In Bushwick, Graffiti Meets Gallery Art 

The artist known as GoreB is painting his graffiti moniker on the wall at Factory Fresh gallery with swipes of a roller coated in seafoam green house paint. Darkcloud cracks open a can of Budweiser and takes a few sips while Armer crouches on the floor, absentmindedly playing with the folds in the drop cloth. They explain that Deeker is absent. Apparently he couldn't get himself together to make the 2pm interview. A stained pillow without a case and a crumpled sheet are lying across the room from us, since the space is also being used as a crash pad before the group's exhibition A Hounding Obsession (through November 29) opens. Ali Ha, the co-owner of Factory Fresh, laughs and says, " We're kind of like a clubhouse."

The four don't have day jobs. They find cheap house paint at Home Depot, paint on discarded objects, and wear clothes they find on the street. They are also some of the most prolific graffiti artists on both coasts right now and have no qualms about expressing disapproval of other artists' work. GoreB says, "The graffiti background gives you a critical eye for what's on the street." Armer concurs, "Without a critical eye there's no progress—you're just a hippie." GoreB concludes with a sigh: "You gotta be an asshole once in a while." Whether they like it or not, their work is right at home in Bushwick's burgeoning gallery scene.

GoreB (pronounced "Gore" B) and Darkcloud both moved to New York in 2003 and then met a year later, after both gained notoriety by attaching their paintings to street signs. GoreB says, "He was my signage nemesis for about a year. We were the only two doing bolt-ups." Quick on the uptake, Darkcloud says, "Any poles with holes." They met Ad Deville, the co-owner of Factory Fresh, through his street art done under the name "Skewville." At the time, Ad and Ali owned the Orchard Street Gallery on the Lower East Side. GoreB says, "We went to the Orchard Street spot and cruised around for free beer." Armer says, "They told me, 'Go to openings. Bring a backpack.'"

Miniature bottles of Colt 45 were handed out to eager patrons at the opening in Bushwick last Friday (November 13), while t-shirts were selling for twenty dollars. Fifty-two pieces are on view (and for sale) at the gallery, ranging from prints on wood to sticker boards encased in glass. Armer's "Practice/Zoro" is a teepee made of painted wood scraps with an abstract painting behind it that reads "Being a man in 2009" in pencil under three large blobs of paint. His diptych "Jim" and "Huck" is painted on yellowed window shade rollers in the back of the gallery, the sides buckling from wear and tear. At the front of the space, Darkcloud covered a stop sign his signature Cumulus clouds. The rainstorm slides down the surface of the medium in angry drips. Deeker's work has titles like "Disgruntled," "Unkempt," and "Slow Learner," (above) while GoreB produced a series of paintings involving birds and playful text along the left side of the gallery.

Armer and GoreB at Factory Fresh

Originally from Boston, Darkcloud said, "I wanted to move to New York to get put in my place." Armer, a Bay Area resident, says, "In New York, everywhere you go there's graffiti." When asked if it's necessary to know about the history of the New York scene before working here, Armer said, "I don't feel it's a requirement to have this interest in learning about people of the past, but it makes your argument stronger." "Here you have to be quick putting your stuff up," GoreB says, "a lot of it is sloppy and ugly. I don't care for that trend much."

This particular generation of graffiti artists is inspired by esoteric artwork from the 70s as well as outsider art, and these four tend to create work that manipulates conventional graffiti by adding flourishes or incorporating knowledge of contemporary art that is eschewed by traditional graffiti purists. As a result, there isn't a clear divide between graffiti, street art, and their paintings, as the artists in the exhibit happily work with all three. Darkcloud said, "Bloom County. I love that shit." He also mentioned Marushka prints, which made GoreB and Armer nod in agreement. "The Hobo Art Scene was influential, GoreB added, "with Broke Rodriguez, Other [and] Colossus of Roads." (Incidentally, Colossus is featured in Bill Daniel's documentary Who Is Bozo Texino? The Secret History of Hobo Graffiti.)

The streetlight beside Factory Fresh burned out weeks ago, so the patio area is lit from below, making the space appear slightly haunted. The gallery is located on a quiet block on Flushing Avenue but a slew of artists' lofts and neighborhood galleries are a quick walk from here, and nearby buildings are covered in graffiti. "Bushwick is coming up," Darkcloud says, "but it's not as annoying as Williamsburg yet. It's still pretty raw." Armer chimed in: "There's less undercovers."

"It's more desolate at night," Darkcloud continued, "I call it Toontown." GoreB, who is currently living in California, says, "In Santa Cruz you can go out for twelve hours and hang out with yourself. In New York you'd have to escape down a manhole to do that. There are nooks and crannies here but [many are] already found."

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