Tim Hans shoots… Carlos Mare


Carlos Mare aka Mare139 is one of hip hop’s living legends, and one of the pioneers when it comes to adapting what he learned in graffiti to settings other than walls and subway cars. Indoors, he is probably best-known for his sculptures, but of Mare’s recent work involves painting Bboys in action. This past spring, Tim Hans met Mare at his studio for the latest in our continuing series of photo-portraits of artists by Tim. I asked Mare a few questions over email.

RJ: Do you see yourself as bridging a divide between hip hop and other art movements with your artwork, or do you see art movements all as one thing?

Carlos Mare: I believe, though unintentional my works and words act as a bridge between histories and culture. Art movements are isolated events that are time and location specific, ultimately the ideas and aesthetics of that culture disseminate. Hip Hop was a great catalyst for global impact, it used to be very provincial in NYC during its hey day but once it breached local geography it was adopted and readapted by the world. This forced the hand of us pioneers to rethink it, I just happened to think of it in Modernist terms after I saw the 1980 Picasso retrospective at MoMa.

RJ: What have you done in your role as a cultural ambassador for the USA?

Carlos Mare: My role is not unlike any other traveling artist of the culture, we have been doing ambassadorships since day one. My role in part is supported by the State Dept., which does so for many American artists. I just happen to be an ‘Urban’ voice of the generation. Being able to have these opportunities allows me to speak in rooms with high level officials, artists and art advocates about the benefits and challenges of today’s urban artists. One of the most important things about traveling and speaking is that you get to educate others about the past and present contributions of the culture. This discourse is crucial and often overlooked in the relationship between governments and artists which is at best a side eyed acknowledgement.

Promoting American urban culture is much easier abroad then it is at home just so you know, in the US we have a tendency to marginalize the people of color who innovate culture until it is adapted by the mainstream. On the other hand the world youth took us on as their own and flipped the script by recognizing us as an artistic movement they too could embrace. Once it went pandemic it became hard to deny so it had to be in the best interests of Governments, Institutions and artists to bridge the gap in order to create more opportunities for personal and community change.


RJ: What do arrows mean to you?

Carlos Mare: Not much anymore actually. When I was more into Style Writing it had different meanings such as the direction in which the the construct of the letter would flow or to camouflage my name, perhaps use it as a weapon as my good friend Rammellzee used to imply. I learned that the greatest of Style Writers could do without it and can create sophisticated graffiti without it. At the end of the day it’s just another graphic element in the graphic design of graffiti.

RJ: Your Bboy pieces seem to capture so much energy and movement even while they are based on stick figures. Even moreso than many photographs. How do you go about capturing that movement in a static 2-dimensional image?

Carlos Mare: The Bboy works are not based on stick figures at all but rather geometry and movement. The line work implies the skeletal framework of the body and to a degree yes the stick figure is an easy analogy but it’s been so refined and so thought out that these shapes even in their simplest forms capture a reduced impression of the body, a familiarity that both Bboys and writers can identify with. It’s coded language, it’s rhythm, wild style and modernism all in one. One of the best interpretations came from my show in Berlin at Skalitzers Gallery when Robert Smith observed:

“Carlos Mare’s Bboy drawings and paintings, so refined and visually direct, become coded representations of the dancer’s repertoire of movements and poses. In much the same way that staffed symbols are used to represent the written form of musical notation, so too the simple, gestural icons come to express a visual codification, a defined scale of available movements.”

I had never considered an analogy like this even though it was already baked into the work, this observation was spot on and opened up a whole other dimension into my thought process. These works are in large part about physical intentions, what is implied by gesture and movement, so much of the genius of the dance is nuanced and can be found in the in between spaces of the action, a dancer begins at A and goes through his whole vocabulary to get to Z. What I am interested in is what happens in between and how to capture that. It’s a Futurist concept with a dope backbeat.


RJ: What’s next for you?

Carlos Mare: I am always stretching the boundaries in my works, I’m challenged by my own works and see my work changing radically in the coming year. I will continue painting the Bboy works which are more and more amazing and will turn these ideas into sculpture as well. That series will likely come to an end but not before I do a series with Ken Swift, this will be the pinnacle of this exploration I think, I could be wrong but I’ve been at it for many many years and feel I can bookend it with the legendary master as my subject.

As for sculpture, I haven’t begun to scratch the surface. I have lots of new works coming and older works that need closure before I move into the next phase of sculpting. It’s unfortunate that sculpture is not in the urban contemporary art conversation right now, painting is getting way too much light since it is easier to do and live with. I hope to change this with new public works that are larger, smarter and more ambitious.

Currently I am consulting with the Lemelson Center/Smithsonian Institute with an upcoming exhibition on Hip Hop culture which will highlight the Turntable as an American Innovation. Beyond that I can’t speak about what I have planned as it is probably the most ambitious and important work of my career.

“Don’t be an outsider looking in, be the Outsider they look into.” – Carlos Mare

Photos by Tim Hans

Weekend link-o-rama

PAL Crew wall in NYC
PAL Crew wall in NYC

I’m in London this week, and next, so come and find me wandering around Shoreditch. Just a few links today.

Photo by Luna Park

Weekend link-o-rama


Today I’m finishing my exams and packing up my dorm. Sunday, it’s off to London. Can’t wait. Here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with this week:

Photo courtesy of Trustocorp

Carlos Mare, Remi Rough and more in Marrakech


David Bloch Gallery in Marrakech, Morocco has a show opening up this month with a group of really interesting artists. Unfolding includes work from Carlos Mare, Derm, Jaybo Monk, LX One, Remi/Rough and Steve More. These artists form part of the Agents of Change collective, and they all come from a graffiti background. Rather than resting on those laurels, the Agents of Change are now bringing the same intensity and drive for constant improvement to their fine art and murals that they brought to graffiti.

Unfolding openings May 10th and runs through June 8th.

Photo courtesy of Remi/Rough

Weekend link-o-rama


Happy reminder that we’re less than a month from Christmas…

Photo by Hyuro

Futurism 2.0: Creating a Movement Within Public Art

Clemens Behr

Futurism 2.0, the brainchild of London-based Gamma Proforma owner Rob Swain and New York-based theoretician Daniel Feral, attempts to draw a thread between several artists, most of whom evolved out of tag-based graffiti backgrounds and are now created geometric forms within their art. The show opened yesterday at Blackall Studios in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London.


On display during the exhibition is the work of Augustine Kofie, Phil Ashcroft, Carlos Mare (Mare139), Boris Tellegen (Delta), James Choules (sheOne), Matt W. Moore, Mark Lyken, Sat One, Christopher Derek Bruno, Moneyless, Mr Jago, Nawer, O. Two, Morten Andersen, Keith Hopewell (Part2ism), Jaybo Monk, Poesia, Derm, Jerry Inscoe (Joker), Remi/Rough, Divine Styler and Clemens Behr. Following the movement through several countries, Rob Swain has delineated a movement that attempts to place graffiti in within the larger canon of art history.

O. Two

In addition to creating a ground-breaking exhibition, Rob Swain and Daniel Feral have teamed up to create a catalogue that will push this movement beyond the life of the exhibition. With a comprehensive essay tying the Futurist movement of the early 1900’s to a graffiti-based style happening nearly a century later, Feral has cohesively put words to awe inspiring work as only he can.

Boris Tellegen aka Delta

Futurism 2.0 is open now through October 2nd at Blackall Studios in London.

All photos courtesy of Rob Swain

“Disambiguation” with Carlos Mare, Rae Martini, Remi/Rough & Sixeart at Carmichael Gallery

Rae Martini, Shots in the subway, mixed media and collage on canvas

Carmichael Gallery is once again featuring artwork by some of my favorite artists. Opening Saturday evening is Disambiguation with new works that reinvent traditional graffiti forms by Carlos Mare, Rae Martini, Remi/Rough and Sixeart. The exhibit continues through October 6 at 5797 Washington Blvd in Culver City, CA.

Remi/Rough, The colour of love, acrylic on canvas

Photos courtesy of Carmichael Gallery

Mare139 show at Skalitzers

There are a lot of writers from the subway era who have tried to break into fine art. Some are great. Some are, quite frankly, not. Mare139 aka Carlos Mare is one of the better ones, and certainly one of the most underrated ones. Through his captivating sculptures, he has been bringing graffiti into the third dimension for decades, and his b-boy sketches look like what Picasso would have sketched if he’d lived to see breaking (and wasn’t so easily distracted/inspired by young women).

This week, Mare has a solo show of his b-boy pieces opening at Skalitzers in Berlin. Physical Graffiti: Art of the B-boy Dance opens on June 9th at 7pm, there’s an artist talk on June 12th at 6pm, and then the main opening dates for the exhibition are June 13th through the 30th.

Mare at work

Photos courtesy of Skalitzers

Preview: Young New York auction


As Caroline mentioned earlier this month, the group Young New York is having a charity art auction this Tuesday at White Box Gallery in New York to raise money for their restorative justice art workshops with teenagers who have been put into the adult court system in New York.

Here are just a few of the dozens of artists with work in the auction: Steve Powers, NohjColey, Joe Iurato, Cake, Overunder, Gaia, Rudie Diaz, LNY, Blackmath, Mare139, Doodles, ND’A, Radical!, C215, Clown Soldier, Jill Cohen, Labrona and Luna Park. And here are a few of pieces that will be on offer:

Sean Lugo and Blacksmith
Radical and C215

Photos courtesy of Young New York

And one last thing about Miami

Jade. Photo by Jade

This is (probably) my last post about the outdoor work at Basel Miami 2011. Here’s a somewhat random selection of pieces that went up this year by Entes, Jade, Col, Anthony Lister, Free Humanity, Pez, Chanoir, How and Nosm, Greg LaMarche, Romi, Aeon, Haze, Aaron De La CruzJohn Wendelbo, Mare139, Gaia and others. Some of the walls are from Graffuturism’s In Situ project, and you can find a full set of those walls on their site along with an introduction to that project written by Haze.

Gaia. Photo by Mike Pearce
Haze. Photo by Clams Rockefeller

More after the jump… Continue reading “And one last thing about Miami”