Hot Girls and Hot Dogs: Monologues From Jon Burgerman


Upon entering the studio of illustrator Jon Burgerman, you are transported to a space entirely devoted to a world of extreme sights and sounds that connate the artist’s work. Contrasted by the days of rain surrounding New York, the shuffles of crowds and warm hues shone through the bleak emptiness outside. Holding cups of English Breakfast tea, coming from his native country, we spent a few drenched mornings discussing the observations that have led to this body of pieces, produced for Hot Girls and Hot Dogs, opening tonight at 17 Frost Street.


From the warmth of the tea to the sound of the weather outside, the layered lines seen in his more complicated pieces are echoed in the sensorial experience that was visiting his space. As he opened up an oversized canvas in his studio, the end hitting the ground, and Jon a hapless face reminiscent of a befuddled cartoon character. He eventually gives up, retreating to a larger space to properly lay down the monochromatic painting before placing it back against the wall. While his pieces contain a frenetic, hectic energy, his studio remains dutifully organized, as various types of paint and mediums of art are placed in sperate bins.


A series of onomatopoeias emerge from Jon as his internal monologue is enacted for props he produces from past shows. Cardboard cartoons, two-page illustrations, and Vine provide movement to how he invisions characters prior to putting pen to paper. As the pages flipped in the sketchbook, an illustration of a dog bites into a cupcake, Jon mimicking the exaggerated effect heard on Nickelodeon. The bustling imagery that populates the artist’s larger paintings is reproduced on a smaller scale through the immediacy of these works. A tertiary focus, these simple ten second animations represent the individual parts that make up his more complex compositions.



The central focus of his exhibition, and this visit, was a new series of mixed-media pieces being produced for Hot Girls and Hot Dogs. Ranging from simple 8 1/2″ by 11″ studies to canvas spanning several feet, Jon draws viewers in with what he believes to be the two subjects most enticing, attractive women accompanied by man’s best friend. Being from England, and thus an outsider, the artist draws combinations of girls and dogs from a removed perspective. Termed his “pastoral pictorials,” each piece is an expression of how he interprets American culture during his time in New York. Having previously tackled the true New York experience, pizza, with an exhibition in New Jersey last year, the subject has since shifted to the city’s quintessential obsession with pooches.


Illustrating a variety of real-world scenes, the artist shows owners who dutifully clean up after their pets, while others not so much. Alongside the swooping abstracted curves of hot women walking their hot dogs, the artist created a series of quick, messy portraits, which focus solely on women in movement. At first these illustrations convey a haphazard sense of color and movement of line; backgrounds are sketched in to suggest a bobbed haircut, sunset hues move through the arms of several figures, undefined by outlines. By giving defining some aspects of each figure with a watery fluidity and others with hard, contrasting colors, Jon draws viewers to these intimate pieces with through these small contradictions. One final layer is added to the portraits as Haring t-shirts, patterns, and miniature tattoos are dotted throughout. By forcing viewers to closely examine the details of these sketches, the artist gives viewers insight into the processes behind his more elaborate canvases.




The individual animals, patterns, and women from his studies congest in these larger pieces in the same way that sidewalk traffic stops to a halt around New York’s tourist destinations. The viewer can almost feel the internal tension of being surrounded by crowds of unmoving people in the summer heat. Each of these more complex compositions was given ample room at the 17 Frost space to breathe and allow visitors to stand and examine the different kinds of hot subjects permeating the works. After spending some time attempting to see the individual parts of the paintings rather than the sum of the parts, I began to experience what I can only describe as the How and Nosm effect. When visiting the duo’s solo show in New York several months ago, RJ expressed his fatigue over trying to examine the pieces to the point of his brain shutting down. With the work of How and Nosm, the paired down color palette and crisp lines aid in the processing of imagery for some viewers, in contrast to Jon’s unlimited realm of colors and movement. I simply could not imagine viewers could disassemble and process these overlapping compositions, let alone what mind could create such complexities.


By placing sketches alongside mixed media paintings that spanned several feet, viewers can comprehend the gradual that led to the ability to illustrate dozens of figures in scenes that span several feet. When asking Jon about these steps, he echoed the sentiments of spoken word poets saying, “these are a monologue. You just get up there and give it a shot.” In describing his body of work with this terminology, a theme was illuminated that transcended Hot Girls and Hot Dogs and transcended to describe Jon as a person. Throughout the two-day interview with the artist, I was transported into his realm of imagination. From the moment I stepped across the threshold of his building Krink markers began to make fart noises as the artist described the first layer of his paintings beginning with a simple line. Jalapeños with sombreros and cupcake eating dogs echoed the same strange sounds. In bringing his illustrations to life before my eyes, Jon was openly and honestly himself, a trait that is a rare occurrence in New York’s world of facades. His approach to art making, of giving it your best one shot, applied to my interactions with Jon as he crossed his eyes for pictures, added audio to his illustrations, and made me laugh.


Hot Girls and Hot Dogs opens tonight at 17 Frost Street, Williamsburg, NY from 7pm-10pm.

The artist has crafted an area for your dogs adorned with banners made by Skewville for your VIP (very important pooches). Please be sure to come along and bring your pet dog because the artist will be drawing small portraits to remind you just how important your pooch is.


Photos by Rhiannon Platt

Pipe Dreams: Coded Meanings and Cartoons


Pipe Dreams marks not only Sheryo and the Yok’s first exhibition together in the United States, but also a departure from what viewers have come to expect from the duo. As of late, the artists have been defined by their use of a red, black, and white palette to portray unique vision of reality. However, don’t be concerned that these changes mean that the work is missing the cartoonish, pop imagery seen in past pieces. The pizza, drugs, and other wild things are still present, just reimagined.


During their travels to through South East Asia, from Sheryo’s native Singapore to Vietnam, the artists began to infuse their work with the surrounding culture. Now, geishas and dragons have become central characters alongside smoking pizzas and skateboards. While visiting Vietnam, the artists took advantage of the opportunity to begin painting pottery, starting with vases and later expanding in the States to plates. Initially, the work appears a light air blue, mimicking the smoke emanating from elongated cigarette holders. After three coats, the plates begin to don the cobalt blue associated with Eastern ceramics.


Beyond these surface appearances, this influence extends to deeper meanings, including numerology. During the studio visit, patterns of 4 (4, 8, 12) began to emerge within the bodies of work, however intentional or not. Sheryo was quick to speak about the auspicious meanings of the numbers 4 and 8 in Chinese, representing wealth and death respectively. Other coded beliefs trace their way through the different media in the exhibition, including the Illuminati. The all-seeing-eye positioned atop a pyramid has become a widely recognized symbol for the alleged secret society. Through these allegorical codes, an air of mysticism is hidden within their playful cartoons. Continue reading “Pipe Dreams: Coded Meanings and Cartoons”

Even Romantics Love Violence


A manic excitement came from Hellbent as he opened the door to his studio, his first visit in nearly two weeks. Strands of tape wafted in the breeze created as the artist circled the narrow room. The lace-patterned strips dangle, waiting for their newly reimagined purpose, as a part of the Mix Tape series. Leftover from masking his other series, cleverly titled Demos, this formerly discarded tool becomes repurposed. These two bodies of work combine to form Mighty Tanaka’s upcoming exhibition, Even Romantics Love Violence, opening tonight from 6pm – 9pm.


Hellbent continues tracing his way around the periphery of his space, as if following a track, and sharing his inspiration along the path. In the same breath, I am told about David Wojnarowicz stenciling through the 80’s before being launched into a discussion about graffuturism and post-graffiti art. With an education in art history, Hellbent rattles off influences with the intensity of someone who devours the visual culture in which they are surrounded. This excitement for art animates the room, bringing dimensionality to the flat plains in his panels.


The exuberance that Hellbent exhibits in his studio weaves itself though the neons and lace that connote his style. Once the backdrop for characters, his patterns have come to the foreground in the past year, most notably in the artist’s largest wall to date, a collaboration with See One in Bushwick. Here, the delicate details that were once behind bold graphics, such as Freud’s jawbone, now stand alone adjacent to See One’s shards, which dance lightly across the surface. Even Romantics Love Violence marks an several important transitions in Hellbent’s evolution; while the artist’s geometric interpretation has appeared in the public sphere in multiple locations, Mighty Tanaka is the first to give this work a solo exhibition.


The second shift in the artist’s body of work comes through the repurposing of masking tape, where patterns emerge from the overspray found used to mask his lace stencils. Using liquid glass, board, and tape, the Mix Tape series becomes a tongue-in-cheek poke at these materials. Just as the artist consumes the visual history with which he is surrounded, each part of his process has been utilized for these series. Through his varied means of creation, the two play off of one another as the light pieces of tape become encased between layers of board and glass. In contrast, the Demos sufrace remain untouched, thus retaining the delicate texture of lace.


The energy comes to a close with the studio visit as the florescent layers of tape, glass, and wood are stacked together. The pieces are placed on a shelf and the light is turned off.

For many artists, their work is a manifestation of themselves, be it politically engaging, thoughtful, or comedic. In the case of Hellbent, the care taken to thoughtfully plan out the arrangement of lace combined with the energy of neon spray paint speaks to these sensibilities.




Even Romantics Love Violence opens Friday, May 10th, from 6pm – 9pm at Mighty Tanaka (111 Front Street, Brooklyn, NY).

Photos by Rhiannon Platt

Sheryo and the Yok: Exploring histories at the Bushwick Collective – Part 3


Note: This article is the third in a three part series that discusses how three artists dealt with the topic of histories within their Bushwick Collective murals. Check out part 1 here and part 2 here.

Recently, the Yok and Sheryo shared their “Pipe Dreams” with 5 Pointz in Long Island City. This past week, the duo chose to show the Bushwick Collective their present rather their future. Emblazoned with the locals of Bushwick, such as roaches, rats, pizza, and the devil, their composition contains memories of their travels as well as these traces of home. Titled “Road Trip,” skeletons can be seen surfing, which the Yok took in while in Australia, alongside various characters painting and drinking. Together, each of these cartoons rides an extended motorcycle, joining memories of home and far off excursions.



The complex narratives in their collaborative walls often contain coded jokes as well as the dominant narrative; Ping Pong nicknames references to cartoons find their way into the descriptive elements of each figure. Most endearing of any character Sheryo has created was one that surfaced recently in the crew of cyclists. An alien with other worldly features and was placed between a bearded man and a surfing skeleton in the central part of the piece. The artist said that it represented herself as an illegal alien, going so far as to create a unicorn on the being to match her own clothing that day. This self-portrait sees the artist riding alongside representations of her travels and local friends, enjoying the ride.









Photos by Rhiannon Platt

Chris Stain and Billy Mode: Exploring histories at the Bushwick Collective – Part 2


Note: This article is the second in a three part series that discusses how three artists dealt with the topic of histories within their Bushwick Collective murals. Check out part 1 here.

Long time collaborators and friends Chris Stain and Billy Mode bring a personal history to each mural they create. Through the years, this partnership has lead to a fast, seamless work ethic. From watching the creation of their wall for Open Walls Baltimore in 24 hours to their latest creation at the Bushwick Collective, which took about a week despite weather conditions, the duo always work in a manner that is astounding in imagery and efficiency. When the two artists find time to break from their schedules of school, family, or skateboarding to take on a new project, it is known that it will be nothing less than awe inspiring. On a series of ladders and forklifts, Chris and Billy become like a structured ballet as they weave around each other, never interrupting the other’s flow except to make the odd joke.


While the artists have great personal history, their imagery deals with their hopes for the future. Billy Mode’s text speaks to this message, telling the youth of the neighborhood that the future is theirs to invent. In addition to the this literal embodiment is a figuritive explanation as two children embrace, sharing their love for each other and the future. These girls represent those who will shape the world’s future, the youth of today. Through a combination of metaphors, Billy Mode and Chris Stain hope to give hope to adolescents, whose creations could one day be seen on the walls of Bushwick.


Photos by Rhiannon Platt

Sex or Suicide: Droid 907 says either way you’re fucked


When I originally approached Droid 907 about his latest zine, Sex or Suicide (Either Way You’re Fucked), it was described as simultaneously the most honest book about graffiti and a collection of lies. This inability to distinguish which stories are strange enough to be true or perhaps so outlandish that they must be fabricated heightens the experience. From tomes written on a buffed square of an abandoned facade to gritty, type-written pages, Droid explores the limits of his medium, in both graffiti and storytelling. Through these pages, the often enigmatic but ever present force of New York graffiti slowly peels back the layers behind his “Droid” persona, or perhaps adds more if the stories are in fact fabricated. With 40 pages of travels, redacted locations, and a cover silkscreened by Bushwick Print Lab, S.o.S. is Droid’s most visceral text to date.


Following a few month span in the artist’s nomadic lifestyle, readers are placed in media res, with no prior knowledge of the author’s relationships with those he encounters. You are suddenly left on the side of the tracks with no contextualization, in an anarchistic manner that mirror’s the text’s aesthetics. To help illuminate the backstories of a few of these individuals, as well as his own artistic practice in creating Sex or Suicide, Vandalog conducted a brief interview with Droid.

Continue reading “Sex or Suicide: Droid 907 says either way you’re fucked”

Goya 907: Dispatches From the Crud-Cake


A perfect combination of endearing and grimy, Goya 907’s characters have long been one of my favorite pieces to spot. An active former New Yorker, his pieces will surprise you in places ranging from abandoned buildings to a sticker on a street corner that you must have walked by a thousand times, only to notice it now. Even though he may no longer reside here, Goya’s graffiti is still an integral part of New York’s landscape. Particularly of note in the artist’s studio pieces is his customization of his iconic image. Using the basic structure of claw hands and little stick legs, this skeleton becomes customized with traces of people Goya encounters in his daily life. Whether it’s his friend’s favorite boots or an arm tattoo, these pieces change his cartoon from a representation of self to an endearing representation of others.

Goya aka Tony Bones has a show tonight at Tender Trap in Brooklyn.


For a short biography of the artist (one as comedic as his work) and details of the opening, curator Andrew H. Shirley sent this press release:

The Superior Bugout presents…
new artwork by TONY BONES

Opening Thursday April 18th 7-11pm
245 South 1st (btwn Roebling / Havemeyer) in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Tony Bones grew up in Texas. He got his start painting graffiti around his home state and soon moved on to the rest of the country and beyond. Tony made his home in Brooklyn for several years but now lives in a cupcake by the Mississippi River in New Orleans. He has a hedgehog and a pickup truck.
*with Ray Mock of Carnage Zine setting up his zine table
**and music by DJ BOO RAPS of Rap Gang (it’s also his birthday!!!)


In addition to sending preview images, included was a list of upcoming shows at the Tender Trap. Based on his previous exhibitions, it looks like viewers are in for an interesting few months with a mix of graffiti, photography, and conceptual work.

The Superior Bugout 2013 art series at the Tender Trap:
May 2nd Tod Seelie
May 16th AVone
June 6th UFO907


Photos Courtesy of Andrew H. Shirley

Mata Ruda: Exploring histories at the Bushwick Collective – Part 1


Note: This article is the first in a three part series that discusses how three artists dealt with the topic of histories within their Bushwick Collective murals.

Originally from Venezuela, Mata Ruda drew upon the history of Central America for his first wall in New York City at the Bushwick Collective. Inscribing his images upon the preexisting mural by fellow Open Walls artist Gabriel Specter, the artist combines the context of Specter’s poppy “El Adiós Grocery” with his monochromatic imagery. Using a source photograph of an unknown, undocumented immigrant, this anonymous voice is given an ominous presence within this space. In a city of immigrants, the face of this everyman is accompanied by signage for a store that could exist on any corner in the city, asking us to question our interactions with people and iconography that most New Yorkers would not give a second thought.



Combined with the black and white central portrait are a series of masks that float ominously around him, looming over the grocery’s banner. One of the first Mexican civilizations, the Olmecs were a Mesoamerican culture that now only exists through and is represented by the objects they left behind. The defined faces and hollow eyes of these artifacts have become emblematic of the culture, often called “colossal heads.” By applying traditional imagery from the contemporary figure’s transplanted homeland, Mata Ruda links the importance of a person’s past in their present through the use of historical imagery. The Olmec expression is echoed by the undocumented immigrant, further underlining this message.



Photos by Rhiannon Platt

Endless Summer: Vexta Escapes to Kochi

For the past few years stencil artist Vexta has been enjoying what she likes to call her “endless summers.” Being an Aussie, the artist tries to avoid cold weather in any way possible; this year that meant escaping to Kochi, India for the country’s first biennial. Vexta sat down to talk with Vandalog about her experiences painting in a small town in India, being a woman artist, and the public’s reaction to her visually intense imagery.


R: What was it like to paint during India’s first biennale?

V: It was my first time in India so it was a lot of things – fun, challenging, confronting at times, really hot & dirty (I would seriously shower 3 or 4 times a day sometimes), late nights and early mornings, super rewarding, hard work and there were some great parties too. The whole of Fort Kochi was full of incredible artists from India and around the world there to paint, perform and create mostly site-specific artworks. It was pretty great.

R: Especially given that India is not traditionally thought of as a mural hot-spot?

V: Yeah I was surprised to see any other murals at all – I thought I might be the only artist painting on the streets but when I got there, there was already some graphic sprawling works going up and by the time I left other artists had started to get up and travel to Kochi just to get involved. The street art definitely changes the city, in a good way.

R: What was the community’s response to the walls?

V: Generally people were inquisitive, and sometimes a bit confused, I mean it’s a small city in India, some people had never seen or heard of street art before.

I had some really great responses from people on the street – one great response I had was this beautiful and serious 9 year old boy who spent hours watching me paint and asking me super thoughtful questions about painting, street art and the art world and his own artworks. Then he brought his whole family to meet me and see my work and they all came to my exhibition opening. He was easily the youngest person there. It’s moments like that which make me love making public work, there is no way he would have ever stepped into the gallery if we hadn’t met on the street. Other times some men would be confused as to why I was a women, was working on the street painting. A couple of them they told me I should be at home looking after the kitchen or something, that was definitely confronting.

R: Can you talk about the specific site you were given to paint.

V: So when I got there, the gallery space which was showing my painting had arranged a couple of walls for me in Kochi, I then found more myself. It’s always part of the adventure, right? Driving around scouting spots, talking to people, convincing people who’ve never even heard of street art or myself to let me paint a giant painting on their wall!

Mostly I looked for walls that were already beautiful in some sense, peeling paint, old and falling apart, moss and plants growing on them. Kochi has a lot of very old Portuguese architecture which is beautiful with a strong sense of history. I wanted the pieces to form a kind of path through the centre of the old town so you could go from piece to piece and thematically they’d link together, like a story.


R: How does your work interact with the location?

V: My street work is really site specific. I had a bunch of sketches I’d prepared for India but then changed things up when I got there. I felt like it was really important to explore creating work that not only reflected my experience of being a woman but also to create something for the women of Kochi. Obviously there’s a connection between the women and the birds and ideas about freedom.

I also painted a lot of skeleton crows in the pieces. The local Kerala crow is everywhere. For instance the massive painting I made of a girl with neon bird wings who is perched on the wire with bird feet, that wall attracts so many crows at dusk, so when the real birds take off and land. It’s like they are coming out of the work on the wall & wire.


All photos courtesy of Vexta

Returning Home: Sheryo and the Yok’s “Pipe Dreams”

The Yok and Creepy
The Yok and Creepy

For two years the wall shown above remained a fixture at 5 Pointz in Long Island City. Few artists see that amount of exposure on the building’s rotating facades. At the time that they were visiting, few walls were adorned with their signature characters, and even fewer pieces could be seen at this scale in New York. The combination of Creepy’s cute winged man combined with the Yok’s pensive owl made for a moving aesthetic combination that moved viewers to visit the work multiple times during its life.

The Yok
The Yok

Since this piece came into realization, we have seen the Yok and Sheryo become regular painting partners as well as (semi)regular residents of New York City. It seemed only fitting that the long running Creepy and the Yok wall should come to an end in order to usher in Spring and with it the Yok and Sheryo’s return to New York.

The Yok

A constant fixture of last year’s warm weather, the return of the Yok and Sheryo signals the shape of things to come: warmer days, and of course more walls. That being said, a downpour postponed finishing the last fourth of the wall for a later day. It seems that the warm weather is just a “Pipe Dream,” like their wall. But it’s technically spring, right?

The Yok and Sheryo (Courtesy of The Yok)
The Yok and Sheryo. Photo courtesy of The Yok.

Photos by Rhiannon Platt and courtesy of The Yok