Interview with Risk

In the last week of Corey Helford‘s “Letters from America,” taking place right now Black Rat Projects in London, Vandalog caught up with another one of the participating artists, graffiti legend Risk. Grilling him on the nature of graffiti in the gallery and the place of collectives in the present day, Risk gave us an insight into his mediums, thoughts on working in the streets and showing alongside street artists.

Stephanie: How do you think the perception of graffiti has changed with the explosion of street art?

Risk: I think it is easier to relate to street art, therefore the perception of Graffiti is better as a whole.

S: Are they still separate movements?

R: Yes completely separate, yet cousins, so to speak…. Street art comes from the evolution of graffiti, the act of getting up and forcing society to look and think. It is an easier way, and more blatant. It’s only natural that we figure out quicker easier ways….

S: How do you think graffiti translates to canvas indoors? Does it have the same impact?

R: I think it’s the responsibility of the artists to make the canvas translate. Every artists should consider where they are showing and to whom. They have a unique opportunity to set the stage and convey what they want to convey to whom… As far as impact, I like to take advantage of the gallery setting and do things I can’t necessarily do on the streets, I.E. add neon, or create an environment etc.

S: Do you try to accomplish the same meaning with indoor work as your outdoor pieces?

R: It depends on what work you are referring to. My graffiti is still for me and my peers, however my mural work is for everyone, and it is meant to evoke stimulation and feelings thru color. My gallery work is meant to be visually timeless, yet here and now. It is all representations of things I have done on the streets but with added refined elements. So to answer your question they all overlap, yet they are all very different.

S: How did you get involved with the Corey Helford in the show in the first place?

R: I had a simultaneous opening with Crash at Corey Helford a few years back and I have been with them ever since.

S: Have you shown in London before? Why do you think there is such a draw for street art and graffiti in London?

R: I have never shown in London prior to this show however I attended a semester of school in London over twenty years ago, and I returned in the late 80’s to compete in a world graffiti championship held in Bridlington. A lot has changed since then….I think as a whole the draw to London and street art was helped along by the popularity and success of Banksy. Although many graffiti artists and hardcore enthusiasts including Banksy himself may attribute it to others before him you can not deny what he has accomplished. Simple facts are 99% of people are followers. The world is a big place the followers gain momentum….

S: With graffiti such a mainstream movement do you see the need for graffiti collectives now?

R: I understand the concept of increasing lobbying power for an arts infrastructure, and rallying behind a cause or belief. It also develops a higher group profile that benefits the individuals by association. But most importantly creates a hub for curators and commissioners to more easily locate potential talent. etc. however I also strongly believe that as a whole we need to be independent and not grouped together as one.

S: How have collectives changed over the years?

R: Collectives are way better now because you pick and choose who you want to be shown with. We are recognized and celebrated as individuals. I believe these types of shows are very positive. In the past I used to be offended when they had a show or event and all the graffiti got lumped into one. I remember being young and participating in events where each artist was allocated a specific space and the organizer or curator would say and “all the graffiti guys can paint this space together….” I think we’ve come a long way…

S: What pieces do you have in this show?

R: I have a sort of retrospective array of work in the show. I have traditional graffiti type canvas, a mixed media panel with neon and license plates, some new sculpture stuff I’ve been working on and a few of my more fine art color field type pieces.

S: What are your future plans?

R: My plan for the future is to never know the future. when you know the future it seems as if you know the end. I never want the ride to end….

Photo by No Lions in England

Letters From America at Black Rat Projects

Ron English (and part of a TrustoCorp on the far right)

Letters From America opened last night at Black Rat Projects in London. The show, organized by Corey Helford Gallery, includes work by Ron English, TrustoCorp, Risk and Saber. I wasn’t sure how work from all of these artists would look when put together in one room, but it looks good. As usual, it looks like Ron and TrustoCorp brought some solid work, but the real treat is that the show is a rare opportunity for Londoners to see pieces by LA’s Risk and Saber. Risk and Saber’s work can certainly be a bit over the top, but so is graffiti. In particular, I am really enjoying Saber’s tribute to the UK’s National Health Service.

NoLionsInEngland was kind enough to pop by the show and take some pictures for us. See more of them after the jump… Continue reading “Letters From America at Black Rat Projects”

Ron English in 40 words or less

Ron in London. Photo by S. Butterfly.

Ron English is a father, a husband, a full time artist, a part time vandal and 24/7 American. When he says that he’s been busy in London, he means it. In addition to his work at the London Pleasure Gardens, Ron is in town for a show. Letters From America opens in London today, July 4th (America’s Independence Day), at Corey Helford Gallery in conjunction with Black Rat Projects, and features Ron’s work with the work of other American artists: TrustoCorpRisk and Saber. With a numerous ongoing projects in London, a family to take care of, and a street reputation to maintain, Ron has no time to waste and of course, neither do you. So here is Ron getting straight to the point of questions that I thought about for a long time.

Caroline: Letters From America includes four talented American artists, two with backgrounds in street art and two with backgrounds in graffiti. Do you feel that the distinction between street art and graffiti is an important one once the art is put in a gallery setting?

Ron: Once it’s in the gallery it is no longer street art or graffiti, it’s just plain old art.

Caroline: You seem to have made an effort to include your children in numerous aspects of your art career; from being the subjects of some of your paintings, to being given stickers to put up around Detroit, to your son Mars having a painting included in the South Park-themed art show you curated. How do you believe they feel about your work and growing up in the fine art/street art world?

Ron: They are mostly bored by it and a little puzzled by people who have tattoos of them on their bodies.

Caroline: Besides the fact of the London Pleasure Gardens being just a short distance from the 2012 Olympic events, do you have any plans for more work relating to the Olympics this year?

Ron: No.

Caroline: When you were a kid, did you find Frosty Flakes and McDonald’s delicious?

Ron: Yes, I also like the toys.

Caroline: Did you enjoy Disney cartoons?

Ron: Still do.

Caroline: To what extent were the subjects you use in your art now apart of your childhood and when did you become aware of those icons on a critical level?

Ron: When I was six I made a painting of Charlie Brown and another kid said I was in big trouble for stealing a copyrighted character.

Ron’s piece for London Pleasure Gardens. Photo by S. Butterfly.

Caroline: What was it like painting the nose cone of a jumbo jet for the London Pleasure Gardens? Did that present any challenges?

Ron: It was pretty easy. The only challenge was the alleged Bansky on the other side, I was asked to paint it over but I was uncomfortable doing that. The problem was solved by some midnight whitewasher.

Caroline: Why continue to illegally put up work and risk arrest when you don’t need to, from a career standpoint and particularly since you have a family?

Ron: Getting permission is such a hassle.

Caroline: Do you find a difference in how your work is received in England compared with the U.S.?

Ron: They actually have street art tours here.

Caroline: Have you run into any legal issues with copyright infringement?

Ron: No, my work is parody, not infringement.

Wall in Queens, NY. Courtesy of Ron English.

Caroline: Have you ever been on the other end of an infringement situation, where people were stealing or appropriating your work?

Ron: Probably.

Caroline: Living in Beacon, New York seems an unexpected choice for a street artist. Why do you choose to live there rather than a city?

Ron: My kids like it there, plus fewer billboards means less temptation.

Caroline: Any plans in the works for future projects that you can talk about?

Ron: I just released a new record with The Electric Illuminati called Songs in English. It’s on iTunes.

Photos by S. Butterfly and courtesy of Ron English.

Corey Helford and Black Rat working together

Saber and Risk at "Art in the Streets"
Saber and Risk at “Art in the Streets”

LA’s Corey Helford Gallery (who do advertise on Vandalog) have teamed up with London’s Black Rat Projects to put on a show, called Letters From America, in London on the 4th of July. Because the 4th is Independence Day in America, Corey Helford Gallery are bringing over a team of four American street artists to show at Black Rat Projects: Risk, Saber, TrustoCorp and Ron English. There aren’t many more details available for now, but I’ve been a lot of very exciting whispers about this show…

Hopefully I’ll have more to say soon.

Photo by LindsayT

Swoon in London, indoors and outdoors

Photo by Hooked

Right now, Londoners are fortunate enough to have both new work on the street by Swoon and her first London solo show, which is open at Black Rat Projects. Hooked have photos of most of her street work. Here are a few photos of her show, Murmuration. Hooked has plenty more photos of the show on flickr that are well worth checking out, as this post only provides a taste of what Swoon has done. While Murmuration is in a much smaller space than Swoon’s historic solo shows at Deitch Projects, it’s still installation-based and looks like a hit.

More after the jump… Continue reading “Swoon in London, indoors and outdoors”

Next week: Solo show and book from Elbow Toe

We Get Along Like A House On Fire by Brian Adam Douglas

Next week is going to be a big one for Brian Adam Douglas, aka Elbow Toe and his UK fans. Due Dates, his solo show at the Warrington Museum in the UK, will be moving to Black Rat Projects. Due Date opens next Thursday evening, March 10th. If you already saw Due Date at the Warrington, it will still be worth checking it out again at Black Rat Press, as the show will include one very special collage that has not been seen before. Additionally, the relaunch of Due Date at BRP will double as the launch for his first book, Paper Cuts.

Photo courtesy of Elbow Toe

Small Acts of Resistance – Swoon, Armsrock and more at BRP

Photo by unusualimage

Small Acts of Resistance, the latest show at Black Rat Projects, opened on Thursday evening. It’s another one of my dream group shows from Black Rat, with a number of my favorite artists represented. Peter Kennard in particular seems to have really outdone himself with his installation, although I’m hoping to see some more high-res images of that work. Here are a few photos of work by Armsrock, Swoon, Peter Kennard and Know Hope:

Armsrock. Photo by walkingwalls
Peter Kennard. Photo by unusualimage. Click image to view large
Swoon. Photo by unusualimage
Swoon. Photo by unusualimage
Know Hope. Photo by unusualimage

Photos by unusualimage and walkingwalls

Small Acts of Resistance at Black Rat Projects

Swoon, from her current show in Paris

The next show at Black Rat Projects is a group show with some of my favorite artists. Small Acts of Resistance opens on November 4th and includes Know Hope, Armsrock, Matt Small, Dotmasters, Swoon and Peter Kennard. It’s awesome to see Armsrock back at Black Rat Press and Know Hope showing there for the first time. Admittedly, Dotmasters may seem a bit out of place at first, but he did recently paint that wall at Nuart that everyone loved. As for how Swoon will be involved in this show, she will be doing a large installation, presumably similar to her show on now in Paris.

Photo by Guillotine

Weekend link love

Billboard by Mobstr

This link post is definitely going to be a weekly thing. Hopefully it will allow me to link to things that I just haven’t had the time to cover here on the blog, my Twitter or Vandalog’s Facebook page. So here’s what you may have missed in street art this week:

  • My Love For You Is A Stampede of Horses and Arrested Motion have two sets of amazing photos from Fecal Face‘s 10 year anniversary show at The Luggage Store in SF. This show has a pretty sick line up including Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Jim Houser, Swoon and Maya Hayuk.
  • Nychos’ solo show at Pure Evil Gallery (in cooperation with End of The Line) opened on Thursday. Go here for the press release sort of info or go here for photos from the opening.
  • That I May See, Matt Small’s latest solo show, opened last week at Black Rat Projects and it looks absolutely stunning. My family and I can’t thank Matt enough for his support of the Robert Shitima School in Zambia, which is where Matt and Black Rat Press have decided to donate 40% of the proceeds from this show.
  • Eelus, Logan Hicks, Eine, Lucy McLachlan and others are headed to Gambia next month for the Wide Open Walls project.
  • OFFSET has once again put together an interesting conference of creatives who will be speaking next month (October 1st-3rd) in Dublin. OFFSET 2010 will have presentations from Gary Baseman, Steve Powers, Marc and Sara Schiller of Wooster Collective and many more. Early bird tickets are available online for 150 euros (with discounts for students thankfully).
  • A very touching work of street art in Brooklyn.
  • Just Seeds has put together Resourced, a set for political posters that you can download and print at home. There are designs by Gaia, Armsrock, Chris Stain, Josh MacPhee and many more artists.
  • When I first heard about JR’s new Unframed project, I didn’t really care for it. Basically, JR is wheatpasting other photographers (often famous) photographs around in cities. To me, this sort came out of left field. I don’t mind when Blek le Rat does similar things, but with JR, I always liked the stories behind the photos as much as the images themselves. I thought that with Unframed, that aspect of the art would go away. Luckily, Angelo at FAME Festival reassured me in an email and said once I learned more about the project, these would be just as interesting as the rest of JR’s art. Because I trust Angelo, I waited and didn’t write anything about Unframed or JR’s piece at FAME Festival. Earlier this week, Hi-Fructose’s blog posted a better explanation of the project as well as some photos of Unframed taking place in Switzerland. As usual, Angelo was right and after reading that post on Hi-Fructose, I’ve been convinced about Unframed.

Photo by Mobstr