Elsol25's upcoming show, “Corpses and Love Letters,” is this Friday, October 12 at the Living Gallery Outpost.Corpses refer to his multi-faceted wheatpaste collages. Love Letters are a reference to his ransom note style typography pieces. This showcases the two main aspects of his work, but he doesn't just want to do one or the other; he wants to diversify. "Corpses and Love Letters" will highlight the versatile artist that he is and show that he can create and get his messages across through different mediums.
At a young age, Elsol25 aka Solito, a self-taught painter, was always encouraged to be creative. He would draw, build things, and was into all kinds of visual art. He started to develop his graffiti style in El Paso, Texas. Here, he went all city and made a positive impact within the established graffiti and street art scenes at the time. In El Paso, he was "a big fish in a small pond." It was quite the opposite when he made it to New York, as he said, "I'm a tadpole here (in NY)." But, being the small fish pushes you to be more creative. He loves and respects graffiti, it’s his number one influence, but there’s a lot of politics in that world. He started making wheatpastes because he wanted to speak to more people and create art that his Mom or Abuelita would like. He’s a unique artist that thrives in both the street art and graffiti worlds. Not many people can say that.
Around nine years ago, he wound up in New York kind of by accident while visiting friends. He was well aware of the history and influence of the New York graffiti and street art scene. Some of his heroes are Swoon, Faile, and WK Interact, who were doing hard-hitting, huge things at the time. Solito never thought he was worthy to be included in that conversation, but he just went for it, and people were very responsive to his work.
If you've been following New York street art, you have definitely come across Solito's wheatpastes. They're like Dr. Frankenstein's monster. Different parts that come together to form a brand new "exquisite" being. They're surreal and comedic, but usually, have serious meanings behind them reminiscent of the spirit of Dadaism.
"Dadaism" or "Dada," was a protest art movement (during WWI), with an anti-establishment manifesto born out of disgust for the social, political and cultural values of the time. Solito is heavily influenced by Dadaism, and he considers himself a “Neo-Dada Artist.” He is interested in any form of radicalism and non-conformist visual art. "With everything that is going on in the modern world, it's hard to have these conversations directly," Solito said."It's more interesting to do it symbolically through art, and I feel like a lot of the artists out there have failed to do so; it's up to us to initiate those conversations."
His typography pieces are a mixture of different juxtaposed fonts. They're typefaces that he chooses from a catalog of words and logos he has compiled over the years. Like his collages, it's an assemblage, and in this case, it's different letter styles to form one bigger unified piece of art.
His art is cryptic, but it's reactive, and it's a mirror held up to society's face. Solito is challenging artistic norms and questioning the other artist's roles in the process just like the original Dadaists did. Until there's a real revolution, we will always need this type of reactionary art that makes people stop and think about the uncertain times we live in. It does take something absurd to capture someone's attention when we're being bombarded with advertisements and commercial imagery all the time.
“I feel like a lot of people have forgotten how fun it is because they’ve become a little jaded by the fact that a lot of new jacks have gotten so much overnight success and didn’t pay any dues...the focus has been taken off of what we’re doing, that’s grassroots. The focus is now on muralists, which is fine, but I think it’s been discouraging for some of the people who are interested in the illegal aspects of street art,” said Solito. “I just wanted to remind them, that it’s as easy as just going out and doing it.”
Freemans Alley - Illegal Print Pop-Up
The illegal print pop-up in Freemans Alley, was an opportunity to make a statement and a chance for fans to purchase prints. The images featured in the illegal pop up have all been retired. They will never be pasted or printed again. It was Guerilla Marketing at its finest. Solito was the creator, installer, dealer, seller, promoter, entertained his fans, made some new ones along the way and also sold many pieces. It was a huge success, but why did he do it? "I'm interested in the evolution of this art form," said Solito. "Everyone who has followed this movement for the past ten years in New York can agree that it's gotten very boring."
The modern movement is focused on the muralists, but he would like them to have a more original approach. Every aspect of street art culture informs each other, and with this print pop up, Solito wanted to inspire people who were putting up illegal work to continue doing it despite the current trends. He also wants to teach the younger generation, who may be learning about the culture from the muralists, that there are other ways to get messages out there and hopefully inspire them. He feels it should be about the need to express this creative message and do it whether someone is listening or not. "I think people have lost focus on the power that you can tap into in NY as a creative," said Solito.
He looks forward to “community” illegal pop-up Guerilla takeovers; inviting other artists to join him. They would consist of alley takeovers, wall takeovers, under a bridge takeovers, all for the sake of coming together as a community to put up work. Solito wants to lead by example and hopes other artists feel the same way.
Solito is not saying all murals are bad, but there are some concerns with the modern day mural movement. Some of the walls he is impressed with do evoke some emotional or intelligent response. The problem with the new school muralists is that many aren’t doing that. They have little concern with evoking any emotions; they’re only interested in making the neighborhood more attractive and helping business owners sell more products. It’s up to the artists to challenge the business owners, but they have no regard for the movement or the revolutionary aspects of it. “These artists are jumping in line, to be the next (one) to be forgotten,” Solito said. “No one’s going to be talking about the pretty girl’s face and how it impacted their life ten years later. They're going to say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe so many advertisement-like murals went up at that time,’ and so many artists and business owners failed to create a newer more important conversation in regards to public art.”
“As illegal artists we have a platform to say whatever we want. We have the freedom to express whatever it is that we feel is necessary, but a lot of us are falling short of that responsibility by expressing mundane trends and ideas that don’t further the advancement of mankind.” Blacks, Latinos, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender communities are struggling for a platform, while street artists neglect our own platform. As modern radicals we need to take steps towards being human and dismiss these labels. Art is our last hope to create this dialogue. Be more responsible with your art, have better intentions, be aware, and for the spectators to do the same..it’s up to us." Solito said.
The solo show will be this Friday, October 12 at The Living Gallery Outpost, which is run by artists and it is very community based and that's what drew Solito to work with them. It will showcase all original works that will be the basis for all his street work for the next three years. 200 different pieces have never been seen before. They were all created specifically for this show. The gallery is being split down the middle showcasing his two strengths which are the collages and the typography based pieces. The title of the show refers to the work, but it also refers to the fact that he feels many artists don’t get the acceptance or credit they deserve until they die and feels people write “Love Letters to Corpses.”
“I want people to get some love and respect while they’re alive,” Solito said. "I don’t want to die, and my pieces be worth something, I want my pieces to have an impact right now and to have value in society…ultimately I want to die knowing people saw my work and were inspired to continue this revolution.”
Solito is passionate and isn't afraid to speak his mind. He comes from a pure place and his work reflects that. He's a peacemaker and wants to see art used for the right reasons like defending human rights and fighting for social justice. It's a crazy and unsettling time to be alive and art is that outlet to get us through it and like he said it's our last hope.