New York City graffiti artist GHOST, or "Cousin Frank" to his friends, is a long way from stumbling through the dark recesses of New York's...
New York City graffiti artist GHOST, or “Cousin Frank” to his friends, is a long way from stumbling through the dark recesses of New York’s subway tunnels looking for an idle train to “bomb.” The veteran graffiti writer, who got his start in the influential and well-documented New York City scene in the 1970s, is now pushing the art form from trains to gallery walls.
GHOST’s show at Seattle’s BLVD Gallery is a collection of highly stylized acrylics on canvas. The bright neon and pastel colors on clean white backdrops recall the “Wild Style” of graffiti art with its blocky letters and flashy colors; the comiclike characters he draws with big dopey eyes and sloppy wet tongues refer back to underground comic artists of the ’60s and ’70s.
GHOST spoke earlier this week by phone about his work and the transition from being a graffiti writer to an artist.
Q: What role have comics played in influencing your work?
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A: As a kid I was more into Marvel [Comics], because of where I lived there wasn’t a lot of underground-comic kind of stuff; I wasn’t really in touch with that, but as I got older my friends turned me on to it. I was more into Rick Griffin [the artist who designed many early Grateful Dead posters], I thought his line work was amazing. To this day I think his stuff is incredible. For a long time I was strictly into black ink drawings. I never really liked color.
Q: Tell me about the transition from trains to galleries.
A: For years I was against it. ‘Cause I was just in that mind-set that graf belongs on trains and to this day I still believe that to a strong degree, even though I don’t do it anymore. As the trains got clean and I got older, I still had all this energy to paint and I just had to put it somewhere. I just drew for years after I stopped writing. At the time I never went to school to paint, it was just something I had to learn over time.
Q: Does it surprise you to find out who is buying your work? Not street-level hipsters, but serious middle-age collectors with money?
A: I was rather excited about the BLVD show because it was the first show I almost sold out. A lot of kids that look up to me or like what I do can’t afford it — but do I want to get to a place where I’m only selling to the rich who are gonna throw it in the basement somewhere and not even get seen or just wait for my death? Or is it gonna be like a kid who saves up his money and puts it in his house, cause I appreciate that more?
Q: When was the last time you “bombed a train”?
A: Quite a while [ago]. I only do legal stuff. I’m at that age, I don’t need problems in my life. I’m tryin’ to relax, and I don’t want to have to look over my shoulder every day.
Jeff Albertson: 206-464-2304