Marcus Jahmal Studio Visit
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Marcus Jahmal is making the right moves – a recent pop-up installation at luxury boutique Swords-Smith in Williamsburg, a large mural at 9 Jefferson Street in Bushwick, group shows around the world, as well as a plethora of brand collaborations with the likes of Wat Aah, G-Shock, and Cosmopolitan, now add to the list, experimenting with 3D printing technology as a medium. Saying Marcus is covering a lot of terrain with his work would be an understatement. We caught up with him recently at his studio and visited his new mural in Bushwick.
Tell us a bit about your journey as an artist?
My Journey as an artist is a little unconventional. I didn’t go to art school. I worked at a video game start up at the age of 19. It was located in Chelsea and it was a very inspiring environment to be in; especially being down the block from all of the galleries. Although I was a part of the production team I would always be interested in what the art department was doing. I started making small paintings on canvas paper and would bring them in to show these guys who were all SVA and Pratt grads, and they would be into it. When I got laid off from the company I decided to go full time as an artist. Shortly after I met up with these street artists who at the time made SoHo their main territory, we began to tag up together; from spray paint to wheat pasting, we started to get known. Taking it to other art areas like Williamsburg and Bushwick, that’s the whole purpose to street art I guess; the local fame of it. From here I started to hook up with some independent curators to put on gallery and loft shows. They were pretty successful turnouts as we packed the room every time.
Can you discuss some of the current themes running through your work? The cows/farms, now stars and nebulas.
The bulls came from a mask I found. it was just one of those cheap plastic Halloween masks but something about it resonated with me so I painted what I saw from it on canvas and fell in love with it. it came at a time when I felt like I needed a character to throw up in the street. I liked this better than just writing a name I wanted to be more mysterious. So yeah that came from the street art game and kind of made its way on to the canvas. After a while I thought it was ironic since I had stopped eating beef around that time. So this became the joke around it. That was in 2012, in 2013 I spent a whole year of doing works of art surrounding this bull character called “bully”. People associated it with me. Its made its way to Japan and the Netherlands. At the start of 2014 I wanted to build on it, kind of create the environment I felt it came from, sort of a surreal farmland. So that’s what I did. It came from just being a bull head to a full bodied character in a farm with various versions it. Climate change and region change, recently I decided it needed to go to space. Its just another scene I have always been interested in, so that’s where the stellar accounts come into play. I started drawing these new astronaut characters recently, moving out of the bully era into a more human silhouette.
Thoughts on New York?
Being from New York is great because you can accomplish so many things and meet so many great people. At this point I feel like New York is so small to me even though everyone thinks its such a big city. Its definitely good to visit other places, I love to travel but New York will always be home.
Where have you shown your work?
New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, the Netherlands & Tokyo.
You have been a part of projects with established artists, the likes of Andy Warhol, Kenny Scharf, Swoon, Shepard Fairey, the list goes on; What is it like being involved with names like this early in your career?
Its definitely a great feeling and an honor to be showing with legends in the art world but I try my best to not let that get to me. At the end of the day, its all about staying true and I know I am not where they are yet but it puts it into perspective of where I am as far as emerging artists goes. It makes me feel like I’m on the right path.
What current projects are you working on?
Right now I’m working on cover art for one of my good friends Saloman Faye who is an amazing recording artist that you should be on the lookout for really soon. I’m always working on my brand CLR therapy as the creative director. I have to stay looking towards the future and getting it in shops around the world. Next move would be to get into Art Basel Miami Beach and my first solo show in NYC. I want to bring it back to the street art roots and expand my repertoire by doing murals.
What has the transition been like going from street artist to more fine art?
It was an easy transition I see both as one of the same just being a product of my environment in NYC. I’d feel left out walking through the streets and not seeing my symbol up. The streets to me are a huge collaborative canvas.
Thoughts on street art vs. art galleries and street art in art galleries?
Its all synonymous as stated in my last response. Its just where we are with the times, art has become much more conceptual and limitless so it doesn’t surprise me anymore what you can see in a gallery.
You’ve worked with G-Shock, Cosmopolitan Magazine, T by Alexander Wang x Shopbop, and a healthy number of other brands, how is collaborating with a brand different than a fellow artist?
There is more restriction when working with certain brands you have to follow certain guidelines, which I don’t necessarily like. Working with artist is much more free and I like to be pushed and challenged, which both of them do for me.
You have a brand, CLR Therapy, most of the pieces you produce are custom, 1/1 pieces. You have the most stylish jacket I’ve ever seen, with the words Cow 99 scrawled across the back. Why is wearable art appealing to you?
Wearable art has a function, it is more then something pretty to look at that isn’t allowed too be touched or felt. It brings the artwork closer to the people where it belongs anyway.