Tag: "art"

Atlas x Mark Suciu | Cross Continental

Let’s get a bit of history about Atlas in here to start off with. I’ve read that you guys started in 2007: what inspired you to open up? With everything heading to online in recent years, it’s really nice to see physical stores still opening up.

Ryen Motzek: Yup, May of 2007 is when the doors opened. I myself have always been into retail. I worked for the Gap as a teenager and then got a job at Deluxe San Mateo. My biz partner Mike Manidis has deep roots in skating, was AM for New Deal, ran a skate camp during the summer, and we both thought it would be fresh to get something good going here.

There’s something about the retail experience that when done well is really cool and fun. Skateboarding being the best thing ever only makes that experience that much better (good music, classic skate videos, good product and an anti-corporate environment).

San Francisco has always been an iconic and important place for skaters, especially to us guys overseas. We had our own scenes, but we all tried to emulate what was going on over there as well. The whole EMB era was pretty significant to us. How have things changed since that time in SF? When Embarcadero went, did the scene become more disjointed?

When EMB shut down, everyone headed over to Pier 7. That lasted about 8 years. San Francisco has definitely made an effort to make spots skate proofed. Security guards are everywhere, and most new buildings come out with skate stoppers or random object in the way of ledges, rails, and other things to skate.

However, every now and then a great spot will pop up, and I will say it feels just like the old days. People from all over heading to that particular spot to get it in while it lasts. I’d say that the Bay Area in general is the spot. For example, something will pop up in Oakland, and folks from all over the Bay will head over there. Caltrain DIY R.I.P.

SF is also renowned for the quality of skate stores. You’ve got places like FTC and Skates on Haight (who I used to hit up for stickers and tees back in the early ’90s), spots like DLX and (the sadly gone) HUF… and then other core places such as yourselves. Is it a competitive environment to work in? Or does everyone look out for each other?

I’d say that SF is a VERY competitive place, which is why we decided to do our shop right out side of the city in downtown San Mateo. It’s a great place, with a thriving skate scene, and is plenty away from other shops.

Atlas seems to occupy a pretty unique area: you’ve got the core brands and support your local scene, but you’ve got a great ‘art’ side to the business that seems to add to your business, rather than just existing as a token ‘cool thing’ to have. What inspired you to represent the creative side so much at Atlas?

Our goal is to put focus on the art of skateboarding, rather than the sport. There are enough things going on, such as big dollar contests, mall stores, television and other activities that do not pay much attention to the creativity involved with the lifestyle of a skateboarder. Skateboarders have a unique way of looking at life.


Who are some of the artists that you have represented and showcased at Atlas? Have you always created products to accompany these exhibitions?

Ryen Motzek: We have showcased the art of Greg Hunt, Joe Brook, Matt Irving, Mark Gonzales, and Allister Lee.

We always have product to go along with the exhibitions. We also do artist decks with those that we greatly respect but don’t always have a function tied into the project.

Let’s talk about your local skaters and the Atlas team (if there is one!). Has that grown much from your opening days? How do you support your local skate community?

There are plenty of locals; it’s actually pretty crazy how many are in the Bay Area. In regards to our “team”, we rather consider it as something else.. Perhaps just family, or “supporters”.

How did the Cross Continental project come about? I caught a glimpse of it online, which is what led me to contacting you in the first place: it’s not that often you see something so impressive come from a collaboration between a skater, his sponsor and his local store. What was the initial idea for doing this project?

Being that Mark Suciu has been down with Atlas since day one, it seemed like a proper fit to do something with Habitat.

We had a ton of great footy, and wanted to make it a little more special that just an online release. We did a premiere at the shop, and created a limited run of decks with Habitat for the premiere. We’re hyped on how it all turned out, and the reaction to Mark’s part was amazing.

Let’s kick off with a few basics: how long have you been skating and who are your current sponsors?

Mark Suciu: I’ve been skating for 11 years and I ride for Atlas Skateshop, Habitat shoes and boards, Thunder Trucks, Sml. Wheels, and Ruca Clothing.

How long have you been part of the Atlas crew? Are you local to the store?

I’ve been with Atlas since February of 2008. I always go to the shop when I’m on my way up to SF, and whenever I need to solve some board issues or just want to hang out.

The first time I became fully aware of you and your skating would have been in the Habitat video, ‘Origin’. But having read a few things since then, you rode for Powell and Alien, right? Before you got hooked up, did you ever have any aspirations to ride for anyone in particular? Or was that never really part of your aim in skating?

Yeah, I started riding for Powell when I was 13 and left to go somewhere else when I was 16. I didn’t have anyone hitting me up, but at that time I was starting to think it might be possible to get on a company I’d always wanted to ride for.

When I was younger I wasn’t thinking so much about what boards I wanted to ride, it was more like which group of skaters I dreamed about hanging out with. And that was pretty much always the Alien team. So I waited it out a couple months and before I knew it I was getting boards from Kalis. I was so psyched. Even though they eventually switched me to Habitat and I didn’t get to skate with those guys, it was still so amazing to me.

I don’t think I threw my board the entire time they were sending me stuff, all I had to do if I was getting mad was look at the graphic and I’d be stoked.

After ‘Origin’, it seems that you racked up a steady stream of coverage, but before that, you had a lot of online footage that people often refer to. Has filming always been a pretty consistent part of your life?

Mark Suciu: Yeah, I’ve been filming tricks ever since my parents got a Hi-8 camera when I was ten, so it’s always felt natural. I guess it’s a kind of a fascination I have with the progression side of it.

Let’s get to the recent ‘Cross Continental’ project. How long was this in the pipeline? Who came up with the idea of travelling across the US as the background thread for the film?

That footage was from somewhere around November 2010 to the end of Nov 2011, and the two cross country drives were in August and Nov of 2011.   

It started as just a solo Atlas part that I could put out whenever and make exactly how I wanted. Near the end of the filming I talked to Habitat and they said they wanted to back it and that it needed a name. The footage we had already told the story of the cross country missions, so I think it was Joe Castrucci that tagged the name Cross Continental on it. There was really no planning it out. 

How did the ‘On The Road’ clip tie in with everything?

That was just all the footage of the preliminary tricks at the spot. We were kind of just warming up with the HD and  then switching to the VX. Also, as it was a Field Log edit, it helped foot the bill for a couple of our hotels.

‘Cross Continental’ had the feel of some of the older videos that I’ve always liked. Alien’s ‘Memory Screen’ or ‘Photosynthesis’ spring to mind. Putting less emphasis on cutting-edge visuals and more focus on raw skating: The lack of any slow motion really gave it a high level of re-watch factor for me. Did you get involved with the editing or contribute ideas towards the filming at all?

I wasn’t at the editing table, but I knew all of my ideals were. My friend Miguel Valle, who filmed it, grew up with a lot of the same inspiration as I have, so we’re definitely on the same page. We would talk constantly throughout the process. I chose the first song and was picky as hell with the tricks, and he took it all from there.

Everyone who’s mentioned the film has talked about the switch backside noseblunt on the rail and the frontside varial heel into the fountain at Love Park. I really like the quick-fire bank-to-stair tricks and the line that opens with the backside 180 fakie nosegrind (which I think is at Love). Were there any other particular things that that you were really pleased to get for the video?

I would say the longer line at the SF Library and that bigspin into the rock in San Jose are my favorites. That line was probably the most thought out clip in the part and also the most exhausting. I nearly threw up after the first two hours. And the bigspin I had wanted to do the whole year I was filming; it ended up being the last trick I filmed for the part.

The accompanying Habitat board was really nice too: did you know that was coming out when the video clip was launched? Is this technically your debut pro board?

When Habitat joined in they told me about it, and I got to see the first draft of the graphic in November. I’m so psyched to have it, and also to be the reason that Atlas and Habitat got together. But no, it’s not a pro board.

What have you got planned for the rest of 2012? Anything we should be watching out for?

My friend Justin Albert and I are putting out an all San Jose part with some homies. It should be out really soon. (editor: you can check that video here!)

Other than that, I’ll be travelling around from coast to coast, just filming and enjoying it.

Futura 2000 | Expansions 2012

Trashfilter: So, are you still in your studio in Brooklyn? Last time I came to see you, you had that nice place over in Brooklyn… You had this amazing coffee table of military memorabilia that you’d compiled into a 3D montage…

Futura: The Stash studio! All gone… all gone. All archived and in storage! I transitioned from there and I’ve just got a new studio and place to work in the city: it’s just a painting studio. Not an office or anything any more, as I can do all that from home. That old neighbourhood in Brooklyn has really changed since you were last there. Everyone is living out there now and it became this ‘escape Manhattan’ destination – it’s on fire, in terms of traffic and people and shops. Totally transformed from what it was.

Would you say that a lot of things have drastically changed since that period? I’ve watched the whole ‘street art’ movement rear its head since then. I’ve witnessed multiple bad dealings with various galleries, watched people jump onto what they consider to be graffiti, had valuable pieces stolen from exhibitions, cringed at shoddy stenciled pieces all pushing the same imagery… And, worst of all, I’ve watched veterans and who I consider to be genuine and worthy writers and artists get totally overlooked. Finally, it seems to be settling down now that the bubble has burst for some of the less-deserving chancers out there. And, to me, it’s good to see people like KAWS still at the top of the tree.

So, when we first met that was in the offices near Carnaby Street (the original Unorthodox Styles/U-Dox offices) – and that was pre the whole streetwear/lifestyle/culture market explosion. All the sneakers/clothing/whatever thing took over and got totally overexposed for a while.

Now it’s a good time for me to slip back in somehow. And these guys here – at Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont – seem very committed. This year is going to mark a real transition for me to start anew. I have this new studio in New York, I have this show here in Paris and these guys who are new investors in my work and my future. I’ve seen what’s going on and it’s awesome but all of what’s happening in the ‘street art’ spectrum can only help me in the end. I don’t want to be critical of it even if there are some people who I can’t help being critical of, if you know what I mean! Normally, I just try to embrace the whole thing so it can continue and some other people can get some opportunities off it too.

And, hey Brian (KAWS) gets paid!

Yeah, but to me he was always a graffiti writer first. When I met and interviewed him for Spinemagazine in 2004, I was fully aware of his solid letter styles, billboard batterings and pioneering bus stop advertisement adventures. He went out and did all of that off his own back and he’s a talented individual. And, you know what? He was the nicest and most humble guy I could have wanted to chat with. If I had the money, I’d buy his work all day long, not just because I like it but because I respect what he does.

Exactly: Brian is an amazing artist. He was clever enough to push certain elements of his work and iconography and make it totally work for him.

But I’d say that you did that even before he did with what you were doing with your own figures and icons. When we last spoke, you mentioned that you were moving away from painting your Pointmen figures because you didn’t want to get typecast for that very small part of your artistic arsenal…

I still am leaning away from that. Perhaps for personal requests or signings, but less so for the exhibition work.

Yeah – I’d noticed that in this exhibition there were no real characters in your new pieces, other than some of the atom icons.

That’s right: there’s nothing. And that’s the thing… It’s really hard too because it seems to be something that somebody wants. But the people here were very open for me to do what I wanted to do. I can still see things like that coming up again in the future, but where I am now, it’s not something that I particularly want to put out there in public right now.

My operation in Japan with Futura Laboratories… After everything that happened in Fukushima, I felt so bad that I just wanted to put my business in retreat for a minute. I didn’t want my staff guys out there feeling pressured about MY thing when they’re all dealing with that. How insignificant was my stuff in comparison, y’know? It’s good to put things in perspective and realise that my thing doesn’t really matter right now, so chill for a minute and take care of your lives. My operation over there has been really good and made sure I was able to put a few dollars in my pocket, but things are going to have to change slightly. Over the past decade I wasn’t really out there trying to do this (painting). I found other ways to make loot in the meantime.


Trashfilter: A lot of the more recent ‘street art’ exhibitions were never that interested in what had happened 15-20 years previously. I knew that you, amongst a very small group of other writers out there today, had been exhibiting since the early ’80s or exploring other avenues, such as working with Agnes B who helped launch you in France…

Futura: Big time. I mean, she’s not a collector: she is what I would term an investor. There are people out there who collect to invest – and I mean that in a positive way towards the artists – but they’re not just there to buy work. They’re there to help you to continue to create stuff.

That’s complimentary to you, isn’t it?

Oh, it is. And Agnes B been one of the biggest patriots of my work. And this is one example of how France has been really good to me. Paris has always been big for me. Many of the French writers and the New Yorkers who transplanted here in the late ’80s have found some opportunities through her.

At the moment, I’m thinking I might bring Futura Laboratories to an end. Because my idea was that I’m a small brand in a small town: I’m not trying to export to the world, even in good times before the recession hit, because of the duty charges, importation fees, the mark-up… y’know. It’s a hassle to sell this shit anywhere other than in Japan. it was never something like, ‘I’m gonna make lots of money of it’ – it’s more like a vanity project. "I got a little company, I make nice stuff…". The stuff is well made, but it’s all smaller items. But people get resentful sometimes if they can’t get access to this stuff. And maybe it’s not the right time to have that out there.

My son lived in Japan for 4 years – he speaks Japanese – and I was thinking of bringing him in, like ‘You could be that guy’. And my daughter is 21 and she can ride my coattails for a year or two and get a little experience, some opportunities and maybe a couple of trips. But my son doesn’t need me to take care of him the way I feel I want to take care of my daughter.

He’s established himself, as a creative person, in his own right.

Exactly. He was staying with people in my Japanese circle for a while….

He was staying with Hommyo from Atmos, right? I remember meeting up with Hommyo a while back and he had mentioned it then.

That’s right. He moved to Tokyo and worked with Hommyo, yeah. And how things worked out in the end, he was a good guy and was very generous. I haven’t seen him in a minute, probably since the Recon shops were still there..

That’s a good point to come to: you and Stash and the crew basically turned that small pocket of city in Manhattan into something pretty cool. Rivington, Eldridge… all those streets became places to go for a lot us visiting NYC. You guys and spots like Alife on Orchard pushed the boundaries that had been set by Soho.

Yeah, that was kinda funny how that all worked out. But, to be honest, the whole retail thing wasn’t really MY thing. And in the end I just wanted to bail. I could end up finding a company and just doing a licensing deal perhaps, because whether I like it or not, people do see a lot of what I do as a brand in itself. And that’s why the internet, in the end, is a big culprit in all of this. It’s awesome, but at the same time think about how the world has changed as a result of it. Without the web, none of this shit gets seen. Think about the way artwork is perceived now. I mean, honestly, without the web, who’s gonna even see this stuff? Who’s really gonna ever walk by a physical space in wherever these days and see anything? How many individuals are actually gonna see anything in real life now? Previous to what we do now, it was all word-of-mouth. Anything from, say, ’95 to the present… the last twenty years… it’s all digital or online. People tweeting three hundred times a day. It’s way out of control. Way out of control.

The advent of the web was good for me personally. I was able to make a transition from working in print to digital and then help start up U-Dox, Spinemagazine and Crooked with the guys back in London. And when I get frustrated with aspects of digital life, I have to remember that it’s been good to me, overall. I wouldn’t be here now probably if it wasn’t for that. And when we first came out to New York in 2000 or 2001 to meet you guys, it was a blind trip. We had no real idea what to expect, no guides to follow and no email connections, because that info wasn’t out there! We walked into the shops with printed portfolios and business cards and spoke to everyone. You probably wouldn’t do that now! But when you and I met, you were already pushing things digitally, far beyond what anyone else was really doing. You were a very early advocate of the internet and as a result had one of the most interesting websites out there.

Sure. I was trying to express myself through that new medium. And, in a way, I think that’s what I still do today. But I’m not doing it like other people. I have a completely different approach to it.

It hasn’t changed though.

Right. Like, the calendar on my site, Timothy – my son – designed. And that’s been good for the last five years and interesting with its daily photo… And every year my son’s like, ‘C’mon dad – let’s change it!’. But there’s no need. When you set something up well and it is what it is, you shouldn’t really fuck with it. Just let it run. All it needs is a new photo every day.

My Flickr account is much more ‘real’. The photo calendar on my website is more generic because what happens is that every day it just looks for a file that correlates with the code. Like tomorrow, it’ll be looking for 01_10 and the accompanying TXT caption file for that day. And the calendar format works off your clock on your computer. If you change your clock to 1990, there’d be nothing there. It’s really elegant but it’s also really smart. It knows what day it is, because it’s running off your computer. It’s all preloaded and no-one actually knows when the accompanying image is actually from. When I do put in a real ‘proof of life’ photo, such as holding a newspaper with today’s date or a ticket or something, those are always gems to put in and a couple of those go in every month. If I’m in New York and there are people over in New Zealand who are almost a day ahead, what about those guys? They’ve got to have an image to see! So that’s why it’s all taken care of behind the scenes.

That’s very considerate of you!

I think my web presence has always been considerate. I’ve got a lot of stuff on there, so enjoy yourself!

Trashfilter: When I look at the last decade of street art, things occasionally got a bit too commercially-minded for a minute, I think.

Futura: When that whole blogosphere thing was happening with all the websites and all these ‘guest’ people were being invited to write for them, I didn’t want it to be like ‘Yo, I’m Futura and this is the product I’m making and this is what I’m selling’. It was never about that.

But I don’t think that it ever came across like that though. Even when you were working with people like Zoo York or whoever, it wasn’t like you’d just stuck a few characters on it and bounced…

Oh, yeah, I mean there’s like 20 companies that I would’ve worked with during that period. And now I don’t want to be part of that any more. I was too nice with all my stuff and with every ‘friend’.

Those days are over and I don’t want to be that guy any more. I just want to take care of my family – my immediate, blood related family. Everybody in my immediate world right now, I wanna hook up. All that other stuff is still exactly the same as it’s always been: just promo and hype stuff. I don’t want to do that any more. I don’t even want to do my own thing any more! I just want to give it a break for a while: I’ll retreat to my studio, invest in some materials and bang out a lot of stuff so I can make a really nice selection from the result of that. I want to see how that goes for a couple of years, without all this other external shit going on. I’m gonna take more control: I’m gonna be 57! I need to take charge now. I’m not a ‘boss man’, but in my own internal quiet way, that’s how I am now.

No more Mr. Nice Guy, even though no-one will know that.

Trashfilter: When was your last exhibition?

Futura: Probably the ‘Pirate Utopias’ show with Jose Parla in London, back in 2007. There was this thing I did in L.A. maybe three or four years ago as a pop-up show and there have have been group shows, but not a one-man show.

I remember coming up to ‘Pirate Utopias’ to see you and asking the gallery owner if you were around and it was like, ‘Who the fuck are you?’. I appreciate that they’re busy and they probably have a hundred other people doing exactly the same thing, but it was a bit of a kick as well. I might have caught them on a bad day, but it seemed totally different to how some of the older spots and galleries handled their business.

A lot of those connections were spill-off from friendships and stuff, but they weren’t that real. I wasn’t totally psyched on that relationship either. The movement ‘crashed’, everything got downsized and that old studio with Stash in Brooklyn was lost and I’ve kinda been solo for a while now. Now, the fat is getting trimmed. I understand that there are always going to be some hangers-on around, but the noisier ones have been pushed aside for a minute. There’s no hate, no animosity, no bitterness with anyone: it’s all water under the sand and that boat sailed months ago. There’d be no point feeling like that: it’s negative energy. All the old stuff was just weighing everything down, that’s all. Consumerism is still hype, but everyone got everything they needed. This whole lifestyle that everyone was running on, I think they all got a rude awakening. There’s a better way to manage your shit.

Right. And cream rises to the top. The good stuff stands out now.

Exactly. Without some struggle, where’s that extra drive going to come from? It’s important that we did go through that, because mad people have been weeded out along the way. I see everything right now as really positive. My personal direction now, I’m really excited about.

Do you get asked a lot of the same questions by people who come to interview you? I’ve spoken with you for a number of things in the past, but you’re one person who I don’t get tired of talking to, even if the situation dictates that I need to go over a few ‘standard’ questions to get the feature done.

There was that one interview you did (for Spinemagazine), that was kinda like the whole mid-life thing, but it was pretty full-on! A lot of bases were covered there. In your own personal archive, you’ve got some scope and context as you’ve spoken to me a bunch of times in different situations.

Now it’s more like people asking why I haven’t been in the galleries or asking if I’m still painting. It’s like you said before – ‘did you hear of me in the ’80s? I kinda did that back then and got spit out and stepped upon.’ When the whole ’90s thing happened and we transitioned into the clothing thing and doing t-shirts, it was another way to exist without having to depend on being ‘just’ a painter. Whether that was diversifying what I did or was just a way to see if I could multi-task, I’m not sure. But now I’ve got the support of this gallery, I’m actually able to move forwards in creating work and not worrying about trying to find somewhere to paint or anything, which was the case.

Now it’s just on me to produce.

Trashfilter: Do you remember this piece? For many of us in the UK, it’s regarded as one of the first real graffiti pieces to be done here.

Futura: Oh wow! Absolutely!

I remember it was at Westbourne Park or Ladbroke Grove, with a writer named Skam who took me there. This would’ve been around the time of touring with The Clash.

Warning: The Art of Marc McKee | a book by Winston Tseng

The Art of Marc McKee - a book by Winston Tseng

My affinity with everything World Industries-related might’ve died with the birth of Flameboy, but there’s no denying the back catalogue. A third of my infatuation came from Rocco’s business model and his marketing schemes, another third from the ridiculous skate talent all World teams contained – but another hefty portion came from Sean Cliver and Marc McKee’s incredibly good artwork.

Winston Tseng put together this nice little monologue of McKee’s artwork for Mark Batty Publishing: Winston’s own artwork is worthy of review, as he’s the Art Director at Enjoi skateboards and has created loads of amazing work himself.

The Art of Marc McKee - a book by Winston Tseng

This book isn’t the massive portfolio that it could have been, but it’s a nice portable size: whether you’d risk reading it on the bus is another matter, as there’s plenty of McKee’s confrontational graphic work in here to offend the most stoic of commuters. Fucked Up Blind Kids? Yes. Natas ‘Devil Worship’ board? Henry’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ deck? Yes, yes, yes – they’re all in here and they still look as good as they ever did. I liked the nod to the Randy Colvin ‘Censorship Is Weak As Fuck’ graphic on the cover as well.

The Art of Marc McKee - a book by Winston Tseng

Alongside the board graphics, there are some original sketches (I was amazed how much work went in the Jovontae Turner ‘Napping Negro’ board) and some editorial work for Hustler magazine, which was interesting to see although I can’t say I’d want it framed on the wall.

The Art of Marc McKee - a book by Winston Tseng

The portfolio has been compiled in chronological order, so when you get towards the end of the book, you start encroaching on Devil Man, Flameboy and Wet Willy territory. And to be fair, it’s given a fresh piece of contextual reference: you can see the brand strategy document that details the later years of World’s product licensing. After years of getting under everyone’s feet as the annoying underdog, Steve Rocco, Rodney Mullen, McKee, Cliver and the rest of the crew got the well-deserved last laugh.

The Art of Marc McKee - a book by Winston Tseng

Whilst I still think there needs to be the definitive book about the whole World Industries story published, that’s another topic altogether: in the meantime, this book gives a glimpse into the archives of one of the most important artists in skateboarding’s history.

Data: 96 pages/21.6 x 16.2cm/ISBN: 9781935613237

The Doomsday Papers | Mysterious Al at StolenSpace

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

When I was working in the centre of town, I’d usually check out most exhibition launches, regardless of the artist. Free drinks, the same crowd of familiar faces and occasionally some interesting artwork to see as well. These days I’m far more selective with my free time. Traveling for an hour into London to see an exhibition is less appealing unless I’m a true fan of the artist’s work. So when I got an email from Mysterious Al asking if I’d like a sneak preview of his solo show, ‘The Doomsday Papers’ at the Stolen Space gallery, it was an easy decision.

When Trashfilter last caught up with Mysterious Al, he was preparing to collate his work in order to get a show together – and it’s obvious that he’s been very busy. Put any preconceptions aside: whilst there’s enough of Al’s older established (and much-loved) style here, the work in ‘The Doomsday Papers’ is a totally new level. Beautiful screened pieces with spraypaint and collage details are well positioned alongside some new wooden maquette pieces, with a subtle theme of masks and monsters running throughout everything.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

The first thing you’ll notice is the painted shed in the middle of the gallery – more on that in our interview with Al below – but as you walk around the space, you’ll see a sacrificial altar overlooked by Bela Lugosi-eque renditions of Amy Winehouse and Kate Moss, a huge photography-based main piece and a collection of Mayan mask prints that would make a modern-day headhunter proud.

Eager to interrupt Al while he was putting the finishing touches on the exhibition, I grabbed him for a few words about his exhibition.

At the end of the feature we did back in 2010, you mentioned that you were planning your first solo show… and now here it is!

I know! When we spoke about it, it was really just a plan: nothing had been set in stone. So I’m just really lucky that the gallery let me do it and that I had enough ideas to produce all of this work. And I’ve actually got too much work! I’ve never been in that position before.

So, which pieces did you work on first for the show? Are all of these new pieces?

Yeah – all of them are new. I was looking at masks and collage work, which really gave me a new lease of life. For so long I’d been going down the commercial route – and I loved it – but for ages I’d draw something and just couldn’t turn it into a finished thing. I didn’t want to just copy what I’d been doing on the computer: that didn’t work. But by doing this, I’ve stripped it back and got into doing things a little more abstract. Collage is just good fun. It’s immediate, you don’t get bored doing it and I’m really into it at the moment.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

What inspired you to look at masks as a visual theme?

Actually, I should say, there’s none of this bullshit about ‘Oh, it’s something to hide behind’: I just really like the aesthetic of a mask. That’s all it is. I went to the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill: they’ve got a collection of witch doctor masks and it’s the coolest thing in the world. If someone came to see a witch doctor to get treated for toothache, the doctor would make a mask for toothache and do a ritual with it. And then that mask would go into a box until another person came in with toothache. And over time they’d make all these different masks and trade them with each other. And I just really like the idea of this. Some of these masks are so stylistically current, they look like they could have been made this year. These got me interested in Mayan art – tongues sticking out and that kind of thing – which I really like the symmetry of.

Over the years, we’ve all seen people doing things with wrestling masks and that kind of thing, but these are very different.

I want to take things even further, which is why I’ve started doing things out of wood as well. I don’t want to start making actual masks, but this seemed like a good next step to try out.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

These pieces are all really bright and bold, which works really well as a contrast to some of the darker pieces we’ve seen from you over the past few years: layered paint onto top of black and white photography etc.

Yeah, over the years, a lot of my work has ended up being really muted – I really like desaturated colours and things like that. I think that works fine for digital work, where you can really make the dark areas bold, but for painting I find it makes them look really muddy and boring. Going into this Mayan theme, it’s given me the perfect excuse to try using some colours that I’ve never really used before. I was finding myself going to Chrome & Black and buying lime green paint and sky blue stuff: things I’d never really used that much before. It feels quite liberating.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

Did you plan the pieces beforehand or did it naturally evolve into what’s on the walls now?

When it had to be a show, it had to be more concise: it had to be a bit of a story. This is my first solo show, so I did really have to think about what I was doing. I did a few things that are a bit more commercial or accessible, like the Amy Winehouse pieces, but the overall theme or theory behind everything here is different kinds of monsters. Different monsters in history all brought together. Influenced by Mayans, influenced by mythical monsters – werewolf, forest men, yetis – and monsters from the past and present like Dracula, the Phantom of the Opera, Kate Moss, Amy Winehouse…

It’s really nice to see a loose evolution in your pieces here. I can see where you’ve continued what you were working on when we last spoke. So, let’s talk about the scary-looking altar…

You know when you think of bad religion and Satanism and things like that? People always think of pentagrams and stuff like that. What I think is more interesting is English occult and Wicca and witchcraft. Weird shit made out of bits of stick and stuff. When I lived in Cornwall, we’d always find these sacred stones. We’d go out for walks on a Sunday and we’d always find these weird creepy things when we were out: piles of stones with burn marks on them – proper ‘Blair Witch’ type things, but before that was even around. Just evidence that something had happened there the night before. I didn’t find it necessarily sinister, but it always interested me.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

I started thinking about sacrificial things and offerings and that kind of thing. Not so much in a morbid or evil way: when I was in Thailand, people would leave things out. Little deities and stuff. There’d be a crumpled postcard of a God or something… and then a can of Coke and a bag of crisps next to it.

And the paint-covered shed in the middle of the exhibition?

This… this is my studio. This is where I make my work.

So, hang on, this is where you made some of the work for the show?

No, no, no. This IS my studio: we moved it into the gallery!

Wow! How long is the show on for?

The show is open from the 4th March through to the 27th March.

It’s a big thing for me, it’s my first show, I’m really pleased with how everything looks and I just want to get back on people’s radars a bit. I’d been going down the commercial route for so long that I really missed doing the pure art stuff. I’m going to carry on with this momentum of work and I’ve got some more ideas with the wooden pieces. StolenSpace are looking after me now and I’m hoping to get involved with some of their other group shows and exhibit through some of their sister galleries and just see where it takes me really.

The Doomsday Papers - Mysterious Al at Stolen Space

Too often you go to a show and there’s some lovely work, but it all looks a bit random or disjointed. This show is really cohesive, without being boring. You can get as deep and wanky as you like when you write about gallery shows, but at the end of the day you can narrow it down to this: all of the work here looks fucking amazing. I’d put any of these pieces up on my wall at home. And that’s probably the highest praise I can give.

Go and see the show, pray at his altar and try to pick up one of Al’s pieces before they’re gone.

– Exhibition and gallery details

Mysterious Al presents ‘The Doomsday Papers’
4th March – 27th March 2011

StolenSpace Gallery
Dray Walk, The Old Truman Brewery
91 Brick Lane
London E1 6QL
United Kingdom

OPENING TIMES
Tuesday – Sunday
11:00am – 7:00pm

P: +44 (0) 207 247 2684
info@stolenspace.com
www.stolenspace.com
www.mysteriousal.com

Cliché Résumé | A Decade Plus of Skateboarding in Europe book

cliche resume skate book

Cliché are one of the few skate brands to originate in Europe and successfully crack the global skate market. Others, like Flip (who many of us here in the UK remember as Death Box originally), Blueprint (who, again, started out under another name: Panic) or even Etnies (Etnics), did it beforehand, but you can’t help but think that the odds were stacked against any foreign companies trying to conquer the US. Without hardcore investment or backing from a larger brand, it’s no surprise that many companies outside of the US have only really succeeded in their own countries. Cliché, from France, are an exception to the rule.

I’ll be honest: I had no idea that it had actually been (over) ten years since they started the company. We didn’t really see much in the way of their boards until after the millennium, and even then in London we were more likely to support our own indigenous woodshops than look at a French brand. But things changed and perseverance clearly paid off. Today, you’ll see Cliché sitting alongside the best that the skate scene has to offer.

cliche resume skate book

The good skate-related books are few and far between – you’ll find a few of these others reviewed here on Trashfilter – but this 320page compendium of Cliché’s journey from their humble start is fully worthy of being printed and bound. Mackenzie Eisenhour from Transworld Skateboarding provides the narrative as we’re taken from inception to current-day and it makes for interesting reading. But, whilst the words are good, the photography and layout was outstanding. Photos from the cream of the crop are interspersed with clean and interesting page layouts, archive graphic images and lots more visual confectionery.

Jérémie Daclin’s personal story is briefly covered and he modestly steers away from the fact that he was one of the most well-known European skaters in the the early ’90s. His part in New Deal’s classic ‘1281’ was short but memorable (anyone that did double-flip caspers out of long manual rolls was clearly at the peak of technical ability) and it’s inspiring to read how he translated his skating skills into developing a business from scratch. Cliché’s ‘Gypsy Tours’ – covered many times in Skateboarder and other mags – sound crazy to those who are used to the ideas of pro skaters wearing ‘ice’ and driving Bentleys, but the reality is that they’re guided by nothing more than friendship and a raw love for skating. I’ve done my time on tours like that in the past, but even I haven’t had to use the sea as my daily bath/toilet before.

cliche resume skate book

May of the past and present riders are covered in depth: Pontus Alv, Lucas Puig, JJ Rousseau, JB Gillet, Javier Mendizabal, Vincent Bressol, Al Boglio, Andrew Brophy, Charles Collet, the ever-popular Joey Brezinski… even the turning down of Arto Saari is covered, accompanied by a statement of regret and a photo fo his sponsor-me tape. There’s some Gonz-related factoids thrown into the mix as well. All good stuff.

Résumé balances the fine line between being an arty book for the coffee table and something that you’d actually want to sit and read. Bear in mind, if you do plan on reading it, you’ll need strong arms: this thing weighs a ton and the corners on the hardback cover were designed to stop blood flow. You’ll be able to find this in most of the online book stores, but before heading over to one of them, check to see if your local skate shop’s got it in stock. At around the £25-30 mark, it’s not exactly cheap, but it’s much better value than the six magazines you could’ve bought with the money instead.

Will I Go To Hell For This | graffiti book

The past couple of years have seen a rise in graf publications and instead of things being awash with mediocrity, they’re getting better and better. In fact, I stopped buying graf books a few years back when I got tired of the same old photos turning up in everything. But while there’s still enough stencil-based horseshit and clueless idiots publishing nonsense (I’m looking at certain people in particular here, but we’ll address that subject another time), there is a steady stream of good quality print coming from the right people. This book, fresh from Denmark, is specifically about the Copenhagen S-train scene from 1984 up to 2009. And with 264 pages and over 600 photos, it’s pretty comprehensive.

The red S-trains hold the same amount of appeal to the Danish writers as the Tubes do to the UK writers and the Subway does to the NYC writers. The trains just look good with paint on them: cherry red flat panels do wonders as a background. And it helps that the Danish writers have bucketloads of style to cover it with.

The title of the book, ‘Will I Go To Hell For This’, comes from an end-to-end painted by Rens back in 1993 who also contributes the cover logo and page-long foreword that starts with:

Graffiti is like a hard drug: it bypasses your common sense.

I went cold turkey a while back (and I was shit anyway), but reading through the quotes that accompany the photos in here brought back some of those passionate feelings. The use of the quotes alongside many of the photos is a particularly nice touch, as you get to read about some of the background stories behind the pieces.

Enough talk: what are the photos like inside? Pretty damn impressive. If you ever picked up ‘Magic Moments’ mag (perhaps via Cept 148 who used to distribute them in the UK), then you’ll be well-prepared for the onslaught of good runner shots, yard activity flicks and general excellence. There’s a lot of good stuff to look at and you won’t be finished with this book for a while. Pictures of iconic events (such as the infamous ‘Eyes’ wholecar from ’85) sit next to modern-day destruction (insides, bombing and paint throwing), while the common theme of great train panels runs right through. I’m a sucker for Kegr’s pieces, so seeing pages of MOAS panels made my day.

I also liked the Mode2 panel in there from ’86 – it’s always good to vintage-era TCA letters on steel – and the inclusion of foreign visitors is a nice touch without detracting from the Danish writers.

It’s a big heavy book and it’s been done really well. There are rumours of a second volume being published, in which case you can put me down for a copy. It’s not cheap (around €40), but when you see the book in the flesh, you’ll probably want a copy for yourself.

Check out the official site here: www.willigotohellforthis.com.

Hurtyoubad x Topsafe tees

Hurtyoubad is as good as the internet gets. Amusing graffiti-related postings, a dusting of dark humour and an injection of toxic opinion means that it should definitely be stuck into your RSS feed immediately. In places, it’s reminiscent of the Spine Dungeon that Mysterious Al curated for us back in the early 2000s.

On any given day, you might find a few ‘borrowed’ (ie. stolen) graf flicks, some amusing images and perhaps a few xenophobic rants. All part of a day’s work for the HYB team. Not being led by the aim to please PR teams – or anyone in fact – has heaped a little bit of legendary status from those in the know. And they coined the now-popular term for wheat-pasting stencil bastards, ‘art fag’, first.

When I heard that they were releasing a limited set of t-shirts in conjunction with the good guys at Topsafe, I knew they’d be good. And they are. None of your standard multicoloured screenprinted vomit means that the styles get to speak for themselves. You’ve got a Robert Crum-esque technical illustration from Horfe contrasting with the simple raw style of Egs’s lettering and then Finsta’s comic book style going up against Hefs’s buckled brass section characters. I’ve opted for the Siege 52 design for myself, simply because it says that it ‘hates my blog’. Can’t argue with that.


Horfe and Hefs


Finsta and Egs


Siege

Against standard Trashfilter protocol, I’m gonna copy-and-paste a bit from the press release that accompanied the announcement, to give a little background to the project:

The line features artwork from an international lineup of artists; Horfé from Paris, Egs from Helsinki, Finsta from Stockholm and Hefs and Siege from London. Using the Hurtyoubad name as a common theme the artists have lent their well established aesthetics to the tees.

When my tee arrives, I’ll update this post with some more pictures. In the meantime, I suggest you join the Hurtyoubad Facebook page and have a look at the other photos from the shoot they did for the tees: very nice indeed!

They’re available in three sizes – M, L and XL – and are £25 each, plus a bit extra for postage. At the time of writing they’re selling fast, so get over to the Hurtyoubad store right now: http://hurtyoubad.bigcartel.com.

Go on: right now.

— update —

The tee arrived – and not only is it as good in the flesh, but it’s got a glow-in-the-dark printed neck label. I’ve noticed a lot of the sizes are selling out, so best get in quick.

Mysterious Al | artist and illustrator

TF: This is probably a good opening point to get out of the way: you have never claimed that what you do is graffiti, whereas a lot of the people who’ve profited well from selling artwork over the past few years have labeled themselves that way. What are your own personal distinctions between true graffiti and the guys who are doing street art?

Al: Oh dude, Where do I start? Although I’ve always been massively interested in graffiti and draw a lot of my working process from its methods, I’m about as far away from a graffiti writer as you can get. Real graffiti artists are infinitely more hardcore than me and hold down crazy skill in intensely hot situations and spots. I occasionally paint walls and sometimes they’re illegal, but for me it’s all about the social aspect of this… Painting with friends, doing a good spot, then going for a beer… That’s what I like. I don’t see the point in street artists that aren’t up everywhere fronting like they’re hardcore. Everyone can see through that shit straight away and its embarrassing.

I totally agree with you – and I think that’s why your work has stood the test of time compared to lots of the fly-by-night guys who have made some quick money and then disappeared when people realised they weren’t what they were claiming to be.

What’s your current perspective on the street art scene in London at the moment? Is there anyone you think is doing something particularly exciting or different?

Everybody does things for their own reasons, and that’s fantastic. Personally though, street art in London bores me to tears. I’ve been almost completely out of the loop with what’s going on here since the wheat-paste invasion of 2006. It got so bad that I actually started seeing stencils on wheat-pasted posters on the street! I mean, what’s that all about? Really? What also confuses me is everybody trying to make witty jokes or have satirical remarks in their work. Stencils of children juggling grenades and all that shit… There’s one artist doing that style well enough for everybody, so I’m more interested in people creating art for art’s sake.

I feel that you were really one of the people who pioneered the street-level art scene. Back in 1999/2000 or so, when we first got in touch, your work and the things you were doing with your website really stood out to me. No-one else was doing that. Did you realise you were onto something new then?

I think what’s really worth bearing in mind is that when we all started that stuff, nobody had coined the phrase ‘Street Art’ yet. There were lots of amazing artists, illustrators and graff writers to draw influence from, but Street Art as we know it didn’t exist. I trained as a Fine Art painter (ridiculous, right?) but became more into drawing and creating stuff more spontaneous than ‘proper’ painting.

I was looking at American artists like Futura, Phil Frost, Barry McGee, Andy Howell and UK guys like Will Barras, Mr Jago and Kid Acne. For artists like myself, Chimp and D*Face, making work on the street just seemed like a logical progression from the work we were making at college or in our studios… We had no agenda, which made us very different from the kids who are doing this today.

To me, what you guys were doing back then was more akin to what Cost and Revs were doing in NYC in the early ’90s. As a genre of art, it certainly wasn’t as socially acceptable as it is now: because of the saturation, the general public don’t look twice at most things they pass in the street today. Which brings me onto another topic: Finders Keepers. Putting in time creating artwork and then having pop-up open-air events where people could grab their favourite pieces for free… For 2003, that was ahead of its time.

Finders Keepers was the brainchild of PMH, who discussed it with D*face and myself over one of our many, many nights of drinking. We’d all been doing bits and pieces on the streets at this time and a lot of other artists had started coming up, so PMH came up with an idea for an illegal street-art exhibition. Looking back on everything I’m amazed how far we got with absolutely no planning whatsoever. We invited a load of artists we knew by email to come meet us in a boozer in East London, then went on a mad drunken mission of scouring the streets looking for… Well, rubbish, basically. Old boxes, oil drums, broken computers, fridges… We collected all this shit, took it home, decorated it, then met up again a few days later to ‘exhibit’ it.

We’d emailed everyone we knew and got people to spread the word to their friends and colleagues. ‘Free Art show, location TBC’. That was on the Tuesday, or something. We really had no idea how this was gonna go down, but we found a suitable disused shop-front on a Paul St, a quiet street in east London. We mailed the artists and the public at the same time early Friday afternoon, and by 5pm people started appearing and climbing all over the place hanging work and partying. The emails must have spread like crazy because we must have had 300+ people at our first event. They bought booze, sound systems and we had an illegal street arty in the middle of Shoreditch. All the work was given away at the end. It was a massive success.

Over the next few summers we ended up doing several more of these events across Europe, and I still occasionally see some of the artworks doing the rounds on eBay for ridiculous money. How we managed to do this before Twitter or any social networking sites existed still amazes me.

How long did Finders Keepers run for?

I think we did events for two or three years, but really nothing for me ever came close to the first event. Its success was completely unexpected.

I feel that everything kinda blew up in terms of street art and people making a decent living from it around 2007, 2008… and slowly as more and more people started trying to do the same thing, it got over saturated. Maybe I should name names, but some of the absolute horseshit that was being priced for auctions was ridiculous. I’m sorry, but seeing a stencilled print selling for 50 times the price of an original Futura or Seen piece… that’s ludicrous to me. What are your feelings on that kinda thing happening?

The thing is, a lot of people who are into the work of the older masters of the scene aren’t the same people who actually BUY art. There really was a lot of stuff doing the rounds that didn’t really do it for me either. But I think that goes back to this agenda thing I mentioned earlier. I’m much happier to see artists making art that they’re passionate about rather than trying to tick boxes. That’s why I really like artists who show a real natural progression in their work and don’t just turn on their heels and paint a picture of the queen wearing a balaclava with a rocket up her ass.

How do you find it balancing your passion for creating artwork with the job of having to make money to survive? Do you find you have to compromise yourself much when you’re working for a client?

I’ve been very, very lucky to have worked on some amazing jobs with some really great brands. In that respect, I’d never put my name to something that I wasn’t happy with. As with all creative collaborations there will always be a little bit of compromise with things that can’t be done. Adidas wouldn’t allow me to put an inverted crucifix on my Superskates, and some of the original characters I did for a Yahoo! campaign were deemed unsuitable – But I never sign anything off until I’m 100% happy with it.

Like everybody else I have to earn a living. To me, ‘selling out’ is when you’re handing over your shit for a giant pay-cheque and losing control of it. Doing jobs that I like in my style and getting paid for it is amazing, but I also do soooooo many mundane ‘bread-and-butter’ graphics jobs that are completely separate from my character stuff… I just don’t tell anybody about them.

Are there any agencies or individuals who’ve really helped you out along the way? Any particularly fun projects?

Oh man, So many people and clients have hooked me up. Yourself and Russ at Spinemagazine for giving me my first job after University. You didn’t actually have a job for me to do so I sat on a bin drawing and essentially running a softcore porn site. That really gave me a chance to get on with my shit and I am so completely grateful to you both. The guys at POKE! agency really looked after me and hired me for some great illustration gigs whilst I was starting out as a freelancer, so I owe them a hell of a lot, too. My boy Tristan Eaton in NYC is always involving me in his incredible projects with THUNDERDOG and gives sound transatlantic advice when I freak out about shit, so big him up, also. And finally my family at Goodhood, Word to Mother, D*face and everybody around me that helps each other out on a daily basis.

It’s all about keeping good company and having people around that inspire and are reliable.

What made you want to make the neon sign? At that time, I hadn’t seen anything like that. I remember you going through hell trying to keep the thing working!

There’s a scene in Wong Kar-Wai’s ‘Chung King Express’ where one of the main characters girlfriend leaves him. He turns to drink and narrates: "After she left, I talked to the bottles". I always loved that scene and found such poetry in those words, so my bottles were directly influenced by them, the stark neon feel of Hong Kong, drinking and having girl problems.

Your work for Volvo was one of the few times I noticeably turned my head to see what had gone past when those ads were on the buses. Break down how that project went for you.

The Volvo campaign was one of those jobs that just snowballed. One of the directors of the commercial had seen my work and contacted me through Nelly Duff gallery, who acted as my agent. I got asked to go and spend three days painting a 210ft wall in Bilbao, and took Solo One and Matt Sewell along to help me. Solo is an unbelievable painter. So fast and ridiculously on point. He really held it down when we got hit with an unexpected colour change the day before we started!

The whole experience was great – we stayed in a stoosh hotel and everyone was into what we were doing and really looked after us. I really had no idea in what capacity the ad was going to be used, but the shot of my work became quite a focal point and was used everywhere. My mum got really excited and phoned me every time she saw it on a bus, which was great at first but got annoying after the third day.

Your project with adidas obviously received a lot of attention. How did that project come about – and what was it like working with the US design team there?

Well, to me a shoe is one of those seminal projects that really means you’re getting your shit straight, so it was an absolute honour to work with adidas on those.

I was working with ex-CT design-mogul C-Law, so it was very useful to have a friend on the inside. He hasn’t really spoken to me since the project though, so I think I annoyed him. Adidas were incredible and let me do some very cool things like glow-in-the-dark and all-over-print linings. I have a habit of trying to sneak inverted crucifixes into as much of my commercial work as possible, and one of them actually made it to the very last stage of production before somebody spotted it. I had to do the footbed graphics again which made C-Law pretty angry.

Your Eastpak bags also caught a lot of attention. I saw a lot of people with the backpacks.

I was approached by Eastpak many years ago to make all-over prints for their various rucksacks and apparel. Eastpak weren’t quite as open-minded as adidas were so there were A LOT of design changes. Towards the end I actually ended up losing it a bit with the colourways, so did the most disgusting orange / red / black design as some sort of defiant pisstake. I thought Eastpak were joking when they signed it off, but they clearly know what they’re doing as it turned out to be a massive success. I even spotted one on the O.C. which means that technically I’m in with that Mischa Barton.

I remember flicking through an issue of Sidewalk magazine and seeing your Enuff graphics – and thinking how well your artwork suited skate decks as a canvas. A lot of artists seem to have their existing work reappropriated for that platform, but your style really works on that dimension.

Enuff have been an absolutely amazing client – they literally let me do whatever I want. My first series with them had crazy fluro colours and the second glow in the dark! How cool is that? I’m currently working on my third set of decks with them and these ones are gonna be the best yet. The most super-hardcore time-consuming illustrations I’ve ever done. I almost regret starting them because drawing them makes my eyes hurt… You’ll see what I mean when they drop!

What are you working on at the moment? What are your plans for the rest of 2010 and beyond? Anything exciting on the horizon?

Man, this is already shaping up to be a big year. I’m involved in design and art direction for a couple of music acts and am working closely with them on artwork for their packaging and visuals for their live shows… I can’t mention them here but trust me, if you go to any festivals this year you won’t miss them.

This year I’m also preparing to give my artwork a BIG push. I’ve been quietly observing from the sidelines for a while, and am now working on a new body of work based around the Maesoamerican calendar and 2012 doomsday predictions! Expect a solo show towards the end of the year…

London Burners book (Prestel) | graffiti book by Jete Swami

Another day, another new graf book. Can anyone else recall when there were only a handful of books on the subject? ‘Subway Art’, ‘Spraycan Art’… a few obscurities from the ’70s and early ’80s… and a small selection of foreign language books. That was about all my library consisted of, at least until the early ’90s. In the past couple of years there have been some substantial publications, at last moving back to the hardcore graf subject as opposed to art gallery catalogues and stencil guides. There’s been some serious horseshit put onto the bookshelves in the past 10 years, so it’s nice to see a return to quality again.

And, on the topic of quality, we’ve got ‘London Burners’ here. I only found out about this book when Amazon threw it up as a suggestion based on my previous purchases. With so much crap out there, my interest in graf books has waned slightly over the past few years, but this one seemed to stand out above the torrent of street art nonsense that was presented to me. The cover alone – daytime full-colour Tube panels – had me nudging towards the virtual shopping basket.

The publisher’s blurb on the back cover sells the book as a ‘photographic project’, which is true to a certain extent. But whilst the photos are pretty consistently good throughout, it’s the graf inside that will have you drooling. No wall pieces, no pages wasted on crew poses or paraphernalia: it’s almost 100% pure London train action. Plenty of action shots are included, but the bulk of the imagery inside consists of pure train panels. Steel, steel, steel throughout.

It’s a fairly concentrated representation of the London graf community – one main crew dominates the majority of the content – but that’s no bad thing, as the pieces on the whole are top notch and haven’t been plastered in other books or magazines. The text in the book is minimal, preferring to have a few pages of missions, chases and opinions rather than in-depth interviews or profiles – but what’s included is cool to read.

Another worthy addition to your bookshelves, ‘London Burners’ will sit nicely between Crack & Shine and London Handstyles as the spotlight on homegrown graf continues to shine. At around £12 from various online places, you’re much better off spending the money on this book rather than a £15 ‘graffiti magazine’.

Now, where’s Skore’s book got to?

Deathbowl To Downtown | Skateboarding in New York City DVD

deathbowl to downtown dvd

To say that I was excited about seeing this DVD is an understatement: I’d been reading about the production for a while on various websites, blogs and magazines, and I was keeping my fingers crossed that it would reach the UK. Luckily for all of us here, the distributors realised they had a gem on their roster and made sure it was available for all.

Skating in New York had a beginning far removed from the Californian image of a long haired surfer guy weaving in and out of crowds on the sidewalk. And, although drawing a parallel might seem like a tenuous link, skating for us here in the UK wasn’t like that either. Cold winters (anyone else remember that dope Zoo York ‘wind chill factor’ advert and the Blueprint ‘we thrive on cold winters’ messaging?) , dirt, traffic, no legal spots… these are things that we shared with the NYC skaters. They had the Brooklyn Banks, we had South Bank: tolerated skating locations, but far from legal until more recent years. They have Supreme, we have Slam City. I could make a million of these connections, but that’s not what this review is really about.

I didn’t need any endorsement or positive reviews to know that this was going to be a real representation of skating in New York City. The role call of who was involved in the production and included in the footage was more than enough validation. Rick Charnoski and Coan Nichols were behind the excellent ‘Fruit Of The Vine’ film back in the late ’90s, which focused on the hunt and uncovering of backyard pools – another worthwhile viewing session, if you can find a copy.

deathbowl to downtown dvd

deathbowl to downtown dvd

So, what’s the film actually like? The main feature (ie. disc one of the double DVD pack) is phenomenal. It takes you from the very start of skating in NYC, from the ’70s and brings you up to around the ’98 or ’99 era. The photos and articles I’d read in Transworld or the Supreme/ Metropolitan/Zoo/Illuminati/Rookie/Shut ads I’d clip from Thrasher were great, but there really wasn’t too much visual material outside of that. Zoo York’s ‘Mix Tape’ or the incredible Eastern Exposure series were my first proper video introductions to what was happening on the East coast, but I knew there was more in the archives somewhere. So, that’s what you get here: the story of skating in NYC, with historical context and plenty of background information.

There’s nothing to question here. From Chloe Sevigny’s role as narrator through to Futura talking about the Soul Artists or Pete Bici, Bobby Puleo and Jefferson Pang on the ’90s Zoo York movement, it’s all totally legit. It was good to see the Sheffey and Coco Santiago shots from the first Shut era in there too: I remember seeing those in the magazines at the time.

deathbowl to downtown dvd

There’s a bonus disc with a whole host of extras – well worth the price alone – but the main feature is where I’ve been hitting rewind again and again. With the passing of Andy Kessler in 2009 and the loss of others such as Harold Hunter, Justin Pierce and Ali, this is a timely tribute to all those who’ve ever put urethane to concrete in New York.

deathbowl to downtown dvd

I suggest you hit up the official website here, and place an order at your favourite online film source. Peep the YouTube trailer below:

Style Wars | hip-hop & graffiti documentary

Filming began in 1981, following on from director Henry Chalfant’s

documentation of the early New York hip-hop and graffiti scene (best

demonstrated in his and Martha Cooper’s ‘Subway Art’ book – something we’ll return to later on Trashfilter). Chalfant linked up with Tony Silver and between them they filmed and collated over 30 hours of raw footage. The formative era of b-boying, with Rock Steady and the Dynamic Rockers is captured, but it’s the interviews with the graf writers that makes this so essential to me.

If you’ve ever picked up a can of paint or a marker, you owe it to yourself to study the film in full. The now-legendary clips of Skeme and his mother, the exploits of Seen and Duster, the wars with Cap and the MPC crew, Min One and Iz laying it down… It’s still just as invigorating to watch now as it was back in the ‘80s.

Documentaries come and go over the years and there have certainly been some fantastic efforts when it comes to documenting hip-hop culture. But nothing has knocked ‘Style Wars’ from its well-deserved pedestal.

Henry Chalfant and Tony Silver were forward-thinking enough to start

cataloguing and recording the pioneering days of a worldwide phenomenom that will outlive all of us today. As an open-eyed 8 year old, I couldn’t

necessarily relate to what I was seeing on the screen at the time, but I knew I wanted to find out more. Channel 4’s infamous screening one Christmas in the UK was carefully dubbed and shared until an official VHS release of ‘Style Wars’ appeared in the early 1990s. I made do with that copy until the

excellent reissue on DVD courtesy of Plexifilm in 2003. And now there are rumours of an HD version being created if funding can be found.

The excellent Style Wars website, designed and built by the legendary Mare 139 (who also features prominently in the film) was the first graffiti-themed website I’d seen where the design was as carefully considered as the content: the pieces and photos look great on there.

Tony Silver sadly passed away in 2008, but his name will live with future generations through his work on Style Wars. Henry Chalfant is still very much around, often attending exhibitions and shows, proving that he’s very much ingrained within the threads of hip-hop. His photographic partner Martha Cooper is also still shooting and writing, as her own ‘Hip Hop Files’ book will attest.

I had the opportunity to see some of Henry’s original prints (and sit down to a big screen showing of ‘Style Wars’) when in Paris for the ‘Born In The Streets’ exhibition. Judging by the crowd, the

magnetism won’t ever end.

Make sure you take some time to watch the film, whether you’re fully immersed in hip-hop or just have

the yearning to see a well-made and intelligent portrayal of one of the most exciting subcultures to have ever emerged.

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Crack & Shine

To finally have this book in my hands after months of waiting for it to come out is a great feeling. I’d seen various preview images from the project over the few weeks before release, which just fueled my impatience further, and after seeing the launch exhibition I knew that it was probably going to live up to my expectations.

Freshly racked from their website, here’s a brief account of what to expect: Featuring forty of the most exciting and prolific graffiti artists to have lived and painted in London, Crack & Shine is the only London graffiti book ever to be published.

It’s funny to read that: I’d never really thought about whether London had been properly portrayed in a graf book before. Little bits here and there, token features in foreign compendiums and a scattering of magazine cuttings. All had generally been disappointing tributes to one of the rawest and progressive scenes out there. Graphotism tried its best at times, Hold No Hostage was dope, Bomb Alert went a step further, but magazines seemed to be as far as the coverage went.

And that’s where this book steps in. Even the title of the book is spot on, referencing the dominant dub style of many of London’s elite writers. If you weren’t down, you weren’t gonna find out very much and outsiders who tried to muscle in were dealt with in a variety of ways.

In the words of Dreph, “The London graffiti scene was a closed and unforgiving one. Information was guarded.”.

So taking on the task of documenting the history of London’s graffiti scene was clearly never going to be an easy job. For each person you pull out as an enigma, there’s another twenty who deserve just as much exposure. Whilst there have been whispers of another book in the making over the past few years, it was a pleasant surprise to hear that Crack & Shine was more than just rumours and was actually being printed. So I paid my £25 (via their website) and waited for the book to arrive.

First of all, the book isn’t a thrown-together collection of blurred photos and egotistical quotes. If you’re wondering what to expect, maybe flick back through your graf mag archives, pull out issue 9 of Graphotism and remind yourself of the DDS feature. All the good things that were in there – Brixton roof entrances, unseen full-colour panels, yard shots etc. – are all present and correct, but surrounded by loads more things you won’t have seen.

Instead of simply being a nice picture book, there’s great text to accompany everything. Interviews and quotes from people who shaped the way London looks today are given generous amounts of space. So instead of a collection of ‘Q+A’ journalistic nonsense, you have people like Bozo giving a first-hand account of painting Farringdon with Fume, Fuel, Teach and Elk. Or the background behind Zomby and Sham’s Christmas trackwalk up the Northern Line (I was living in Tooting at that point and remember taking flicks of the damage the week after). You’re probably not going to get that kind of personal account anywhere else.

There’s a strong emphasis on Tubes, which gives a harder edge to everything, and the mix of featured artists generally keeps to the core groups that have been out there relentlessly. You get hardcore writers like Zomby, Teach, Diet, Fume, Sub, Siege, Drax, Prime, Sub, Steas, Dodo/LDS, Pic, Grand, Fuel and Elk showcased alongside newer (and equally prominent) groups and individuals such as TPG, ATG, Vamp and Neas. You could sit and point out omissions perhaps, but it won’t make you look very clever.

Sput and Revok’s perspectives as foreign visitors sit a bit awkwardly on first glance, but when you read through their accounts, it’s an interesting angle and something I’d never really thought that much about.

Aside from the excellent collection of graf flicks from the writers themselves, there’s a lot of great portrait and in-situ photography from Will Robson-Scott that adds an extra level of aesthetic to the project. The sharp layout, clean use of typography and other little details (I liked the page titling at the top of each ‘chapter’) make the whole book reek of professionalism.

It feels like a lot of the right people were involved throughout the entire process of making this book, so you don’t feel like you’re putting money into the wrong pockets when you purchase a copy.

Go and grab one of the 2000 copies from the Crack & Shine site before it disappears off the shelves. Easily one of the best graf books I’ve seen to date.

Andy Jenkins Interview

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