ART, AMBITION & AMERICA with GREGORY SIFF
PHOTO: ZACH ZDZIEBKO
YOU HAVE A SIGNATURE STYLE AS AN ARTIST THAT HAS BEEN IN FLUX LATELY.
WHAT BROUGHT ABOUT THIS PHASE OF EXPERIMENTATION AND WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO DISCOVER FROM IT?
I begin each day thinking about where I’m going to paint today and what will I create. I try to say things in my work that I am going through as a person and also use that one of one life we are given to inform the style. That’s where the signature comes from for me. If I am honest in my experience than the work will vibrate with an energy that’s authentic. I’m hoping to discover myself and a deeper ride in this life.
MANY OF YOUR PREVIOUS WORKS AND INTERVIEWS HEAVILY REFERENCE MODERN AMERICAN ARTISTS LIKE WARHOL AND BASQUIAT.
HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR ART IN RELATION TO THIS HERITAGE OF ICONIC ART?
Basquiat’s paintings I became enamored with when I was in NYU in 1995-1996. I saw them as a puzzle to figure out. Why did he write this word? What do these characters mean? After uncovering his true story in books and then visiting the Brooklyn Museum in 2005 with my father I saw the magnitude and ferocity a painting can hit you with. Warhol was the idea of what a Superstar Celebrity can be by creating work. Both artists, who worked in NYC, where I grew up and my family is, made me feel like maybe I can do this.
I have a story. I can tell it in any way my heart wants to carve it. I love art for that. So you can find my experience in your own. Veins crossing.
PHOTO: RYAN LASH
HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR IDENTITY AS A "STREET" OR "GRAFFITI" ARTIST WITH MORE COMMERCIAL WORK LIKE MERCEDES, STANDARD HOTELS, AND THE LIKE?
IS THERE A CONFLICT IN ART BETWEEN CREATIVITY, AND THE DEMANDS OF COMMERCE, IN YOUR OPINION?
I'm not a street or graffiti artist. I’m just a guy who makes things and shares them a lot. They turn up in different places. If you see it on a wall or on a gallery or on a car or a tattoo that just means it’s come from my day and that’s where it lives because that’s where it landed.
PHOTO: SPENCER "MAR" GUILBURT
HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOUR LATEST SHOW?
I create shows based on the arc of what is happening in the moment. My last show was Portrait of an American Ice Cream Man. I wanted to make my own Ice Cream truck, so my crew at Mercedes Benz and Engine Shop helped make that dream come true by supplying me with the new Metris Van which made for the perfect canvas.
Everything I paint comes organically. We have worked together for 3 years now raising money for Art of Elysium, painting live at major concerts, and supporting the ideas of artists with their ambassador program.
If it wasn't for them a lot of the work I have done would not be seen by as many eyes. They get it and recognize when someone is immersed by their path and have been down since the beginning.
ARTWORK: SOLD OUT HELADO, 2015
YOU'VE BEEN PERFORMING AND EXPERIMENTING WITH FASHION DESIGNERS LIKE PYER MOSS AND PATRICIA FIELDS.
PYER MOSS IS A DESIGNER WHOSE WORK WE GREATLY ADMIRE.
HOW DID THIS COLLABORATION COME ABOUT, AND DO YOU CONSIDER FASHION A NEW MEDIUM FOR YOU AS AN ARTIST?
I did a portrait of my friend James Law, awesome photographer, and he flicked it on Instagram. Kerby Jean-Raymond who created Pyer Moss saw it and hit me up to meet about discussing a powerful new line of clothing he was developing which would have a story behind the the threads.
We met up a the Chateau Marmont and talked about working together. I did some drawings based on his mission and the momentum moved so strong because it was the good fight many were not ready to address, especially in the form of fashion. The story of Congolese Man, Ota Benga, being caged in the Bronx Zoo on view, exhibited to all was enough to make a statement that history shall not repeat itself in the form of hate of this kind.
Kerby and I also worked together on Pyer Moss’s next runway show where Police Brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement were taken head on. I am proud to have been a part of this collaboration and know that it’s place in history is strongly important.
PYER MOSS x THE ENSIGN: SHADOW STREETS BY JOEL HENDERSON
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING BI-COASTAL (SIFF GREW UP IN ROCKAWAY AND LIVES IN LA) AND HOW THAT'S INFLUENCES THE PROGRESSION OF YOUR ART OVER TIME?
Different sides. Dark and Light, Happy and Sad, East and West.
You need both in order to get to the marrow of it.
I always had a hard time considering LA as home, once I found what I loved most it was easy.
ARTWORK: BY HAND, BY HEART (ODE TO THE FIGHTERS, ARTISTS, AND SOLDIERS OF LOVE AND LIFE), 2015
AS AN AMERICAN ARTIST, IN THIS CURRENT CULTURAL LANDSCAPE, CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN AMERICAN IN THIS DAY AND AGE?
HOW DO YOU THINK THIS IDENTITY TRANSLATES INTO THE CONTEMPORARY ART WORLD?
Being an American today is surviving. Nothing lasts forever, but what you leave in acts and in art, can come very close to being immortal if it comes from the heart.
Do good for your fellow woman and man. Art can make one feel like they are not alone.
In Contemporary Art World and the World, we need to stick together.