Quality of life is defined as one's personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which they live. Tonight it's the catalyst for the inaugural opening of Damon Dash's Poppington gallery, which hosts a show that celebrates the most notorious and indelible graffiti artists working in the five boroughs at the moment. Known for their raw and uninhibited style in the streets, this evenings headliners are an unapologetic crew of respected heavyweights: Katsu, Sabio, Pixote, Beau, JIM JOE, Phil & Womp.
Tonight's exhibition features a crew of artists who possess as much relevancy as they do the potential to traverse into the realm of fine art. Curated by David Barnett, David Chang, and participating artist, Beau, the gallery houses three floors of raw space showcasing an intriguing catalogue of mixed-media works that are independent to the artists traditional landscape and aesthetic.
Complex sat down with Sabio, Beau, Phil, and JIM JOE to discuss how the Quality of Life group show was conceived, and what it's like to collaborate with a cast of celebrated misfits.
Interview by Justin Korkidis (@Say_WordYo)
How did the Quality of Life show come about?
Beau: I happened to walk down Orchard street one day when I caught the two Daves (David Barnett and David Chang) and said what's up. I asked them what they had going for an opening at the 'Poppington' space and I brought up the idea of a group show.
You don't know who the person is, you just see 'em on the street and you admire their work. You're like 'Damn, how the fuck did he get up there? This dude's crazy. Nice spot.' Then you cross paths and realize a lot of us are connected through other friends." - Sabio
Did you guys know each other before then?
Beau: Sabio and I met for the first time when we were organizing the exhibition.
Phil: I've known Beau for a couple of years.
Sabio: Pixote is my cousin but I don't know Jim Joe. I know his work but a lot of us are meeting for the first time at the show. That's what I like about graffiti. You don't know who the person is, you just see 'em on the street and you admire their work. You're like "Damn, how the fuck did he get up there? This dude's crazy. Nice spot." Then you cross paths and realize a lot of us are connected through other friends. That's how I got to know the guys like Phil and Beau. But Katsu and I have known each other for years.
What kind of mediums have you selected for the show?
Sabio: I'm using oil, acrylic, latex, house paint, spray paint, ink, water color.
Phil: I'm doing some screen prints and hand-painted drawings on denim. Some sculptural stuff like plastic castings similar to garden gnomes. I wanted to explore clothing as a medium and present this on some one of a kind pieces. All in the vain of vintage Americana. That's what I'm trying to kick off with this.
What about the rest of you?
Beau: Kind of the same like Sabio. A lot of mixed media.
What can we expect from tonight's show?
Beau: At the end of the day, this is going to be a dynamic art show that's going to have so many different but relevant styles. Especially for the ones who are known as "graffiti artist". A lot of people don't think of them as anything but graffiti artists and don't have a clue that they do more than graffiti.
Are you cool with the streets moving into the gallery arena?
Sabio: I'm cool with any place to express myself. But I'm not cool with people bringing in their work from the street into a gallery setting. There's a thin line. What you do on the street should stay on the street but what you bring into a gallery or an art show should be something else. If I'm doing graffiti in a gallery, that doesn't make sense to me. Bombing is the street but when it comes to a gallery showcase it becomes fine art.
Do you guys feel the same way?
Phil: I don't know how to answer that question.
It's rare to see a crew of artists who are this heavy in the street come to get together for one show.
Beau: All these guys are relatively well known but you don't see other galleries hosting a show like this. With actual contemporary working artists here in NY. The Hole hosts a lot of good stuff but I think this is a good starting point.
Sabio: All of us are heavily active in the game. A few nights might go by, but we're pretty much out on the street at least two to three times a week. We're highly active and I like that. We're showing our work in a gallery setting but we're also killing the streets right now.
* A statement provided by JIM JOE
A SHOW LIKE IS A SHOW IS LIKE THIS ONE WHICH IS ITS OWN THING
PEOPLE WITH PAST TIMES COMMON AND MAYBE NO ELSE
REASONS ARE SAME AS NO REASON
WITH PAINTS AND PICTURES
IS SPACE FOR NOW
WHICH GOT MADE BY MANS FURIOUS WORKING
ADDING AND NOT OVER NIGHT
WITH REGARD TO WALL AND STEP AND WINDOW
AND THEN STEPPED OUT