Futura 2000 - Cult Graffiti Artist
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In the annals of graffiti folklore there are few greater names than that of Futura 2000. He was there at the beginning with a handful of others, using the subways and streets as their canvas. What started as the whim of a few has now escalated and spread to all the major cities in the world as well as starting to be taken seriously as an art form.
When I started writing back in ‘70, there was no scene. There was something happening but it was all underground. We were our own audience and we spoke to each other through letters. It would take a decade for the art form to truly surface…
Futura has moved on from the streets and subways of his youth and is nowadays an acclaimed artist as well as a dabbler in virtually all types of multi-media. One of his newest projects is his brilliant new Internet web site which is both innovative and personal and gives a unique insight into the mind of a cult icon. I contacted Futura in late June through e-mail, at his HEADquarters in New York. He kindly consented to do an interview for Fly
Futura first got into graffiti, as a means of getting attention. . . but remaining anonymous at the same time. He also saw it as an alternative to drug and gang culture which were prevalent at the time. A non-violent crime. A lawless society. A modern Jesse James. When I started writing back in ‘70, there was no scene. There was something happening but it was all underground. We were our own audience and we spoke to each other through letters. It would take a decade for the art form to truly surface.
Short of the telephone, there can be no other (means of communication). This medium enables the easy transfer of info and images at light speed. That’s moving about where I like to be . . .
Futura drew his inspirations from all around him and from his only pure idol/mentor/guru… STAY HIGH 149 (check out his work in The Faith of Graffiti or under its European TITLE Watching My Name Go By). A truly unique style developed which combined his love of the abstract with his keen interest in technology. Futura however is modest about his work, claiming that his style developed by sheer accident and re-animation. Most of my skills come from some genetic defect.
In the 80s, Futura began displaying his material at exhibitions, but not all of the conventional art world would accept graffiti as an art form, especially in the States: When I started to show my work in exhibitions in ‘80, some mavericks were calling it art but not many. Unfortunately, this still holds true some 16 years after. Thankfully, this movement has had massive European support. Futura found a difference in attitude to graffiti when he went over to Europe … The real exposure of our culture world-wide came via European interest. It was their galleries who showed, collected and catalogued. It’s a disservice to us all that American attention and investment were never really there.
Due to a chance meeting with James Lavelle in Berlin in ‘92, Futura’s work has found a new lease of life and a new direction in the 90s. Lavelle, who is a keen collector of graffiti, talked with Futura about hooking up, which they subsequently did. The result of this merger was the use of some of Futura’s previous pieces being used for a large amount of Mo’ Wax art work. Futura explains; I think that my style of work, the paintings, the characters, just lent themselves to the sounds. It wasn’t like . . . here’s the new U.N.K.L.E album and I’d just whip up a painting. It was more like, now that painting would be dope for a Krush album. The merger has effectively brought Futura’s work to a completely new generation of beatHEADz keen to soak up the Mo’ Wax culture. There are more collaborations planned. I am now working on the new artwork for the upcoming U.N.K.L.E album. In addition, there is also a book in development, which Mo’ Wax will be producing. Not only this, but there is talk of Futura actually recording some tracks for Mo’ Wax, I ask him to confirm this rumour: Yes, listen up for beats, sounds, sound effects, movie music and dialogue voice-overs, best described as noise.
I’m working on two projects there in the next three months so I can’t wait to return. Besides, ever hear the term, ‘well paid’?
One of Futura’s newest passions is for the Internet and its endless possibilities. Short of the telephone, there can be no other (means of communication). This medium enables the easy transfer of info and images at light speed. That’s moving about where I like to be. I asked him what he thought the best and worst aspects of the net were: The best is yet to come. With all the technological pushes and newest plug-ins, what can’t be done? Easily the worst aspect of the web is its over commercialisation. I hate to see people selling themselves thru’ this medium, but it is America, and we love to consume. When asked about his site, Futura enthuses: It’s there, it lives, it speaks better of me than I can. I’m passionate about it, it’s called love. Initially I just wanted to add my (two cents) but now, the power is rushing through me. I have been sparked by the idea that I can broadcast to the world, my words, my thoughts, my images.
Through new sites such as Art Crimes and now Futura’s, graffiti is starting to take a hold on the Internet, I ask Futura if maybe this represents a new era for graffiti? Certainly, but let’s not lose sight of the things that got us here, like the work itself. Documentation is one thing - running from the police is another. On the subject of the police, I noticed on his site that he is dedicating a few words to the NYPD and other law enforcement agencies, I ask him what his view is on their clampdown of graffiti artists. These men and women are working in a dangerous profession, and to clarify the point, I give props to the NYPD, NYFD, and EMS because I have lived in the Metropolis all my life and I appreciate the value of these individuals. It’s got nothing to do with the graffiti squad, which spends days busting juveniles. BTW, they get no respect, I’m talking real life here, not nickel and dime crimes.
With the new stringent measures that have been enforced in New York on graffiti and the artists, how does Futura see the art form progressing in its birth place? Locally, the modern-day writers are making moves, but without the subway. What does a typical day hold in store for Futura 2000?
Typically domestic. As a fly on the wall, you might see me doing these things; shaving, eating, smoking, computing, skateboarding, bitching, trying to be original.
Soon after we concluded the interview, Futura was off to Japan (Tokyo) and France (Lille) for a couple of weeks, I ask him what the scene is like in Japan. Mental. Bladerunneresque. I have a huge following there at the moment, so it’s my country of choice. I’m working on two projects there in the next three months so I can’t wait to return. Besides, ever hear the term, ‘well paid’? My trip to France includes some sort of museum show near Lille. I hope to be running an Internet lab, so I’ll write daily pages from there.
Lastly, if Futura were speaking to a complete novice to graffiti art, where would he say were the best places to start his/her education? The first stop should be a historical summary, re: subway art, spraycan art, Wildstyle and Style Wars. This would give any newee some reference or starting point. You could do worse than to check Futura’s web site. Major props to a true innovator.
Note: Futura 2000s work can be viewed at http://www.futura2000.com/.
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