Artist's Talk: Mare139 Speaks at NYU During Show & Prove Conference
On Saturday March 31st at the Show & Prove Conference in NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in Manhattan, Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez gave an inspiring artist talk emphasizing that members of Hip Hop culture should be the ones to define their history, not the mainstream culture or their institutions. For the past year, he has been the honored recipient of the 2011-12 Scholar in Residence at NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, so when the second annual S&P conference was being organized, also at NYU, he was an obvious candidate to be featured. He was interviewed by the artist Iona Rozeal Brown and showed a historical slide show, which included photography, text and videos about his work and the history of Hip Hop culture.
Mare first became well known when he was featured as a prominent writer in the seminal 1983 graffiti documentary Style Wars. Over the past thirty years, his reputation has grown as an avant garde sculptor and as one of the most articulate intellectuals of his generation. After attending the High School of Art and Design from 1981-84, he went on to Parson’s from 1984-85. He found the curriculum as an undergrad beneficial to gain the skills and vocabulary he needed to define and defend Hip Hop and graffiti to the outsiders who had become interested in studying and institutionalizing the culture within history. But as an artist, when he went on to grad school he found this kind of education no longer helpful in his pursuits as an artist. So he left to study welding at Apex Technical School in order to be free to find a true authentic aesthetic voice within the medium of sculpture on his own.
This kind of environment, based more in physicality and free from institutionalized intellectual influence, gave him the space to translate into metal the original voice that he first found through the art he made on the walls and trains, especially the deconstructed and abstracted letterforms of Wildstyle. Like the “instinctual” or “organic” intelligence of the smart street kid that he was, Mare was able to delve into his art the same way he did as a younger artist, through unfiltered direct exploration and expression. Like the break dancers that he respects and compares to the motion of Wildstyle letterforms, his sculpture is born from this innate embodiment of the Hip Hop culture that he helped define with his art and his actions.
Evidence of his success are in his many commissions as a fine artist and commercial artist over the years, the respect he has continued to receive from within his community and from without. And, of course, in the work itself!
When Mare was awarded the NYU Scholar in Residency for 2011, he posted an announcement on his 12ozProphet blog about it and his focus on “Arts for A.L.L.” which stands for Advocacy, Literacy and Legacy.
Text and Photo: Daniel Feral