Global Track is our bi-weekly street art column by Rhiannon Platt.
For a decade, multi-media artist Avoid, aka Adam Void, has tested every medium on the street’s surfaces: scratchies, white out tags, extinguishers, pieces, rollers, and beyond. During this time, he has documented the adventures associated with these illegal acts on instant film. Opening Friday, June 6 at Castell Photography Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina, a new show titled "Adam Void | Instant Photography: 2003-2014" will display over 1,000 of Avoid's images in a continuous, horizontal line. Like many towns in the Appalachian Mountains, coal trucks run along the tracks, setting the perfect backdrop for the artist’s migratory imagery. For this week’s Global Track, Avoid delved into his past as seen through the lens of his camera.
Global Track Interview: Avoid Talks His New Exhibition of Graffiti Photography in North Carolina
Image via Adam Void / Avoid Snake
I ride for fun, I ride for adventure, I ride to see the gross underbelly of America.
How has your aesthetic developed over 10 years in terms of your own graffiti writing?
I’ve been writing for 16 years now, and my graffiti has followed a typical progression. Starting with youthful vandalism and two-letter fills, the foundations of graffiti’s history have played a large role in my early styles. I got schooled by Sour and Klever on how to do a little more than the basics: blasters, rollers, scratchies, white out, you name it.
All of that was set in motion before 2006 when I moved to Brooklyn. The sea of names that I encountered in NYC graffiti pushed me to change it up and find my own original style. When I moved to Baltimore in 2010, I found the physical space and freedom needed to finally put all those variables together. I’m currently living in a mountain oasis where freight trains grow on trees.
Your style is so diverse; monikers, fill-ins, rollers, extinguishers—you really do everything. Where did you begin?
I believe that a diversity of tactics produces the best attack. I began varying my approach to graff out of paranoia/legal necessity. My thoughts were that the guy who painted the straight letters couldn’t be the same person as the guy who painted the tentacles or the tents or put up the weird stickers. This has allowed for me to get up consistently for 16 years and still keep them guessing.
Why did you start writing trains and documenting your travels?
I started riding trains in 2006. Two years before that, I ran into Nathan Nova, who writes the zine Shit Eatin’ Grin. He put me down with my first crew, Change, and the rail maps that I still use to this day. I ride for fun, I ride for adventure, I ride to see the gross underbelly of America. Hopefully my documentation helps bring this alternate reality to a people who are fed advertised images of big cities and white-bread Main Streets.
What do you see as the visual connection between your graffiti and photography?
They are both raw, instinctual, and intend to serve a function. My photography began as documentation and largely remains so. The analog format keeps it old school while the subject matter and patina reflect the hardships of everyday life.
Image via Adam Void / UFO
These photographs that once served to document a particular moment in my daily life, when viewed through a historical lens, become important works of art.
How are you displaying your photographs in your new show?
Castell Photography Gallery is a two-story black-box gallery. The photos are mounted at an unbroken eye-level horizon line throughout the entire gallery, even going down the stairs. We chose 15 Polaroids for high quality enlargements. I was initially skeptical, but these prints transform the originals and allow for new worlds of detail to appear.
What do you hope visitors will take away from a mass installation of over 1,000 Polaroid photographs?
These photographs that once served to document a particular moment in my daily life, when viewed through a historical lens, become important works of art. Also, I would hope the viewer can see the importance of the photograph as an object. The digital folders piled full of JPEGs don’t have the same soul as photo albums. The thousand iPhone photos that the proud mother takes in a single afternoon have already become information overload.
What is represented in your images?
There are hundreds of photos of graffiti and street art that have since been covered over, hundreds of photos taken while hiding on freight trains, photographs of close friends, family members, and lovers—moments in my life that intersect with the lens of a camera.
What locations did you photograph?
The pictures were taken all across the American South, Brooklyn in the late 2000s, Baltimore’s recent history, and adventures through America’s railways, Mexico to Canada on the West Coast, HWY 1, and the majestic scenery of Southern Utah and Arizona.
How has living on freights and trackside affected you?
I grew up near the CSX tracks in Columbia, S.C. and currently live near North Carolina's NS mountain route. The tracks have always felt like home but have always pointed toward an unknown destination. I am thankful to have followed these tracks across two thirds of this country, but it has been a hard life. It appears that living in squats and in trackside squalor can be romantic, and at times actually is, but the physical and mental toll of living outside is immense: eating nothing but peanut butter for three weeks, month-long paranoia, getting jumped by 15-year-olds with guns, finding dead bodies, too many drugs, and not enough love. It helps me appreciate every little thing that I have.
Image via Adam Void / Kuma
Image via Adam Void / Tony Bones
Image via Adam Void / Law
Image via Adam Void / NGC
"Adam Void | Instant Photography: 2003-2014" runs from June 6 to July 26 at Castell Photography Gallery in Asheville, North Carolina.