Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An Interview with Rahmaan Statik: Aerosol Supremacy

Statik Interview: Aerosol Supremacy, April 19, 2013, Howard Street Art Gallery

Statik's new show, Aerosol Supremacy opened April 19th at Howard Street Art Gallery. Statik was gracious enough to let me do an on the scene interview about his show, his artistic philosophy, and his hopes for the future.

C: Can you first tell me a little about how this show came about, and what you were thinking on as you put it together?

S: What I was thinking on? The title of the show is called “Aerosol Supremacy.” The reason why it is called “Aerosol Supremacy” is that I have done many a show in the city of Chicago which actually mixed in my spray painting pieces with my oil painting pieces. And the perception that I would get from people was that my spray painting pieces were not authentic art, or were not art enough, were just graffiti, so I wanted to pay homage to doing a show of just all spray paint and graffiti influenced pieces because within the city of Chicago audience it kind of gets downplayed. But everywhere else, on an international art circuit, it has more recognition as an actual art form which Chicago’s perception of it is very conservative perception of art. So I wanted to do something that paid homage to graffiti art being an alternative art, and to the actual Chicago gallery scene. So therefore Howard Street Gallery, they are selling spray paint out here, for one, with the theme of it being a spraypaint related show and solely sticking with  that. Each piece in here focuses on a lot of different aspects of our philosophy on life and reality. Some pieces pay homage to indigenous culture, religion, some pieces are pop art and pop culture, other pieces are just for pure practice of aerosol art and can control.

C: Which pieces demonstrate just pure practice? Pure aerosol art?

S: I’m going to say that long piece in the middle, the portraits are more aerosol art, even the pop art pieces are celebrating pure aerosol art, meaning, how small can you actually paint, and how technical can you actually [be with using] a spray can. I’m kind of a can control zealot if you will. I am a fan of doing pieces that are all done with spray paint and actually showing that more of it actually being its own art medium and art form and that should actually be recognized. It is recognized everywhere else in the world. And Chicago being  world class city it is kind of downplayed here. So as an artist I want to take the personal initiative to kind of set that record straight. Yeah.

C: Did you see a lot of gallery folks coming here, or is it more on the radar of folks who are already involved in the graff scene?

S: Yeah, underground. Its underground, and I knew that was going to be the case as the artist that I am. I sell pieces to me peers and people that follow graffiti art, and follow street art, I am a part of that movement, and I didn’t make my start in any galleries, I made my start on the street and doing art on the street, so I would kind of like to go back to that. That and my next show is going to be the opposite of this, its going to be all oil paintings, I’m kind of testing the waters to see what happens and what response I get back from doing separate venues and exhibitions and separating the mediums and bodies of work. What we see now is that this is the underground show, and the oil paint show may be the more popular, mainstream show where I actually have to wear a suit and shave up for it, right. This one, kind of not the case. And art work here is priced totally different[ly]. The whole angle is that I respect people who acknowledge the work that I do on the street because that is where I got my start, and this is me kind of bringing that street art flavor into the gallery.

C: I’m going to ask you a couple of questions about style. So I’ve been watching your style for 7 years; its super photo realism, it seems like it is playing off of a lot of the Italian masters, but you’ve also been traveling a lot in the last decade or so. In what ways do you think your work is influenced by travel? And have you had any other influences over the last 10 years?

S: My work has been tremendously influenced by my travels. Because I specifically travel to meet other artists that I follow and that I look up to. And the point of going to these different places I’ve seen a new standard, or a standard that is not as prevalent in the city of Chicago. I met artists that made me step my game up, if you will, made me be a bit more ambitious about improving my work and making better work. And that happened when I went to San Diego, New York City, Atlanta, Georgia. And in every city that I’ve been in, city for city, I’ve met different cliques of artists. I’ve seen and met and worked with some of their top artists and seen the difference in individuals’ work ethics and seen the parallels that the results of a good work ethic will get you as an artist.  And it all comes down to hard work and a good work ethic to produce good pieces, and there is no half stepping with that. Lets just say that the artists that I met in san Diego and California introduced me to painting small. To doing spray paint pieces small and the actual artistry of aerosol art. I’ve seen that a lot in California and in the artists that I painted with in California, and I totally respect them for that. In New York it was almost the same team but more aggressive graffiti art, given that that is where graffiti started at-

C: So a bombing style?

S: Yeah, bombing, and the technical part of that. So I feed off of both perspectives mixed in with a high art standard of painting. I understand the graffiti standard, and I understand the overall standard of art, and at this point I am working out the overall standard of art meaning that I respect what a lot of other graffiti artists do, and I am quite influenced by that, but I understand the thing that makes their art good is that they are influenced by other art [that is] not [only] graffiti. Which is the difference. And most people call that ‘biting,’ but I call it influence, the art world’s influence, and the art world it is more of influence is the term, rather than bitin’, I am influenced by a little bit of everyone’s work right there, good and bad, but the bottom line is that  that traveling, I’m planning on doing more traveling, way more.

C: Where do you want to go?

S: Europe. I’ve traveled in California, everywhere but Los Angeles…between Europe and LA. I’ve done a lot of work on the East Coast, in the Bronx

C: Yeah you were just about to go to the Bronx last time I talked to you

S: Yeah, I was just about to make that mission out there. But those missions changed [me] and gave [me] a lot of perspective about how and why I am actually producing this type of work and the realistic standards to produce it off of. At least for my peers I would like to influence them with what I’ve seen, which is a higher standard of painting with a spray can. The actual Chicago traditional standard. There is a global standard that people paint with. And the more I travel the more I see how deep that global standard goes, and I learn more new stuff about the actual art form. I’m not going to sit up here and say I am a master- well, I am a master of can control- but I am not going to say I am the best. There are a lot of good artists out there that I look up to, and its actually good to have other people to look up to. It shows that the game is that big.  Your genre is that big, especially if the genre doesn’t stop at me. If it did stop at me its really small. As far as other outside influences, yeah, I want to try to get to Europe though, within a year, and try and get some painting done.

C: So what’s your favorite piece in the show?

S: Probably the spray paint cap piece or the Graffro piece, yeah.

C: What about them do you like?

S: Well the spray cap piece there is a lot of history behind that it’s the past 15 years of caps I’ve been collecting from walls that I have been doing. And that piece sat for almost a year with just the women on it but I didn’t know what to do with the background. And I thought it would be a funny juxtaposition to pair up the used caps with the image of the pile of women. So its more about the juxtaposition than more of anything.

C: What about the graffro piece?

S: Its been an ongoing series

C: Yeah ther is one at the silver room

S: Yeah, at the silver room, I’ve been painting that concept for the last three or four years I was influenced by the Film Noir posters and the movie Hair and the afro and the text in it- so the concept came from that I though it would be funny to mix in actual graffiti letters up in the piece. To kind of do a modern day spinoff on that concept.

C: What role for you do the women play in your pieces? You often have these beautiful, usually black women with really awesome hair.

S: Like a muse. I am married, have a mom, sister, it has a lot to do with the ongoing relationship I have with the women in my life, which is all positive for the most part. That’s why you don’t see me doing any thing degrading towards women, if any thing its more empowerment if you will. And its more of a softer edge to my work, besides me coming through with pieces criticizing the government, anarchy and so forth.

C: How many anarchy/government criticism pieces would you identify here?

S: That one [pointing at oscar the grouch/v for vendetta piece], the one above it,  what else do we have…that one with the mushrooms is actually about drugs called A Mushroom Cult,

C:Whats the story?

S: I’ve been reading studies about how people actually experience that, and it changes their personality for the rest of their life but for the better. It makes indivudals do more objective thinking in their life, and plus, I like how ancient shamans would actually use mushrooms to fortell the future and give insight to a lot of things. So its more of a side trip I was going off on that one. The two pieces down there are called Life Styles of the Poor and Dangerous, Part 1 and 2 right there. Its more about—the bottom one is the characters within a graffiti writer /anarchist lifestyle: you have the anonymous mask the von bode character, its like the graffiti character, oscar the grouch is actually the weed man, its actually a pot reference, belive it or not, and the pig is actually a cop.
The one above it, almost the same thing but we have the fighter Kent Kimball Trice [spelling?], McGruff the crime dog, Megatron, Petey o Beron [spelling?] and Marilyn Monroe: so its like internet culture, good guy versus bad guy aesthetic but stuff that is very popular right now but underground popular.

C: Its interesting that you talked about shamanism because I read this article about the Underbelly project that took place in new york, you know, took over the tunnels, and some guy described graffiti writers as being the shamaans of the underworld.

S: Essentially it is. Especially if you see art with an open mind, you can see it as a persn’s name, or you could feel it as the expression of colors and forms. Most common people respect the color and form, and lets just say that the city needs that considering that most public space is privatized and bombarded with privately ownded images meant to promote and sell bad products. Whereas graffiti is more like grass roots marketing, marketing done by one person with no budget. But you have a brand and you are your brand. As opposed to pepsi. Its mostly an international corporation and you have tens of thousands of people under the one brand. Between a multinational corporation versus one guy, in his bedroom, with a bunch of markers. That is a big difference right there.
C: Is that how you resolve the tension between having to make a living and brand yourself to survive, with the idealistic?

S: Correct. That’s how I came to terms with even still painting. I just had to understand that I don’t have a marketing crew or a street team so I’ve gotta do it myself. I gotta come through and paint my way out it, paint to prove my point.

C: Is there anything else you want to say about the show that you want people to know?

S: This show is meant to set the standard for aerosol art in Chicago. And let the world know that the city of Chicago has a standard for can control. I am Rahmaan Statik, and I am actually the artist that is trying to pioneer that and bring the Chicago standard of can control to the forefront and let the world know that there are good artists in the city. That and I would like to influence other artists, other graffiti writers, painters, to do more art and paint. Less talking, more art. Less criticizing, more art. I would hope to influence people to do more art whether they would like to compete against me, just to do something to liberate their minds. Either way, that’s good to me. I would rather see people doing art than buying cheap products from shopping malls and stuff like that. Doing art for yourself, it’ll save your life, keep you out of trouble, and help you make better, more objective decisions, thinking of the world around you. It helps you observe the world around you with a much freer mind from an artistic point of view. You view the world  trying to find the beauty in it first, rather than everything that is wrong with it. Through an artistic objective standpoint. [For example], you as a journalist, you can’t come through and make arguments you are doing interviews from an objective standpoint, and then maybe you add your point of view onto it. My whole thing is, yeah, I’m influenced by seeing people make art, and long term I hope to make renaissance in Chicago, in the city, in the Midwest, and abroad. At this point the world needs a renaissance of art to compete with the consumerism. We need a renaissance in art that combats the oversaturation of consumerism. That brings people back into buying original, hand made products versus buying stuff made off of the assembly line. That is the difference. So it goes deeper than something being made in America. It goes back to something being made in your kitchen, or made in your own back yard. Or your own bedroom. That’s the bigger difference. So the [goal] of the show is to set the standard for can control and let the city of Chicago know that spray can art is real art and its to be taken serious[ly].

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