- Words and Photos by Erica Stella
Ol' Blue Eyes in Bay Ridge: An Interview with Cobre
Argentinian muralist, Andres Iglesias AKA "Cobre" made Bay Ridge, BK the next stop after completing an aging and bearded Robin Williams portrait in San Francisco last Fall. Jenna Morello gave a lending hand, just as she did last year, when SF-based artist Fnnch was in town to paint publicly for his 1st time in the Big Apple. She spreads love the Brooklyn way, and so do we at Sold Magazine. It was a pleasure to spend the week watching this beautiful portrait of Frank Sinatra come to life in my Bay Ridge neighborhood. I hope it changes some minds as to what street art is, and how the community could use some color. After he finished, Cobre was nice enough to answer a few questions for us, so we could get to know this artist a little better!
Erica Stella: Welcome to Brooklyn! Tell us how you came to travel to NYC this week from Argentina, and where else have you painted in the US?
Cobre: Thank you very much! It is such a dream spraying here. I've wanted to do this since I was little! I’m here because some months ago, I was invited to paint for Wabash Walls in Indiana, curated by Camer1. I met Jenna Morello there, and when we met, we were instant siblings! She is one of the coolest artists I've ever met. After Wabash, I decided to travel around and paint more. I made this big portrait of Robin Williams in San Francisco, CA and apparently everybody loves it! One dude wanted to give me back the money I spent to paint the mural, and that became the funds for my first mural tour: NYC, LA and SF.
ES: When you contacted Jenna & told her you were coming to NYC to paint, did she have a wall ready for you?
C: I discussed possibilities with Jenna since the day I had my flight ticket. She already had this one for me, but it was a little hard for her to get the permissions because the owners wanted to meet me before they said yes. So the 1st day I was in Brooklyn, we walked around town scouting for the perfect wall, and after, this ended up being the one! It was meant to be, I'm super happy about it - great canvas.
Jenna Morello assisting with a frame around Sinatra's eyes
ES: How was your time at Wabash Walls in Lafayette, Indiana, and working with Camer1sf?
C: Wabash Walls was pretty crazy for me. It was my 1st very authentic contact with the EEUU and their people. I had been here before but very much as a tourist, with my parents and siblings, (Miami and Disney) you feel me, right? A different story all the way. When I got there I had a crazy ass wall, my biggest portrait so far, 100x35 meters (approx.), where I worked 14 days non stop, around 150 spray cans! I enjoyed every second of it, and after that I had amazing new friends. I thank Cameron for the experience, but Lafayette was unreal, I think there I saw the American culture of the Midwest in the flesh. They are not used to tourism as much, so it was funny to interact with them. An experience I will remember, but I’m not coming back this Summer, that’s for sure!
ES: How did you get your name? Did you start out writing graffiti in Argentina, or did you have another school of hard knocks?
C: Ahah - that’s kind of a fun story, where I come from we say the name has to be given, you can’t choose your own. When I was little we had this cartoon, SilverHawks. They were a bunch of space heroes, half machine/half humans, pretty dope actually! And the little one of the group was the copper kid (Niño de cobre). I was the little one of my BMX gang, so they use to call me copper kid. Eventually I grew up, so now I’m just Cobre (copper). And yes! I started like most muralists, making tags and making shitty letters everywhere!
Cobre painting in the snow on February 20, 2018
ES: The temperature must have not dropped too far, you were able to paint in the snow! I really enjoyed watching you create this mural from beginning to end, but that day was my favorite. Were there any other challenges you didn't expect?
C: The snow was pretty crazy, wasn't it? What a good story to tell! I think that was it, the rest of the mural was smooth sailing otherwise.
ES: What other fun did you get to enjoy while you were in NYC?
C: I'm the normal tourist, I usually walk from my airbnb to the mural, haha! But I got to know all the really good restaurants in Bay Ridge and enjoyed a lot walking in Manhattan.
ES: We do have a lot of good places to grab a yummy bite. What made you decide on Frank Sinatra to paint in Bay Ridge?
C: I like to paint faces that means something for the local people, someone who they can recognize, it is a kind of homage. My first idea was Tupac Shakur, but Jenna suggested Frank, and I instantly loved the idea.
ES: Do the portraits you paint always pertain to the neighborhood or area you work in?
C: Not always, but I do try. Sometimes it's hard, because they have to mean something for me too, they also have to be important for the culture and art for everyone.
ES: What is your favorite Frank Sinatra song?
C: Somethin' Stupid. Ahah! This one takes me to my teenage days when I use to lose my mind for spontaneous loves.
ES: What is in your headphones when you are painting?
C: I like to play the guy (or girl), I'm painting when it is a musician. What I like the most is old school stuff like Dylan, The Doors, anything by Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell ... but also I enjoy some dancehall, hip hop, reggae, depending how the mood strikes, you know?
ES: I heard you were headed to LA next to paint a Stan Lee for the city. Is that true? How big of a comic book fan are you?
C: That was the idea I had! It didn't work out that way... I spent 5 hours working on that picture, and then the owner of the building said she wanted something that everybody will enjoy? (I thought that was Stan Lee!) So I had to change it, now it will be a Prince portrait, which is fun too! I’m not a big fan of comics, but I think what he has done is historic. I watched every superhero movie and cartoon; they are all amazing. I think he is one of the greatest artist of the 20th Century.
ES: Who are some of your favorite artists working today?
C: The list is long! In the mural arts I think BELIN, Jorit, Case and TASSO Maclaim are in the top, then in classical painting Cesar Santos, photography Steve McCurry .. I should sit and think hard on this one!
ES: I noticed that your reference photo of Frank was black & white, do you always work this way? How do you choose your color selection?
C: That’s a good one! Yes, I only work with black & white pictures when I'm not able to find one with colors. It’s pretty much the same because I follow the values. From how dark or light it is, when I work from a black & white reference, the mural look a little more like an illustration. I have my palette of colors that I always use, they are about 10 colors.
ES: What's coming up next for you? Any other cities on your list for 2019?
C: I just finished the mural in LA, on my way to SF, that is the last city on this tour. After that, I’ll go home for 3 weeks, and then I’m going on tour to Spain: Valencia, Barcelona and Ibiza. After the Spanish tour I’m going to the south of Brazil to paint a restaurant, a commission I was hired to do.
ES: Thank you for taking the time during your 1st US tour, we are so happy you made Brooklyn one of your destinations, and appreciative of the gift you left behind.
Although he wasn't B&R in Brooklyn; Frank Sinatra born in Hoboken, NJ filmed a movie in '47 called "It Happened in Brooklyn", and recorded the song "The Brooklyn Bridge". He also re-recorded the classic song, "New York, New York" in '79. Ol' Blue Eyes is a favorite in many households, whether his top hits, or a Holiday tune, Frank Sinatra's voice is undeniable. A true entertainer, a true New Yorker - he did it his way.
Cobre wanted to also thank the owners of Tops Restaurant and Bar Supply on the corner of 80th & 3rd Ave, their hospitality and appreciation made the experience all that much better!
Below, enjoy an additional photo gallery from our LA Contributor, The Echo Parker - Cobre's Prince in DTLA.