aeSo, why don’t you quickly tell everyone who you are.
So, my name is RAE and I guess there’s also BK at the end of it sometimes when I’m doing street work, and I’m an artist from Brooklyn, New York.
How long have you been in the street art world?
I’d say 10 years plus.
Can you give a quick description of your work for everybody or do you want me to try?
Oh, I can do it but why don’t you go first?
I’d say you’ve used lots of black and whites and abstract colors on your prints or flat stuff, and then you have these amazing weird mask as well, I don’t know how you described those, I guess like a collage?
Yeah, I mean, they’re made from found objects.
That’s what I was looking for.
Additionally, the colors gets dictated based on things that I combine that I find on the street, and that are basically discarded, and either trashed or found in the gutters on the side of the road, highways, and things like that. And then I take them and give them some new life, and love, and I introduce them back into the street.
Man you really get them up on posts super secure they’re very hard to get down. I know people who have tried!
Ha! I know some people that have been successful too.
Well, I mean, listen, there’s people out there with saws and shit. So, you got to take it as a compliment, if they’ll go to that length to get one of your pieces?
I guess so, I actually caught somebody in the act one time. He was bigger than me, and he had a pickup truck. So he won you know, there was nothing I was going to do about that (laughing).
So, are you a classically trained artist or learned it all on the job?
I would say I learned everything on my own. But you know, you don’t go to school to become an artist, you go to school to get free materials and to have the time and luxury to actually think about what you’re doing. So I’ve done a little bit of both.
A little bit of both? And just to give people an idea, you’ve done work in the past that are full on live performance art; I guess would be a safe way to put it?
Yeah, it really depends on what the body of work is, you know and where that comes from, and then that leads to how the exhibition will be executed. Interestingly, for this show, it’s a more straightforward approach in terms of the presentation itself. But you know, I have lived inside a storefront window for a month straight 24 hours a day sleeping in the window, and I had a show in the basement of an old butcher shop in Chinatown that was basically like a sort of a fake retrospective or museum style show based on what happened one time when I was kicked out of an apartment building for using my apartment as an art studio. And something really went awry there. A microwave blew up because I was experimenting with some found objects. And there was a piece of metal in there that I didn’t know about, so it exploded and it just turned into a whole thing and it was on the news. So basically, it was a whole fake retrospective based on the history of that incident. So I kind of liked the idea that when it comes to a show you don’t really know what you expected.
So, that was your inspiration for the basement show. Why did you live in that space for a month?
Yeah. So, for that show, which actually opened on Halloween 2017. I had this idea for many years that I wanted to put myself on display, create art live in what kind of was like a childhood bedroom like setting slash art studio, and just kind of see what it felt like to be in a fishbowl, and, in part to get over some phobias that I had. Such as creating work in front of people and learning certain things like roller skating and other things that I have never done. So, I basically just set up my own world in the Lower East Side.
You’re a Brooklyn native, you pretty much work out of Brooklyn, and you’ve done most of your shows here in New York. What got you into art? Were you always into art or was there something that triggered you to become an artist?
I’ve always been into art. I guess my mom would buy me reams of computer typing paper from a stationery store, packs of it and I will just spend my days drawing on paper and making piles of mistakes and crumbling them up, toss it, and on to the next one, and then somewhere along the way I got my hands on some electronics that my mom was tossing out. A record player and amps and stuff and things that were sitting in the kitchen and I just started messing around with those creating things and I was trying to make stuff work at first but then, shorting out electrical sockets in the building and getting in trouble for stuff like that, so.
So, you’re a great artist and a horrible roommate?
Great artist, horrible inventor, Roommate I’m not sure about. I mean, I’ve tried to shy away from some of that stuff and I actually have been working with this electronics guru who I have had help me make things work for ideas I have. I think at this point I kind of know what my strengths and weaknesses are.
Well, don’t figure it out too quick because you still haven’t destroyed an entire building yet. So there’s still room to grow…
Yeah, there is room for growth (laughing).
So, I know your work as a print artist, and of course your stickers & sculptures which are all over the place in New York. This show is going to be focused more on one than the other, or is it just going to be a hodgepodge again.
I would say its more of a mixture of mediums, This show has a lot of pieces in it, the space couldn’t even hold everything… I’ll have to pick and choose. But I focused a lot on things that I found this time around that related to sort of what people are dealing with in today’s society; the struggles and things that are going on between politics and just social interactions that we’re having, and things that we know people are being questioned about like their patriotism or their citizenship and so I started finding a lot of things on the street in Brooklyn and just the city in general related to things such as broken jewelry, missing earrings, just like lotto tickets and little bits of plastics, and a lot of shopping bags that I find just blowing around. And I just started trying to streamline some of these things I was collecting to use in the show.
And so I have some larger than life sized sculptures that are made out of shopping bags that are melted and molded and combined with found objects. Then I have some really large mixed media canvases. I have some relief sculptures that are on the wall that talks about people’s impulses and desires, just like lost dreams, I mean, a lot of the stuff and a lot of subject matter is done in a more abstract way. You’re not going to find some big peace sign or rainbow or something like that. It’s just found things that just keep coming to the forefront as I’m working on my pieces. What the title says basically, the name of the show is called “THESE DAZE”. There’s a lot of different things going on in society and it puts us in a daze. I think we’re all sort of living in this daze like state and so, the art feels a little bit more sort of random in some respects in terms of approach and style but I think that, in some ways that was done intentionally, to look unintentionally.
Right, I’m at this weird disadvantage. I usually get to see some of the art before the interviews, so I’m kind of working off your descriptions. But I’m guessing there’s not going to be angel wings for people to stand in front of for their Instagram accounts at the show?
Your not a fan of selfie culture? Do you think that that street art is a dying art, or just a tool of instagram at this point? There’s a younger generation of people now that go to school majoring in street art I’m assuming?
Right, right. Yeah, To be honest, I really have blinders on. I know the things that I want to do and it’s based on what I see at outside locations and ways that I can make things fit into places sort of seamlessly, and a kind of plotting my way along, taking measurements on the sly, doing a lot of things to set up what I need to get them done. And if there were 5000 artists out there doing it or just myself it doesn’t really matter to me, it’s more about execution and seeing it in the public space and leaving it there for as long as it runs. That’s where I get my excitement and motivation to keep going.
It is nice that with the rise in popularity with street art that more public works are respected and left alone and not to altered or destroyed.
Well… sometimes. I had a piece that I put up in New York City subway system and it lasted one day, it was two sculptures that were in the space that was sort of like above a subway platform, it lasted a day. It took me months to make and then a really crazy execution to get it in place… but once we got it up, gone within a day.
I guess that’s the gamble you take when you’re this kind of artist?
Yeah, but it’s the photo that lives on, really thats what it’s about. The photo and mystery, and experience of what it is, who saw it, or who will get to see it before it gets taken down.
Have you ever found one of these pieces’ pop up in a gallery or on eBay that was stolen off the street?
Yeah, well it’s funny because somebody recently tagged me and they had a street piece of mine that they had professionally framed inside this really nice plexiglass display case. I mean, the frame itself is probably worth a thousand dollars. And that was taken from the street and they tagged me on it, which seems kind of odd that they were showing me that but then the person explained that they were walking by a church and it was leaning inside the lot or something like that and then he paid the person from the church who took down.
Yeah, well, I mean, I guess at least he wasn’t trying to undermine you 100% on it.
Yeah, exactly what I mean, you know there are pieces that pop up on eBay, someone sends me a link or something like that every once and a while, but honestly I try to do a pretty good job of losing personal connection to a piece once its on the street.
I guess you have to, or you drive yourself insane?
So sorry, we got off on a little bit of a tangent. Back to the show. Is this going to be something people are going to be able to physically walk around in this space?
Yeah. You will be able to view the work up close, and this show is a lot about the work and seeing the detail in the pieces and sort of the painstaking way I put hundreds of nails into some of the smaller pieces. You will be able to be very close.
Yeah, I’m excited for it, because obviously, I’ve been following you for years. And you don’t release that much stuff. Maybe a print here and there, and you do a show maybe once a year. I guess I’m trying to say you must have great patience with creating your work.
Yeah. Well, thank you! It’s just when the time’s right, and it’s time to make a move. Until then you just keep plotting and planning…
So sadly, we’re approaching the end of our time together because I know you have loads more work to do to get the show ready for the opening Thursday November 14th in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Are there any people who influenced you or helped you with the show you want to give a shout out to?
The people that influence me are the ones that are trying to make it in this world. People that go about their lives, they’re decent, upstanding people, they’re born who they are and a lot of times they might be ridiculed, or treated less than that by people in power. These are the kind of voices that really speak to me. How they survive and what they do, even how they create influences me. I’ve taken trips to many different countries; Ethiopia, and others in South America to name a couple and looked at how they use found objects for practical use, and how they create stuff from brilliant ingenuity and that’s always been inspiring to me. So that’s really where it comes from.
The other thing I usually ask is if you have any funny stories from working on the streets?
Do I have any? I mean, all I have is funny, precarious, crazy stories of things that happened.
Well give me one… one so funny or interesting that people will have to see your show.
So, this piece that I put up last year, it was in the downtown Manhattan subway system. High intensity at the time because El Chapo was on trail and there was even more enforcement present all around. I had been scoping out the location for a long time planning to install the piece. Basically I needed a ladder to get to this spot and the last night before I was going to install I had gone there to take a final look at the spot.
To my surprise, I had never realized that right where I was installing there was a police booth that was literally two steps away from where it was going to be placed. It was wrapped around the stairway, so I didn’t see it, and so basically, after all the planning and everything, I thought it was a total waste, I was like this police thing is here and now these pieces are ready to go and so now what?” I just still decided to go through with it and it was pretty crazy because I was actually were in the middle of doing the install and off the subway walks law enforcement. But it’s like going into the belly of the beast knowing that that’s what you’re going to do no matter what. It was a lot of sleepless nights leading up to it to just make sure that we could pull it off. And I say we because there’s some really brave people that just believe in what I’m doing and figure out a ways to help that push it forward.
Of course, you’re only one person, you can’t do it all on your own.
Yeah and this was definitely a big undertaking.
Well thank you again for your time and I hope everyone can stop by and see your new show at 154 Stanton Street, New York City.
All Photo’s & Text Copyright 2019 Matthew A. Eller. Follow me on Instagram @ellerlawfirm