Street HeARTs are beating and bringing life back to NYC courtesy of 7 Line Art Studio. This spread of love during a lockdown started at the beginning of July when New York was entering Phase 3 of reopening. At a time of protests and a worldwide pandemic, the HeARTs and all of 7 Line Art Studio's work, spreads positive visual vibes and promotes world peace when we need it the most. It's been a collaborative effort, working with artists like Steel Fist Velvet Glove, Heck One, Lecrue Eyebrows, The.Creator._ and Adam Fu. Through every drip, stroke and splatter of paint, we find order in chaos, perfection in the imperfect, unity in diversity, and we see the future, in the here and now. The work has been described as “Graffuturism,” and it builds a bridge, linking together Graffiti, Street Art, Contemporary Fine Art and Design. The journey over this art bridge begins with Graffiti because the artist behind 7 Line Art Studio is the legendary writer, DUEL RIS.
In 1984, “Style Wars” was newly released, and in the 8th grade, DUEL's friend got into breakdancing and needed a painting partner. Not being as coordinated as his buddy, he skipped the breakdancing and focused on Graffiti. DUEL was intrigued by what he saw in the subway, handball courts, and freeways in NYC. He first started tagging "Serc" then "Serk," short for the word Berserk and was also inspired by the 80s video/arcade game, Berzerk he would play at a pizza parlor. That name lasted about two years. DUEL never really had a mentor in the game who taught him right from wrong; the closest was CRO RIS. Not knowing all the rules, he started to develop a bad reputation and saw this as an opportunity for a fresh start and to try out a new name. He would practice with the tags of graffiti artists he liked, studied the alphabet, and picked out his favorite letters. He chose a name that would look good in a throw-up and felt comfortable writing in a hand style, and that's how he came up with DUEL.
DUEL, a Queens native, was focused on taking over the neighborhood and hit the 7 line stations underneath Roosevelt Avenue from Main Street to the city. Once he got a license, he expanded his territory to leave his tag all over NYC and traveled outside of Queens to "get up" also to avoid getting ragged. He felt that if his work was going to get trashed, he'd make them work for it. "I also wanted to go,"All-City,” said DUEL, "it was the only way to be seen, there was no internet, no social media, you had to "put boots to the ground to be seen." In 1992, he got down with the RIS (Rockin It Suckers) CREW which was a big deal. They were guys he looked up to and emulated. The RIS crew were all talented and applied their skills to a massive amount of work found on public transit and the streets. The crew was small and very difficult to get into, but once you were in, they stood by each other and were like a family.
Along with bombing and the fun times comes the beefs, drama, and arrests. In the early '90s, DUEL wasn't taking school seriously, his job was no good, people he knew were overdosing on drugs and getting locked up for serious crimes, and he didn't want to go down that road. He stopped writing in 1994 and shortly after decided to sign up for the Marines because it gave him many opportunities like travel, money, new friends, and brought structure to his life. He served from 1995 to 2018 and didn't think about Graffiti or art for over a decade.
He will always love Graffiti, but for many years he was searching for a "niche" outside of that world but wasn't sure what he wanted to do. It was the mid 2000s when he ran into some childhood friends that got him hooked on Graffiti again. At this point, DUEL was sneaking around, trying to get up in secret. That became a juggling act between his professional life, family, and college. Around 2016, while stationed overseas, he was under investigation for suspicion of vandalism, and his identity was almost compromised. He had to destroy all sketches, drawings, and photos. Being in that position was stressful, and art has always been a therapeutic tool for him, he switched things up and resorted to drawing other things. He started painting watercolors, then abstracts and sketching masks and faces from different cultures, which eventually evolved into what he's doing now.
7 Line Art Studio began in 2018 to channel his passion for fine art and separate his artwork from Graffiti. 7LAS first showed up publicly in the streets of Korea. He was painting newspapers with poster paint and pasting them with spray adhesive. 7LAS's work is described as, "Graffuturism, a blend of Graffiti, Contemporary and Street Art, following Graffiti-Artist like processes and methods. "Sometimes when I paint, I incorporate something from a place I visited into the work, like a melting pot of cultures,” said DUEL. To him, it represents unity and world peace. 7LAS's paintings show characters that weave in and out of each other because it's like they're interacting and working together.
Through style and execution, graffiti artists have always created a written language that sometimes only they and their crew could read or understand. DUEL's style through 7 Line Art Studio is so fresh and next level, but it's also primitive and reminiscent of one of the earliest communication forms, Hieroglyphics. DUEL has developed his Graffitiglyphs, an alphabet of symbols, signs, and shapes. As a Marine, he traveled to many countries, and the art, architecture, advertisements, apparel, and customs of other cultures have all since influenced his drawings and paintings. The glyphs or "Graffitiglyphs," are inspired by the Middle East and Asia. He also finds the meaning and origins of other languages, symbols, and alphabets fascinating. The cult Kung Fu flick, 5 Deadly Venoms,and a Dada exhibit of amazingly detailed, carved masks significantly impacted him. Each tribe had masks, and each mask had a different purpose. The colors and symbols chosen represented something and had their own meaning. The masks were used during different events, from ceremonies to war. Being inspired by that exhibit, he began doodling his versions, and interpretations of the masks and his art took off from there.
While in NYC, DUEL/7 Line Art Studio, worked with artists: Steel Fist Velvet Glove, Heck One/GraffStars, Lecrue Eyebrows, The Creator and Adam Fu.
Steel Fist Velvet Glove - Is a great guy. We met through Instagram several years back. He invited me to be in a group show in Long Island right when I returned to the states. It was my first show as an artist and not a graffiti writer. Funny thing was he was familiar with graffiti but he didn't know I wrote Duel until much later. He really liked my work and we did the show with Easy, Kit-17, 2Esae, and others. That show was awesome, we got close and continued to build from there. I eventually took my art to the streets and so did he. We eventually collaborated after the riots to bring positive vibes to a community that was falling apart.
Adam Fu, Eyebrows, and The.Creator._ were artists I just met during this recent NYC campaign. All three have unique styles that I admired and we reached out to each other to collaborate. It was either to put a positive message out there like "wear your mask" to flatten the curve and spread of COVID-19 or to collaborate with the styles. It was definitely a great experience. I learned quite a bit from each of those artists. I picked up some of Adam Fu's neon technique through observation and some of Creator's spraying style. Eyebrow's definitely put me on to the wheatpaste techniques. He let me know what supplies he was using, how to mix it up and how to apply it. Definitely meeting these gentlemen added to a brother's toolbox. Thanks fellas! - DUEL / 7 Line Art Studio.
Another person I worked with during this time is my close friend Heck One. We run a graffiti podcast together called "Graffstars." We both love graffiti and street art and we went out a few times to do our thing. We did a mix of stuff from graff to street art and we did a lot of homework, research and experimenting for sure. We also took other processes and streamlined what we were doing to make our missions easier. He along with the others, were instrumental in helping me accomplish what I did during this trip back to NYC.
"I feel I can teach and learn from others; we all come from different backgrounds and walks of life. It's that continuous learning that allows artists to thrive, evolve, and innovate."
- DUEL / 7 Line Art Studio
The Street heARTs symbolize love, but also loss. Art is therapy and an escape for DUEL. It helps him forget his problems in that moment, keeping him busy, creative, and sane. "My main reason for going hard on the streets lately is the recent loss of my father," said DUEL. "Art helps me to cope with the loss." He's very competitive, and time is also essential. He feels like it's always a race to put work out there and in mass quantities. Sharing art on the street is something he enjoys because it is being seen and documented. Getting honest feedback and meeting other artists within the scene is important, too. The heARTs are also a response to the world's current state, and he is trying to spread more positive energy. That impact is also what drives him. "You don't always get that same feeling hanging in a gallery, probably because the audience is limited," said DUEL. "In the street, everyone sees it."
He still is and will always be DUEL, but he doesn't want to be labeled a "one-trick pony." He's a versatile artist who loves creating, thinking outside the box, and pushing himself to keep going even when things get uncomfortable. "I like to flex different styles so that someone with an untrained eye looking at my graffiti pieces might think it's another artist," said Duel. With his work as 7 Line Art Studio, he gets to do that. All his glyphs are freehand, and the patterns are made impromptu, on the spot. The sketches and paintings are created the same way. He perfects the pieces first before he's comfortable enough, debuting them on the street.
Most often, you can find 7 Line Art Studio's Graffitiglyphs on doors because they're larger canvases and surfaces with a lot of character. Doors in NYC are usually near walls covered in other Graffiti. The glyphs with the surrounding Graffiti work together in a cool and cohesive way. "Doors represent a new opportunity, but you have to try and seize them by opening them up," said DUEL. "Joining the Marines was like opening up a door to a new chapter; it saved my life for sure." That experience changed him for the better. That's why he likes to give back any chance he gets. Doors represent transition, moving through challenging or difficult situations, or getting through sadness and loss. Doors and openings provide the transition point to change, which leads to new opportunities. "On a metaphorical level, a door can symbolize the entrance to another world, and an open door can represent a new beginning," said DUEL. With 7 Line Art Studio, he's found the door that led him and his art to a new beginning.