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A smoldering volcano for street art and artist culture in the last couple of years, Red Hook, Brooklyn provides fertile post-industrial soil for an actual growing bohemia. Thanks largely to its’ difficult accessibility by public transportation Red Hook is having an additional millisecond to germinate as a creative utopia before gentrification paves it.
Brooklyn-based street artist Damon Ginandes hails from Red Hook and gets up in a big way; You might have seen his giant murals on Degraw Street in the last year –12′ tall and 60′ long (spray paint and latex acrylic); backed by an uncommon sight of figure-adorned windows in an abandoned building, perhaps a prescient preamble to the Electric Windows installation in Beacon NY this spring.
Recently sighted by Juxtapoz as an emerging artist worth noting, Ginandes for the first time brings his work into the air conditioning at the Williamsburg whitebox Artbreak Gallery. This premier solo show using Murals, canvasses, relief, sculpture (wood and wire), latex acrylic — is a solid introduction to his mixed media chops and to a finely drawn world.
The style of rendering, the elastic scale, and forlorn expressions are part cubist portraiture, part “Nightmare Before Christmas”. Having worked in film post-production the past few years, Ginandes is now pursuing his original love (and education) and is doing his art full-time.
As with his street work, “Dimensionals” is viewed best in person – line drawings and washes of figurative schemes that might once have been secreted away in your coffeehouse journal now literally burst out into 3-D.
The inner life of the sketch book comes to action, figures refusing to be constrained by canvas; craning their craniums atop long necks nearly bending into one another. These inanimate animations are multiple characters from the same family (or geneticist lab), gawking wistfully and wanfully at you, or blankly somewhere else; their gender not quickly discerned.
Brooklyn Street Art: How would you describe the figures and personalities of the characters in your work?
Damon Ginandes: In many ways I’m still getting to know my characters. Recently a friend of mine described them “portraits of souls” which I think is pretty accurate. I also like to think of them of distant relatives of ours, completely other-worldly, yet distinctly human. Our culture tends to define identities in a large part by external facades — our social networks, jobs, appearances, etc. — however, those factors tell little about the real being underneath. I try to strip my characters down to their most raw essence. Through their quiet, mysterious expressions, I seek to capture a subtle range of complex human emotions, which allow for a broad range of interpretations, ambiguous enough so that the viewer is left to uncover his/her own meaning. Their similar appearances serve to create a collective emotional effect, however each individual character conveys a deeply solitary and distinct inner world. Also, caught between the 2d and 3d (dimension), the characters themselves appear to be reacting to their own spatial ambiguity.
Brooklyn Street Art: How would you describe the difference between having an indoor gallery show and putting up the giant mural in a public outdoor space?
Damon Ginandes: A gallery is a controlled white space, so you don’t have to worry as much about context… you essentially create your own context. And there’s the converse — the challenge of integrating the public piece into (and hopefully altering) the pre-existing surrounding environment.
There is also the obvious difference that a public piece reaches a much broader range of people than a gallery show does. When painting my mural on Degraw Street, neighborhood kids, truck drivers, construction workers, other artists, locals, you name it, would stop and watch me paint, and provide their own interpretations. That is the best feeling, when people who aren’t ordinarily “art-goers” openly connect with the work — often because they’re the most enthusiastic.
Brooklyn Street Art: What are 3 things we should know about you and your work?
1. From what people tell me, my personality is quite different than you might expect based on my work.
2. I can’t stand it when people talk about food for long periods of time.
3. Among my biggest influences — Alberto Giacometti, Egon Schiele, Lee Bontecou — my style can also be traced back to my interest in 1990’s NYC graffiti and fascination with the Liquid Television animated shorts of Aeon Flux as an early teenager.
Brooklyn Street Art: What’s coming up for you?
Damon Ginandes: I’m in a group show entitled “Outside In” in London in Oct-Nov with a bunch of street artists from all over the world. I’m working on proposals for murals in NYC and Amsterdam among other places.
“Dimensionals” is showing through September 2nd at Artbreak Gallery
195 Grand Street, 2nd Floor
(betw. Bedford and Driggs Ave.)
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, 11211
Okay it’s true we have street art on the brain and everything looks like it’s been influenced by our favorite street artists and we see the smart-headed media pick it up more quickly than ever…and soon the whole world is under the spell…
..but these two magazine covers are fresh off the news stands this week and it’s hard to not notice that the punk rock stencil aesthetic finally reaches to the presidency.
summer in Brooklyn is about getting out of your hot apartment and sitting on the stoop with yer homies, watching the short-shorts and long legs walking by. You may hit the Siren Festival in Coney Island for the loud music and cold beer (and the Cyclone if you dare). And probably some BBQ’s on the roof, and frisbee in the park…..
And of course you’ll want to mount some gigantic eye-popping murals of mountain goats, owls, and bone-piles on walls for seven consecutive days. Well, at least if your name is Broken Crow, you will.
The Minneapolis artist John Grider, together with new Broken Crow partner Paint Goggles and their buddy Over Under, got up on some very large spaces in a roller-coaster rapid week that just ended in multi-storied murals in Bushwick. Arriving in a truck full of paint, plaster and scaffolding, Brooklyn is the latest city Broken Crow has sanctified with his angel-winged stenciled boy and an ark’s worth of animals trotting along side. Check him out in Paris with Vexta, in Waterloo Tunnel in London at the Cans Festival, and of course in stencil Mecca – Melbourne.
Like always, the Broken Crow returns to Minneapolis, and that’s where he reflects on the maiden voyage to Brooklyn.
BrooklynStreetArt: For the record, how many murals in how many days?
John Grider: 4 murals in 6 days.
BrooklynStreetArt: And a couple cans of paint?
John Grider: I think we went through somewhere around 10 gallons of bucket paint, and at least 70 or 80 cans of aerosol…
BrooklynStreetArt: Who’s idea was this?
John Grider: It wasn’t any one person’s idea, really. The whole trip was a bit of a collaboration, even in its planning stages. Two or three months ago I got an email from a man named Darren in Carroll Gardens who was looking to have two walls painted on the outside of his house. Fifteen or twenty emails later, after all the logistics were hammered out with Paint Goggles, we got into our van and drove east.
BrooklynStreetArt: How did you and Paint Goggles start working as a crew?
John Grider: Mike put me in my second art show back in 2004, and we’ve been good friends ever since. We shared a studio for a couple of years, and he’s always been down to help cut stencils and paint them wherever and whenever, he’s been behind the scenes for a good portion of the murals I’ve done, it all evolved really organically.
It helps that he keeps me calm, I’m perpetually calling him up like,
“HOLY F***ING SH**!!! I JUST GOT AN EMAIL FROM _______ (insert random city here)!!! THEY WANT ME TO COME PAINT __________ (insert random wall here) !!! WHAT THE F*** DO I DO???!!!?? FF*************************K!!!!”.
…and he’s always real calm about it like “I guess we’re gonna go there and paint” and then I’m like “Oh yeah, alright. Cool..”.
BrooklynStreetArt: What made you pick Bushwick?
John Grider: Bushwick picked us, sort of. Over Under had one of the walls lined up but he hadn’t had time to paint it yet. The first night we were in town, he mentioned that he had a wall that we should paint around the corner from the restaurant we were eating at, and 4 days later we were done with the first two walls and ready to paint the third one. We hadn’t even seen the wall until we rolled up on it with a van full of paint.
BrooklynStreetArt: You use many animals in your work, like the recurring devilish mountain goat Billy. Is there a voice speaking through these animals?
John Grider: I have no idea what all these animals are up to these days. When I’m painting them, it’s like a really long drawn out process of dropping off a stray dog at the pound. You can wish well for them, you can hope that they have a long and healthy life, but there are a lot of unforeseen circumstances that lead to untimely bad things, and you can’t really leave something somewhere without fully accepting that everything has its own life-span and that it’s out of your control.
BrooklynStreetArt: Is it true that you were a forest fire fighter? Did that deepen your connection to animals?
John Grider: Yeah, I did that for about a year and a half, (and) if anything it strengthened a couple of theories that I had. The first was that I wasn’t cut out for anything even remotely close to traditional employment, and that bad management is a universal and all too common reality in virtually every awesome or crappy work environment, everywhere.
The second was that conflict is at the root of virtually every interesting story ever told, or every story that has been told more than once. Fire versus water, good versus evil, city versus countryside, man versus nature, nature versus man, all of these things are universal concepts, all of these ideas have made their way into what I do in some way or another…
BrooklynStreetArt: Other images of rural life appear in your work, spare looking barns and farmhouses, beer-swilling chubby dudes in their man-briefs contemplating piles of skulls. Where do you draw upon for these, and what do they mean to you?
John Grider: They’re all really bad jokes, mostly. Or a visual play on words. Sometimes I’ll have the reference photo figured out before I have the punchline to the joke, sometimes it’s just me trying to figure out why people say things, or do things, or act a certain way. Mostly I’m just trying to keep myself entertained in a world gone boring.
BrooklynStreetArt: Is the scruffy boy with wings somewhat autobiographical?
John Grider: Only in that he can see the future sometimes.
BrooklynStreetArt: You did graffiti a few years back – how does the work you’re doing today differ?
John Grider: Nowadays, when my mom asks me where I’ve been painting, she doesn’t really seem all that mad about it.
BrooklynStreetArt: Your murals take a lot of planning to execute – How important is composition?
John Grider: Composition is really really really important. There are paintings that I have no idea why I like them, other than that they’re well composed. It’s absolutely imperative that you maintain your composure under any and all circumstances.
BrooklynStreetArt: Can you tell if a wall is going to be difficult to work on?
John Grider: Almost everything can be worked around, or worked into the composition, or dealt with as needed. Every wall has sh**ty aspects, and great aspects. It’s the people that make any experience great, and when I look back at painting a wall, it’s the people that I remember, but not the wall itself.
Every city has that 15 year old kid that wants to help paint, every city has that thug that wants to write some poem to some girl, and every city has that 8 year old that’s completely blown away that you’re painting there, and watches your every move, and that will someday paint some sh*t that will make everything you ever painted, ever, look like a total waste of time.
I’m actually relieved most of the time when these spirits make their presence known, they’re good omens.
BrooklynStreetArt: These projects demand a huge amount of art supplies, person-hours, and resources. Is it a challenge to manage them?
John Grider: Yes and no. It’s gotten to a point where there’s almost a standard checklist, like what colors do we need, do we have enough black, do we have extra duct tape, a place to sleep, gas money? All of that stuff has almost become second nature though. I’d say that there’s at least as much time spent on logistics as there is on actually painting, if not more time planning and less time painting. I’d like to say that I’m spending more time painting, but I’m lazy. Artists are inherently lazy people.
BrooklynStreetArt: Which artists have inspired you?
John Grider: This question is always a total mind-f**k for me. I’d have to say that every artist, ever, has inspired me somehow, be it for better or for worse. Really crappy art is always totally inspiring because it’s just fearless in its sh**tiness. For example, I’m completely dumbfounded that Rothko has entire museums dedicated to him.. if all I had to do was paint big squares, I’d be a thousand times more prolific than I am today… process does not equal content, I think this is a really important concept that people should be talking about at art schools.
BrooklynStreetArt: You’ve been in shows with artists like Vexta, Logan Hicks, C215, Faile…Who is doing stuff that you admire today?
John Grider: Vexta, Logan Hicks, C215, Faile, all of these folks are amazing. Sten & Lex, Meggs, Miso, Ghost Patrol, Gaia, Elbow Toe, Vrno, Over Under, Paint Goggles, Gutter Gold Digger, Megan Larkin, Stef Alexander, Eric Inkala, Drew Peterson, Isaac Arvold, Hardland/Heartland, Anthony Lister, Dan Monick, Orticanoodles, Snub, Fark, Alto-Contraste, Roadsworth, Blu, M-City, I could go on and on and on forever.
BrooklynStreetArt: Now that you are back in Minneapolis, where to next?
John Grider: I think I’d like to go swimming as much as possible for the duration of the summer, just to make up for the complete and total lack of swimming that seems to be happening out there in Brooklyn. I’ve also got a bunch of projects and commissions that I haven’t had time to get to, that will likely take priority over swimming. There’s also a show at Hot Pop in Milwaukee opening September 12th, and a show at Pure Evil Gallery in London in October with the whole Stencil History X crew. Plus there’s a ton of walls in Minnesota that I haven’t had time to get to yet… to be completely honest, I have no idea what’s going on anymore. It’s all a total blur to me. I’m mostly just really happy that I get to spend a month at home with my 7 month old daughter.
NEXT UP for Broken Crow:
After an eventful truck ride back to Minneapolis, Broken Crow has been putting up murals in Duluth (in his home state) in collaboration with Mike Fitzsimmons, Eric Inkala, Isaac Arvold, and Drew Peterson.
The rest of 2008 and ’09 will bring two shows in Milwaukee and London, a special project with C215, and more fun in Bristol, Berlin, and of course Minneapolis.
John will be touring work around with the Stencil History X folks for the duration of global warming.
Thanks to the talented and beautiful LunaPark
Learn more about stencil art:
1053 Flushing Avenue
June 6 – June 7, 2008
Opening: Friday, June 6, 6 – 9PM
Transforming this former BKLN bodega into a brand new gallery in Bushwick will be Skewville; the inimitable dogs will be throwing a party instead of wooden sneakers this weekend as part of the 2nd Bushwick Open Studios. Finally in Brooklyn where they belong, Skewville christens the spanking new gallery Factory Fresh – and Ali says the gallery calendar is already brimming with new shows coming soon.
Come Friday to welcome Factory Fresh and Mind the Power Lines!