My first art fair experience came just a few months after moving to NYC in 2010, showing with the Murder Lounge at the Fountain Art Fair. Our gallery space was in the hull of the frying pan.(A barge on the West Side Highway of Manhattan). I was wide-eyed and meeting a group of interesting characters that would end up being my base of contacts for years to come. One of those characters was a large, loud, generous man wearing a top hat and striped polo shirt, who was going on about how it was his birthday. He liked my art, and he had some materials that I should work into some new pieces. The individual goes by the name Greyegg.
Each day of the install, and the fair, I found old film, blue prints, and a slew of other objects hanging off my pieces that he felt I should be using in future works. From that day forward we began collaboration on pieces, and curating shows at bars, art fairs, and rock festivals for the next five years. As an artist I have always been confused and impressed by Greyegg’s technique. In the beginning of our collaborating I always felt very reserved compared to how fluid he is in his process; how he stacks stencils and colors without a care in the world. Once I commit to an idea I want to make it work. If it fails I want to fix it. Greyegg will make 20 pieces and if some fail that’s fine because ultimately some worked.
Just a few of the many collaborations with Greyegg over the years
City Kitty: I taped off some panels that you can stencil then I can work into them if you’re cool with that?
Greyeggg: Sure! What were you thinking of doing with them afterwards?
CK: I figured I could bolt or glue a few of them up.
GE: Sounds good.
CK: So what made you choose stencils as your primary medium?
GE: When I first started cutting stencils I was really influenced by the work of Roy Lichtenstein. I liked how he used dot matrix halftones in his work. I realized quickly that I was not very good at cutting stencils so I started finding materials like floor grates that would give me a similar result. As I started to experiment with found stencils I realized that anything could become a stencil! Speaking of, what’s the deal with this Easter basket? Can I use this thing?
CK: Sure thing! Now when I think of Roy Lichtenstein’s work, I think of very clean comic style work that is crisply painted and very planned out. That’s not what I get from your work. What made you get to the point of overlaying and stacking layers of patterns and color?
GE: To be honest, I could never get my stencils to look perfect, so I had to accept my mess. Once I surrendered to that I realized that one layer of mess looks bad, but many layers of mess in many different colors can look great. This freedom allowed me to experiment more with color and different combinations of cut and found stencils.
CK: You were the first person I met who was open to collaborate with almost anyone. Why is collaborating so important to you?
GE: First off, I learn from it. Art is more fun with more people. The more minds you get together on a project the better it can be. That being said, I’ve worked on projects with people that have been disastrous, and friendship-ending. Sometimes you get people together that you shouldn’t have, but I learn from the failures as well as the successes. But I’ve always enjoyed working with other people. I love making art, and collaborating has the possibility of making it more fun.
CK: When we first met I was perusing fine art painting and just getting into street art. As I started getting more into the street art world you started getting more into the pin world. You also foresaw pins crossing over into street art and were trying to get me and a few other artists to make pins five or six years ago. Now most street artists I know have one or more pins for sale.
GE: I tried to explain this to the person I make pins with, but that’s the thing with collaborating; the other person doesn’t always agree with you, but that’s part of it. In hindsight I should have pushed it harder.
CK: It seems that you’ve had an easier time collaborating with people in the pin world.
GE: It’s actually easier working with artists rather than people in the pin world, which I always found strange because essentially the last step in pin making is collaboration with the manufacturer overseas. Unfortunately it’s not looked at it that way, but it is. The manufacturer is the last person to touch your art.
CK: Being an outsider to the pin community, I was thinking about it similarly to street art. I have found that most street artists that mass-produce their work are usually open to collaboration because they are not attached to a print. But I guess the main difference is that a pin is a product for sale. It’s great if a painting or drawing of mine sells but I’m not creating an idea specifically to sell it.
GE: Look at how the green is crackling over the black! I brought the Yoda stencil since it’s May the 4th.
CK: What if we used this roll of fence over here? I can lay part of it flat.
GE: Nice, grab it!
GE: When I switched over to the pin world I was mainly making music pins. I thought I would be welcomed into that scene coming from more of an art background than most [of] the pin makers I had met. But it was very cliquey, and people were very territorial about ideas. We made a few Phish pins that was a riff on an old TV show, and were contacted by a group stating that old TV shows were there thing!
CK: There are a lot of similarities in the street art world. Both worlds borrow heavily from pop culture. There are artists in the street art world that get territorial over what they do because they both happen to be using the same iconic photo they didn’t take. I saw that happen years ago when we were doing the Overlook Gallery at Rock n Roll Resort. I remember a few people getting upset when you're creeping into the part of the pin market they have cornered.
GE: The type of pins you're speaking of are called clip art pins, and it’s when someone appropriates an image rather than making something original, which is my favorite thing to do when making pins.
CK: It seems like an essential part of the scene. It reminds me of Phish shirts from when I was a teenager, making puns from song names that were ideas derived from Wacky Packages or Garbage Pail Kids.
GE: It’s not a new concept; people have been doing this for years. Whenever people bring up that I’m not creating something new I just tell them that I just have more tools and possibilities.
CK: That’s very true. I see the correlation from when I use to spin hip-hop. Most of the hip-hop I love is derived from old soul and jazz. I have no problem with it; I just want people to try harder. When you have Photoshop, and millions upon millions of images on the Internet, I shouldn’t have to see so many artists re-working the same pictures or characters. That being said we are making pieces today with Jerry Garcia and Yoda stencils. I appreciate you taking the time to sit down and work on some pieces with me; it’s always a new and fun challenge.
GE: Of course thanks for having me and let’s make you a City Kitty pin!
CK: No! You can keep up with Greyegg's adventures by checking him out on instagram