The difference between a collage and a décollage is that the former adds pieces and builds upon it to create a new image, while the latter removes part of an existing image to form something new. Your artworks are filled corner to corner with torn and reconstructed pieces of paper, creating jagged lines and textured surfaces on your canvas. How did your practice come to be centered around collage and décollages? What are the emotions that you encounter as you destroy public advertisements and transform them into something new and personal?
The work I put on canvases is both collage and décollage. I start with a blank canvas and add to the surface. I also using décollage techniques to remove parts and to add texture or to create space.
I started out exploring this style because I had a big wood slab in my studio that I would doodle on, wheatpaste images, test silk screens or spraypaint on, and the homies would catch a tag on it etc. The surface of the wood started to peel off in pieces, so I started compositing the pieces on canvas. Now, 20+ years later, it just evolved and continues to grow as a style. Nowadays, I’ve incorporated oil sticks, acrylic paint, and other mixed mediums to enhance what I do with the initial torn poster surface.
Your recent works that you have exhibited at Court Tree Collective, Ray Barbee (2023) and Hobie (2023),are décollages that are carefully made from recycled advertisements found in New York City. Is it the sustainability aspect that drives the decision behind re-using these NYC adverts or is it more of an homage to the city you call home?
When it comes to collecting the ad posters, I call it “liberating the wall.” It’s mostly a joke but there is also a feeling that these ads take up public space and are only there for the purpose of trying to sell us a product. These are not businesses using their own property to display advertisements, the posters are wheatpasted to public walls and construction sites. So, that being said, it does feel good to remove the posters from the walls because it takes back our space and these ads infringe on our right to not be bombarded with ads for products.
Ray Barbee (2023) is inspired by the legendary skateboarder and musician Ray Barbee. In what ways do you look up to him and are there any other figures that you are inspired by?
The Ray Barbee piece was directly inspired by his music, it’s a common go-to soundtrack in my home and within my family’s routine. We had taken a trip to California, drove all around the state, from the cities, to the beaches, the desert, and the Red Woods. Ray’s music was the go-to music for the trip. The backdrop, colors, and landscapes of California coupled with Ray’s music really gave me a palette in my mind. I did a series based on these inspirations: brighter colors and the compositions of the pieces were made to mimic the patterns of 1980’s surf wear clothing like Hobie Brand. It felt a little weird to name it directly after Ray Barbee but the correlation between the work and its direct inspiration is something I actually wanted to be obvious, as a tribute to his music. My first introduction to Ray is through skateboarding in the 1980’s. He was such an innovator of street skateboarding and always has had incredible style. Ray is also a renaissance artist, he shoots photos, makes music, and is a skateboarder. I’m into renaissance artists who really find their own way in multiple disciplines.
One of the canvases from the same series is Flamenco Sketches, and for that one I had been listening to Miles Davis’s classic album “Kind of Blue.” So, it is just a way for me to kind of mark an artwork by titling it by inspiration, correlation, and stamping it at the time of its creation.
Since this series, I have gone on to title other works by the same process. I did a series inspired by the music of Azymuth, Sonic Youth, and The Sun Ra Arkestra led by Marshall Allen.
Just to elaborate, I am inspired by so many artists, musicians, and creatives. It’s an endless pursuit channeling my influences into my work. I don’t believe in self-expression as a way of describing how the work comes out. The work we do, I believe, comes from what we take in through experiences, influences and inspirations.
Can you tease any works that are currently in-progress or any future works?
I really went hard over the last year or so doing a lot of canvas work. As far as new work/projects I have been focusing on music production and working on a fully developed music project. That’s my own renaissance story as a skateboarder, DJ, photographer, designer, visual artist, and musician, etc. I’ve always had to bounce between my creative outlets. If I focus on one too hard the others come calling but they all do inform and help each other to push my work to the next place. At the moment, I have at least a dozen canvases in different stages of completeness. So, it’s not that I stop doing certain work. It’s more about constantly re-prioritizing what I’m giving my most focus to based on what I am inspired to work on most.
In addition to being an artist, you are also the owner of the skateboard brand “Happy 88Hardware”. Your company’s instagram account, @88hardware, is filled with videos and pictures of you and other skaters completing complex skills and tricks. What initially drew you into skating and how has it shaped who you are as a person? How has skating impacted your artistic practice (and vice versa)? And how significant is it for you to have all these amazing skaters to not only skate and do tricks with, but also have this incredible community supporting you?
I got into skateboarding in the mid 1980’s. Skateboarding was something my friends and I got into together and built a community around. It was just coming into the more mainstream consciousness back then with movies like “Back To The Future" and a couple years later with “Police Academy 4" and "Gleaming The Cube.” Just like with any passion, you fall in love with it and then it just becomes part of you. That said, skateboarding is intertwined with just who I am as a person even before how it comes into my art.
It has been well documented now with documentaries like “Beautiful Losers,” but skateboarders just have their own way of approaching art and creative endeavors that are unique to others doing similar things. A lot of it is just the process of skateboarding, the practice, the repeated failure but still coming back for more. Style is also really important in skateboarding, maybe the only culture that puts as much emphasis on style is Hip-Hop. So… right off the bat we just have a perspective and goal that not every non-skater artist might have.
Having been in skateboarding for so long, I started 88 Hardware as just a way to put my two cents back into a culture that has given me so much. It’s dope having a crew of skateboarders down for the brand and have the brand be part of each rider’s history and path within skateboarding. We all work on our projects together and help each other not just within skateboarding but just as friends too. Thank You Skateboarding.
Last great media (book/show/music/movie)?
: Rick Rubin’s The Creative Mind
If you’re an artist, designer, musician, or any other type of creative… this book is invaluable.
I read a lot and listen to audio books as well. I don’t really read fiction at all, it’s mostly all studying for me. Information to grow my own knowledge, wisdom, and understanding or to just get the inspiration flowing.
A lot biographies of artist and musicians, books about the history record labels, or the making of noted albums. I do read a lot of poetry though.
: Anything Sophia Coppola, Jim Jarmusch, and Wes Anderson
I’m really into films that aren’t necessarily about anything other than just a “day in the life” or “slice of life”.
: I just finished “Wu-Tang, An American Saga” on Hulu
One of the greatest American success stories of a rise to fame. I thought it was really dope, well-produced and directed. The acting was well done too. I can’t think of a harder group of artists to try and capture their mannerisms, personas, and nuances of character.
Music: I suppose because of my return to production work, I have been revisiting a lot of albums that have a specific sample-based production. Besides that, I always listen to a lot of Jazz, beat tapes, soundtracks, podcasts, and instrumental music. I will tack on a playlist, if you want to include…
PJ’s “Brain On Shuffle” Playlist:
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN ︎
Al Hirt- “Harlem Hendoo”
Willie Mitchell- “Groovin”
Jimmy Smith- “Root Down”
Southside Movement- “I’ve Been Watching You”
Ahmad Jamal- “Swahililand”
Roy Ayers- “The Memory”
John Coltrane- “In A Sentimental Mood”
Ray Barbee- “A Word Aptly Spoken”
Gap Mangione- “Diana In The Autumn Wind”
Gil Scott-Heron- “We Almost Lost Detroit”
Phil Ranelin- “Vibes From The Tribe”
Sun Ra- “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”
Miles Davis “Flamenco Sketches”
Yo-Yo Ma/Bobby McFerrin- “Andante”
The Delfonics- “Ready Or Not Here I Come”
René Costy- “Scrabble”
Weldon Irving- “Morning Sunrise”
William Bell- “I Forgot To Be Your Lover”
Jean Plum- “Here I Go Again”
Z.Z. Hill- “That Ain’t The Way You Make Love”
Donald Byrd- “Places And Spaces”
Alain Goraguer- “Ten Et Tiwa”
Lee Mason & His Orchestra- “Shady Blues”
Bill Evans- “Ballads”
9th Creation- “Bubblegum”
PJ’s Instagram: @88hardware
Interview by Tiffany Kang.