Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday ProFile: Abe Lincoln, Jr.

President Abraham Lincoln wasn’t known for being a party starter. J.T. Duryea wrote, “In temper he was Earnest, yet controlled, frank, yet sufficiently guarded, patient, yet energetic, forgiving, yet just to himself.” Slow to act, Lincoln took his time and refrained from bold, brash behavior. Abraham Lincoln, Jr., on the other hand, is quite the firecracker. Born and bred in pre-Silicon Valley territory, he currently lives and works in New York City. While he pays the bills as a web designer for an e-commerce company, his alter ego is anything but 9 to 5 mundane. From street art to hardcore bands, Abe gets wild after hours.

Inspired by 70s Marvel Comics and Scooby Doo, Abe started scribbling when he was three years old. “The first thing I ever drew was Scooby Doo,” he recalls. “I had a Scooby Doo coloring book with tracing paper and I traced Scoob dead near perfectly. I went from that to pooping birds in 30 short years!” As a teenager, he tagged the suburbs with his local skate team. On the punk scene, wheatpastes, stencils, and stickers became familiar ways of advertising a show or protesting political issues. Following his teen years came a period of indoor creative activity. “I quit doing street art for a long time and got into artist multiples and production art,” he says. “I love having stuff fabricated and looking really high end.”
It was during this period that Abe earned his trademark moniker. “Before I was doing fancy arts and crafts for international patrons, I knew all these old punk dudes from the Black Flag days who had gone soft,” he says. “They were all into being singer songwriters with deep thoughts and acoustic guitars. At one point, I said, ‘Fuck this, I’m going to have to remind them what good music is all about.’” With no musical training whatsoever, he founded Gettysburg Express. Decked out as the 16th President of the United States, he’d sing hardcore songs about the Civil War from Abe’s point of view. After a chance encounter with an editor of Details, Abe got press for his cracked out concept band. “I was photographed wearing a fake beard and a convict’s jumpsuit with a big gun silk-screened on the back.” At the end of their set, guitarist John Wilkes Boothe shot old Abe in the and sang the encore, “I Killed Abe Lincoln.”
The band didn’t last, but Abe moved on and channeled his quirky creativity into street art. “As an artist I had basically quit for ten years,” he explains. “I didn’t really resonate with anything out there. Fancy art didn’t speak to me. Although I still read Juxtapose every month, I was not of the pop surrealist style of art, either. I discovered Wooster Collective in 2003 and immediately found a group of artists with whom I connected.”

Beginning as a sticker artist, Abe’s style eventually incorporated other mediums. His work made its way to India, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, and most of Western Europe. As a resident of NYC, he confesses that the Big Apple is still is favorite place to work. What’s the most unusual location where you can find his work? “I put a combo of stickers up in a phone booth in the foot hills of the Indian Himalayas,” he responds. “I actually drew Char, my pooping bird, on a 10 rupee note and used it somewhere in the hills. Years later, a friend of mine was in the area and he got it back as change for some shit he bought. That was surreal and very cool.” He loves Char dearly, but sometimes repeating a character makes it tricky to stay original. “It can be a struggle to come up with fresh stuff using the same figure. Doing one vector character over and over again over the years can get pretty dull.”

Abe is a natural born hustler who never stops working. Tonight, his Handcrafted Vectors show opens at Seattle’s Schmancy Toys. Next on the bill is Fugue State Records, a collection of fake 7”s. He’s also working tour tee shirts, flyers, and stickers to accompany the records. Fans can support the project through KickStarter. Later in August, you’ll find his work at DDR Projects and a new music venue in Brooklyn. By the time October rolls around, he’ll have another show at Brooklyn’s Last Exit Bar. After that, who knows what’s in store for 2010.

And what’s in store for street art? “The hater in me calls street art Viral Marketing 2.0,” he smirks, “but I’m glad there are a lot of artists working out in the streets who can prove me wrong.” In ten years, he suggests, the medium might be played out and attracting little attention. However, the die-hards will stick around. “No matter what,” he adds, “the guys who are doing it for real will still be out there.”

If you like Abe's stuff, hit 'em up style on Flickr or Facebook. Thanks, Abe! If you're in Seattle, be sure to check out his show tonight.

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