Category Archives: interviews

Classic LONGOLAND Interview

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Longoland introduces a world that borders on being habitable and inhospitable. Furniture morphs into monsters. A mythology of creatures assembled in felt and fabric sit aloof with smiles juxtaposed with fangs. Longoland is the brain child of Pratt Graduate Joshua Burbis. You’ve seen Longoland creatures in High Fructose and Play Magazine.

Interview originally done by Dasco for OUR ART SITE DOT COM in 2007.

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First of all, what is a Longo?

“It was a name given to my Italian relatives as they got off the boat. It is also a creature that takes the shape of common objects in my bedroom. It teases and convinces me of realities that once where, never was, and possibly could be in the form waking dreams and the occasional night terror”

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Where are your characters derived from? Do the creatures personify something larger, a message or culture?

“The characters are physical expressions of tim tam who ha that mush around my brain. Relationships with animals. Sketching like crazy. Drawing everyday. I usually make a character over and over before I release it into the wild. I like to think I am making a huge social or cultural impact with my art, but I haven’t seen a difference yet. I Like to think I am aware of things that people are not always aware of. I like to capture those commonly missed situations or things and represent them. Although I have moments where I think I should try to do something more obvious to help out our civilization, but I always come to the conclusion that if you love what you do, then it will help people on a conscious and subconscious level.”

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What materials do you use?

“Fake fur, wool, cashmeres, felt, polymer based clays, found objects,
reclaimed fabrics.”

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I find your installations to be very beautiful. What influences you to create a world that is habitable yet dream like?

“Habitable, maybe, dream like……It is more like a cleaner version of my apartment.”

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What are your opinions on Pratt? Do you have any advice for young artists looking to attend art school?

“Pratt was great for me… I have a degree in industrial design. Commercial design work pays for my artwork. I am proud I have earned everything I have gotten through hard work. Pratt has its strengths and its failures. You don’t need college to “succeed.” I needed the structure.”

Do you have a particularly favorite artist in Brooklyn? Are there any other artists elsewhere that you are watching closely right now?

There are so many, Brendan Monroes sculpture, John Casey, Colin Kilian, Robert Wilson, Calatrava, Lee Bontecou, Phillip Glass, folk
art, art that focuses on the craft, everyday I see someone new doing incredible work, the internet is dangerous.

Have you noticed any trends in Brooklyn art lately? How about at Pratt?

“The art scene seems to be dominated by pop culture and doing collaborations with Nike. I would like a little less corporation and
more social commentary in my art scene soup.”

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I feel you are very successful for your age. I think your achievements are admirable. Do you have any advice for emerging artists?

“Thanks for the compliments. “Success” is a dangerous thing. If you mean I have gotten some recognition and sold a few pieces, then yes. My personal “success” goal is for my art to pay my bills, which is far from reality. Don’t give up. Don’t expect anything to be given to you, ever. Contact everyone about shows, advice, money, grants constantly and expect maybe one person out of a hundred to email you back with anything even remotely positive. Anyone who made a difference in your life or could in the future, get there contact info and send them a nice email. Get outside and talk to people. Identify your shortcomings and challenge them. Put yourself in a potentially “dangerous” situation every once and a while. Don’t worry, it will work out, not how you expect it to, but it will. Find people that love you and surround yourself with them.”

Learn more about Longoland!

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Classic NUNCA Interview (Part II)

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Being that you are immersed in such a huge city, and graffiti is so public, do you make your art as a sense of identity? Do you feel that you are begging for the attention of the public, or are you simply making the walls more beautiful as people walk by?

“I believe one of the unique hearted things I can do is expressing myself through art, if anyone says it’s pretty or ugly, it doesn’t concern me, but the fact I live in São Paulo makes me think how lucky I am.

Sometimes I think I live in a Paradise although the prefect of the town doesn’t credit graffiti as an art form and has been erasing a lot of works in the streets.”

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You have recently exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo. What is your opinion of the art scene there?

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“The invitation for the Projeto Parede of MAM came after a collective exhibition I did in Galery Fortes Vilaça in São Paulo, and after one of the curators of the Museum spotted some of my works in the streets. The art Scenario in São Paulo, has been more open, step by step, and a small market has been developing around the artists that don’t have any academic studies, like the case of graffiti writers.

I believe that only with time the quality of each artist is going to tell that: “… You can kill yourself in that scenario!””

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How did the castle project come about? Where is the castle located?

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“The idea came from the children of Lord Glasgow (David and Alice Boyle), they searched for artists that combined a strong visual identity with influences of Brazilian popular culture and also a particular view of the Universe portrayed in the artists paintings. After seeing my work as well as from other artists, in books or the internet, they were very keen… in this project with us.

And it was great for all of the artists there, because we knew each other and we knew how each other worked as well.

I strongly believe this was one of the most satisfying works I have ever done, basically, participating in a completely different experience from the projects I had done before.

Developing this work with other artists, meeting amazing persons with very interesting family background, apart from the experience of living with them and creating for about a month in a beautiful nature setting, eventually inspired the creative process.”

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What artists in Brazil are you watching closely right now?

“Glauber Rocha , Darcy Ribeiro , Helio Oiticica , Luiz Sacilotto, Ligia Clark.”

When you are not making art, where do you find yourself?

Sleeping, eating or destroying something.

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Lastly, shout outs? What can we look forward to seeing from you during the rest of the year?

I have an exhibition for next October in Paris, on Magda Danysz’s gallery and in the meantime I’m still painting in the streets and at home.”…

Learn more about Nunca here and here

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Classic NUNCA Interview (Part I)

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Brazilian street artist Nunca addresses the effect of globalization on a society caught between exporting its culture and embracing foreign products. Blunt expressions are engraved into the walls of Brazil, doused in paint and branded with the logo of Naique (NIKE). His characters are frozen in a struggle to maintain the authentic culture of Brazil while adapting to an influx of foreign goods on the global market.

You’ll recognize Nunca from numerous publications. He was an essential part of the book Graffiti Brasil released in 2005. Nunca most recently was invited to exhibit at the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art. Additionally, he was commissioned this year to cover the entire exterior of a Scottish castle with friends Os Gêmeos and Nina. We’re happy to have him here.

This interview was translated by Inês Amaro in Portugal. Originally published on Our Art Site Dot Com in 2007 by Dasco. A copy of this interview in Portuguese may be made available upon request.

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How long have you been doing graffiti?

“I started painting in the streets more or less about 12 years ago.”

About how many murals have you done?

“I don’t remember.”

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Your characters appear very indigenous. Latin America , specifically Brazil boasts many ethnicities. Is there a statement being made in the portrayal of your characters? Is it political?

“When I go out to paint on the street, I’m picturing the people that live there, it’s for them.
Who in Brazil isn’t of a mixed breed? And even so I can say I’m black, white or Indian, why not?
I believe because of the mixing breeds, Brazil is culturally rich, but we don’t value that cultural richness, we don’t respect ourselves, we don’t try to improve our self-esteem.

The images I use of Indians are a way to depict that this rich culture lives within each Brazilian, but the foreign exploitation in the country, diminishes Brazil’s self-esteem.

An Indian in the city either chooses to maintain its roots or to use NAIQUE (Nike)’s sneakers.

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The Knowledge of Indigenous people with its unique way to see the world is rooted in the Brazilian culture, as well as its natural resources in the Amazon forest.

I always try to politicize my work, with subjects that can be about cannibals, the ravishing exportation of Brazilian fruit, of Indigenous culture, the forgery of labels, but the focus of my interventions questions how the traditional culture mixes, maintains or loses itself to globalization.”

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Bayeté Ross Smith: Laws of Attraction (Part IV)

After discussing what attracts him to an individual, Bayeté Ross Smith goes onto to explain what happens when the space those individuals inhabit becomes the focus. As our interview concludes, Bayeté shares that it is the similarities found in the various identities and aspects of the world that he truly finds inspiring. Bayeté Ross Smith truly knows how to seek out, hone in, and capture every day phenomenon.

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With “Portraits of Vacancy”, which is still a working title, I was interested in making portraits of people and communities, devoid of the actual people. What captivated me about the various empty spaces were color, shapes, light and texture, foremost. I was approaching making photographs, by attempting to apply many of the aesthetics that painters use. However the objects and accoutrements were also a key element. I was moved by what these objects added to the story of these spaces and these people. In some cases these objects are clothing, bottles or tools. In other cases they are decorations that adorn the space. In other situations it is writing on a wall or some other symbol within the space. What drives these images are the beauty of the spaces combined with the objects and symbols, however the objects and symbols are suppose to engage the viewer in a subtle way.

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People are fascinating because they are so dynamic. You hear this all the time, but it is actually true. There are certain basic attributes and behavior most people and cultures have in common, that are just expressed in somewhat different ways. Sense of humor is always a common thread with people. The specifics may differ a little, but it seems that there are always certain things illicit a humorous response. Regardless of their culture or background, people want to laugh. What I am most drawn to in my traveling are the ways people do similar things differently. I am also drawn to cultural appropriation; what aspects of other cultures people appropriate and re-interpret for their own use. An example of this was in Spain, in Catalonia, they have a festival every summer called Fiesta Mejor, which is celebration of Catalonian identity. They had parades fireworks and a variety of celebratory events. One of the things that stood out for me was they had these troops of drummers who performed in the parades and at the various events, and their style of drumming was this Brasilian, South American style of drumming. It definitely wasn’t Spanish. I had never heard of the drum playing that significant a role in the culture of that part of Europe. So it was fascinating to me that a particular percussion style, had somehow become such an integral aspect of this Spanish, Catalonian celebration.

The similarities between the various peoples of the world is an important part of my inspiration. It further proves that identity, while so important to how we see the world and how we choose to interact with other human beings, is quite fluid and arbitrary. But that is part of what makes like so dynamic and interesting. The proverbial “fun of the game” if you will.

Learn more about Bayeté Ross Smith.
Make sure to check out parts one through three leading up to this conclusion of our interview. part one and part two
part three

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Bayeté Ross Smith: Laws of Attraction (Part III)

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In continuing with our conversation about the conditions that attract an artist to his subject Bayeté Ross Smith sheds light on his process. In Bayeté’s concentration “Taking AIM” for example, once the subject has been found, Bayeté begins to draw socio political lines determining for instance, how the subject fits into a society that has so many various, contradictory takes on violence. And what better way to do this than to print a target over the person’s portrait and fire at it with a real gun? 

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“The images with the targets are from a series called Taking AIM. With this work I am interested in that fine line that exists between acceptable, condoned and recreational violence, and deplorable criminalized violence. This dichotomy exists through out popular culture, from Hip Hop to action movies, to sports like boxing, mixed martial arts and football. It also exists through out history, in terms of what wars, massacres and assassinations are considered just, and who is considered a tyrant. Finally it exists in the news and in current events, in terms of what types of violence gets reported and how it is contextualized. What was most compelling for me here was putting an easily recognizable human face on the targets and the shooting them. I researched shooting range targets and realized that most of them, do not resemble actual people, even though when you practice shooting you are practicing to be able to kill a person. There is no scoring on shooting range targets for shots that wound. The primary scoring is for kill shots. Even the targets that do resemble human beings are images that portray caricatures from a “Cops and Robbers” scenario, and don’t look like someone you might know. When I created these images I wanted them to look like people we all might know, from various demographics. Therefore I used images of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds and dressed them in clothing ranging from casual to formal. I also wanted them to have a similar look, so that none of them stood out more than any of the others aside from how the viewer may feel about them. Finally I shot them with different guns, naming the pieces after the specific guns they were shot with.”

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Learn more about Bayeté Ross Smith.
Check in tomorrow for the conclusion of this interview.
Peep part one and part two in the meantime.

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Bayeté Ross Smith: Laws of Attraction (Part II)

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“Wether Playin’ Ball or Coolin in The Hall or Just Writing My Name in Graffiti On The Wall”

Prom students are no longer prom students once they have been photographed by Bayeté. Post photograph the kids are immediate personifications of their own desires as they emerge into adulthood as survivors, or warriors, in a rite of passage that is mundane from the perspective of adulthood, but nonetheless a grand celebration in the mind of many kids departing school. In part two of our conversation Bayeté Ross Smith discusses his interest in documenting American High School students in transition.

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Here Come The Girls

“With the prom images, I am interested in the prom as a rite of passage and how the prom portrait fits into the historical tradition of portraiture, commemorating important people and events. I am examining the expression of identity, at a moment that can be seen as the start of adulthood. Visually I am drawn to students who are expressive, in terms of their outfits and poses. With some of them it is a certain vibe they give off when you are in their presence. Though what I am drawn to visually fluctuates between the very unique to the very common. I am primarily drawn to the creative, self expressive outfits, but also to those outfits with a specific cultural reference. For example, for several years Zoot Suites and hats were really popular in northern california. When I photographed students in this attire, I was drawn to the re-appropriation of 30’s and 40’s iconography with a contemporary Hip Hop twist placed on it. There was another photo from last year’s proms of a girl who appeared to be first generation, Indian or Pakistani. All her friends had on these short, tight little dresses, while her dress was more modest, with Black tights on to cover her legs and a shawl to cover her bare shoulders. She actually returned to the dinning area before the picture to retrieve the shall before being photographed. So how different communities incorporate themselves into this ritual, and express their cultural identities fascinates me as well.

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“Thizzle”

One time I had a this east asian couple tell me they were going to imitate Japanese tourists in their photo. So with this series it becomes a combination of poses and outfits, and also how the kids interact with each other, whether they are in couples or larger groups. I am always drawn to the outfits that match each other or go together in some way and any special symbols or adornments the students have that are unique. All of these things point to who they feel they are, at this point in their lives and how they want to commemorate that in this moment. On a side note, I have become fascinated with the fact that these students are portraying adult archetypes with their prom outfits and poses. So on some level this is what they think adults are and what adults do and they are attempting to live that out to the best of their ability.”

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Learn more about Bayeté Ross Smith.
Stay tuned this week to catch the remainder of this interview.
Peep part one in the meantime.

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Bayeté Ross Smith: Laws of Attraction

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“Tahira at Gleasons”

Boasting a portfolio that spans the globe, Bayeté Ross Smith has gradually documented the subtle niches or the world, bringing to light the profound in what most of us take for granite. As Bayeté sets his scope on a figure, the person is no longer just a female boxer or a prom student, they are living beings faced with passing moments. Photographs of abandoned rooms are about the negative space, the abandonment of bodies and the replacement of air, rather than the furniture and décor. It is because of the artist’s knack for exploiting phenomena in mundanity that I was tempted to ask for his formula. What is it that attracts him to an object? What catches his eye? Here is part one of our conversation.

“It is hard to say what attracts me to an individual subject or scene. It is usually a combination of the story a scene tells; the information in the scene, in combination with the aesthetic. Color, range of tones, light, and shapes etc. In terms of the concepts related to my subject matter, much of my work deals with identity and how it affects human interaction. With the female boxers I was intrigued by women who fight; who participate in a very male dominated, testosterone filled environment. Women who participate in overt violence, which most of the times is shuned by females in our society, yet still retain many aspects of their femininity. The individuals and the scenes that point to this, are what grab my attention. The combination of masculine attributes with a touch of femininity, the interaction between them and their male counter parts as well as the similarities and contrasts between them and male boxers.”

Learn more about Bayeté Ross Smith.
Stay tuned this week to catch the remainder of this interview.

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