This Friday is a very important day for our friends and partners over at Robots Will Kill, with the opening of their show Never Say Die at the Vincent Michael Gallery in Philadelphia. Not only with this be the first time that every member has shown their work together, but it is also celebrating the 10th anniversary of Robots Will Kill. Over the weekend I took the ferry out to their hometown of Staten Island to get a preview of the work for the show and to ask Chris & Veng a few questions.
On Friday, April 1st, you will be having a show at the Vincent Michael Gallery celebrating the 10th anniversary of Robots Will Kill. Can you tell us about how RWK got started and it has changed over the years?
Chris: In 2000 I had become friends with Kevin and we would speak about graffiti, art and other common interests. I had told him that I was tired of galleries not taking things like graffiti and street art serious. I also at the time wanted to launch a website showcasing my artwork. One night while we were talking we agreed that it would be great to give others the opportunity to show their work also. So we started to lay out the site. We had the graffiti/street art section the mini gallery section, merch section and some others. I always thought it was great that some kid in Australia could see someones work from New York and vice versa. So in March of 2001 we launched the site. It was slow in the beginning but def started to pick up speed quick. The images started to really pour in. We couldn’t keep up with doing the uploading ourselves so Kevin developed a great anonymous self upload feature. So over the years there’s def been improvements but the main ideal is still there.
We always looked towards different outlets for exposure. One being stickers. I’m a huge fan of stickers. So it kind of went hand in hand. Another was the murals. Murals always grab peoples attention. It was a great way to mix the two things, doing artwork and helping get the name out there. I didn’t want anyone just hooking it up on walls. I wanted it to be kept to a core group of artists.
Chris, as a founding member of RWK, what does making it to the ten year mark and having this show mean to you?
Chris: The ten year mark was a dream when we first started. I remember when me and Kevin launched we were so excited to see 13 visitors to the site. Before we knew it the visitor numbers kept rising and more and more graff images came in and more artists wanted to have mini galleries on the site. We were so excited when we hit the 5 year mark but didn’t really plan anything for it. With the 10 year mark we had to do some special plans. The Vincent Michael show is the start. Its definitely a great one too. Its the first time all 7 of us will be showing together. In July we will all be showing again but this time in the Ayden Gallery in Vancouver, Canada. There will also be some limited edition shirts, stickers and other goodies.
One of the best things about doing a show to celebrate the anniversary is when the site started it was about giving artists a place to show their work. Especially artists that were overlooked by the mainstream world.
Veng, how did you become involved with RWK and how long have you been a member?
Veng: Since we all started on Staten Island, we ended up knowing and painting with the same people. After painting with other RWK members and already knowing them as friends it was around 2004 I was asked to write RWK.
Most people who are familiar with RWK probably know the two of you, but may be surprised to learn that there are several other members: Kevin, ECB, Peeta, Flying Fortress, and JesseRobot. Can you share a little information about the rest of the crew?
Veng: I had known of both ECB and Peeta’s work for some time, but we didn’t meet until 2006 at a graffiti event I helped organize called Meeting Of Styles. We all painted a wall together and found that our styles, methods, and personalities really meshed well together. It felt like we had already painted thousands of walls, even though this was our first. It was then that I thought it would be great to have them join RWK. Both ECB and Peeta are very proficient in what they paint, ECB with strong character paintings and also extreme talent with type (a squared font he uses to sign walls) which he paints freehand and I still love to watch after all these years. Peetas talent with seamless blending of light and shadow to make you feel as if his letters are jumping off the wall, leaving me amazed still. Both guys have become great friends and people in my life who I feel very fortunate to know.
Chris: Kevin was there from the start. He helped me get everything together and moving. He came from a graffiti background and we had so many things in common. When we spoke about the idea of the site he sounded just as excited as I was so I knew it would work. In the past few years he broke out his paint brushes and cans. He does primarily stencil work with free painting mixed in.
JesseRobot reached out to me around 2002 saying how much he loved the site and would love to have a mini gallery and do a link exchange. I loved his robots and his style so I asked him if he would wanna trade some artwork and do some collab pieces. We would mail each other cardboard since it was cheap and held up better then paper. We also traded and collabed on a ton of stickers. He would put them up all over Belgium. He really helped get them name out to an area of the world that I would never go to. A few years later when RWK took on more of an art collective identity I asked JesseRobot if he would be intrested in pushing RWK.
Around 2003 I had traded some stickers with Flying Fortress and that started a steady relationship with him. We swaped tshirts and some small collab cardboard pieces. I loved his work from the first time I saw it. The teddy troops are such a great iconographic image. His name also created a great visual in your head. A few years later I received an email from him saying he was coming to New York and asked if I had a spot for him to paint. After that every time he came to NY we made sure he had a spot to paint. During a visit in 2009 I asked Fortress if he would like to push RWK.
Do you have any final words that you would like to share with the fans and patrons that have supported you over the years?
Veng: I am very happy this has become what it is, a vehicle for me to promote art and create art with my best friends. Most importantly my deepest thanks to all who have supported RWK over the years.
Chris: I still believe in what I said when we started this 10 years ago, “you wouldn’t give us a space… so we built one”. Sure there’s other sites and galleries out there, but you’ve stuck by us and for that I say thank you.