Uncapped: Michael Alan Art is So Much More Than a Living Installation
UPDATE: Michael has asked to dedicate this piece to the memory of RE 357 who tragically passed earlier this week once again rocking the graffiti community. To RE…
BOWERY BOOGIE: Michael, welcome to Uncapped. There’s already a ton of press about you and your work- we like to go deeper in this series so tell me something about your art that no one knows…
MA: I don’t really know how to answer that question, it seems that my life has become my art which is become public knowledge. I would say my love for my parents, but that is very obvious and I could say that whenever or if I do turn in a old man that I like to build puppets somewhere in Europe and I’d have a magical puppet show for kids every Sunday on the river.
BB: Don’t give up hope. I say that because we know you’ve been through a lot with your health- the Village Voice revealed that you have a rare blood disease…
The artist Michael Alan was recently diagnosed with deep venous thrombosis (DVT), a blood-clot disease that has left his body in a frail state (broken spine, declining kidneys). Since learning of his illness, Alan — a pioneer of the sci-fi/psychedelic hybrid known as Afrofuturism, a term that came into use in the Nineties — has been working nonstop to get as much down on paper as he can, and now, the 17 Frost gallery, near McCarren Park in Williamsburg, is hosting a new show.
Does this hinder you? Motivate you? Is art an outlet for this awful diagnosis?
MA: I mean thankfully it keeps me put, so I just stay in the studio. It is hindering my social activities with the art world but you know, fuck it. It definitely keeps me motivated. I don’t know what day could be the last. Sorry to put that out there, but you know I push my hardest. I really try to make the best of what I can every day.
BB: Amen. Can your fans help you and support finding a cure for you, and if so, how?
MA: There is no cure for Factor V. I always like good friends, I hope to turn fans into friends. Like the word ‘fan’ creeps me out. I see myself as just the New York average Joe and then all of a sudden all these great compliments! They keep me out of trouble and keep me motivated to be motivated. It’s nice to find people who care and maybe a place to sleep for the night or someone to take you to for food or just sympathy or good treatment that I wouldn’t do for myself.
BB: You are in our prayers, friend. Keep fighting! Your style is a series of line work creating distorted, but intense portraits … Is that accurate? How did you come up with your style?
MA: Thanks. I would say my my work is figurative, abstract, contemporary, surreal and dramatic. I mean, no one taught me how to draw. I was always drawing as a baby, as a kid all the way to right now as I do this. I’ve taken a lot of classes in anatomy and studied anatomy and drawing and painting has always been my own thing and different people here and there motivated me like [Moody] Mutz and Jason Wulf (DG, RIP.). My father. My mom.
BB: What is a day in the life of Michael?
MA: My whole entire day until evening is working doing drawings, paintings, sculptures, answering emails. Blah, blah. I don’t have assistance and I don’t want to have assistance so I spend day and night just working, working, working, working, working.
BB: Any ties to the graffiti community besides Mutz and DG?
MA: I love my graffiti people, many, many graff heads. Lovers. Crews as I grew up with, man. I grew up in the ’90s, New York. My best friend is Mutz. AA [crew] dudes and Jason was a really good friend to me. Of course, you know that’s how we connected. Cody Prez is the one that made his article happen and I was always at a party or running an event and painting live or something it all just got mashed together and you know my artwork is something separate, you know, my figurative abstractions on paper or canvas are really what I like to draw.
BB: Prez! Yes. You can check out his interview again here. We know you are close with DG’s fiancé ELO, who has been on the series with us as well. She speaks highly of you… How did you come to know NWC [New Wave Crew, which includes Prez One]?
MA: I mean, I met Jason when I came to Staten Island and I think I was one of the first people to meet him from Staten. He was looking for people to have over and jam at night at his house and I was like one the first, if not the first person to connect. I just wanted to draw and at that time, you know, party, so I was there like every night painting and painting and drawing. Jason and I really liked ‘art nerd night’ and it got wild. He would always push me, always critique and push and push me and sometimes we have arguments about it and I would tell him you need to make more money. Lol. It was really interesting, man. I really appreciate anyone who could push me; most people are just going to sit back and not say shit, but Jason was very hard and he def moved me. I look after Elo like I would want my friends to look after my lady if I had one or if I passed.
BB: Where did you spend your childhood?
MA: I was born in Bushwick. A lot of people get that confused because we moved kind of quickly to Staten Island right in front of the bridge so we could get back to Brooklyn. My aunt lived in Clinton Hill and she was a Nun so I spent the weekends with her and it was really beautiful, man. Then other weekends, I was in Flushing, Queens with my grandma until she passed, and my dad was from Coney Island so I spent a lot of time with him going to Coney Island and going to Sheepshead Bay. So I was really never in Staten. Except for the drama. I was really seeing the whole city through my parents’ eyes. I hated going back home [to Staten Island] and I’m here now in Bushwick so I have a lot of roots a lot of crews and love out here and real friends. NWC. Nwo. Tfk tax. Dtf. U5. Tch. Bushwick Housing.
BB: Good ‘ol Bushwick, “the little town in the woods,” the last of the original six Dutch towns of Brooklyn to be established within New Netherland when NY was first settled. Such a deep history there as with all of NYC. So many graff artists have come out of Bushwick, but if you google them, you’ll get the Bushwick Collective artists, the majority of which, are not, in fact, from Bushwick. A topic for another time. Meh.
Where can people follow your work?
BB: Any shows coming up?
THE ANGEL OF HISTORY, opening January 8 from 6-9 pm at Station Independent Projects, 138 Eldridge Street near Delancey Street. Featuring work by Michael Alan, Michele Basora, Vincent Ciniglio, Roya Farassat, Gentleman’s Game, Norma Minkowitz, and Alfred Steiner. I also have an album called The Living Installion: State of Grace on Bandcamp. Check that out.
BB: Ok, in the Lower! Easy enough to get to. What do you think the difference is between graff and street art? Or is there one? Graff started and lives in the streets so it’s kind of hard to decipher a difference even though so many claim there is one.
MA: I’m not a fan of street. I feel like street art is like a really great way to promote your art and become rich and graffiti is a big angry or beautiful “fuck you.” For us, graff started in the streets so distinguishing the two is like splitting hairs but we are open to other opinions like yours…and there’s no splitting hairs, man. Street art is clear. I’m not against it, I just feel like it’s very, very much like a promotion like I hand out flyers for my show and people either want to or they don’t, but it’s a direct connection to my work.
BB: Tell us about the live body painting. What is the story behind that? Must be hard to wash off (ha).
MA: I mean the living installation started because I don’t like some of the art atmosphere. For example, how tight in the fine art the community can I get so I got together all these different models in various places for people to draw on and have fun. With my music. dunking people in paint and eating a pretty fish trying to gain laughter in art and create a fun community.
BB: A live fish? Never mind, I don’t want to know. Alright people, hit him up if you want to be doused creatively in paint or just to support his art. Keep Michael in your prayers and once again, thank you for joining us. “til next time, peace, love and graff.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF RE 357