Wednesday, January 13, 2010

December 2009: Erik Burke in Nevada

Born in the desert of Nevada (okay, Reno, but close enough), Erik Burke looked towards the horizon for graffiti inspiration. While he currently lives in San Francisco, he bebops back and forth between his hometown, the Balkans, and Baltic nations. No matter where his travels take him, he always makes sure to leave his mark. He writes:
"I started doing street art, or something along the lines of street art, in '98. I had just seen the best and last issue of 12 oz. Prophet which featured Os GĂȘmeos and I was amazed. I had been dabbling with graffiti but it never really fit. I saw their work and was like, 'Okay, you can do more than write your name.' So I became that weird kid in Reno that drew pictures and wrote quotes from the Tao Te Ching on rooftops. It was rad in those early stages of pure inspiration and naivety. I learned an incredible amount really quickly.

Over the next decade I would ebb and flow with traditional graffiti but always be in a mindset of experimenting with new mediums. I guess that is what categorized me more akin to the street art world than the graffiti world. Above all, I think that I just wanted to be out working in the street. It's funny though because now the public space seems to be more connected to the Internet than the actual streets. I can find out what's going on in the graffiti/street art world faster by checking a few Flickr contacts than by going on a bike ride through the neighborhood."

"I've had the amazing opportunity to collaborate with a lot of inspiring and amazing artists over the years. From the beginning, my brother has been a bad ass and always offered a helping hand or a tallcan. Broken Crow and I have made some rad murals going back a few years now and I love their graphic work and support. More recently, Cahil Muraghu has been inspiring me and we've been working on an intense west coast east coast mail exchange. Lastly my friend Yale Wolf and I have created a lot of work and murals in an almost telepathic way. All these people work in different and awesome ways but I try to work solo for the most part. It's a lot more stealthy to run solo and have no one dragging their feet. I also think there is something very genuine about doing something completely from your hand and head. Graffiti allows me a chance to define myself and even more so, find myself."
"I'm not really sure if I have developed a style yet in my work. But a proper aperture and exposure to the right amount of mischief is helpful.

I love traveling and finding spots that have a weathered character: the train layups out in the Nevada desert under a full moon, or near the beat up roll up doors of NYC, or in a bombed out building in Sarajevo. The place is definitely important but the recipe is always a little different.""I guess the craziest/luckiest thing that ever happened was while I was getting chased from a spot in Seattle by the cops. I ran through all these blackberry bushes and came to a house. The cops were right behind me and as I was running around the house there was nowhere to go except a small hole. Well, I stepped into the hole and it broke way into a spider web-infested basement and I just froze and tried not to breathe. I could see their flashlights and their feet and I just tried not to move as I felt spiderwebs covering my whole body. I stayed there for what felt like forever, just waiting. I saw the sun starting to come up and walked home to the best shower of my life."
"On a personal level, I've been having an art buffet. Sometimes I look at my work and am like, 'Man, people must think you are schizophrenic. Why can't you just pick something and stick with it?' But I think there is more to work than doing something over and over until you have mastered it, you know? I appreciate a craftsman but I respect a great idea.

That was my major qualm with most graffiti and street art. It was founded so much on repetitiveness that its only spontaneity was its placement. However, the catch-22 is that without the repetitiveness, the work loses its punch; it loses its narrative. So it's no wonder that when street artists have gallery shows they always struggle with its impact on the audience because they are fighting with that spontaneity that the street offers. Some artists pull it off though. Most don't. But there are many sides to it, I suppose.

I, too, spent the majority of the last few years concentrating on the repetitive, iconic, sloganeering of graffiti. It culminated in a video called '
Still Life' where I compulsively drew an abstract shape reminiscent of a piece of paper in the wind, a bird, a wind sock, a triangle with a tooth (as a graffiti writer once said). The shape was kind of a logo for me. The idea was that you float through life and cling on to certain people and places, but for the most part you are 'dust in the wind'. I've done a lot of floating the last decade from Reno to biking across the country to exploring the Baltics and the Balkans, and always leave some sort of bread crumb trail. It may be best summarized by H.R. Fricker, 'My graffiti is my shadow.' Or as my favority artist buZ blurr calls graffiti, 'an announcement of presence.'"

Awesome, Erik! Thanks for sharing. For more photos and info, visit his website.

No comments:

Post a Comment