CM: In your last exhibition Structurally Sound your work seemed to move away from the heavy drafting of intersecting planes to pulling them forward and back into physical spaces. The stark color palette moved away from the normal temperatures of your working palette, what were the considerations for you in making this series? Did you feel by contrasting such bold planes that you were able to achieve a semblance of constructed spaces?
AK: That show was a test for me in many ways. I truly wanted to focus on the structural forms of my work and bypass the bells and whistles of bold, pop colors and strip down to the core of my aesthetic with pure paintings plus inspired case study illustrations. Keeping the palette heavy with white light inclusions and softer, pastel base temperatures, I could bring a greater attention to the forms themselves and their interactions, their collisions. With the shows theme speaking on integrity and trustworthy structures, I was challenged to fulfill my own test as well as create a body of work that embodies my obsessive, constructive tendencies. Quite possibly my best body of canvas work to date.
CM: Moving from the illusion of 2D painting into 3D space as in your assemblages it seems the works are well synthesized and in balance to your aesthetic and narrative. I find the assemblages to be more revealing about you and your process and concerns than say some of the paintings. What do the found object installations allow you to express that the paintings can’t?
AK: Those are more a character study, a curated accompaniment to the said exhibition. Part unload of my harvested found wood and varied objects, part old mans “workshop mindset”. A sort of inspiration board of found bits and pieces that bring you back down to the present (and sometimes the past) after going through a collection of painting that hopefully give a gentle push forward. Progressive, yet grounded by memories.
CM: There is an element of Pop Art in some of your works that point to your background as an graphic illustrator, how do you see these elements working within the context of these very defined and carefully drafted compositions of the paintings?
AK: Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Combines’ as well as his image transfer techniques have resonated with me since the early 2000′s. His cross pollination and juxtaposing of images was so raw and inviting, especially for someone like myself interested in screen print and cut and paste design. In a way, I try my best to emulate those aesthetics, but take it a step further to find my own language. The inclusion of found images is based on my interest in the paper those images are on, the ephemera. Taking that material and manipulating it into my language. Very similar to sampling 15 seconds of an old record into a machine, truncating, reediting and overlapping that down over a beat. In this case the beat is the composition.
CM: Your compositions show you adept towards spacial relationships on the 2D plane do you see the works as possible 3D constructs beyond the assemblages?
AK: I completely understand peoples interest in this topic. I get it. Of course, I would venture further into this concept. I have ventured in the past in varied ways, but It’s not in my headspace as of present. If it doesn’t look as good as yours, MARE.. or Delta’s, why should I bother?
CM: One of the more impressive attributes you have is the ability to translate your works to large scale works in the public space, was this a challenge and if so what were they and how did you overcome them?
AK: I really never realized I could smoothly transition between such diameters till the last 7 years. It’s pretty ‘no nonsense’ for me. Probably came from my mothers side since she was the artist in the family. Having an understanding of proportion is something I can ease into no problem.. second nature.
I also must credit the traditional sketching of a letter form piece on paper, then enlarging that sketch to a wall with paint. That was my first inclination of ‘enlargement’. My first realization that I was the instrument, the compass, the pen, the ruler. The action of manually painting on a vertical surface can be the exaggeration of a hand holding an implement to paper.
Trust, I still get heartburn when its time for a huge wall. That comes more from the pressure I put on myself, not so much the large scale elephant in the room.
CM: We are in a period of very progressive urban painting that is looking back towards the Modernists for cues, if you had a top 3 influences what would they be and why?
AK: Richard Diebenkorn, Lebbeus Woods & Syd Mead.
(With an honorable mention to László Moholy-Nagy and Alex Couwenberg).
Diebenkorn taught at UCLA before he retired in 73. My mother took his class while she was studying art there and I was raised seeing a painting all my life that she painted in his class. Subconsciously the style of that piece resonated. When my mother told me this story I looked further into his work and truly admired his ‘Ocean Park’ created during his Santa Monica studio days. His color field painting and the way he would keep the majority of the technical painting off to the edges gives me shivers.
I was an illustrator before a painter, that was my strength. Thought I was going to ink comics in the 90′s. I discovered Woods work by accident and couldn’t believe the beautiful drama in his formations, that experimental architectural tendencies of his final illustrations on paper and velum. The graffiti artist in me saw untaped burners waiting to happen. The fact that he never received a degree as an architect, yet called himself one and could back his work up is a ‘shoulders first’ raw attitude I appreciate.
I owned and played with the Light Cycle toy that Mattel made for Tron back in ’82. My favorite movie is Blade Runner. Syd Mead was the futurist designer responsible for the aesthetic look of both films. I was subconsciously inspired by his work and didn’t know it until the early 2000′s.
Every artwork I have seen from Mead has that high impact graphic quality I strive for, but the fact that they all look possible and functional is the key.
CM: Ahead of you is the Three the Hard Way exhibition where you will have an opportunity to collaborate with other artists, how important is collaborate to your process outside the studio?
AK: Collaboration is easy when all the players respect each other and are on the same page. That’s us in a nutshell. We’re all good at what we do, in our own ways… regardless of generation, regional placement and approach. We each come from a rich graffiti foundation as well as admire shape and form. We each can filter what we see and reassesses the information. I appreciate hard work, fulfilling responsibilities and meeting deadlines, and I’m in a show with men that feel the same. That’s why I was asked to join and agreed to be apart of Transcend back in 2011. I’m looking forward conversing with and learning from these artists as well as sharing my recent work with Breeze Block.
Three The Hard Way:
Augustine Kofie / Jerry Joker Inscoe / Christopher Derek Bruno
Three-person exhibition curated by Sven Davis
7 November – 30 November 2013
For the month of November, Breeze Block Gallery is very proud to present Three The Hard Way; a three-person exhibition featuring Augustine Kofie, Jerry Joker Inscoe and Christopher Derek Bruno.
All three artists come from a graffiti background, and are firmly established members of the pioneering Transcend graffiti collective. These highly versatile artists are equally known for their large-scale mural projects, as well as their own very individual voices in a gallery setting. Traditional letterforms are abstracted into geometric configurations within their work; and dimension, form and space are considered and explored within their dynamic compositions.
Their collective approach to art-making is steeped in academic discourse, and whilst retaining the vibrancy of their graffiti backgrounds, traditional art movements such as Futurism, Abstract Expressionism and Precisionism are also embraced by the visual vocabulary imbued within their work. The exhibition title itself is a literal reference to the historical terminology Hard-Edge painting; which was first coined in the late fifties and used to describe intense and abrupt delineation of color within the burgeoning Geometric Abstraction and Op-art movements. Whilst these artists acknowledge and embrace movements of the past, they confidently stand outside of historical classification and have established themselves as a core group of protagonists defining a contemporary movement they have made their own.
Whilst the three artists have shown together previously in larger group exhibitions, Three The Hard Way is the first time that this trifecta has shown together in a collaborative environment. For the month of November the three artists will take over both of Breeze Block’s gallery spaces for an installation that incorporates the full range of multi-facetted oeuvres from each of these influential creators.
About Augustine Kofie
Inspired by the basic building blocks of the geometric world, Augustine Kofie has formed a retro-futuristic aesthetic which transplants these shapes and angles into a soulful, organic, yet highly mathematical form of abstraction. Merging his traditional graffiti education, his inclination toward “certain colour forms and certain application techniques”, with his deep love of illustration and preliminary design, his fondness for “drafts, architectural renderings and pre-production concepts”, Kofie plays with form and line, with balance and depth, twisting and manipulating his murals, his illustrations, his compositions, into ever new and dramatic arrangements.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kofie’s instinct to draw was cultivated through the creativity of his mother. Whilst she was studying fine arts at UCLA, Kofie was using the supplies that lay around his house to start experimenting on his own, he starting to excel in drawing by the time he had reached middle school. Whilst his art education never went further than high school, Kofie’s real training was garnered through his time spent painting graffiti, he coming to prominence in the Los Angeles graffiti scene by the mid 1990s. Giving him an extensive understanding of both “colour and layering, points of perspective and arrangement”, graffiti not only gave Kofie his technical foundation however, it also provided the underpinning for his love of construction and form: Through drafting and sketching wildstyle pieces, “stretching the letters out and rebuilding them, giving them varied points of perspective and basically building shapes out”, Kofie began to understand the architectural basis of writing, an understanding pushing him to focus on the linear rather than alphabetic aspects of his work. Having also felt that he had made an honest contribution to the LA graffiti scene, Kofie’s evolutionary drive meant he soon began to “distort and manipulate” his work, attempting to “re-contribute and redistribute something new”.
Developing his aesthetic into an almost pure abstraction then, dominated by the simple squares, triangles and circles that make up our structural universe, Kofie’s relentless desire to experiment and explore his visual surroundings meant he was forced to engage in a constant test of his own mind-set and preconceived ideas, each work an attempt to find a geometrical solution to a graphical problem. Putting his entire soul into his work, into his craft, Kofie has thus formed an intensely layered, earthy, dynamic style of contemporary muralism, an illustrative practice which digs deep and looks forward, a practice which surveys the future and the past at very the same time.
About Christopher Derek Bruno
Christopher Derek Bruno is a maker above all other things. After his education in industrial design, Derek moved about the United States cultivating his approach to the design/fabrication of furniture, and sculpture based imagery. Currently residing in his hometown of Atlanta, his recent work intends to explore the cognitive visual experience using (but not limited to) a set of 0-dimensional points bound by 1-dimensional lines, combined to make 2-d planes, organized into 3-d forms, applied to objects with the express purpose of creating a 4-dimensional relationship with someone else.
A highly versatile artist, his gallery work utilises his fabrication skills along with his background as a graffiti artist and muralist to create visually arresting dimensional works.
About Jerry Inscoe
At first glance, Jerry Inscoe’s gallery work appears to be a formal extension of a Deconstructivist style of typography. Letters are fragmented and sheared, stretched and re-formed with precision. It’s a science of Post-modern typographic abstraction, one that is characterized by unpredictability and controlled chaos.
Born out of the mid-eighties Graffiti scene in Washington DC, Jerry’s work evolved over the years and matured, shifting from the early New York-influenced models to a more abstract and idealistic take on what Graffiti could be. He incorporated aspects of his undergraduate design education and a myriad of other influences into his work, including architecture and industrial design. This infused Jerry with the desire to create highly original work. A pioneer of the post-graffiti scene, he is the leader of the Transcend Collective – an abstract graffiti crew that established an experimental aesthetic. He is now based in Portland, Oregon.
Started by Joker (from Washington DC) and Carl123 (from Manchester, UK) in 1990, Transcend is an artists collective whose sole purpose is to constantly evolve, and break personal ground. Originality is most important but the pursuit of constant progression is also important in reaching their goals.
Those early years saw the Transcend collective consist of Joker, Carl123, SheOne, Req, Persue and Felon. A few years later, Poesia joined Transcend, followed by Mune, Kema, Ouija and photographer Anna Antik in the late nineties.
UK based O.Two, fittingly; brought Transcend into the 21st century, and more recently Augustine Kofie, Duncan Jago and Christopher Derek Bruno were inducted into the group to continue to push the boundaries that Transcend has become known for.