W27: The Art Issue

W27 Newspaper

Interview by Fernanda DeSouza
Original Post: March, 2013

FD: Was there a piece of art that you encountered that made you stop and say “Wow! This is what I need to be doing?”
S: When I moved back to Los Angeles in 1999 I was inspired by the size of hand painted advertisements circulating monthly on Buildings. Los Angeles has a 50 year history of impressive large murals but the large graphic advertisements of the time inspired me most. Now the ads are even larger and more disposable – digital prints on mesh or plastic and wrapped around anything. As an art form, I like the idea of weaving in and out of indoor and outdoor spaces and not being limited to preconceptions of art or advertisement. This sensibility was somewhat unique in 1999 but is quite adulterated now.

FD: Do you feel that the art scene has drastically changed since being part of it?
S: Of course. It’s constantly changing – specifically with the context of “street art” being defined in our current mass culture. I’ve also become more aware of the art business gears which are a bit of a turnoff really. It’s quite an unregulated corrupt industry, but it supposedly always been. The thing changing most is my understanding of it – which determines what I’m buying into and what I’m creating.

FD:You had a very bad injury during your trip to London last summer for your show. Can you explain how you overcame that and how it affected your creative process and ability to put out work?
S: Yes I broke both of my feet in London in July. I’d been working with casts of my feet during the prior 6 months – working toward the New York show in May and London show in July. I jumped off a wall and broke my feet two nights prior to the London opening. As artists we each follow some sort of creative emergency which is only truly understood by ourselves until it is all said and done. I’ve entered 2013 with a renewed intuition trust.

FD: Has social media impacted street art in a positive or negative way and has it posed as a threat in maintaining your identity a secret?
S: Well I’m not concerned about keeping my identity a secret really. It’s a choice I made 15 years ago as cellphones and internet became prevalent – working against it, behind the scenes, as an art form. This overall model challenges common practice as an artist since artist characters are celebrated far more than any singular art piece. I’m not completely dodging the bullet tho since I use a recognizable moniker. @skullphone likes social media.

FD: I got to help you at your studio when I was in LA two months ago. Has the idea of the “artist studio” changed and how do you distinguish the difference between your actual studio and the streets as your studio per say?
S: My studio has been a work in progress for 10 years and I just closed a chapter of working within the solitude of my studio for five years. The urgency of the street art movement is over. Anyone who has been part of it knows the feeling of rushing to get it done. This is why it is called a “movement”, right? I’m not saying that street art itself is over, but there is a refocusing – Now what?  This hit me in 2008 and I decided to create a formal body of work that anyone could appreciate without a “street art” narrative. The spirit of my work is the same, and it is a linear progression, but you could literally drop acid and love the show, or bring your grandparents in. The work encourages varied interpretations conceptually and visually without any footnotes.

FD: Street art is still illegal and it will probably stay that way for a while. Does the illegality of it make your job more exhilarating?
S: Technically street art is illegal when it’s on uncommissioned outdoor spaces. So much of what we see now is a grand endorsement from the corporate and privatized business world at large. Street artists generally spend large amounts of time and money getting up on walls that then get buffed so we’d prefer to work on walls with green lights from the owners. So there is a new sick business model where we are offered or request legit walls with our own production cost. It takes advantage of the artists under a normal capitalist umbrella since normally a “muralist” would be paid for supplies and time. But within the street art bubble it make sense. Anyway, legal walls aside, yes, I still practice uncommissioned outdoor art with my own rationalizations, which is essentially why I haven’t emerged from a cake.

FD: Do you notice a lot of different styles between East and West Coast street art or do you see the same influences behind the works to be about the same?
S: I notice blank spaces more than anything else. And, in L.A., who’s claiming the four blocks of my hood.

FD: Your artwork touches upon things we do/see/use in our day to day lives—billboard ads, religion, the Digital Age. Can you say you pull inspiration from average day life and how are you trying to get your message across from the work you produce?
S: I’ve described my art as painting a mirage.

FD: As a street artist, how do you define “success?”
S: Well I don’t work in a vacuum nor am I fed with a silver spoon. I partially define success by the amount of cold hard cash in my pocket, and the amount of checks I cut with “gift”, “donation”, or “studio assisting” written on the notes line. I don’t think anyone can ever clearly grasp their reach into the world. It’s ever changing. But the balance I have is as artist and as art business. It’s quite a balance if one cares. Otherwise you’re a puppeteering puppet, going through the motions alone.

FD: Define “Skullphone” in one sentence (what is the essence of Skullphone).
S: Open 24 hours.