Internationally acclaimed artist/sculptor and pioneer in the art and culture of Hip Hop, Carlos Mare 139 Rodriguez needs no introduction. Having won countless awards and presented countless highly acclaimed exhibitions and of course Style Wars. I was fortunate to catch up with Carlos Mare 139 Rodriguez and run him down with my question about art in general and of course his native New York City
SLAMXHYPE – Can you tell us a bit about where you are from?
Mare139 – I am a New Yorican, meaning a Puerto Rican born in New York City. I was born In Spanish Harlem during the height of the Civil Rights era and shortly there after relocated to the South Bronx where I had most of my formidable upbringing.
SXH – What did you want to be when you were a child?
M139 – My earliest aspirations were to be a great Style Master like the artists I saw painting on the trains, painters like Noc167, Part One, Kase 2, Chain 3 and others. Being that graffiti was the prevalent culture for youth in those days it was an aspirational activity that drove my creative passion.
SXH – How did you get your first breakthrough?
M139 – My earliest activities were amateur and not overwhelming breakthroughs though there were firsts like going to a train yard or layup, the real breakthroughs came later in life when I was able to make distinctions between what I just ‘did’ and what I could achieve, like for instance I was a good style writer but when I made my first sculpture I realized a breakthrough in which I had achieved a new possibility for myself as and artist.
SXH – Where do you find inspiration and influence on a daily basis? why?
M139 – I find inspiration and influence by staying interested and invested in more than just my self and my work. I read a good deal on the history of art and study design and architecture by just being observant and open minded. I keep an internal dialogue active in my brain with what I see and discuss with others and seek to go beyond the surface about the act and process of creativity. This engagement stretches me and affords me to seek my potential involvement in creative areas I would have not otherwise considered. I find other artist inspiring, knowing what a challenge it is to be a professional artist brings along so many creative and complex personal issues that I find comfort and solidarity among my peers.
SXH – Anyone you desire to work with/for?
M139 – There are several artists I wish to collaborate with because of their influence on me, Frank Stella being one of them. I find that he is one of the more prolific and intellectual artists living today, I also find his work as boisterous and daring a lot like graffiti art. Bridging our interests and backgrounds could be an amazing and interesting exercise. Frank Ghery is another person I could see a very interesting exchange with since I am now moving into an architectural space with my work. On a more personal discourse I have always wanted to sit with Mark di Suvero whom I find one of the more compelling sculptors alive, he is the last of his kind and cut from the cloth of the great sculptors of the 20th century.
SXH – What’s the best thing about the city you live in? why?
M139 – New York City is a difficult place, its a city you can love and hate in the same breath. I grew up here and have seen it through many incarnations, it of course is a mecca for artists and culture but not in the way it once was. I still feel NYC can be a great source of inspiration for outsiders but the truth is the world has caught up and surpassed us in many ways and I believe it has a lot to do with the economy and gentrification. Sometimes it really is hard to find a true New Yorker because everyone here is from somewhere else.
SXH – Where is the best place to eat? why?
M139 – I happen to love Il Bagatto on 2nd st between Ave A and B, it is by far one of the best Italian restaurants around. The food is authentic, delicious and well priced but more over it still retains that NYC sensibility, like a spot you can return to as if it were home, they have terrific DJs spin downstairs, even Bobbito spins a set from time to time and one can find artists like LEE or Alicia Keys eating there as well
SXH – Best Shop in your city? why?
M139 – Century 21 is really cool, manic but a great place to find affordable and interesting labels at cheap prices.
SXH – Best Gallery in your city? why?
M139 – I happen to like the Gagosian Galleries because of the diversity of masters and contemporary artists. It is rather toney but the fact you can go there and see David Smith in one gallery and Picasso in another is quite impressive.
SXH – Favourite place to visit? why?
M139 – The Metropolitan Museum is one of my all time favorites, Ive been a regular there for over 30 years. One can find tremendous inspiration and education there, the range of art and culture is staggering, one could traverse from many periods of civilizations and creative interests in one afternoon.
SXH – What do you think of the current climate of the art scene? why?
M139 – Todays art scene is lively and diverse but this general discussion of art today seems to be more about the business of art which is so terribly fucked up. I think the game has been sullied by the advent of the overnight artist, the ones who just get bought out from art school and have yet to prove or contribute to the larger community of art making. Truth is that its an opportunists market and has very little to do with qualitative art making and of historical relevance. At times one can discover gems like Whitfield Lovell and say wow! this is really relevant and well invested, there are times when the trend of cartooning and pop street art make me want to puke and turn away from participating, yet I am a person who is democratic about art and feel there is enough room and opportunity to participate, that is why graffiti art is still so important because it has become the everyman art and in some measure cheap and easy to do. The current feeding frenzy around the arts is vulgar and is disconcerting because it cannibalizes great artist before they mature and also excludes those who are mature, its a very confusing time for the arts especially when money is involved. I often say it is a business that has been sullied by nickel rats and shysters looking to get instant fame.
SXH – What artists are changing the way we think at the moment?
M139 – I think of course Damion Hirst and Murakami have had a tremendous affect on the commercial production and selling of art, they do not confuse emotions between art and business which in many ways is a hard pill to swallow for purists but the fact remains it is a business and should be treated as such and if you TCB you will be afforded the luxury of creating at will with great pleasure. Aside from them I see someone like art dealer Steve Lazarides having tremendous impact with the artist he represents like Banksy, Blu JR, and others, artists who are outside the curve and are not necessarily trying to be artist, this alternative to the mainstream is healthy, many dont see it this way because its ahead of its time.
SXH – Any artists that perhaps we should look out for? why?
M139 – I believe some artist in my peer group who were part of the early NYC graffiti scene present great potential for the future. Artist Like Eric Haze who has been transitioning from a successful commercial artist to painter presents a new challenge to his genre with his minimalist paintings. I also like West a good deal because he has in a short space of time developed his work into the realm of abstract expressionism but retained parts of his background in graffiti art. Lee Quinones is among the giants of our culture and has matured in both content and technique to create beautiful works. I also admire a young artist out of Britain named Remi who also is pushing the limits of graff related works into more painterly expressions that are building on the strong foundations of art history. These artists I know personally and have a healthy, creative and intellectual exchange with, they are not pop artist or the staple stock that commonly come up in many art shows, these are men who are very focused and are as serious about art making as I am.
SXH – Where do you see the art scene in 10 years time?
M139 – I dont care.
SXH – Whats green, fluffy and lives in your second drawer?
M139 – Canabis Sativa.