A Short Interview With Bad Batch at SOHO House Chicago
Artists @cropglass and @crush_entity (two bit) have come together to create a new team named Bad Batch. As these artists are a new collaboration, I asked them how they came together and what they are all about.
Two Bit is from Rockford, Illinois and will be coming to Chicago soon. As a fan of his work, I’m excited to see how they progress and where this new team will create and express their ideas. I asked him some questions about himself as an artist and this is how that interview went.
1. So as an artist , you are part of Air crew. Can you talk a bit about your beginnings as a graffiti artist.
My introduction to graffiti was kind of innocuous but probably similar to most. I got into skateboarding at a young age when my family moved from Mount Prospect to the suburbs of Oakland Ca. and graffiti was an extension of that subculture. There was never point in my life when I said ” Man, I’m really going to get into graffiti!” because at the time, around 94-95, my focus was more on skating and getting fucked up and causing mayhem. Graffiti was just another ingredient in that recipe for me. I never once thought of it as anything more than an immediate act and the instant gratification it provided by being able to finish something quickly. I also was more focused on all the fun new drugs I was consuming so by 17 yrs old I did my first stint in rehab, 2 yrs later I tore my ACL and became hooked on the pain meds. Not being able to skate, learning to walk again etc, pushed me into a depression and eventually an acquaintance introduced me to heroin which lead to a 17 yr battle that separated me from all the things I was passionate about. In the end I found myself no longer keeping a blackbook or painting at all. Finally, the judges gavel came crashing down and in the end I was living in a homeless shelter in Rockford IL. That was 2007. As the process of divorcing myself from that lifestyle began, I started getting back in touch with reality and the things that had provided me joy and meaning, I started getting the itch to create again and the time I spent living on the street had me thinking about peoples access to art and their everyday interactions with it. Eventually I became friends with this dude at an AA meeting who was getting up and doing some pretty rad shit with stencils. We became roommates and as I began painting again he introduced me to the COVERT EMPIRE and TFC cats who were painting. Even though I had completed art school, I had done it in a pretty thick fog of narcotics and lived pretty fringe so social networking and all that was pretty foreign to me but as I started using those services, I ended up chatting with and meeting more and more people who were into the same type of shit I was. Eventually I met CZR PRZ who was AIR crew and we became friends. He introduced me to some of the other dudes who had been down with AIR since back in the day. DES, DAZE, CERO, HEKS, OSHEN just to name a few. I think it was 2011 meeting of styles I got put on AIR with STUK. I also met FEL from Detroit that year and roughly a year later he put me on CF crew. Even though my initial experiences were bombing fucking around with letters, I never labeled myself a graffiti artist. I still don’t. To me, it’s all just different modes of self expression and spray paint is another tool for creating. I’m driven by the internal feelings the process provides and there is nothing like putting up something fast and seeing it ride. Since very early on I’ve been enamored with danger and risk. The current state of technology has really put a kink in the fun factor of the illegal end of graffiti. It’s a double edged sword. While the internet has helped provide exposure and further careers of those who deserve it, and some who don’t, it’s also created a means and incentive for law enforcement to build cases. Note to photographers; STOP GEO TAGGING!
2. How did you get together with your co partner
I met CROP through the Paper Crown Gallery guys. I had become friends with them and done some shows and murals at their studio/gallery. Really solid guys who are very talented artists. I believe CROP and I were in a show there together. I was super stoked on his work so Jay introduced us at the opening. His work has a similar vibe but he also is a traditional Venetian glass blower so he infuses his drawings into the surface of the glass using modern printing techniques, which I thought was a pretty fresh way to blend a classical 3-D art discipline with a modern twist. We both have a very pragmatic, altruistic and communal approach to life so I figured our work would mesh well considering some of his more expressive and repetitive motifs juxtaposed with some of my more tight graphic elements. So far, things are moving great. Our styles compliment each other very well.
3. Why the name bad batch?
As for the name, Bad Batch, I was cooking one night and trying to think of a name to collaborate under that lends itself to the experience of collaborating and how much of a delicate balance the process can be. It’s similar to a recipe where the outcome can vary if not strictly followed but still might taste great and end up being one of those “happy accident” moments. I started comparing that notion to current art trends also and how the labels of “bad” or “good” have worked their way into an arena where that is all a matter of personal perspective. All too often we’ve seen high society kind of dictate those descriptors by who and what they put their money behind leaving the rest of the art world marginalized. Historically, that’s been the case with graffiti. It’s provided a public voice and mode of expression for those of us who came up in the streets running wild, due to it’s accessibility and affordability. I think a lot of those barriers are starting to dissolve but some of the common trappings will always remain. So Bad Batch takes on multiple meanings for me and is somewhat of a play on words since both of us put a lot of intent and purpose behind the pieces we create.
4. As an artist from Rockford where there probably isn’t much inspiration as an artist, how are you inspired?
Rockford is a unique place. It’s the third largest city in Illinois but is still lacking pretty badly as far as any kind of progressive public arts policy or widespread appreciation for it. There is a small pocket of people doing some really great things creatively but there isn’t really enough going down to be able to have a flourishing career as an artist and stay local. I have managed to facilitate and participate in great mural projects and work with some very talented friends and artists but maintaining momentum has been difficult as far as public art and graffiti goes has been difficult because there is no separation in the signage ordinance like in other larger cities. For instance for painting in NYC, LA, Miami, Philly or Chicago it’s always been a show and go situation. Here, the local government goons want you to pay to play or police the content by having the city council approve any legal mural. It’s a very stifling process and creates a fiery debate about property rights and ownership. What is more of a crime? The negligent property owner who let her/his building fall into decline and become a shooting gallery, trap house, bum disco what have you, or the vandal/graf/street artist who adds a little visual flavor? Kind of brings the guillotine to the throat of that old Jim Powers broken windows theory but we all already know these fat fuck bureaucrats don’t care about the blight or the crime rate they care about making money off those miseries and package it as compassion. Living here has been a process of refinement for me. The rents cheap and there are resources for people like me who had become a frozen in time caveman criminal junkie and needed to thaw out. That process and the experiences attached have been very inspiring in and of themselves. My work is driven mostly by the human experience and identity and how the human race digests that idea on a collective and individual level. I use a lot of layering in my process so the work takes on multiple meanings and can mean different things to different people. Ultimately I work with a very “shoot from the hip” kind of approach. Very little is ever really planned because my satisfaction comes from the process and seeing what shakes loose in the moment. That’s why I enjoy the collaborative process. There is a flux in energy and the way the creative process comes about when you’re bouncing ideas off another group of artists. That is the appeal that is produced from working with homies in a crew or being a part of a collective like En Masse. The beauty provided by the free flowing narratives and ideas of many artists fused together visually by one simple rule, black/white only, can be pretty stunning. Those are some of the projects I’ve enjoyed most. Creating for the sake of creating.
5. My favorite question to ask is Does your mom know what you do?
My Mom knows what I do but there has never been any support behind that knowledge. She’s aware I possess an artistic talent but I don’t think she understands there is a career behind it. We are 100% opposites. She’s hardcore religious where I believe all that is a figment of the imagination and a powerful testament to it’s influence over the influential. She’s defined by her associations and needs the comfort provided by their validation. Rocks the “pro-life” bumper sticker and thinks Wal-mart is the best thing to happen since Ronald Reagan. For some reason she is convinced Obama is the anti-christ. It’s really weird but the those stark contrasts are part of the beauty in life and also the ugliness.