Futura: The Art of Reinvention (2012 Online Cover Story)

Futura: The Art of Reinvention (2012 Online Cover Story)Interview by Nick Schonberger (@nschon); Photography by Ferny Chung

The 1980s closed with less of a bang than the decade had begun, and Futura found himself in a slight lull—but his restless curiosity soon led him to embrace the alternatives to art world success, seeking new avenues to connect with an audience. One of those was streetwear. Along with fellow New York writers Gerb and Stash, he founded GFS, a pioneering clothing label that brought sophisticated graffiti graphics to T-shirts and sweatshirts. Although the brand eventually folded, it served its purpose as a jumping-off point pushing Futura to work on similar enterprises like Project Dragon and Subware—ultimately moving into the realm through which most of our generation understands his work.

The vicissitudes of life dictated some of Futura’s next moves. After he “took a series of wrong turns,” he says, “I somehow found myself in London.” There he met James Lavelle, founder of the electronic music label Mo' Wax, which helped a new generation of music lovers discovered Futura’s work. Just as The Clash helped expose him to Europe, Futura’s second musical collaboration presented a new vision of his work to an increasingly global audience. In 1998, Futura created the cover art for UNKLE, a group made up of Lavelle and Bay Area producer//turntablist DJ Shadow. Their debut album, Psyence Fiction was also the debut of Futura’s signature Pointman—an abstracted, almost robotic figure with an elongated head—another pivotal step in his progression.

“Without the UNKLE experience, I don't think anyone would have ever heard of the Pointman,” notes Futura, “In addition James Lavelle was most instrumental in not only exposing my artwork to that new audience; but also producing the Futura book back in the year 2000.” A sketchbook history of the artist’s evolution, the book connected the dots of his work up to that point—from writing on trains to designing album sleeves—contextualizing a spontaneous, serendipitous career.

 

Without the UNKLE experience, I don't think anyone would have ever heard of the Pointman.
Futura

 

The success of UNKLE gave Pointman a life of its own. The figure soon became the basis for collectible toys produced by the Japanese manufacturer Medicom and collaborations with the likes of Bathing Ape, Levi’s, Nike, and the continued development of McGurr’s own Tokyo-based Futura LABORATORIES brand, a fully fledged clothing line which has collaborated with Japanese technical clothing company Descente and deployed Pointman on a range of electronics accessories. The Pointman figure became a locus for new interactions with an increasingly diverse and dispersed audience—an audience united, of course, by the Internet.

Futura was quick to embrace the web’s potential. "As soon as I heard about the Internet, I was very excited to get on that information superhighway," he says. "Almost twenty years later it appears to have changed the way we live. I see the interaction between myself and the public at large to be increasingly positive."

Through his own websites, Flickr, and most recently Instagram, Futura has always maintained a presence in the digital space. He’s used it wisely, extending his world view through a slightly left-of-center, but oh-so-fitting approach to provoking creative interaction, especially through instagram where he relishes maintaining individual connections with fans.  That social platform also allows Futura to share his secondary artistic passion, photography. Regardless of the project, he’s always got the same simple aim with art: “get other people inspired.” So what Futura’s own inspiration? 

Tags: futura, futura2000, online-cover-stories, futura-week
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