Interview with Chico - community benefactor, Lower East Side beautifier and graffiti extraordinaire.
I’ve been researching subway art a lot lately. You know, these kids in the 70s would take over the tracks and paint all over the trains. Since there are no subways in Alphabet City, how has this been a detriment to you?
“To be honest, corners, murals and brick walls were my spots. You’d have people like Andy Warhol pushing this pop art at the time and no one brought it down to the ghetto. People would see these abandoned buildings and be worried by their appearance of being unsafe. I wanted to beautify my community by painting over them, educating the youth to stay away from drugs and sending messages of peace and hope in my art.”
That was actually my next question. What is the goal of your art? The neighborhood has had a rough past so how do you think it identifies with the community? You have these places like Nuyorican Poetry Café and Alphabet Lounge, centers of culture. How do you fit in?
“I bring color to dark areas. Unfortunately, my paintings disappear – they get either painted over or built upon. But you can find my paintings everywhere if you just look for them, behind the old buildings, in people’s backyards. Hopefully, they will remain for decades for everyone to see.”
How was your art changed over the years? Has this change been reflected in your work?
“I’ve been doing more benefit work lately. You know, I have a day job too and I need to pay my bills so you have to find a way to fit the art into your schedule. But I’ve only gotten better with spray paint, the colors they provide and the realism they show. I’m like Michelangelo with a can now: I can paint anything and sketch pretty much anything… much faster too.”
What do you see for the future of the neighborhood? Alphabet City has had some serious changes in demographics and a new face has arisen to it. What do you make of this?
“I mean, graffiti has a different face now too. There are graffiti gangsters and graffiti artists and I’ve always felt that the artists are winning the battle. The city has fought against us and tries to beat our work but, as I have always said, graffiti is the pop art of the future. I don’t care what anybody says. You cannot deny that. It’s everywhere – all of Europe, South America, Asia – the entire world has accepted it as art. Graffiti is three-dimensional; you know, you have the portrait on the wall as your one-dimensional and sculpture for the second dimension. But nobody can deal with the spray can…. Nobody.”
If you are interested in a commissioned work by Chico, you can reach him at (646) 246-5024.