1313 Milwaukee by Revok
1xRUN: Why don’t we start with talking a bit about the background of this current body of work you’ve been creating in Detroit?
Revok: Since I came to Detroit two years ago, I’ve been making these assemblage pieces that are composed of bits and pieces of the city, it has definitely been a moment in time, and now it is nearly done. I made this body of work from here, about here, all made while I was living here and now I’m leaving, so that’s going to be finished. This will be the only print that I’m going to produce of this body of work. When it’s done, it’s done.
1xRUN: You just made this piece fairly recently right?
Revok: Yea. I believe it was the first piece that I made once I got into this new studio space. It’s titled 1313 Milwaukee. Every piece that I make is a street address. They are all titled places in the city where I explore and find the elements of the pieces that I use to create the work.
1xRUN: How do you go about collecting some of the materials that you use in these pieces?
Revok: I had this idea a long time ago, I’ve really explored all these different ways of trying to realize what it is I do when I am out in the world, out in the street, but in a different context. It just never felt right, it never really worked.
Eventually I kind of came to this realization that I wasn’t interested into trying to recreate what it is I do outdoors. I am much more interested in the world itself that I have been submerged in for the last 23 years while painting and exploring the cities I have traveled to and lived in, not what it is I personally have been doing, but what I have been experiencing. The idea of creating work reflecting my personal graffiti “style” or something like that wasn’t interesting. I find graffiti much more engaging when it is graffiti. When you try to make it anything else I think you lose what makes it relevant and interesting in the first place.
So to answer your question; in order to collect the materials I use to create my work I just do what I have always done. As a graffiti writer you’re always searching to find new interesting places to create your work, and often times those are kind of rundown, neglected and dilapidated spaces. That’s a big part of the experience.
I very much enjoy that adventure of going places where people normally don’t go and exploring all of these kind of forgotten and neglected places, this element of creating the work is really fun for me, it makes it really exciting. Obviously there’s a certain amount mischief and danger involved in that, and it definitely feeds the work. In this city there is no shortage of fun places to go out and explore. When I go out and explore the city, and I find things, sometimes those things work, and I take them by whatever means necessary. Ripping it off the face of a building, or sometimes it’s just laying there on the ground. Sometimes I’m able to just find something from a building that has so many layers of stories to it behind the layers of paint and decay. It’s almost like…
I’m a loss for words to articulate how I feel about it, but I feel that these little elements of the world around us tell — in some very obvious ways, some not so obvious and abstract ways — the story of the lives we live and the world we create, and concerning this work, stories of Detroit. My idea for this body of work I have been creating here is Hope. Taking bits and pieces of all of this decay and tragedy and re-imagining it into something that is uplifting and positive. That is the energy of this new youth movement that is happening right now in Detroit and I think that energy really informs my work.
1xRUN: Yea, there’s been a positive energy in the city lately, did you notice that in your time here?
Revok: Yea. Absolutely. That’s the whole idea, I wanted to be part of that. This place used to be one of the greatest cities in America and I think it’s an understatement to say that it’s fallen. People don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. But there’s this new, young, hopeful, really optimistic energy that is happening here.
A lot of the young people are from the vicinity, and from other places and they have a new vision for this city. They see it as clean slate, an opportunity to do create something that might not be realistic or feasible where they’re from. Whether it’s owning your own business, owning your own home or having a killer studio…whatever.
1xRUN: There has been a lot of positive response to you work, can you give us an overview of the past couple of shows you’ve had?
Revok: I’ve shown these pieces twice in Los Angeles with KNOWN Gallery, once in Germany, a couple group shows in New York, a group show in England, a group show in Miami and another couple group shows in LA and finally here in Detroit at Library Street Collective. I am showing this work a final time in New York in June at Jonathan Levine Gallery, but this will be the final chapter in my body of work from Detroit.
1xRUN: It seems as though your pieces tend to be building up and out with these kind of different levels, do you want to talk about the trend of where these pieces are going or the general idea on how you go about assembling them? Is it sort of improvised or more mathematical?
Revok: There’s no kind of math or really pre-planning of anything really. With graffiti, a long time ago I kind of realized the process of complete improvisation, and just never really going into anything with any expectations. I find that when you have an idea and you make a plan, and then you later try to execute that plan, it takes a lot of the fun out of it. You’re trying to force something into a space instead of allowing something to grow naturally out of that space and happen the way that you intuitively want to make it happen. I don’t like there to be any kind of limitations or restrictions on anything that I’m doing because when you take the spontaneity out of it, it takes the fun out of it. I think at least.
With this work it’s no different. I’ll build the skeleton of something, but I don’t really draw any plans out. Whatever I feel like doing that day, I do. Then once the skeleton is shaped, then I just doing whatever feels natural.
I guess after time they’ve definitely gotten a bit more complex and layered, but I think that’s just like with anything, it’s the natural progression, you try to figure out how to improve upon them or you discover a little something new. While you’re doing a piece you might make a mistake, and that opens up a whole new door of possibilities and gives you a lot of new ideas. You build upon those mistakes and those are little accomplishments, and that’s just been happening over the course of the last two years as I’ve been making this work.
1xRUN: What were some of the things that you didn’t expect or pleasant surprises from your time here in Detroit?
Revok: I came here and made some really great relationships and I’m sure they are going to continue on for a long time in my life. I didn’t expect that. I thought I would come here and hide out for a bit. I didn’t really have any plans beyond that. I just wanted to get away from Los Angeles and didn’t want to be harassed by police.
I no longer wanted the crazy/stupid lifestyle I had been living in LA, and I just wanted to strip down and get back to the basics so I could focus on what is important. I’m really surprised it worked. I am now married to the love of my life and we just created a little person. Life is good.