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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. 


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