Feb 24, 2013

Los Angeles

SEEN, who is referred to be the “Godfather of Graffiti” currently presents never-before-shown artworks in his solo exhibition [UN]SEEN.

The artist shows abstract paintings created in Paris from 2007-2012. SEEN, who has built his artistic career on perfecting the graffiti letter, presents exciting new paintings that are a distinct stylistic break from the graffiti work for which he has become known.

When he moved to Paris in 2007, SEEN found the necessary time and inspiration to devote to experimentation. Those familiar with SEEN’s work will find this new series signifies his evolution as an artist. However, in true graffiti fashion, every piece is created with spray paint using various techniques that demonstrate the versatility of the spray can.

In the course of SEEN’s exhibition, the gallery conducted an exclusive interview with the artist. While you read an excerpt, you will find the full version by clicking here.

Your super hero body of work is exhibited in galleries around the world and recent auction results have been tremendous. For this upcoming exhibition at Fabien Castanier Gallery, you are exhibiting work that you created while living in Paris. Can you explain how this exhibition is different and what it’s all about?
SEEN: Honestly, I like to use the word experimenting, but there’s more to it. I’ve always worked in an abstract area my whole life – as early as the 80’s, maybe late 70’s. The graffiti style of work – with the form of the letter – is what took off in the general public’s eye for me. I was painting in other styles at that time too, but I didn’t get a chance to work that deep in those areas. So during the early days, in the 80’s, when I had an opportunity to change my work style and go in a new direction I never showed the works that I was really getting into, which were more abstract. I kept that private, all these years I’ve kept it private. I wasn’t able to fully explore that style up until about 5 years ago. That’s when I got the opportunity to leave the U.S. and made my way to Paris. That was when I had all my energy and all my time. I was able to go back into experimenting in this field.

Of this series that you created – all this experimentation you were doing – how does this fit into and how is it significant to your larger body of work?
SEEN: I feel it fits in because an artist needs to grow and to experiment. And if they don’t do that, then they’re not growing as an artist should grow – to see where you can take something, and to me, it’s all part of the process. The shame is that it took a long time to get to this point, to produce a large body of work like this. When I was doing works in a similar manner years ago – experimenting – I wasn’t able to bring it all into one huge body like this. When people look at this work, at first they might think it’s overwhelming because it’s 5 years worth of work. Some might not see it fit in. But if you step back and look at the big picture, the form of the letter in graffiti is color blending and design work. The only problem is, the graffiti where I grew up – it was locked into a box, into a frame with an outline. I took the letter, an abstract piece basically, and I was confining it by putting an outline around it . Now, it’s totally released. The only thing that stops it at this point is the end of the canvas. And the truth of the matter is, you don’t even need the canvas, you just go beyond that. The letter just keeps growing.

These paintings that you created in Paris over the 5 years, they are exclusively painted with spray cans. Can you explain this process?
SEEN: The spray can is a tool that I find to be most comfortable with. I’ve used a paintbrush, an airbrush, I use other mediums and it all works for me but the spray can is the most comfortable. I figured out how to use the spray cans in an unconventional way with different works, with different abstract styles I would do. There is one way where I would take the spray can and take the cap and I would squirt the paint into the cap of the spray can. I let it go into the cap and turn into a liquid form now instead of an aerosol spray. Now, I’m using it to drip on the canvases over and over to build up my textures and my colors and my designs. There are so many ways to use a spray can. It does not have to be just pressing a button down and the spray comes out.

So in a way, these paintings are a way for you to break from the graffiti style and from what you normally show, for what you are known?
SEEN: Yes, yes. And it would be great if I break through and if it’s accepted. If it’s not, it’s still ok because I will still explore and experiment with it. It was just so important for me to take that time in my life. I needed to find it and I needed to find that time. And I was lucky to get it because for me, it makes me feel better for what I’ve been doing all these years because you get…. tiresome. You have to figure out what you’re looking for and where you’re gonna be happy in life, you know what I’m saying? People like Keith Haring, for instance, everyone knows his work. Ok, he passed away early. Would he want to paint that same imagery today? And would he have stood the test of time if he still did it today? So these are a lot of questions, a lot of mind games that the artist starts getting in his head, like “Where am I going with this? What am I doing?” But you know what I figured out in the end? No matter what, I’m going to do what I want to do. Maybe one day when I kick the bucket, someone’s gonna open up the door and see all these different works and say, “Hmm, who’s this guy? and who’s that guy and who’s this guy?” and then realize it was just one guy and say, “You know what? See that guy? That guy was an eccentric. He was a fucking genius.” (laughs)


Fabien Castanier Gallery

February 23 – March 24, 2013
12196 Ventura Blvd
Studio City CA 91604