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New York City

During a brief break between the snow and cold of this brutal NY winter, Brooklyn based painter Rostarr braved a scant, sketchy scissor lift to adorn the recently installed scaffolding around Ace Hotel New York. 

My name is Romon Yang also know as Rostarr, I am a painter & calligrapher and I live and work in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. I was born in South Korea and moved with my family to Washington D.C. in 1972, I arrived in New York City in 1989 to attend the School of Visual Arts and have called NY home ever since.

Standing outside the whole day watching you paint the mural was pretty great. People crowded around and asked a lot of questions about you, who you are, where you’re from, but the number one question was, “is it some ancient Arabic script?” Tell us about the forms, your inspirations, how this style came about.

My approach to calligraphy is abstract & gestural, similar to asemic writing, and often times iconographic and pictogram like. As a young boy up until art school where I studied Typography and Iconography design, I’ve always appreciated the beauty and forms of calligraphy from China, Korea, Tibet, Thailand and Arabic calligraphic masters, and similarly my appreciation of hand styles by graffiti writers such as Phase II, Rammellzee, Futura, Keith Haring, etc., it was a natural transition for me to go from abstract painting to abstract calligraphy and vice versa. I will forever be a student of the brush & pen.    

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Everyone was amazed at how quickly you worked, you did half of the scaffolding in one day. You don’t appear to make mistakes either, it’s crazy. You’re clearly a pro at this, how long have you been doing this kind of work, these kinds of murals? 

Yeah, it’s a bit crazy to think that I painted a 4 foot high x 350 foot wide mural in 2 days (to be exact 10 hours, but who’s counting). I’ve been very fortunate to have been invited to make murals and large installations of various types, indoors/outdoors since 1998, around the time I joined the NY art collective Barnstormers. Making public art is giving love, plain and simple.

What inspires you, excites you, puts you your totally chill and creative zone?

I find the most pleasure in the moment of painting where I get in the zone and start laying my lines and shapes down, almost like building a visual sculpture. I get inspired by visualizing a location or wall and its surroundings and try to solve the problem with what style will make the right impact. 

With this painting commission for Ace Hotel, speed was an important factor as I wanted this mural to convey the energy and flow of commuters passing by 29th street & Broadway, similar to the way a computer motherboard looks with routes, destinations and intersections.

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Seems like one of the benefits to being a successful artist such as yourself, is that you get to do some traveling. Where’s you’re favorite place you’ve travelled to and what made it special?

I feel so lucky to have travelled a lot for my art, some of my favorite places have been: Tokyo, Paris, London, Venice, L.A., Mexico, Puerto Rico and especially Seoul Korea. Being that I left Korea when I was just 1 years old, Seoul holds a special place in my heart and is a place that I’m so curious about getting to know better, in a short amount of time I’ve met so many talented individuals and good friends out there, Seoul is definitely the place to watch out for!

As with any scaffolding in NYC, Rostarr’s work could be up for 3 months or 2 years. We recommend checking it out soon if you don’t want to miss it: 29th & B’way.

Photos by Lauren Coleman. 


New York City

Last week wrapped up the final chapter in 24BY36, an ongoing experiment in art creation within the walls of Ace New York. For the project, 36 solo and duo artists spent the night with the purpose of producing 24 original works by morning. Love letters, collages, manifestos, musical partitions — we’ve been greatly amazed by the fruit of those twenty-four nights. The following snapshots are just an early glimpse into the collection of work and we’re already feeling inspired for the next edition.

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NOWORK

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FCKNLZ

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ARIEL DILL

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PATRICK HIGGINS

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ADAM DUGAS + CASEY SPOONER


INTERVIEW : SHEPARD FAIREY 
Shepard Fairey is an old friend, and one of the first artists to plaster the walls at Ace Hotel Seattle with their work. You know his name, your grandmother knows his name (probably), but we wanted to catch up with the dude, not the legend. Above you’ll find a spread from Gingko Press's OBEY: Supply & Demand depicting Shepard wheatpasting a mural in Downtown LA with the United Artists Theater — our new Los Angeles coat hook — in the background. Below you’ll find a few choice words from the artist himself, sans posse.
How are you, Shepard?
Good, just staying busy making crap — adding to the abundance of visual pollution we all struggle with daily.
Likewise. You’ve said that Obey stickers have always been an invitation to question and look for meaning, but aren’t intended to convey an implicit message. The Walrus’ Nick Mount wrote that, “Obey Giant is clever child of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art.” What relationship do you see between disruptive, ironic and humorous street art, and the Dadas who rejected prescribed narratives and embraced irrationality and trickterism to disrupt the dominance of state propaganda? Did you get all that?
Yeah, yeah I did. The project started off with a really silly sticker of Andre the Giant. That was something where I made an inside joke with some skateboard friends. What fascinated me and made it turn into a bigger project was the way that it became like a Rorschach test — in the Dada sense of throwing something out there that seemed like it had any number of interpretations. None of it was explicit. Who’s the Posse? Andre the Giant’s dead, who cares? It sort of invited people project onto it. In that sense the project’s always had a Dada side to it.
I’ve also connected it to various other things — Heidegger’s Theory of Phenomenology, which is the idea that people become so numb to their surroundings that they need novel encounters to reawaken a sense of wonder. It’s also like Situationism — the idea that people are dulled by routine. They need a bizarre spectacle to snap them out of their trance. I always liked those ideas.
The idea of a command to ‘obey’ but with nothing specific that they’re told to obey really seemed to irritate a lot of people. Some people understood that it was ironic. It really meant to question in an overt way how you’ve been asked to obey in a covert way or in an insidious way. All of that, the open-endedness, I thought would maybe get in there and fester a little bit.

Shepard’s 2010 installation on temporary plywood scaffolding in front of Ace Hotel New York.
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Recently a piece by Banksy in a working class neighborhood in London was actually chiseled out of the wall of a convenience store and sold at auction here in the U.S. A diverse cross-section of the neighborhood came forward to demand that the piece be returned and Banksy himself kind of broke character and went semi-public to support them. As an artist who has a family, who needs to pay for health insurance and generally make a living for yourself using your creative skills, what do you make of this relationship between street art, money, career and the art world? How does politics play into it? And what about the communities where these pieces live? Does the community have ownership?
It’s all very complicated. Some people say [street art] is all about vandalism and self-promotion. Other people see it as an altruistic gesture democratizing art. I choose to look at it that way.
The name of my book about my twenty-plus year career in art is Supply & Demand. My body of work as a case study illuminates a lot about supply and demand in a literal monetary sense and a cultural currency sense — the arc of how things go overground and take hold. A darker side of our society is that at the moment something can be commodified, somebody will commodify it. You can either understand that and try to make the best of it or you can pretend like you’re not part of it and probably be on the losing end. There’s always the question of when it’s worth saying, “I will turn down the money.” Those are always difficult choices people have to make.
When I see a Banksy on the street I think it’s a gift to the public. I’d rather it stay there. On the other hand, Banksy’s work is worth quite a bit of money. A lot of that has come from the cache of him stealing space. I’m not surprised that people want to steal the work and sell it. I would rather the Banksy piece be out there. He stole the space and they stole the piece, but I don’t look at it in the same way as I’d look at it if someone broke into your house and took the painting off the wall.
As a creative person you’ve been through some tribulations in the battles over image use. What do you think of the work of JR who uses the actual images of individuals without photo release? His work is pretty incredible and clearly has a radical intent. As an artist that’s now being commissioned and shown in galleries how weird is ownership in that context? Where does that usage get blurry?
I mean, I always think it’s great…if all the parties are happy with the situation, but at the same time art’s always been about making strong pictures and not about bureaucracy. A lot of times it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. I see JR’s work as altruistic. I don’t think he’s in it for the money. He may make some money. It may be a by-product of the merit of what he does, but I don’t think he’s going out there trying to find people who he can photograph that are going to be easy to commodify.
One of the things that makes me sad about our society is people love the idea of being involved in something creative until they see somebody else get some benefit.
I work from historical imagery because of various issues I’ve had with the AP. I shoot a lot of my own photographs too. A lot of times this sort of raw material that’s available in our world, whether you’re photographing it or drawing from it, is seen as not having any value until a specific person runs it through their skill set and their vision and then it becomes valuable. For someone to then say that it wasn’t about that person’s abilities I think is wrong.

An Obey piece survives as the gateway to an illicit cat den of sin on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.
Yeah, this theme has been taken up in hip hop and DJing a little right?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve always been a huge fan hip hop fan. Regardless of how much I respect James Brown or Parliament, I think that what Public Enemy did with their samples has equal and distinct merit. I’d buy Public Enemy records and I’d buy James Brown and Parliament records. It’s a win-win.
Definitely a win-win. Do you have a hero? In the art world, politics, music or your personal life…
Joe Strummer is probably my biggest hero. I think he was compassionate toward people’s struggles and really tried to represent that in his lyrics and the way he lived his life. Figuring out how to convey humanity through your art form while still being a badass and entertaining people and not sounding like some sort of hippy-dippy wuss is a real challenge. I think he did it really well. That’s my role model.

INTERVIEW : SHEPARD FAIREY 

Shepard Fairey is an old friend, and one of the first artists to plaster the walls at Ace Hotel Seattle with their work. You know his name, your grandmother knows his name (probably), but we wanted to catch up with the dude, not the legend. Above you’ll find a spread from Gingko Press's OBEY: Supply & Demand depicting Shepard wheatpasting a mural in Downtown LA with the United Artists Theater — our new Los Angeles coat hook — in the background. Below you’ll find a few choice words from the artist himself, sans posse.

How are you, Shepard?

Good, just staying busy making crap — adding to the abundance of visual pollution we all struggle with daily.

Likewise. You’ve said that Obey stickers have always been an invitation to question and look for meaning, but aren’t intended to convey an implicit message. The Walrus’ Nick Mount wrote that, “Obey Giant is clever child of Duchamp, ironic conceptual art.” What relationship do you see between disruptive, ironic and humorous street art, and the Dadas who rejected prescribed narratives and embraced irrationality and trickterism to disrupt the dominance of state propaganda? Did you get all that?

Yeah, yeah I did. The project started off with a really silly sticker of Andre the Giant. That was something where I made an inside joke with some skateboard friends. What fascinated me and made it turn into a bigger project was the way that it became like a Rorschach test — in the Dada sense of throwing something out there that seemed like it had any number of interpretations. None of it was explicit. Who’s the Posse? Andre the Giant’s dead, who cares? It sort of invited people project onto it. In that sense the project’s always had a Dada side to it.

I’ve also connected it to various other things — Heidegger’s Theory of Phenomenology, which is the idea that people become so numb to their surroundings that they need novel encounters to reawaken a sense of wonder. It’s also like Situationism — the idea that people are dulled by routine. They need a bizarre spectacle to snap them out of their trance. I always liked those ideas.

The idea of a command to ‘obey’ but with nothing specific that they’re told to obey really seemed to irritate a lot of people. Some people understood that it was ironic. It really meant to question in an overt way how you’ve been asked to obey in a covert way or in an insidious way. All of that, the open-endedness, I thought would maybe get in there and fester a little bit.

image

Shepard’s 2010 installation on temporary plywood scaffolding in front of Ace Hotel New York.

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We’re a loyal crew, and we’ll be disciples of the Big Apple til our last breath. This is our favorite city on earth, and we just can’t seem to stop writing its name all over our notebooks with hearts and arrows. The Midtown Tote is a slightly more subtle version of that. It will serve you well (and tastefully) to and from the farmer’s market, the laundromat, the park, the beach and the river. In black with white script, and natural with black script — now on our online shop.

We’re a loyal crew, and we’ll be disciples of the Big Apple til our last breath. This is our favorite city on earth, and we just can’t seem to stop writing its name all over our notebooks with hearts and arrows. The Midtown Tote is a slightly more subtle version of that. It will serve you well (and tastefully) to and from the farmer’s market, the laundromat, the park, the beach and the river. In black with white script, and natural with black script — now on our online shop.


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