That guy that paints letters has an upcoming show in LA called Innocence, at CGH Circa (a new art venue from the people at Corey Helford Gallery at 8530-A Washington Boulevard in Culver City). The show opens on June 15th at 7pm and will run until July 13th. The show will feature letters painted in such a way that calls attention to the relationship between art and vandalism, and that’s why the show is called Innocence.
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….
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.
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: TrustoCorp, Risk 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?
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.
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.
Caroline: Have you ever been on the other end of an infringement situation, where people were stealing or appropriating your work?
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.
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…
Corey Helford Gallery recently ran a one-night pop-up preview of its Art Basel offerings. The show featured D*face, Pure Evil, Buff Monster, Hush, Michael Mararian, Nick Walker, Eine, Risk, and Kukula. CHG hosts new works from Ron English on November 19th.
Blurring the Lines, the current show at Corey Helford Gallery in LA curated by Roger Gastman, features graffiti legends Freedom, Risk and Crash. Nothing against Risk and Crash, but Freedom, maybe best known for his work in NYC’s Freedom Tunnel, is by far my favorite of those three. Here’s some of Freedom’s contributions to the show. Thanks for Hi-Fructose for the images. Check out more of the show on their blog.