Inner State Gallery Presents COPE2’s Versatile
This career spanning exhibition will showcase all the individual styles Cope2 has become infamous for including his signature bubble letters which have since been imitated the world over, as well as wild style letters, graffiti tags, fine art mixed media canvases and vintage photos of 1980’s subway scenes highlighting where Cope2 made his mark throughout New York City’s classic 70’s and early 80’s graffiti era.
“I have been catching flicks of Cope’s work for years in graffiti magazines and videos, so for us it is an honor to host an exhibition that spans his entire career here in Detroit,” gallery co-founder Dan Armand said.
With over 50 new mixed media paintings, photos and limited edition prints, this is an exhibition that is not to be missed.
To contact Inner State Gallery please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 313-744-6505.
1xRUN Thru Interview
Versatile by Cope2
1xRUN: Let’s start with the show, “Versatile” that will open at Inner State Gallery in Detroit, what is the idea & concept for the exhibition?
Cope2: Basically, I’ve always wanted to do a show like this because lately I have transitioned mostly into mixed media paintings. I’d been doing hardcore graffiti — if you want to call it that — for 30+ years. Since the early 80’s, in the subways of New York City. You know, I still do burners once in a while in the street. Or I might do a blackbook sketch here and there because, you know, it’s my originality. It’s what made me Cope2. And people still love that. Even though I’m doing more mixed media paintings, but I always wanted to change a little. Sometimes you don’t want to stay stuck in the same thing. Some artists, they’ll just keep doing the same thing for thirty years, the same outline. Which is cool, you know. That’s them. But me, I like to change, transition and show different styles.
So in this show, I’m able to show my evolution of style and how I’ve progressed. The whole transition, from doing bubble letters to wild style letters to tags. I might even have some nice simple tags on canvas. All the way to my current mixed media paintings. So when you come to the show, you’re not just coming to a Cope2 show and seeing bubble throw ups. You’re not just seeing burner letters. You’re not even seeing just all mixed media paintings. This show has everything. So it’s good for me, to show the world; the clients, the customers, and the public. Everyone who might not be too familiar with Cope2. “Versatile” shows where I came from and what I’m doing now. That’s the whole thing, and it’s really cool and that’s why I’m excited about it. It shows how versatile I am with my style, showing the public that I can do numerous styles. Not just one. So that’s the whole idea and concept behind “Versatile.”
1xRUN: Let’s go through all the styles, starting with the mixed media paintings and how they’ve evolved.
Cope2: I like the mixed media paintings because they’re a nice mix of everything. They’re all my styles combined into one painting. With pasting collages, maybe images of a subway map or a piece of a label off a can of paint that I used, I’ll throw that on the canvas, maybe if I’m smoking a Cuban cigar while I’m working on a piece, I’ll take the actual label off the cigar and throw it on there. It’s all me, but on one canvas. Then instead of having it so clean, sometimes you want to give it texture. You want to throw some different colors of paint in there. Some regular house, some enamel paint, something you paint your house with, I use that in there. I use acrylics, paint markers. I just get crazy with the mixed media paintings, that’s what I like about it. And at the end of the day it might look like a mess, but it’s still a great painting. It’s not just a regular graffiti burner or a throw-up. I put so much work and effort into each of my mixed media paintings, and even though they are different I’m still keeping my originality as Cope2, but just on another level. I went from being a Bronx graffiti artist to being an actual painter. The graffiti is what made me who I am worldwide, but I love the mixed media because I can put all my style into one piece and just get funky with it.
1xRUN: How did you land on Detroit for this exhibition?
Cope2: Since you guys have this new gallery you just opened, I knew it would be great to show the people in Detroit my art. I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with it, but maybe a lot of people haven’t seen it in person. Maybe they aren’t into graffiti, but they might want to come and collect a piece of my work that’s been rolling for the past thirty-plus years. At the end of the day, it’s good to have that history and that legendary status of New York in the early 80’s and I felt it would be good to show my work to the people of Detroit.
1xRUN: Definitely, it seems like you’ve been on this worldwide tour, so we’re glad you’ve decided that Detroit should be one of the stops.
Cope2: For sure. Every day I pitch shows. Every day, I’m doing this. I talk with galleries all over the world. You know, it’s part of the business now. It’s different for me. Instead of going to paint a wall in the street and taking a picture and putting it on the internet, you know, I’ve done that. Now, I’m into showing the world, and the art world as well, my work. It’s time. The passion that I have for this, it’s what I love to do. I’ve always loved painting, from the subway era to the walls to now. Now I just love to paint on canvas too. I’m in my mid-forties, I ain’t painting trains no more, or going bombin’ in the streets. But I still have the passion, so what can I do next? I watched a lot of friends of mine, a lot of other artists doing this gallery thing. Basquiat, he’s one of my idols. I would see him in Soho, in the early 80’s and talk with him. He was already doing galleries back then, and I was still doing trains. I’ve been seeing this thing take off around the world. Man, it took off and exploded. You got all these great artists, Crash, Twist, from San Francisco. He does amazing shows and museums. And it inspires me, seeing these guys. And Kaws, I’ve known him for years. We used to paint together in the Bronx. So all of these guys inspired me to take my art to another level as well.
1xRUN: How has that transition been going into galleries and what were some your inspirations to pursue that?
Cope2: The last few years have been pretty good man, I can’t complain. I’ve done shows in some good spaces. Not necessarily high-end galleries, but great spaces. Sometimes I do a show just to show my art. I don’t expect to sell all the time. It’s a bonus if you sell your work, of course. There’s not one artist that can say that they don’t want to sell their work. That’s impossible. But, at the end of the day, it’s about sharing your craft and your art with the world. When the people come in and appreciate your art on the wall, I love that. It’s so cool. And before you know it, someone buys a piece. And then before the end of the night, maybe the whole place is sold out. I did some shows at Gallery 69 in New York where, maybe out of twenty or so pieces, only two or three of them sold. But the turnout was amazing. Just watching the people appreciate the work is fine for me, man. I really like that. When people look at the work and love it, and when you get positive feedback. And I’ve been pretty successful in some pretty big auctions in the past few years, since I’ve transitioned. Like Phillip’s and Doyle’s, some other stuff in London. So it’s been pretty good. I’m still young, I’m still a baby in this whole art world. Representing my art in galleries, it’s my passion. It’s my thing now.
The thing that really sparked me was watching the Basquiat documentary, ‘The Radiant Child.’ It came out in 2010, and I was already doing canvas work, but not so heavy. But when I saw that, I knew that I wanted to take things to another level. I always idolized Basquiat. I always loved his work, because he was so different from everybody. You look at a lot of art from around the world, and there’s a lot of people doing the same thing. But he was so authentic in what he did. I don’t think anyone could ever really copy what he did. And when someone tries to copy Basquiat’s work, you pretty much know right away. It was so authentic and different from so many other artists. It’s the same with Keith Haring. I’ve seen some Keith Haring documentaries, and watching these things really inspired me to transition into paintings. It was pretty easy. I’m pretty natural with it. Let’s say that I go do a burnout on a wall. I never go with a sketch, and I never go with a color scheme. I already know in my mind what I’m going to do. I’m a freestyle artist. Some people have a blackbook with a sketch inside, and they have all the colors ready. I’m just not like that. I don’t know why, but I’m more relaxed. I figure it out when I get to the wall. Once I look at the wall, the wall is a canvas. Let’s say that I have twenty cans on the floor, boom, that’s it. I’ll start with the outline and that’s it. It came naturally, doing it in the studio and starting to rock on canvas. Developing, trying different techniques with the paintings. Pasting this, tagging on that. It’s going well for me. The transition was pretty easy. I’ve been pretty natural since day one. With the trains in the subway cars, I always just painted one or two and then left. I never went in with any sketches.
1xRUN: Tell us a bit about your early years as a writer and how you got started?
Cope2: I started in 1978 or ‘79, watching the subway cars. When I was a kid, I lived in the south Bronx and there was probably about five of us. We were eleven or twelve years old. Dirty little kids with nothing to do. We used to just take train rides, and back then when you were inside of a subway car it was all tagged up. Then you look at the outside and you see these amazing pieces come by. These full-color pieces. I remember clearly, seeing these pieces that were so readable. These artists, theses guys that were so recognizable. I idolized them, I wanted to be like those guys. I wanted to get my name up on the trains too. Before you know it, I’m meeting these graffiti writers and they’re showing me the train yards and how to steal spray paint. Back then, you had to steal spray paint. We’d go into hardware stores and put ten or fifteen cans into our coats and walk out. Then we’d go to the train yards and just do pieces and paint on trains. Once I started seeing my pieces rolling up on the platform? That was it, man. I would get so excited. I did a couple hundred or more pieces. Those were the glory days. And it was a pretty dangerous thing, a lot of the other writers were actually in gangs. You had to be careful. Some of these other guys, you really didn’t want to run into them in the train yard. They’d rob you. Take your paint, take your sneakers. That’s where I come from, that’s my era. I didn’t come from art school. So many artists today are successful because they learned their craft in art school. I didn’t learn in art school, I learned on the subway cars. From the legendary greats back then, and taking it to another level.
1xRUN: We were really digging the collaborations that you did with OBEY and what he’s done with his clothing line. Tell us a bit more about working with Shepard Fairey.
Cope2: We did a wall together three years ago. When I met him, he was telling me that he would come down to New York in the early ‘90’s and see my work everywhere. He said that it inspired him, to want to get up everywhere. So he got influenced by my way of bombing in the streets, but he did it in his own way. He went out there, he pasted his icon everywhere. So we were always cool. Then I did a skate deck for a skate show, and he saw it and reached out to me to do something. So I suggested that we do a wall in the Bronx. So we did that, and it was pretty successful. He asked me if he could do a print for that, and I’m into prints so I said sure. When I saw the print drop, you know, whenever you see a print of a few hundred copies sell in a few minutes, that shit is crazy. That’s how popular that guy is. You could see how much people liked the collaboration. If people don’t like something, they’re not going to buy it. Then, I ran into him in Miami at Basel. He ending up introducing me to the guys that run his clothing line. They asked me if I would do a collaboration with the clothes, and I said ‘yeah, let’s do it.’ So we worked on that, and we took it from there. Then they wanted to do a little poster to promote the clothes, and it was successful. You got two great artists; Shepard is a legend in street art, period. Me, a graffiti artist from the Bronx. Together, that’s awesome. The best of two worlds. Combining, collaborating.
To contact Inner State Gallery please email email@example.com or call 313-744-6505.