Descending the stairs into the Brooklyn basement that is home to the Destroy & Rebuild studio, your senses are immediately assaulted by loud beats and the pungent odor of paint fumes and smoke. Once you’ve acclimatized, you find yourself at the center of a hotbed of activity. The three-man collective that is Destroy & Rebuild is busy putting the final touches on an impressive, large canvas for the Red show at Manhattan’s Cheryl Hazan Gallery and the energy in the room is palpable. Anthony Vasquez washes screens and Mike Baca waves a dryer over a corner of the canvas, while Fernando Romero paces back and forth, spouting suggestions for improving the composition of the piece. I spent an afternoon in the studio with the guys and, contrary to my initial impression, came away firmly convinced that there is definitely a method to their madness.
In late 2005, Anthony founded Destroy & Rebuild after a stint in jail. His friend “By Hand” – now part of the 624713 Art Collective – introduced him to street vending and taught him the finer points of stenciling and silk-screening. Using his archive of graffiti and urban landscape photographs as a primary source, Anthony started working on creating his own screens. While he now has the capacity to burn screens in the studio, in the beginning he relied heavily on the Lower East Side community arts center ABC No Rio. By 2007, Mike had joined Destroy & Rebuild and between the two of them, they had enough material in production to start vending on their own. When Mike ran into some difficulties with the law, Fernando jumped in to help out … and the collective as it exists today was formed.
Spend enough time with Destroy & Rebuild and you’ll quickly realize they are a tight unit. Each canvas is created collaboratively, with each member taking turns adding and blending various elements. Fernando favors the paint brush and is responsible for laying down the colored or textured backdrops that form the foundation of a canvas. Mike contributes graphic elements and specializes in modes of transportation (think box trucks, taxicabs or police cruisers). Anthony concentrates mainly on architectural elements and newspaper collages; he’s also developed a rust patina to age and distress canvases.
When asked what motivates them, Fernando said it best: “It’s about the freshness of each new piece … the excitement of creating something new … and it’s a surprise every time.” Not a day goes past when they’re not painting, he said, and it shows in canvases that have become increasingly more refined. At their vending spot in SoHo, Destroy & Rebuild do a brisk business with their canvases. They sell to young and old, tourists and New Yorkers alike – “Even the Law loves us!” Mike chimes in, clearly amused that SoHo beat cops show an interest in their work.
The city of New York looms large as a defining influence on the work of these three native New Yorkers. Although they make use of some of New York’s many iconic images, that is but one element in their repertoire. Combined with their pride in New York’s graffiti heritage, with each canvas they capture a fleeting yet defining moment of New York at the end of a decade. While gentrification has run rampage in certain parts of New York, we all know that there are still plenty of raw spots to be found. This wild heart is the core of Destroy and Rebuild’s work and it’s powerful enough that it speaks to everyone.
Anthony, Fernando and Mike have big plans for 2010 – watch out, Europe, here they come – and a strong enough work ethic to pull it off. You can find them at the corner of Prince and Greene Thursdays through Sundays or online at http://destroyandrebuildnyc.com/.
Many thanks to the lovely Julie for her hospitality!
Happy Holidays from the Street Spot! Stay tuned for more good things next year…
Whether you are looking for a gift for a loved one or just a little something special for yourself (you know how good you’ve been all year!), Pandemic Gallery is the place to go this evening. Deeker, Royce Bannon, Matt Siren, Keely, Abe Lincoln Jr., Overkill studios (Philly), and Dave Tree (Boston) will be waiting to turn your boring t-shirt, or whatever else you may have, into a work of art.
Not in the mood to shop? There will also be live painting with Morgan Thomas and Thomas Buildmore as well as a group wall for those of you who like to get in on the action.
With the festivities at Pandemic off to an early start, this will leave you plenty of time to swing by the Andy Kessler Memorial Art Show hosted by Volcom at their flagship store on Broadway.
Volcom NYC Presents:
Andy Kessler Memorial Foundation Benefit Art Show
Opening Night: Saturday, December 12th 8PM-Midnight
The legends of graffiti descended upon the streets of SoHo this past Thursday, in celebration of the launch of Piecebook Reloaded: Rare Graffiti Drawings 1985-2005. Co-authors Sasha “SHR” Jenkins and David “Chino” Villorente were on hand to sign books, as were many of the artists featured in the book. Like the first Piecebook, Piecebook Reloaded mimics the actual sketchbooks graffiti artists have drawn in and passed around for years, right down to the marker bleed through between pages. Featured artists include Reas, Doc TC5, Veefer, Revolt, Pure, Abby, Ces, Part, Ket, Cope 2, and more.
Specter continues to impress with his large-scale, hand-painted, one-of-a-kind paste-ups. His work is visually arresting and a welcome break from the increasingly superficial, “branded” street art that has become popular lately. His pieces go beyond being merely beautiful, they make a strong, political statement.
Of this latest series he writes on his website, “I often deal with socially marginalized people and places, an example of this is my ongoing project titled “If I Saw You in Heaven” where I address the issue of homelessness and our apathy towards it by introducing larger than life portraits of these individuals, making their image a celebration of humanity instead of a blight.”
“Another project, “Discarded” also deals with these forgotten elements by highlighting the waste of our society. Large quantities of disposed food items left to rot characterize the excess that interplay with neglected properties, creating a story of the undervalued detritus of our culture.”
This past Saturday marked the opening of the artistic duo Peru Ana Ana Peru’s first solo exhibition “...And Then We Jumped into the Abyss of Numbers: Memories in Absurdity From the Bowels of Peru Ana Ana Peru” at the Brooklynite Gallery. Many people may be familiar with their work on the streets, which mainly consists of boards & wheat paste, but may not have known what else these two are really capable of…until now. The show consists of paintings, sculpture, video, & mixed media installations, as well as a good dose of humor. The crowed was packed from start to finish, so even if you were at the opening, I suggest a trip back to Brooklynite to give their work the attention that it deserves.
While I was in Boston, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Nick Z & Josh Falk of Project SF. Originally intended to be an informal alliance among graffiti writers, Project SF has evolved into a well established & respected international artist collective, whose work can been seen everywhere from album covers to magazines and galleries.
My first stop of the day was to the studio of Josh Falk. Within a few minutes of being around him, it became clear that Josh’s artistic talents are not limited to the walls and canvases that he paints on. He also happens to be an accomplished photographer whose flicks of cityscapes are frequently incorporated into his canvases. He was nice enough to give me some tips & let me play around with his photography equipment for a while, which ended in an impromptu photo shoot.
Josh’s work is currently on display as one of the featured artists at Fourth Wall Projects’ current exhibition, Devastate Your Real Estate
A little later in the evening I stopped by the studio of Nick Z. I had first run into Nick’s work earlier in the day, at the hidden Boston gem that is Bodega, where he currently has a several of his canvases & a full wall mural on display.
Nick’s work has been shown in galleries from Hong Kong to Montreal, but this summer he came back to his home town of Boston for the a solo exhibition, Don’t Hassle Me I’m Local, at Fourth Wall Project. Link here for an interview with Nick on trustboston.com
Nick uses playful, child-like imagery to express deeper feelings of wonder, hope, wants, needs, paranoia, physicality, and love. Like Josh, he employs several different mediums, depending on the project at hand: from spray paint for murals to small scale pen & ink drawings on paper.
It was a real pleasure to meet both of these talented artists and I look forward to seeing more from them and Project SF in the future.