with Keith Haring that surfaced on the 6 Pelham Bay and the 4 and 5 NYC subways lines 30 years ago. You are, in fact, the only artist who ever collaborated with Keith in the subway system. How did you two first meet up?

Keith, it seems, had been eyeing my work for a while.  But we actually met, by chance, one day at a Swatch watch completion. I was wearing my hand-painted robot head shirt when Keith Haring approached me and invited me to collaborate with him on a series of artworks on the black panel spaces of the NYC subway system.

And these became a legendary part of NYC’s subway history! You also played a huge role in the hip-hop scene back in the day, producing work for Afrika Bambaataa and such hip-hop artists as Jazzy Jay, along with the brand logo for the Strong City Record label.  Can you tell us something about that? What exactly was the relationship between graffiti and hip-hop?  And was there one?

Yes! The same energy from the streets of the South Bronx that created the graffiti there in the late 70’s created hip-hop. Writers would go straight from getting up in the streets to hanging out at park jams and clubs. And it was largely the graffiti artists who designed the flyers for the hip-hop events.

"Eric Orr"

What about the relationship between hip-hop and comics? You produced the first-ever hip-hop comic and will be speaking about the two cultures at the  tomorrow – Friday.

From the beginning graffiti artists, MC’s and break-dancers adapted elements from the comic book culture. Just about everything — from our names to our fantastical identities to the flyers we designed — had comic elements in it. But only someone from the inside could have produced an authentic hip-hop comic.  My original “Maxwell Robot” strip ran in Rap Masters magazine.

Do you have a formal art education?

I studied art at the School of Visual Arts and the Art Students League.

Was it worthwhile?

Yes, it inspired me to take my work to a commercial level.

"Eric Orr"

How do you feel about the interplay between graffiti/street art and the commercial world?

I have mixed feelings. It’s great for me and others to get paid to do the things we love. But it’s also easy for artists to be exploited — if their art is used to market a product and they are not getting paid for their artwork or sharing in the company’s profits.

You’ve done workshops with kids in New Zealand – to which you originally traveled to create a design for Serato — and recently here up in the Bronx. Can you tell us something about that?

Having grown up in the South Bronx, I understand just how important it is for kids to have positive experiences that nurture their creativity in productive ways. My most recent venture was with Sienide, working with youth to design a mural on 172nd Street and Southern Boulevard for the Children’s Aid Society’s.


What’s ahead?

Cornell University recently approached me about purchasing the original source material for Rappin’ Max Robot for its hip-hop collection of rare books and manuscripts. I am currently working on an a piece for an upcoming train show at Grand Central, scheduled to open on November 22. And tomorrow evening, I will be participating in the New York Comic Con panel discussion Hip-Hop and Comics: Cultures Combining.

Congratulations! It all sounds great! 

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of Eric Orr; final photo by Lois Stavsky



“Works of art in public spaces can have a highly beneficial effect upon the environment – beautifying it, sparking debate, and nurturing public interest in visual art,” concluded Reykjavik’s Executive City Council in a recently released report. Among those artists selected to add style and intrigue to apartment building walls of Iceland’s capital is the celebrated Icelandic pop artist Erró. As there has always been somewhat of a crossover between street art and comic art, the choice seems perfect. And here at Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, a short ride from downtown Manhattan, an exhibit of the celebrated artist’s works, presented by Galerie Ernst Hilger, opens tomorrow.

Here is another close-up from Erró‘s bold, comic-inspired work, Excalibur Saga, on display:


And his Official Portrait of Sigmund Freud is one of many psychologically intriguing and provocative works also on exhibit:


Mana Contemporary is providing free shuttle service to us New Yorkers to and from tomorrow’s 1pm opening. Buses depart every half hour starting at 12:30pm from Milk Studios at 450 West 15th Street.

Photos of artworks by Lois Stavsky