Q &A with West - Graffiti Artist

Recognized as one of the most prolific artists in the New York Graffiti scene throughout the 1980's and 90's. He began painting on the number 1 Broadway local subway line in 1984. Throughout the 1990's, West, along with his 'Fame City' crew has been recognized as a major influence in the NYC graffiti movement with large scale graffiti mural paintings. Since 2001 West has pushed into the realms of abstract expressionism and stripped the artform of all of it's traditional trappings of color, medium, and process. As a result a new unique language has emerged.

What does it mean to be a Paryorker?

It means being able to tap into the deeper energy that runs both cities. Language aside, customs aside, feeling the true spirit that gives the cities life.

What makes you a real paryorker?

I was born and raised in New York, but I have been traveling to and from Paris for the past 15 years.

How did you become one?

It has taken years, but for me being a part of the rise of the hip hop culture in New York in the early 80’s and watching it spread all over the world, I was welcomed into Paris the first time I came as a cultural contributor. Over the years my friends have shown me the ropes in Paris and now I feel very at home there.

Do you know any other paryorkers?

I know several, but mostly it is a group of my friends who I painted trains with in the 1980’s who moved to Paris 20 years ago and have become New Parisians. Most significantly is the artist Jon One who is an old and dear friend.

How do these two cities contribute to balancing your personal and/or your professional life?

For me New York is intense and full of pressure both good and bad. This energy is very important to the work I do and influences a lot of my paintings. Paris on the other hand is a place for me to be at home without the pressure. In Paris I just allow myself to feel free and to absorb it’s beauty. Paris is an inspiration to me.

What’s the difference between the New-Yorker you and the Parisian you?

The New Yorker energy goes outward- it’’s expresses, and the Parisian energy goes inward – it absorbs . In New York I am painting, cooking, talking. In Paris I am seeing, eating, and listening.

What metaphor can you think of for the two cities ?

Two things come to mind – Paris is day – full of color, and life, beauty, etc, and New York is Night – also beautiful but very dark. Also I think of Paris as the city of Art and of course the great painters Renoir, and Matisse with their vibrant color and beautiful subtlety. In contrast New York is the home of the Abstract Expressionist or ‘New York School’ who have influenced me greatly. These include Pollack, DeKooning and Fraz Kline. Their work by contrast is Agressive often monochromatic and hard – just like New York.

What is your best souvenir from Paris?

Chocolate and Coffee.

What is the first thing that you do when you arrive in Paris? And the last thing you do before you leave Paris?

Eat and Eat.

What moment of the day do you like best in Paris?

Mid Afternoon on the weekends.

Do you have some kind of ritual which is intimately related to Paris?

Yes. I like to ride my bike all over the city very late at night. Even though it is one of the biggest cities in the world it gets extremely quiet late at night – almost empty. New York never feels like that.

What makes you fall for Paris? Enthusiasts you in Paris? What annoys you?

In my opinion Paris is by far the most beautiful city in the world. There is such a a dedication to Art everywhere – in Architecture and city planning that it is just a pleasure to be there. The only real annoyance in Paris is peoples frustration with me for not speaking French.

West’s work will be exhibited at Galerie Magda Danysz (78, Rue Amelot, Paris, 11th arrondissement) until July 31st, 2008.

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