Thrashbird, a Los Angeles based street artist, who likes to question and play with contemporary issues such as media obsession, self culture, and technology, uses street art in a humorous way to underline these relevant issues.
It is evident from his most recent exhibition at Bruce Laurie, a gallery in Los Angeles, that Thrashbird combines graffiti and street art – two movements that are often grouped together, when in fact are quite different. “I sort of occupy this space within graffiti and street art that is interesting because graffiti historically doesn’t like street art, there is a divide and I sort of occupy the space that is blending it. I do these certain things that are more considered graffiti than they would be considered street art and because of the way I do them, being the scale and exposure that I put them at, meaning I do them in high risk places or high exposure areas where there is a lot of risk involved, I’ve sort of ingratiated myself in the graffiti community. I’ve sort of got credibility from them,” he explains.
Thrashbird believes that the one big difference between graffiti and street art is that graffiti is based entirely on free-hand painting with spray cans. “If you want to get real simple about it, graffiti writers (a lot of them) don’t like street art because they don’t like stencils and they don’t like wheat paste. They don’t like what they feel…,” he says.
Thrashbird’s method is based entirely on free-hand painting, from installations, stencils, etc. He also explains that graffiti is usually based in typography, often one word or single sentences, and further explains that if you look at graffiti as a whole, you are looking at your name, the development of style, the typography that is used, which is influenced by the location.
Do you notice positive effects from your work, being that it is so easily accessible to the general public?
I can see any sort of positive effect, whether it’s psychological or business related. I can completely see that. You can go through LA and there are some places, which are brown and grey and it’s just ugly and dirty and it doesn’t feel nice. Then you go to an area covered in murals and it instantly raises your spirit. I don’t see how you can deny that. To me, it’s like denying global warming, climate change…you can so clearly see it happening.
What are your thoughts on the negative stigma associated with graffiti?
Obviously there are negative and old stigma associated with the graffiti movement, from tagging and gang graffiti, but it’s one side of it. What I do and what a lot of other graffiti writers do, has nothing to do with that. It is a whole different world. I stay away from that, because I don’t want trouble. There are so many different ways to look at graffiti and street art, even when you’re inside of it. I can be a graffiti writer who likes street art. I can be one that doesn’t like it.
These two are pieces that I wanted to bring elements of what I do on the streets, into a much larger scale, using rollers and extinguishers. Rollers are paint rollers and extinguishers are fire extinguishers and i wanted to do a couple of very raw works to emulate that. That is what these are. I often write phrases like “you need more shit” with stencils and spray paint. It’s basically a very simplified statement to poke fun at or ridicule overconsumption way of life, especially in the United States. I use a lot of satire and irony in my work. I also use humor as I feel it resonates with people well.
Have you done any collaborations?
I’ve recently done a collaboration with DSTLD, a denim company that makes fair trade production, high quality denim wear. It goes straight to the consumer and it’s a DIY company, so I really appreciate small business and the DIY spirit. This is where the AR (augmented reality) things comes in.
Can you tell us more about the AR project?
We just came out with an app. If you find an icon on the street you can hold the phone over any clone and it will pop up with this bumble and we change the bumble up to have different sayings. When I do murals, for example, I document them and through the app, users are able to see the whole process of it.
There are endless ways to bring street art to more people, making it more and more interactive. The world we live in is one where the quest for content is endless, and so we are creating another way for people to consume content and get involved.
This is a more commercialized place, where I thought it would be really funny to pick the hearts like (I love NYC) NY, LA, and the cool thing is that wherever I go in the world I can do this, because everyone knows it. I wanted to juxtapose what you see on the street with what you see in galleries.
This stencil is the very stencil I used, which has probably been put up 40 to 50 times all over LA. You can see it’s so beat up. I set it up one night, it was really wet, I was painting and two cops were pulling up and I got paranoid. I quickly patched it up and then thought it was just so layered and textural. It’s got such a story because it’s been through the streets, which I love.
Influencers is this new weird buzz word that I have been hearing a lot. This piece is called “you are not lit” and it’s a commentary piece on the Fyre Festival fiasco. I wrote the word influencer with flamed letters with this fiery background and that’s what this piece is about, it’s a commentary on influencers, and the obsession of social media.
Rauschenberg and Baldessari are definitely an influence over the years. This piece I wanted to bring elements of that time period. I took street art elements and combined them with elements from Rauschenberg and Baldessari.
I grew up with a lot of women around me and I have always been interested in the double standard between women and men, and how women have to stay perfect, young, beautiful, and men don’t. The very idea that women should always look perfect is absurd to me, and the quest for it seems so daunting. Interestingly, this piece “wear more makeup” is a cautionary piece, and is often Instagrammed by makeup artists all the time. A lot of what I do is about trying to make people stop and take a look at these things. This piece is interpreted differently, but I knew what I was doing when I chose this imagery from the 60’s fashion drawings and then modified them by making the eyelashes bigger, noses smaller, lips enhanced. These changes clearly show that work has been done. A lot of people don’t pick on that.
When I first started to make street art, I was in a different place mentally. I had a lot of misdirected anger and figuring out to do. Through the years, I’ve learned to communicate better with people, which is quite evident in my work. There is more thought behind my work now.
What I love about street art, one of the amazing and beautiful things about it, is the life that it takes on after you put it up on the streets, whether it’s the aging process or the interaction that it evokes, it takes on a new meaning every time. I can have the same piece posted and because my work is much more interactive then most street artists, you will pose next to it. I like the interactive aspect of my work because I want it to be more about people being a part of it, of what I create.