Why was this weekend's Robots Will Kill + Friends group show at My Plastic Heart so highly anticipated? Maybe because last year's event turned into an impromptu block party, with fans spilling out into the street and a total party atmosphere.
Blockbuster line with Tony Sjöman (@rubin415) mural
Fans began lining up at 3pm on a humid, rainy afternoon in the hope of receiving one of 40 custom printed RWK totes, filled with gifts from the artists. They included enamel pins, artworks and stickers. By 7pm the gallery was packed, and the line was around the block. Once bags were handed out, fans filed into the gallery to enjoy over 50 works by 50 artists including graffiti, street artists, illustrators and toy artists.
I spoke with curator Chris 'RWK' the morning after the opening to see what the preparation was like.
Sarah Sansom: Congratulations on a great opening on Friday night. How do you feel?
Chris RWK: Humbled is probably the best word. Well, that and happy! When I got to My Plastic Heart and the line was down the block, I was nervous. When I heard it was around the corner, I definitely couldn't believe it: mainly because I wanted people to be happy with the artwork and tote bags. I didn't have any doubt in the artists/artwork, but just wanted people to be happy with who I curated in the show. It's an irrational feeling because I know you can't make everyone happy, but it's just part of my personality.
[Note: Reactions to the bags included 'So much dope stuff... beyond happy' - Dave Soundwave Ryan, 'Overwhelmed by how much was inside... I felt really lucky to have received one' - Kristy Calabro]
SS: What did it take to put the show together, and were there any particular hurdles?
RWK: After the success of the show last year, Vin at My Plastic Heart (MPH) asked me if I was down to do it this year: absolutely. My main concern was picking artists who have shown support and been an inspiration. I also wanted to make sure it was a good mix. I love art shows, but in "scenes" it can tend to be the same line up.
I wanted people to hopefully find new artists - that was a big part of launching robotswillkill.com and now the @robotswillkill Instagram. I wanted graffiti writers to maybe learn about illustrators or fine artists. And really the main thing was getting people to see graffiti as an art form.
Designing the tote bags was fun. Filling them, not so much! The response was incredible. Stickers, pins, patches, prints and original artwork were sent in. I'm honored that so many people sent stuff for them.
The manpower for the show was myself, Vin and Biki at MPH. MPH did a great job of keeping track of the art sent in for the show. My wife and son also helped pack tote bags.
Promoting the show took time, but it gave me another platform to introduce different artists. No major hurdles. Some late arrivals, but that's expected: the artists in the show are busy.
When Analog Meets Digital, ChrisRWK (@chrisrwk)
WuBot, Mike Die (@mikedie)
Untitled, Hellbent (@hellbent_)
Rain (Red) and Rain (Blue), Leon Rainbow (@aerosoleon)
Dance, Rep1NYC=MIKU (@rep1nyc_miku)
SS: How did you want to make the show different from last year?
RWK: I didn't want a theme or gimmick; just the artists doing what they do. My main goal wasn't to outdo last year but to make sure the artists felt supported and represented correctly. I just want people to enjoy the work, and that's what it's about.
Black book sketch opportunities
SS: Were there any artists you were especially pleased to have participate?
RWK: I can't say one more than the others. but I can say there are ones that made me smile when they agreed. Anyone included is someone I wanted in the show. What I can say is I was super-excited of the mix, because when would you see Mike Egan alongside Burn353 alongside Chad Pierce alongside Sugarfueled alongside REGA alongside Mont Montgomery alongside Evoker alongside Lou Pimentel alongside Atoms... I can keep going on. So I can't say any particular artist.
SS: What are you working on next?
RWK: I have some projects with Richmondhood, Mooseyart, Ewkuks, Galerie F, No Love City and a few others. We have some really great episodes of For The Masses podcast coming up, and some new merch, because there's been a lot of interest. I took a step back in the beginning of 2017 so it feels good to refocus.
A very successful NYC night!
Robots Will Kill + Friends July 14 - August 13
210 Forsyth St., New York, NY 10002 Tues - Sat 12-7PM • Sun 12-5PM • Closed Mondays
Show store: https://www.myplasticheart.com/robots-will-kill-friends/