12oz Exclusive Interview: Caleb Neelon Pt 1 - Painting Outside and In

This article was posted by Daniel Feral 2 years, 9 months, 3 weeks, 3 days, 11 hours, 27 minutes ago.

A quote from his monograph, Caleb Neelon’s Book of Awesome, sums up another important aspect for him about his work : communication. “None of these guys were ‘street artists’ (Cost, Revs, Espo, Twist, Os Gemeos). They were just doing really powerful graffiti that pushed the medium forward. And perhaps most appealing to me was that it reached people other than graffiti writers, which is something I wanted to do too.” Caleb also says: “I was a lot better at (reaching out to the communities I was painting in) than at sneaking around at night. And I like people.”

Ultimately, despite all the inspiration from the art on the streets of NYC, Caleb didn’t stay, but started at Brown University in Rhode Island the next year. With new ideas and passion, he started to develop a new aesthetic that was purely his own. One of his new means of expression was a mission to put out hand-made signs that were personal, poetic, child-like and funny. He bolted them to typical street signposts in urban and country settings, The hand-made signs must have stood out next to the utilitarian road signs and delighted anyone who saw them. They were readable, humorous, poetic and above all fun. By the time he had exhausted this obsession, he had installed over seven hundred signs between 1996 and 2001. That’s the equivalent of putting one up every four days on average. The dedication to having found his voice and wanting to make a strong statement is evident in the energy and obsession he put into sharing this series with the public.

Like others around the world at this time, he was on the cutting edge of a movement that would take the “graffiti” out of art being made on the street and explore new voices, expressed with a vocabulary and grammar uniquely all their own, such as Caleb’s sign series. This growing movement became known as “street art” around the turn of the new millennium. The term had actually been around since the early eighties, with participants including luminaries such as John Fekner, Babara Kruger, and Richard Hambleton, but had not become recognized as a world-wide phenomenon until the turn of the century. Caleb did not necessarily consider himself a part of it, nor a proponent, but, like the other graffiti writers he mentioned in the quote above, by pushing the boundaries of graffiti as far as he did, he could easily be included in their ranks at this point. And as evidenced by his inclusion in a huge amount of the books that have come out about street art in the past ten years, he is obviously considered by many people as much a street artist as a graffiti writer.

This piece and the next were collaborations done in 1998 in Sao Paolo with Os Gemeos, Vitche and Herbert Baglione.

Interview and pictures continue on page 3…

There are 8 comments...

enso_tpa - Friday February 24, 2012 at 08:47 AM...


remenber i paint witch this guy in brasil (belo horizonte). really great person! but the sun in this day not help much… one hot day and one good wall!!!

sktr - Friday February 24, 2012 at 11:08 AM...

sktr on 12ozProphet

^^^^^^  that one is dope as fuck man!!!

enso_tpa - Friday February 24, 2012 at 11:38 AM...




hey enso_tpa… he means he likes your piece! its dope! why? becuase its great! thanks for posting that picture! i’m sure caleb will appreciate seeing it and enjoy remembering painting with you. i just finished reading How And Nosm’s book The Brasil Diaries. they constantly talk about how hot that sun is too! Têm uma grande fresco dia! peace. daniel

sktr - Saturday February 25, 2012 at 04:26 AM...

sktr on 12ozProphet

sim enso_tpa, essa peça tá mesmo bacana. era isso que eu queria dizer…

enso_tpa - Monday February 27, 2012 at 07:13 PM...


Sorry… my english is bad…. rsrsrs. but thanks for the coment!!!! Your welcome 2 Brasil! TAlk me!

enso_tpa - Monday February 27, 2012 at 07:19 PM...


sonik sent me some of those photos after his return to the U.S. .. is very good to see them again in the blog! peace man!


thank you enso_tpa! you are welcome 2 NYC too! i dont travel much but will def talk to you soon. thats so great that Sonik sent you photos. peace to you too! 8+)

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