Studio Visit: Mare139
A little while back we stopped over at 12oz blogger Mare139’s studio in Brooklyn to see what he’s been up to. The studio was full of so many interesting pieces, past and present, we could have spent days studying and admiring his work. We decided that everyone needed to get a little peak at the studio, and what better way than a interview. So enjoy the photos and knowledge that Mare139 drops on us.
Being around trains and putting work on metal, it makes sense that you are designing the metal to form graffiti now. But since your origins on paper and trains in the 70’s and 80’s how did you begin sculpting with metals?
Sculpting graffiti letters grew out of two central issues with me, the first being that during the early 80s we were making the transition from trains to galleries and I saw that my peers started to delineate from traditional graffiti aesthetic- Wild Style in particular so I took that as an afront to the culture and I saw an opportunity to respond by creating sculpture in full scale letters using traditional Wild Style and spray paint. To me when I realized this potential in 1985 I saw deeper into the aesthetics of this language, that we were in fact eluding to 3-D space since the 70’s, wether by using drop shadows, 3Ds or arrows piercing letters. I should also point out that when I was a student at the High School of Art and Design I was a fashion design major and I was exploring constructed shapes on forms, this was in 1983 so it was somehow already in my psyche.
Did you have to step away from the traditional form of graffiti (the physical drawing, markers, paint..) for a time to focus on learning metal work?
The learning curve was easy since I had an innate sense for style and structural form. I gained this from all the years of practice and study on trains. I also correlated other theories into the work associated with the physical aggression of BBoying and Rap and music as well. Putting all the elements together I was able to transition my expression into the work fluidly . Technically I had to learn structural welding so when I dropped out of Parsons School of Design I went to a trade school called Apex Tech and studied how to weld and it was there that I quickly abandoned the rather predictable translation of traditional graffiti into a more modernist graffiti language.
In your studio you’ve got lots of paint and drawings..do you ever find time to get pieces on walls?
I rarely paint on walls, once a year if that. I recently painted with my boy HAZE at Art Basel in Miami which was fun and allowed me to reconnect to the community in the collective spirit that was going on. I personally dont like spray paint as a medium for myself though I admire those that have the skills to use it.
How did the opportunity come about to do the BET award?
BET was a client of mine for web development and when they came to my office and saw the “I” sculpture I made back in 86′ they were taken by the intersecting stars and asked if I was interested in designing the award, I said yes on the spot and told them I knew exactly what it would look like and so I set up a meeting and presented it to them with the 3 simple keywords that defined its look and meaning- Aspire-Ascend-Achieve. Its on its 11th year and still one of my proudest and most celebrated works. There is an in depth interview here.
You were talking about doing sculptures people could walk around, how far off is that realization?
Well I have been close to being granted funds for a large public work several times but the economics are extraordinary, we are talking up to $300,000.00 to produce one so you can imagine what one needs to do in order to realize this. I did execute a large but reasonable work that had an amazing public affect, it was in Germany and it was placed illegally in a park. This was the first time I saw actual physical interaction with my work from both adults and children. Subsequently I had to steal my work back because there were warnings of it being removed. More on this here.
Has anyone approached you to do a project of that size yet?
Yes every year I try in association with various community groups. Its likely to happen sometime in my life for sure.
I like the fact that the BBoy drawings have symbols which represent feet, hands, direction. How long have the drawings been evolving?
The BBoy drawings were realized in 2005 but were a constant discussion over the many years I spent with my friends, Pop Master Fabel, Mr. Wiggles, Ken Swift, Crazy Legs and others, I have always had an open dialog with BBoys and was an unofficial BBoy that could not rock with them but understood the language very well. I never liked the interpretation of the dancers since it was always cartoonish and didnt represent the intellect and power of the dancers.
Distilling the body and movements to grand gestures and simple iconography helped me get closer to something I loved but could not do or interpret in a formal manor this is why I kept it to the very simple and elegant style that it is. By defining the head, hands and feet it leaves one to explore all the other more complex movements in the drawing, it challenges you to find the transitional moments and physical gestures. Some of the most powerful ones are the most simple, the ones that elude to rather than build up.
And are you done with the drawings or still making them?
I am always working on these drawings and have even converted them into sculpture. I am exploring painting with this concept which is no easy task since there are so many possibilities. It evolves as rapidly as the dance form does so for me it is and endless resource of inspiration.
I noticed you are studio mates with Lenny (Futura)…how long have you two known each other now?
Ive Known Futura since 1980 I believe, I met him when I was an artist in the Sam Esess collective, he also painted with my brother Kel First. Lenny is enigmatic, elusive but ever present since he has managed to do some unique things in his career, more importantly the Break train which is to me once of the most influential trains ever painted since it gave us permission perse to break from the traditional format on trains. Sharing a studio has been good for us I think, Im not sure its affect has surfaced yet but it will as we are constantly trying new things. Fab 5 Fred is also a studio mate too, given all this heritage is in one room is unique. We all manage to work on different schedules which is good and leaves an element of surprise when we step back in to see whats been produced. I say Ive been conservative in the studio but Futura is amazingly prolific when he hits the layup.
How is it working with another artist?
Like I mentioned sharing a space is great since it affords me an opportunity to study a painter like Futura, we dont work collaboratively yet but I believe some of the exploratory work will rub off on eachother in some form. We dont get heady about art speak perse which is not in our relationship, I think we let the work speak to that and so I exercise that brain muscle elsewhere and return to the layup to experiment.
What’s next for you?
I have done many shows this year and feel its time to step back and work on the larger scale ambitions for my sculptures so that means more grant writing more study and flushing out new directions in my works both in painting and drawings as well. I am also continuing with my Art advocay and Scholar in Residency at NYU to promote the discourse of our art and the values of leading a fully expressive life. I feel that education has become a calling for me and a natural path to bring my history and work to others that maybe want to persue the arts in their lives.