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Artist Interview: Joe Iurato & Red Bull’s Flying Bach Jan. 6-8 Washington DC

January 4, 2017
7 min read
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Classic meets Breakdance?  The show Red Bull Flying Bach visualizes & revives J.S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier with piano, harpsichord & electronic beats.  Now imagine this with the four-time breakdance world champions Flying Steps doing their thing on stage surrounded by life size stenciled cut-outs designed by New Jersey based street artist Joe Iurato.  In a nutshell this is what is going on in Washington D.C. January 6-8 at The Warner Theater.

 Joe Iurato has been a friend of mine for a couple years now who I have even been lucky enough to release a photo print of one of his street pieces I took together.  There are many street artists painting around NYC & NJ but Joe’s work is particularly recognizable.  His pieces of his kids stenciled in blacks, grays, and white are “simple” but at the same time complex when seen in their natural environment, the streets.  So when Red Bull contacted me to interview him about a new project, I was happy to oblige.  Here is a preview of a new performance coming to DC January 6th, featuring the music of Bach, break dancers, and street art all mutated into what potentially could be a real game changer.

Joe, tell us a bit about what you’re doing for the show.

Red Bull reached out to me over the summer and proposed a collab in support of Flying Bach’s upcoming Washington, D.C. performance. Breakdancing has had its influence in my life, and like all things that mean something to me, it often creeps into my work. So it just seemed like an idyllic gig to work on.  There are two parts to the project: the first part happened a few weeks ago, when I installed 15 small wood cutouts of break dancers in public areas around D.C.. And the second part happens Friday night, when I install life-sized versions of the cutouts in the theater for the audience to interact with and enjoy.

And a quick background about yourself and your process in general?

I work primarily with stencils. I prefer to do things thing in an archaic, old-fashioned, completely inefficient way. I cut everything by hand, and I work directly from unaltered black and white photos. Basically, I sit and draw with a knife. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. But I’m afraid if I try to become technologically stencil-savvy, I’ll lose the aesthetic that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. As for the works, I like to create pieces of all sizes, but about 5 years ago I took a step back in scale and began to focus on small painted wood cutouts. The idea was to create intimacy, play with perspective, and utilize a broader surrounding to tell stories. I also wanted to be able to roam freely with my art and not be limited to flat surfaces for placements. There’s just so much potential.

You’ve said these pieces tend to disappear quickly. Can you hang them high in out of reach places maybe?

Yes, but I choose not to. I want the public to be able to interact with them and be able to view them up close and be able to play with that perspective. It’s more important to me that they are experienced properly than their longevity. Of course, I’d love them to ride for a while, but I can’t compromise their purpose to make that happen.

What makes this an idyllic project for you to work on? 

The reason why this project is particularly special to me is that you will see a lot of dancers in my own personal works. That’s because I often recreate these flash moments of life and things that make who I am.  One of my earliest recollections of finding something I truly loved to do besides drawing was breakdancing. So when Red Bull approached me about this, it was a no brainer. The whole thing seemed very organic and in-line with what I already do.

Fitting any images of your kids in any of the pieces?

Ha!  No, not this time but they’ll be at the opening with me and my wife.

Have your kids followed in your b-boy footsteps at all?

No, at least not yet, and maybe it’s because my days of breakdancing are long gone. The influence isn’t really there. But it seems they have a built-in appreciation for it. Anytime they see breakers, whether on TV or in person, they’re in awe. And it’ll usually just leads to a lot of flopping around on the floor. This will be the first time seeing a performance like this, though…and who knows…

Or maybe they will want to learn how to play the Clavier after…?

Right, exactly. They will want piano lessons instead of Adidas Superstars. And that’d be fine, too.

So random question how did you end up on Logan Hick’s Bowery Wall mural twice?

Haha…you noticed that. Well, I guess it doesn’t hurt that Logan’s one of my closest friends. That’s an amazing piece, isn’t it?  It basically tells the story of his life and features a lot of the people who are closest to him. It was such an honor to be included in that. But yeah, I appear walking alongside fellow stencil artists Chris Stain and C215. And then I’m in it again with my wife and kids.

Anyway, back to the project at hand…It kinda reminds me of the NY Ballet installations Faile & JR did.

Yeah, I can see that. That’s a big compliment – thanks!

So what is going to happen to the public pieces after the performance?

I really don’t know. Hopefully they live on for a while, but like I said I can’t predict.

All Photo’s & Text Copyright 2016 Matthew A. Eller.  Follow me on Instagram @ellerlawfirm

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