Interview with Legendary Graffiti Artist, RISK
22 Jul, 2012
Dig In Magazine interviews legendary graffiti artist, RISK, before his art show with COOZ, “THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW,” at San Francisco’s 111 Minna Gallery that opens on July 7th and runs through July 30th, 2011. In a career spanning 27 years, RISK has impacted the evolution of graffiti as an art form in Los Angeles and worldwide. RISK is currently featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles’ street art exhibition, "Art in the Streets" that runs until August 8th, 2011, as well as the Pasadena Museum of California. RISK resides in Los Angeles, California. For more on RISK visit: www.RISKRock.com [Interview posted on July 2, 2011]
Dig In Magazine: Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you for Dig In Magazine, RISK!
RISK: Thanks for having me!
DIM: So, it seems that street art is being more legitimized, how would you explain this?
R: I think it was only a matter of time before people had to recognize street art as a real art genre. Many older art critics dismissed the art form as craft rather than an artistic movement, however some of the young people at that time had grown up along side this movement, watching it evolve the whole way. It was like the changing of the guard, years later when these young people were in higher positions and able to place the art in established reputable galleries and or museums they did. Once that happened it became “legitimate”. Its kind of funny the majority of people are like sheep, they never really paid attention to Graffiti, they drive by various murals daily and never look, but now that it’s in Museums, they can’t get enough of it.
DIM: More street artists and their artwork, which have been traditionally marginalized, are being shown in museums like the MOCA in Los Angles and galleries like White Walls in San Francisco, CA lately, do you feel that you’ve been a part of this evolution of street art and the fact that it is beginning to be considered a legitimate art form?
R: Sure I believe everyone who played a significant part in the foundation have played a part. It’s a two part deal, one is people who have “put in work” so to speak, and the other is the guys who came and took it to the next level. Persistence and talent.
DIM: You are involved in a street art group show now at the Los Angeles MOCA that runs until August 8th, what is the theme of this show and who are the other artists involved in the show?
R: The show is a historical survey of graffiti originators and street artists who have successfully crossed over to gallery artists as well. There are so many great people involved.Off the top of my head…Revok, Saber, Cartoon, Lee, Futura, Shepard, Banksy, Craig Stecyk, Chaz, Retna, Henry Chalfant, Estevan Orial, Martha Cooper, Barry McGee, Espo, Reas, Pure, Ramelzee, Keith Herrring, Kenny Sharf, Swoon, Mode 2, and MANY more…
DIM: How did this show come together?
R: Luckily Jefferey Dietch took over as the Curator for MOCA. Jefferey had been aware of graffiti and worked with many graffiti artists over the years. He was aware of the talent and the historical importance. So as I mentioned above it was like the changing of the guard, he came in and set the stage for the big show. He did a great job, because although he is a wealth of knowledge on the New York end, he brought in some co-curators. Aron Rose and Roger Gastman, The team really tied everything together nicely.
DIM: What other art shows are coming up for you?
R: I just finished The Pasadena Museum and now I’m working on a collaboration show with long time friend Nathan Ota. It will be in San Francisco at the 111 Minna Gallery.
DIM: What other galleries and/or museums has your work been shown in?
R: Too many to remember but recently…Track 16 Gallery at Bergamot station, Known Gallery, Corey Helford Gallery, MOCA, and Pasadena Museum
DIM: When you were young, what drew you to graffiti?
R: The rebellious nature of it, the awe of seeing such big powerful pieces. When you first turn a corner or pass a piece on the freeway and you see a big splat of color and feel like you got smacked in the head!
DIM: What types of things inspired you and influenced your art?
R: Industrial stuff, old machinery, cars, motorcycles, etc, If you look at low riders you see a lot of pattern work in some of my old fills, also the architecture of letters themselves are important to me. I do all letters where they make sense as if you were building them and they need to be structurally secure.
DIM: Who are the other artists that have had an influence on you throughout your creative life?
R: Wow…too many to mention! But pretty much everyone I paint with has influenced me in some way or another. I’m pretty lucky to be surrounded by such a creative pool of guys right now. All the guys in my crew are really taking it to another level right now. It’s so inspirational.
DIM: How did your unique style develop?
R: I have a hybrid New York, LA style mixed with old school and new school…I started with a very New York influenced style, because I didn’t see anything else when I started writing in LA.
As I got more serious I realized how important it was to have your own style and it slowly morphed into my own style. The old school comes in, because I’m old school, and the new school comes, because I paint with all relative writers with more technical styles.
DIM: What do you like to paint in terms of subject matter?
R: Anything letter based, I love letters, with 26 letters you can define the world…
DIM: In which cities have you painted? Which city is your favorite place to write?
R: I’ve painted in pretty much every major city in some way or another, mostly when I was younger. I did a lot of traveling with Third Rail when I was younger so I took those opportunities to get up.
DIM: Where would you like to paint in the future?
R: Italy, I like the train scene they have currently…
DIM: Where are you from and where are you currently based out of?
R: I’m from New Orleans and I’m based out of Los Angeles.
DIM: What magazines has your artwork been featured in?
R: Juxtapoz, and graff mags etc….I wouldn’t even know…..I’m constantly seeing stuff, I don’t even know how they got it…
DIM: What crews are you a part of?
R: Now days I have to have my lawyer look at this question….Let’s just say I’m a real big fan of ….Mad Society Kings, The Seventh Letter, Angels Will Rise, and West Coast Artists
DIM: Explain the move of your art from the streets to the canvas? What do you prefer?
R: I love both, I just love to paint. I love the canvas, because I can really play with different mediums. I like to mix oils bases with water bases, then strip something down and start over. The textures and depths are great, but nothing beats a straight up burner on a wall out in the open somewhere.
DIM: What are you plans for the future?
R: Paint the World!