Brooklyn based street art duo ASVP have been a staple in the New York City street art scene for almost a decade now. Known for their iconic imagery and attention to detail ASVP have reinvented themselves many times over the years. The duo is once again preparing to unveil a completely new and larger scale body of work featuring pop culture characters. ASVP invited me into their studio to chat with them about their old work, their process, influences, and a surprise pop-up show featuring test prints, one-offs, and imagery that has never before been seen or available to the public.
All right, so why don’t you guys quickly tell me or the people out there who you are?
We are ASVP, a two-person art team working out of Bushwick Brooklyn.
How would you describe your style?
It’s kind of a mixture of graphic illustration containing elements from advertising, pop and comic book culture.
How long you guys been at it?
Almost 8 years now.
What does ASVP stand for? Where does the name come form?
We decided from early on that it does not mean anything in particular, it’s more supposed to function just as a symbol. Not something with a literal meaning.
Okay. You just get to change it to be whenever you want to represent whenever you want?
Yes, that’s one way to look at it, it’s meant to be open to interpretation.
How did you guys meet?
We used to work together in an advertising agency.
In New York?
Yes. That’s how we first kind of crossed paths and they kind of diverged and came back at some point again, and again, so we decided to go for it and make art together.
Was the first thing you guys wanted to do street art? Or was it graphic design? Or did it all fall in to place and kinda just happen?
No, we definitely were motivated from the beginning to create things and put them out there on the streets, to share with the public. That was always part of the plan.
You guys wanted to be a street art duo from the beginning or–?
We wanted to make art and put it out there publicly, so yes.
And you guys used to do a lot of or a less “legal” work in the past?
Yeah… We did a significant amount of pastings that were not legal, all across the country, as well as throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa.
So you got to tour like rock stars for a bit?
Yeah, something like that.
I mean, I met you guys for the first time when you were painting for the LoMan festival a couple of years ago. That was a super cool little project and then you guys did the Quin hotel with DK. How did that all come together?
Well, LoMan came together because of Wayne of the LISA Project. He, at an earlier time set us up to paint on a door, and he came back to us for the LoMan festival, so we already had a bit of a relationship with him and those guys were great and that was a really fun project actually. The Quinn we were actually introduced to them through a curator at the Quinn Darron Johnston through a collector who’s been purchasing our work for years.
It’s funny because that night at The Quinn everyone’s was in their nice outfits, then you walk in wearing overalls covered in paint.
Ha! We were dressed like that because we literally left our studio and went straight to the show. We were working on pieces in the studio up to about an hour before the exhibition started! [laughter] A part of me feels like it was too close. It happened because we were ambitious. As always we wanted to do our best, exceed expectations.
In that series, you are kind of pulled yourself back a little bit from so much color and so much busyness to make really simple kind of pieces. It was based off of luck, right?
Yeah, the theme of the show was, “Make Your Own Luck” so there were these symbols that are kind of associated with luck usually in the earlier stages of life. So it’s a little bit of a nostalgic look at things like rabbits feet, wishbones, and I still really like the idea because there is something valuable in that kind of thinking when you’re young right? It engenders creativity, imagination, and creative thinking. It was a little bit inspired by some of those things and yeah, as far as the simplicity of the work we had several different rough sketches of how we were going to approach creating pieces, and so they were actually busier versions as well as simpler versions.
I guess this is a good time to bring up your new work, since it seems you guys are moving on to some different styles of work again like you did for that show?
Yeah. We are basically exploring a new giant body of work that will be a brand new note for us. It’s inspired by cartoon and comic book characters in ways that we think should be very interesting. It’s certainly something new, it’s something different, for us. I’ll be curious to see how it dove’s tail into the larger arc of our work. Yeah, it’s something that we are really excited about.
So you need to make room in the studio to make these new larger scale works? You are going to be selling some of the older prints, outtakes, and street pasters to make room in the Flat files?
We are basically doing a massive archive sale. We are going to clear out our flat files and for three days basically put everything out there at really affordable prices. There will be loads of AP’s, one-offs, some experiments, and tests, and things like that that haven’t seen the light of day. And a ton of really nice fly paper pasters that never hit the street.
Great, so get there early?
The new stuff again, I have seen a little preview of it. It’s much busier and seems to work on a more grandiose larger scale.
I think the new work could work on a smaller scale, but the nature of the way it is starting to come together has a high impact on a larger scale, particularly in this case. Our early body of work, how we started out was very much more simplistic. It reflect one image that kind of speaks to you and I think that we took that simplicity also into the make your own luck work, where it’s very iconic looking but the new work I would agree speaks really nicely on a large scale because of the movement, and being more immersed in the work.
Any good stories for the people about the old days on the streets? Getting into trouble? I see a little grin on your face already…
We’ve had more than a couple of run ins. One in particular was running from the cops in Cleveland, we were pasting onto a large (18 wheeler) trailer in a field and they just rolled up. It’s amazing how fast you can jump off of a 12 foot high truck and run when you need to. Long story, short, it was a tight chase but they didn’t catch us. We headed to Detroit immediately—see ya.
Your process, I watch you guys working in your studio a little bit, it’s pretty much exclusively silk-screening and then hand embellishing?
So I would actually call it mixed media. We employ screen prints for a lot of our work especially for the graphic images. But many of our pieces are literally hand painted. It’s almost the opposite too most people’s pieces though. We are embellishing a painting with a screen print… by printing over it. Most people primarily screen print pieces that they then hand embellish.
When you guys are working, what’s your influences? You guys listen to music? Or what gets you through the day when you are working?
We listen to music a lot I mean…That’s a good question. If I just want to pound through I’ll put the stones on… something like Beggars Banquet… Radiohead, Underworld sometimes when we really have to focus.
So, coming up, you guys have the show at Okay Space, and then this giant commission for a private commission is, how big is this thing?
It’s pretty big… 9 by 13 feet. This piece was ultimately comprised of more than 200 screens, and toughly 350 individual pulls. It was a pretty massive undertaking. There’s also hand printed elements in it as well.
Is there anyone lately you’ve been checking out and your a fan? Or anyone that’s influenced you guys a lot?
I have to give a nod to Faile. I’ve known the Patrick’s for a long time. I’d be lying if I said that they haven’t, you know weren’t an influence on me in one way or another, particularly in the beginning. I went to college with Patrick McNeil, so kind of been buddies for a long time. Both great guys, we continue to be fans.
I mean, you guys are definitely the same arena, you guys are pasting and painting in Brooklyn and NYC for the most part.
Also, in terms of skill from a silk screening point of view I would say like Ryan McGuinness and Christopher Wool are certainly two people I’ve always found interesting, especially their aesthetic approach.
Any shows you are excited about checking out in the near future?
I’m looking forward to seeing the Bast Show that’s coming up. I think the work that he is doing is really strong. I’m really liking where his work is going right now.
Anything else you want to talk about before we call it a day?
We hope to see a lot of people come out on February 6th at Okay Space for our archive show. We”ll also have the recently completed 9’ X 13’ piece, the largest canvas we’ve ever made on display at Okay Space for three days before it heads to a private collection. We’ve been gathering all of the work and some of these pieces are really, really special, we think those who come to check it out will feel the same.
All Photo’s & Text Copyright 2017 Matthew A. Eller. Follow me on Instagram @ellerlawfirm