New York Comic Con


Queens-based artist Steve Lew aka Kid Lew recently brought his talents and vision to Toronto’s Enterprise Boulevard. The new urban complex — known as Downtown Markham – is now graced with a huge, brilliantly hued 40’x50’ mural, featuring Kid Lew’s iconic characters. Situated on the northeast corner of the Remington Contemporary Art Gallery, it can be seen for miles and by thousands of folks daily as they pass by on Highway 407. I recently spoke to the artist about his experience.

Can you tell us something about this project? What brought you to Toronto?

I had been invited by Broadway Bound — a fine arts and entertainment company — to paint an outdoor mural in Downtown Markham. I had submitted a few ideas, and one was accepted.


And how did you initially connect with Broadway Bound?

I had met Shelley Shier, the founder of Broadway Bound, at the Dorien Grey Gallery back in 2012. I was one of the street artists who had collaborated with Hank O’Neil aka XCIA for the exhibit Street Artists Unite. We’ve stayed in touch since.

Your mural is huge! How long did it take you to paint it?

It took 12 days, working 8-10 hours each day.


What were some of the challenges presented by this project?

I almost always paint standing on the ground. But this time I started on the third floor of a building. I immediately got over my fear of heights!  It was also rainy and very windy. I could feel the lift swinging from side to side! Sometimes the wind actually sprayed the paint! Then when I walked around the hotel, I felt as though everything beneath me was moving! I had a serious case of lift lag!

I’ve been a huge fan of your characters since I first discovered them years ago — on the streets and in galleries! Can you tell us something about them? What initially inspired them? 

I was intially inspired by cartoons. I began as a young child copying Disney characters. And later on my main influences grew to include: graffiti, skateboarding, NYC pop culture and — in general — life in this city. But my greatest inspiration in Keith Haring. And because I am color blind, I tend to use colors that appear brightest to me — those that can be seen at night.


And who are these characters? What do they represent? And how have they evolved through the years?

They’re often not as bright as they appear to be. They represent different phases in my life. And as my life evolves, my characters continue to evolve, as well. Both my technique and design have become more refined through the years. I am also more responsive to my audience.

What’s next?

I hope to return to Jersey City to complete the mural I’d begun with Will Power and Ree. It is a huge mural that was put on hold. I’m, also, looking forward to painting more large-scale murals in a range of cities. And I am participating this weekend in the New York Comic Con, where you will be able to purchase custom used Montana Gold Spray Paint cans and ink drawings on spray painted subway maps. I will be signing some at 2pm at Booth 603 with Clutter Magazine.


Good luck with it all!  And I look forward to checking out your mural when I visit Toronto.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; all photos courtesy of the artist.

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

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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