1:AM sits down with the curator of The Classics, open now through October 16th.
Valerie Leavy: What is it about graffiti that lights yer fire?
Nathan Tan aka Nate1: It is an art form I started doing as a kid, and I still find it challenging now as an adult some 23 years later.
VL: How did you choose the artists in the show [The Classics]?
Nate1: Eeenie, meenie, miny, moe! Hahaha.
I wrote a list of all the writers that made an impact on me and my crew and started contacting them first. After that, I got alot of help tracking down other influential writers of that era from the artists themselves. Soon, word got out about the show and a few major players contacted me themselves. I feel very lucky to have been the one to facilitate this event.
VL: Have they all been active since the beginning?
Nate1: Some of the artists have consistently been “getting up” in one form or another for 20+ years and some of them have not painted in 20+ years.
VL: How has their work evolved over the years?
Nate1: Here is the beauty in that question: on one hand, artists from the past have continued in their style and advanced it, or explored it more in depth. On another hand, a writer like Zest KGB did his first piece in over 20 years on canvas and it looked like we time-traveled back to that era, stole a piece, and brought it back to the present. And that to me is dope because it says that style can stand that test of time. Now if Zest were to utilize the technology and paint we have today his pieces would further develop, and I would like to see that as well.
VL: What makes Bay Area graffiti unique, or rather, what is Bay Area style?
Nate1: The early days of Bay Area graffiti lay somewhere between tradition and experimentation. I say tradition, because a lot of us 80’s writers were trying to carry on the tradition of style and writing that Philly and NYC pioneered, yet we did not have a lot of information available to us, so alot of experimentation and situations influenced our scene.
To me, original Bay Area style can go in sections or generations. When I think old skool though, I think multi colored fills, big letters with little negative space, some computer-rock influence, double vision pieces and more.
VL: Explain how Bay graf has influenced design, etc.
Nate1: For years, Hip Hop and graffiti art have been an influence in the media and pop culture. There are many designers that came from graffiti roots.
In the Bay there are alot of writers I know that have had careers in the fashion, advertising,
and art industries where they can show their personal graf style in their “day jobs.”
I went the fashion route and worked for a few local corporate clothing companies
and occasionally got to sneak some styles into my work, but until I started New Skool
that sort of thing was usually very infrequent.
On the internet tip, Crayone was one of the first to pioneer a fully dedicated Hip Hop site
with graffiti design. He still continues to do freelance work where he can utilize what he
does naturally, only this time on the computer.
VL: Where would you like to see the Bay graf scene go now?
Nate1: I would like to see the younger heads collaborating with the OG’s more often. And I would like to see the older generation upping their game and becoming even more professional as we are looked upon in that light. We pioneered this thing, we should be able to drive this thing
a little while and then pass the wheel off to the younger cats.
To answer your question more literally: when the hype is there, I want to see the Bay graf scene go to other countries where we can share our unique West Coast history and introduce them to some of our giants in the game. The hype is almost there and I think [the Classics] at 1:AM Gallery really helped.