Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Eye SH Interview Part 2

(Read part 1 of the interview with Eye One)
Part 2 of the GraffHead with Eye One from the Seeking Heaven Crew. Eye One has been responsible for bringing us the Los Angeles based graffiti magazine Lost.

8. Many artists have gotten arrested because they are featured in videos on Youtube making it easy for the Police to find them. This has recently occurred to two Los Angeles based graffiti artists. What are your thoughts about graffiti videos showing illegal work being done?

I think writers need to weigh self-preservation against the possible gains (recognition, market value, etc.) they might get from that type of exposure. Some writers might feel the risk is worth it if it increases their marketability as outlaw artists. Others will choose to keep their projects on the down-low. It has to be a calculated risk for those doing it.

9. Your work was recently featured in the 01 Gallery Soft Opening exhibit as well Pen at Work Tradition. Do you have any future shows planned?

I have a few shows coming up. I'm curating a show called Lost Mid City at 33Third in November that will feature some of the artists highlighted in the current issue of Lost, and a show in December called On Deck at Tradition featuring work on skateboards by graff and non-graff related artists.
Eye Modem Swank
Eye Modem Swank

I also have a piece in a group show opening in October at the CPOP Gallery in Detroit that's part of an Art Tour travelling through the US. After that, the exhibit will travel to Art Basel in Miami. Swank - Character Detail
Swank - Character Detail

10. How did you get into graffiti?

I grew up surrounded by art in my family, so I've always been into creative things. The first real push to try my hand at graffiti came after watching Beat Street. Even though now I know it was basically fake, at the time it seemed like the most awesome way to paint cartoons and letters. I filled my notebooks, scratch paper, and whatever else I could get my hands on with cheesy letters spelling my name and clich├ęs like "Break!" or "Wild Funk!"

After that I started paying attention to work I saw on the streets, especially stuff by the MAK crew -Neo and Mandoe- and Krenz (now Yem.) A production on Alvarado Blvd. near my house that MAK never finished and a piece by Krenz my friends and I would see on our way to school pushed me over the edge. One of my friends, Gloze 54 OTR, was already doing characters with markers around his house, so we teamed up and decided to find a can and go paint in the river, enlisting our other partner Modem SH in the process.
Yem AM7 from the pages of Lost
Yem AM7 from the pages of Lost

11. Who were your influences?

Influential in me starting were Mandoe and Neo MAK, Krenz/Yem Am7, and my two friends Gloze 54 OTR and Modem SH. In school I met Gamer OTR who showed me the first homemade marker I had ever seen. Kujo aka K984 C2D gave me my first skinny aka Testor tip.

Everyone in Seeking Heaven has been a major influence: Panic, Precise, Acme, Bash, Dcline, Swank, Asylm, Ware, Size, Pride, Relic, Kozem, Odin. In fact, Odin aka Cloud 9 was one of the very first people to support my itch to make a graffiti 'zine, hooking me up through Modem with photocopies of lots of flicks.
Seeking Heaven - Asylm, Acme, Quest, Kozem, Precise, Size, Bash, Eyer, Modem
Seeking Heaven - Asylm, Acme, Quest, Kozem, Precise, Size, Bash, Eyer, Modem

I must single out Tempt as a mentor and influence, not only in graffiti but in life. Tempt has pushed me to analize letterforms, document as much as I can, and write about my life experiences. Him and Relic offered me one of my first opportunities to work with a graffiti magazine, Big Time, and provided a space for Lost in it.

It's hard to pinpoint specific influences from the work of others, but L.A. writers whose work I admire include Cab, Mosh, Volt, Cache, Crae, Crime, Prime, Defer, Skill, Nuke, Kofie, Skypage, Atlas, Haeler, Fishe, 7Dee, Bonks, Fuct, Augor, Sherm, Ween, Lyfer, Kopye, Jel, Craola, Axis...
Seeking Heaven Norwalk 2007
Seeking Heaven Norwalk 2007

Damn there are so many, I can go on and on! Hex and Slick definitely inspired me with their insane productions. Keyn 7th Letter, Lyte THC and Drast CBS were a definite influence; they practically brought me back from semi-retirement. Crews whose work I dig: LOD, OTR, K2S, STN, CBS, K4P, MAK, KTL, BAMC... again, pretty much the entire alphabet soup that makes up our scene.

A sampling of writers outside of L.A. whose work I find inspiring include: Der, Suede, Joroe, Dondi, Jon 156, Futura, Fame City, Twist, East, Emit, Kemer, Joker, Totem2, Ouija, the Ma'claim crew, Herakut, Blitz out of Spain, the early works of Os Gemeos, Peque and Ashes from Mexico, Bates, ECB, Dare, Reso, Mode 2, Totem, Daim, Toast, Askew, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera,to quote a Smiths song.

12. Lost is a beautifully put together magazine/book. Why did you go with a non-traditional look versus that usual glossy magazine that everyone else uses?

I've always been into publications that offer something different in style and in substance. I aim to make a unique publication, not to disrespect to traditional glossy mags, which I also like, but as a way to present this art form in a different way. I see Lost as a hybrid format, somewhere between a 'zine and a book, and that allows me a lot of room to experiment.
From the pages of Lost
From the pages of Lost

13. You have a master's degree. Do you know other graffiti artists with advanced degrees? Does it affect your view of graffiti?

I know many writers that have endured our educational system through the Masters and PhD levels. Obviously I'm not going to put anyone on blast; suffice it to say that media portrayals and stereotypes about graffiti writers are completely wrong.

The fact I have a MFA makes me appreciate and value what I have learned through graffiti that much more. Academia always lags far behind from what is really going on in the world. Graffiti taught me much more about art, graphic design, photography, typography, composition, architecture, history, etc. than school ever did.

That said, however, I would encourage everyone to stay in school and pursue whatever level of education they want to. The system doesn't want us in their institutions, so the more we infiltrate, the more we can re-shape the educational system into an actual instrument of learning and teaching.
Eye, Cache, Jorger East Los Angeles 2008
Eye, Cache, Jorger East Los Angeles 2008

14. The media likes to confuse graffiti with gangs and gang violence. The public views graffiti artists as criminals. What are your thoughts?

I think your use of the word "confuse" is perfect: the media and certain segments of the public are greatly confused. Look at recent news: the financial institutions of the nation robbed people blind and get rewarded with billions. How we as a society define "criminality" is very schizophrenic.

We call a person responsible for hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis a great leader and a teenager who writes a name on a dirty, smog-covered grey concrete wall a criminal.
Eye, Cache 2008
Eye, Cache 2008

A recent study found that 4,000 billboards in L.A. are placed there illegally. The authorities turn a blind eye, because, surprise, surprise, the advertising agencies fund the campaigns of many a politician. We are so bombarded by advertising that we accept it at face value and don't question its messages, let alone their legality.

Our public schools don't encourage critical thinking or analysis. Arts funding is minimal at best. Spaces for free untethered expression are practically non-existent. Art is not a high societal priority, so it follows that society as a whole would hold art in low esteem, especially non-sanctioned art like graffiti.

The whole gang issue is definitely prevalent in L.A., and also a convenient scapegoat and excuse to not address issues such as the lack of affordable housing, adequate employment, equal access to education, etc.

Instead of prioritizing incarceration and punishment, society needs to foster creative opportunities and encouragement for youth. Positivity brings positive change: fund school art programs, stop militarizing our schools, question and challenge the negative portrayals of graffiti in the media. Those are some of the things we can do to change the public perception of graffiti as a negative thing.
Eye, Codak, Jeva, Werc Huntington Park 2008
Eye, Codak, Jeva, Werc Huntington Park 2008

Eye SH Interview Part 1
GraffHead.com Lost Review
Eye SH Website
Lost Official Website
Lost Sample Pages (PDF)

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