“The thing about my works is that it looks like 100 different artists did them,” says Leon Reid IV as he points to various creations in his Greenpoint, Brooklyn studio. Photos from his graffiti writing days as VERBS and Darius Jones hang on the walls. In the rear, limited edition sculpture projects are on display next to framed sketches of his public art installation concepts. Relics from previous art projects hang above a welding machine, and on one side of the studio, his new 3D printer is finishing off two figurines of suit-clad businessmen.
Undoubtedly, "multidisciplinary" is an understatement. “To become a highly successful commercial artist is to find what works, stick with it, and repeat. You don’t experiment. Everything I create may not look cohesive, but that’s my working process. My mind thinks a million different ways, with different ideas, and if I’m not physically creating or experimenting, I definitely have to sketch it out. It may not be lucrative, but for me it’s necessary that I experiment and get all these ideas out," Reid explains.
While studying at Pratt Institute in 2000, Leon forged a relationship with artist-filmmaker Brad Downey and created the duo Darius and Downey. Aside from collaborating on graffiti murals, the team, often disguised in construction clothes, frequently installed and manipulated street signs and light posts. “Street signs are so prevalent in urban life telling us 'Do this, don't do that. Be here, don't be here.' They are so regulatory, cold and lifeless. All it takes is a little tweak and it becomes alive. That’s why I’ve always been so drawn to changing them,” says Reid.
In Reid's quest to create larger-scaled art projects, Darius and Downey parted ways in the mid 2000s, and Reid reclaimed his full name. “As a street artist, it was instant gratification basically. It was me getting my work out at the speed of lightning whenever I came up with something,” says Reid. “I was like your average criminal, getting away with things I wanted to do. It then dawned on me that some of these ideas I had didn't have to be illegal. It was me doing it illegally because I didn't know how to do it with permission. Permission is great because you can do things on a much bigger scale, but waiting for a response and the time in which you can do it is what you compromise.”
At present, Leon IV is working to get his project A Spider Lurks In Brooklyn approved, an installation of a massive spider entwined in the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge. Between working on his series of sculptures for sale and teaching classes in his studio, Leon has rounded up some of his favorite works. Check them out in our Portfolio Review: Leon Reid IV Speaks on His Favorite Public Art Installations.