The already radiant day on Monday, June 11th was made just a bit brighter after the unveiling of a new mural atop Graffiti Bar at 120 south 13th street. Designed and created by Brooklyn-based artist Kenny Sharf, the mural is part of an on ongoing series sponsored by the Mural Arts education program which currently hosts approximately 200 students.
Sharf, one of a number of notable artists that will be participating in the program over the next two months, was allotted exactly one week to complete the mural. Titled, “Chunk Pack Philly 11”, the work is an expressive collection of cartoonlike characters illustrated with bright, acrylic spray paint.
After the unveiling, Two.One.Five had the opportunity to briefly speak with the artist during a reception held at Sampan Restaurant.
As a former graffiti artist, what is your position with regard to the fine line between condoned mural art, and illegal graffiti art?
People get too caught up on the fact that it is ‘spray’ paint. It’s still paint. There’s an unnecessary stigma associated with spray paint. I don’t get it. It’s all art.
Part of the street artist message is a subversive one – it’s about rejecting conformity. Now as a commissioned artist, can you maintain that integrity?
For street artists and regular artists alike, it’s about communication. You have to decide how you want to get your message across. As a graffiti artist you constantly have to look over your shoulder; and if that’s what you want, great. For me, I like to have my work seen – for it to be experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I will still do graffiti. But it’s nice not having to look over my shoulder, all the time.
To date, how many murals have you created?
Honestly, I have never counted. I am currently working on a mural in L.A. that is 6 stories high. It’s massive. I am also in preparation for a gallery show in NYC next week. The gallery show will be all oil pieces.
There is a debate in the art world about the value of art school – what are your thoughts?
There is too much talking in art school. You’re either an artist, or you aren’t. Art school is valuable to learn technique; but, unfortunately, that’s not all they teach. It’s all theory and value. You can teach the skill but you can’t teach someone to be an artist. You can’t teach the passion. That comes from within.
From left to right: Mural Arts student, Justice Taylor; Cheif Cultural Officer, Gary Steuer; Mayor of Philadelphia, Micheal Nutter; Investor, Tony Goldman; Artist, Kenny Sharf; Mural Arts Executive Director, Jane Golden.
Photo by Aaron Swan of Swan Expressions