April 21, 2021

New EL MAC prints: 'Rebirth'

New print release this Saturday, April 24th. Purchase info will be posted that day at http://elmac.net

Print details:
Signed, titled, and numbered by the artist.
Hand-pulled screenprints made with master printer Tony Clough at Serio Press in Pasadena, California. Serigraphs printed using two to three colors with five thin layers of clear ink over the linework.
Printed on acid-free, 100% cotton, 330 gsm, Italian-made Revere paper.
39in x 32in paper size (plus natural deckled edge along bottom)
(36in x 28.5in printed area)

There are four different color editions of this print:

edition of 43
split-fountain blend of two shades of dark red over bright vermilion red

"Rebirth II":
edition of 16
black over cream

"Rebirth III"
edition of 16
black over grey

"Rebirth IV":
edition of 12
split fountain blend of two shades of medium red over cream

Artist's statement about the work:
This image is adapted from a large acrylic brushwork on wood panel painting that I worked on at various times from 2013 until 2019, progressing slowly line by line, pattern by pattern. 
When I began the painting it was sort of a symbolist meditation on trauma, and the feeling of being overwhelmed by the misery and pain of this world. A phrase from Erich Fromm stayed with me as I worked on it—"One cannot be deeply responsive to the world without being saddened very often". I worked on the painting periodically over the course of time in between other paintings and murals, while our family saw illnesses, weddings, deaths, and, around the time of this painting's completion, a birth. The feeling behind the image had transformed into something a little bit more hopeful, and eventually Fromm's line was replaced in my mind by another, from John Berger— "And so to find an exit from the darkness". The initial exploration here of the fetal position as a protective response to trauma then came to also be about healing, and of the potential for new beginnings and brighter futures. I put a tremendous amount of care, love, and time towards trying to make this image beautiful, and I hope that might help transmit some sense of rebirth and renewal.

April 15, 2021

New EL MAC mural with AISE BORN in Ohio: "AXIS MUNDI"

This mural is a collaboration with my friend Jacori "AISE BORN" Perry, commissioned for the exterior of the Akron Civic Theatre, painted last year in Akron, Ohio. It was in the works for more than a year, part of a larger downtown revitalization project that includes a number of public art commissions from both local and national artists.
Aise and I visited Akron for a week last July to get a feel for the area, and although limited by Covid restrictions we also photographed people there as possible subjects for the mural. During that first visit we learned of the city's decline from its manufacturing heyday, but were also struck by its vitality, and the diversity and warmth of the people we met. We were also impressed by lushness of the surrounding nature, with all the giant trees, water, and greenery everywhere. (We even found ourselves experiencing some childlike excitement about seeing fireflies for the first time—so much so they were included as a motif in the background.) We visited local parks, churches, museums, cemeteries, and landmarks such as the John Brown House, all in search of inspiration and a sense of the local history and culture. Aise and myself, having both become fathers fairly recently, felt that imagery celebrating youthful purity and potential would be appropriate for this setting. We photographed a number of people, including a now four year-old girl named Laila that we randomly came across as she was with her parents playing with sticks and rocks at a local park. She ended up being the model for the figure of the girl in this mural, while the boy on the right side was modeled after my own toddler son, Max.
This mural's title, 'Axis Mundi', is an ancient Latin term for “axis of the world”—a point where heaven and earth meet. Akron is named after the Greek word for “summit” as it is located at a slightly higher elevation than surrounding areas. The mural is roughly eight stories high, and situated a couple stories directly over the Ohio & Erie Canal, a massive engineering work from the early 1800s that connected Akron with Lake Erie. Nearly the entire mural is suspended high above flowing water, in an impressive public space unlike any I've ever painted before. 
We began painting in late September and worked day and night on the mural for about two months. I was excited and proud to involve and collaborate with my younger crewmate AISE on this—I think this is some of the best public work he's had the opportunity to create so far. During a year characterized by division and fear, of COVID-19 social isolation and racial injustice protests, this mural project was a chance for us to create something positive and beautiful, something that hopefully conveys friendship, mutuality, and youthful innocence. It really felt like we were doing something special and important, channeling a little bit of celestial divinity onto this old brick wall in Ohio. Of course it's impossible to make public art that everyone will connect with or appreciate, but I know we put a massive amount of love and soul into this work and it's bound to retain and transmit at least some of that. I hope that this mural of these two children at play with the cosmos might offer some lasting light, hope, and inspiration.

Many thanks to everyone who helped make this project possible—my wife and son, AISE and his family, Howard Parr and the team at the Akron Civic Theatre, special thanks to Rick and Alita Rogers, extra thanks to Liz Gage, Courtney Cable, Curated Storefront, my brother HOXXOH, Louis Jensen, Matt Jennings, The Akron Civic Theatre Board of Trustees and the 'Staging The Future' capital campaign committee, the Akron Community Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the GAR Foundation, Laila, Monte Vales and Andrea Smith, as well as all the other families who allowed us to photograph them, LAND Studio, Janus Small, Mike Screwes, The Urban League, John Fiume, January Paint & Wallpaper, Mac Love, Beers, Mustard Seed Market, and all the other people of Akron and Ohio who showed support or kindness.

September 29, 2020

New EL MAC prints: 'Sun and Clouds'

It's already been a year since the last one—finally a new print release this Saturday, October 3rd. Purchase info will be posted that day at http://elmac.net

Print details:

"Sun and Clouds" (gray)
Relief print, hand-pulled, edition of 60
Signed, titled and numbered by the artist.
Four-pull relief print from photopolymer and reduction linocut with split fountain blend roll, on archival French-made Johannot paper, with natural deckled edge along bottom.
Printed by master printer Brent Bond at Santo Press in Phoenix, Arizona, using a 1961 Vandercook printing press.
14 3/4" x 19" paper size
(11 5/8" x 15 1/2" printed area)

"Sun and Clouds II" (blue)
Relief print, hand-pulled, edition of 20
Signed, titled and numbered by the artist.
Two-pull relief print from photopolymer and reduction linocut, on archival German-made Hahnemühle Copperplate paper.
Printed by master printer Brent Bond at Santo Press in Phoenix, Arizona, using a 1961 Vandercook printing press.
14 3/4" x 19" paper size
(11 5/8" x 15 1/2" printed area)

Artist's statement about the work:
This print edition was adapted from a 2019 drawing of my son when he was not quite a year old. The drawing was inspired by his radiance– that special radiance found in small children that glows with love and joy, and can part the clouds in the sky. Leonard Cohen wrote that "as our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armor themselves against wonder"– a fundamental part of being an artist is having and maintaining some sense of wonderment at the world around us. Enchantment with the world helps give us purpose and helps keep that best, childlike, part of us alive. Maintenance of this light and wonder can carry us through dark days and serve as a beacon or spark for others.
This image hopefully carries along, in some small way, a little bit of that light.

“Clearly this music doesn’t sound too much like what’s going on today—war, riots, the stock market getting busted up. And the reason it doesn’t, I realized, is that I’m optimistic. I believe in hope and peace and love. It’s not that I’m blind to what’s going on, but I feel this music is a forward look into what could be a bright future. The philosophy represented in this number, and to a large extent in the album as a whole, is child-like. But not childish. By that I mean there are certain elements of childhood we lose and wish we could have back—purity, spontaneity. When they do return to us, we're at our best. So what I'm telling the world is: 'Speak like a child. Think and feel in terms of hope and the possibilities of making ourselves less impure.' “
-Herbie Hancock, 1968
(Liner notes for “Speak Like a Child”)

August 2, 2020

New mural in Tucson: 'Desert Soul'

Painted this mural at the beginning of the year in downtown Tucson, Arizona, in the heart of the Sonoran Desert. The figure is holding a Saguaro blossom, and is based on my wife. The mural is on the outside of Cobra Arcade Tucson, commissioned by its owner Ariel Bracamonte–my compadre and one of the best people I know.
Tucson has been a special place for me ever since my first visit as a little kid when I caught a sunrise with my parents at Mission San Xavier Del Bac–the same place where I would eventually marry my wife and baptize our son decades later.
In the late 90s and early 00s I painted some murals with NG crew in downtown Tucson including behind the old Chicago Music Store. I remember there was a mural downtown from the early 90s by visiting NYC graffiti OG's Futura, Lady Pink, Lee, Stash, and Chico collaborating with locals Fyce, Such and Tackz, which symbolized to me back then just how hip this sleepy, dusty desert city was.
I associate Tucson with a certain warm spirit of love and creativity, a tranquil Sonoran vitality, and I hope this mural can capture or transmit some of that desert soul.
Thanks to Ari + the Bracamonte family, and the Cobra Tucson crew for helping make this mural possible, thanks to Kim + Máximo for putting up with me, and thanks to the good people of Tucson.
(Photos 2, 3, 4: Fernando kAZual)

May 18, 2020

New EL MAC murals in Miami: 'A Love Supreme (Wynwood Saints)'

These are my first murals in Miami since 2009, and some of the largest and most visible in Wynwood. They're a permanent public art work commissioned by the Related Group through Primary Projects for the Wynwood 25 building (next to Wynwood Walls and the Museum of Graffiti). They were created with thousands of spray cans, no painting assistance, and months of long, hot, often rainy or windy nights from dusk until dawn, high up on a swing stage. Every line and pattern that these figures are composed of was spraypainted with the hope that together they might transmit to the viewer some of the love and soul that went into them.

Returning to Miami for this project was a pretty big deal after having last painted murals in Wynwood with Retna during Art Basel in 2007, 2008, and 2009 as part of Primary Flight. I was very proud of those murals but, after seeing how saturated the area was becoming with what was starting to be labeled "street art", it seemed time for a break. Ten years passed and then this opportunity came along to paint some of the best and most visible walls of my career in this place that had, for better or worse, become a world famous epicenter for public art. I was a little hesitant to take on such a massive task around the same time I was becoming a father, but I couldn't say no to such an epic platform. Although there were already a number of art spaces in the Wynwood area when I first painted there in 2007, it was still mostly a blue collar, working class area so I was blown away to see how much had changed. I take my responsibility to the communities I make art for seriously and approach every project with conscientiousness, especially so with this project considering the scale, location and context. I wanted to paint something representative of this place, its history, and its people, while conveying strength, dignity, balance, solidarity, and love. To begin, through the assistance of some local friends and contacts including YoungArts, I met and photographed a number of awesome local young folks for references. I eventually ended up painting three: the figure to the left was modeled by a young woman named Mandolina who helps run a nearby community garden, the figure in the middle was modeled by a young ballet dancer named Jamaii, while the figure on the right was modeled by a local Seminole boy named Kyle. While the paintings do carry the likenesses of those three, they've also been generalized in such a way as to resemble many other young people as well. These figures might be seen as either imploring or offering, funereal or uplifting, mournful or hopeful. If nothing else, they portray monumental, everyday saints—prayerful, resilient, and representative of upliftment, beauty, and loving kindness.

I faced a great deal of stress and difficulties working on this project, including delays that sometimes lasted for weeks due to lift equipment problems, unexpected expenses, persistent rain, heat, and wind, and worst of all long periods of separation from my infant son during his first year of life. There were many challenges, but for the most part I was able to maintain my patience, focus, and joy in my work. I’m thankful for the opportunity, and extremely proud of this project and the tremendous amount of energy, persistence, and sacrifice that went into it.
I strongly feel that the creation of art can be, at its best, a spiritual vocation, a means of responding to the world in service of truth, beauty, and goodness. The artist can be, in the words of John Coltrane, a force which is truly for good. Another great jazz musician, Mary Lou Williams, famously said that she was praying with her fingers when she played, and I approach the act of painting in a similar way—I hope the prayerfulness that went into the creation of these murals shows through in the results.

Many thanks to the teams at Related Group + Primary Projects for helping make this possible. Thanks to mis amores Kim + Máximo, and my right hand man Eric Heights, for hanging in there... Further thanks + shouts to el mero mero JP Pérez, Patti, J. Yormak, East End Capital, Cristina, Books, Sheila, Tamz, Hoxxoh, Veny Zorrilla, Jessica Goldman, Troy Kelley + Wynwood Walls, Mandolina, Jamaii, Kyle, Evan + Chadoe Grant, Breeze, Louis Coupal, Dejha Carrington + YoungArts, Reggie O'Neal, Axel Void, Alexis Diaz, Reinier Gamboa + Linda, Alan Ket + the Museum of Graffiti, Carlos Mare, Rage Johnson, Atomik, Komik, Typoe, MSG, TCP, InkHeads, Dos Alas, Futura, Muta, Odobo, Michael Vasquez, Jason Joshua + Mango Hill Records, the buena gente at La Fama Cafeteria, Los Bobos, and Zak the Baker, Squirrely Fleetwood, Joseph Treaster, Rose Cromwell, and any others I'm forgetting here.. Much love to all the artists and supporters of art in the great city of Miami. Respectful remembrance of Ray Brown, RIP

"What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory... Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloody landscape."
-Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers (1965)