Nothing is more exciting for a street art fan in New York City then when a new artists starts to work on the legendary Bowery Mural. For three or four days there is an excitement in the air as art fans from all over the city check in daily to see the artists vision unfold right in front of their eyes. Usually the process is slow and steady and develops piece by piece consuming the giant wall. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Enter Logan Hicks stencil artist extraordinaire. Known for his extremely vibrant and detailed cityscapes and his Gandolf like beard Logan was selected last year to be the first artists to paint the enormous wall exclusively using multilayer stencils and spray paint. I spent three days documenting Logan at work on the Bowery Wall last year and watched him power through adversities such as extreme heat, torrential downpours, and the wall itself crumbling, but after all the trials and tribulations a masterpiece was completed. I sat down with Logan in his Bushwick studio and discussed The Bowery Wall, his new print releases, and how it all came into fruition.
Alright Logan, for people that don’t know who you are, give us a quick Logan Hicks rundown.
I’m Logan Hicks, New York-based stencil artist originally from Baltimore, worked with photographic urban landscapes, multilayer stencils, and yeah that’s me.
And for the newbies who don’t know your history you come from an impressive pedigree of artists you’ve trained and worked with over the years, I believe you have told me about some fun times with Shepard Fairey just to name one?
If you’re doing good stuff you kind of end up with good people, the orbit gets smaller the more you do, and so yeah I’ve been fortunate to come across a lot of people that have been pretty accomplished in their fields, and artists like Eric Haze and Shepard fairy and people that were instrumental especially early on for me kind of getting my career underway.
Funny enough Eric Haze designed my logo for my law firm. He’s one of the nicest people I’ve met in the street art world.
He’s actually the reason that I’m in New York. At the time he had just split from this woman he was seeing, I’d just split from a woman I was seeing, and he was just kind of fed up with LA and he was like “I think I’m going to move back to New York”, and I was like, “you know I was thinking about it too”, and he made the jump pretty quick. For myself I waited I think it was another year and a half, maybe even two years and finally I was talking to him, and told him “yeah I think I’m finally going to do it”, and the next week he calls me up and said “Yo I got a studio apartment for you” and that’s all I needed as the final push to get me out to New York.
Yeah, that was over by the Lorimer stop.
Before it was cool?
Ha, when it was affordable. I mean I lived in that spot for seven years and they never raised the rent so it was fine by me.
What year was this?
I moved out here in 2007 so moved out almost 10 years ago… 6 months before my son was born.
Your son is a character, He’s always the hit of the party whenever you bring him to the gallery openings.
Well you know what, I just tried to expose him to as many experiences as I can. I mean that’s the point, you know, any parent their goals is to give their kids a better life than they had. I mean I have had a great life, but I believe him being exposed to people and artists that are already accomplished and being acclimated socially around these people will benefit him later in life, and so that’s what I’ve been doing with him.
So how did you study art? Are you classically trained? Or did you get into it on your own accord?
Yes, I went to MICA down in Baltimore and I’ve always been in the Arts in one form or another. I actually ended up leaving a couple classes short and started a screen print company after that and ran that for three years.
Yeah, Work Horse printing, and then I moved out to San Diego. At that point I was still doing the screen printing stuff, but I also started on my own art, and then eventually moved down to LA.
It’s funny I lived in San Diego for 6 years when I went to law school, and the one thing about living there is that the street arts scene is really sparse. I think there was one gallery in the whole city that maybe had a Buff Monster toy or something, but that was like seven years ago. I’ve heard the scene has picked up since then with ComicCon and all (any street artists in SD please send me a message I would love check out your work and hopefully meet up the next time I’m out there).
You know there’s a few people killing it out there like Sergio Hernandez who writes SURGE from MDR who is also a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, you know he’s down there, and I love everything he does, but you know I like the East Coast, I like grittiness, and San Diego was never really like that.
It’s easy living right, definitely a lot less gritty than NYC.
I mean it’s great if you’re daytime sports person, but I am definitely not.
Exactly, It’s amazing to walk around everyday day of the year in flip flops and have the option to surf in the morning and snowboard in the afternoons.
But I’m a night time dirtball, so San Diego kinda wasn’t really my home.
You’re definitely fit in just fine here in Brooklyn.
Yes, especially for the work that I do with cityscapes and stuff like that, I mean where else but New York?
I mean I spend most of my life in NYC at this point so I understand and I’m kinda the same. But back to the project at hand, I am watching you spray the Bowery Wall Mural on paper with stencils as we speak. How many layers is it for your print?
7 total for this piece, but it was 5 for the actual Bowery Wall.
Right, but also the wall was also 20ft by… ?
70 by 20 ft, 1050 stencils… 800 pounds of stencils…
I spend a couple of days with you out there it was like 150 degrees out!
The humidity felt like 150 degrees at least!
Yeah, you didn’t have it easy the first time around… a lot of us went down to hangout with you for those days, it was an amazing feet to watch unfold. Have you ever heard of mural done with stencil’s that’s been bigger than that in public?
Not multilayer… that’s gotta be like the largest multilayer stencil to date…
We have to send this over to Guinness by the way…
I’m sure there’s been like a one layer stencil bigger than that at least, but outside or on a building or something I’ve never heard of a bigger one with mutable layers of color. I mean, it’s a highly impractical art form, it’s counterintuitive to how people work, but for me it’s just sometimes what you’re good at isn’t what you choose to be good at, and for me it’ just happens that I’m good at stencils.
Yes, no question about that, the Bowery wall showed off how stencil art has come along way from a sometimes crudely cut single large image cut on one piece of paper to now being extremely complex and intricate. I mean I’m sure your wrists are never super happy with you after a long day of cutting stencils?
Well with any artist your goal is to transcend your medium, you kinda don’t want someone to look at your art and go “for an oil painting that’s really good” or “for a sculpture I like that”. Ultimately the way that you produce the work is simply the medium you use, it’s not the center point, so I think any art should exist solely on an esthetic level for the initial viewing, and then if there’s a backstory, whether it’s an artist, or you know the medium, or the production means, or the adversity, or whatever else, that should take a second viewing, but ultimately the esthetics of a piece should override the story of a piece in my opinion
What’s the story behind the title of the Bowery Wall “Story of My Life”?
Well you know approaching the ten year mark living in NY I realize that no person makes it on their own here, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have found myself painting the Bowery Wall because of the love and support of family, friends, and even complete strangers who’ve been here for me and my work over the years. So this mural was sort of an homage to those people that helped put me in the position to paint the Bowery Wall. Whether or not it’s friends, fellow stencil artists, people who have bought work, or even people that I simply see at different art openings and stuff like that, and so the pieces is located in New York, the image was shot in Soho, and it has a couple of hundred people walking on the street that have all played some sort of role in my life one way or another.
I have told you a couple times that one of my biggest regrets is that I had to work the day you shot the photo the mural was based on, and didn’t end up in the photo which I was really bummed about. So when you do it again you have to make sure I’m not working that day.
Ha! I’ll plan it solely around your schedule for sure next time for sure!
But seriously, “Story of my life” is done, and for those who don’t know it was a very tedious undertaking to complete with the freak weather, and doing most likely the largest multi colored stencil ever, and the first time you attempted it was literally over a 100 degrees out there in the day, and then torrential downpours for hours at night… but I don’t know if you want to talk a little about that?
It’s no problem, there’s actually a video that I used to kinda address that whole undertaking, but the weather clearly was not what we expected when I originally was planning the Bowery Wall. I was setting up so that I was gonna do it in July so that it would be the peak of tourist season, but the rain kind of deteriorated the wall and compromised the plaster surface so I needed to strip the wall down completely, resurface it, re-spackle it, re-prime it, and everything else, and so I didn’t end up painting until middle of August which at that point it was hotter than it was in July, and you know trying to wear a respirator while in the sun in front of a black wall is not ideal circumstances.
Do you think it was like a blessing in disguise that you got a second shot at it? You know more practice to work out the kinks?
I wouldn’t say a blessing, but you’re painting the most visible wall in the United States, and one of the most elite walls with a lineage that started with Keith Haring, so having a problem on that wall is still better than having a wall with no problems in the middle of the country… so you take it in stride. You’re ready to do the job, and I did the job. Of course it just wasn’t the ideal circumstances, but I was happy with the outcome and that’s all that matters in the end.
Everyone was… I mean how many Instagram hits do you think that wall got a day?
Well you know when you’re an artist you kinda forget that people see your work. I’m in the studio everyday and if I’m not there I’m at the house in front of a computer. So to be able to sit back and have Instagram tags come up is kind of a cool thing… just seeing the people interact with your work. But you know my favorite part was driving by around 11 o’clock or 12 o’clock at night and you still see half a dozen people out there taking pictures and stuff like that even months after it was put up. It’s a humbling thing when you make something that people deem worthy to stop and take a picture with and post.
It’s funny cause the last interview I did was with your good pal Joe Iurato, and he’s releasing a print with you any day now?
Yes, the email just went out!
Yeah I will be picking one up from Station16 for sure. I always love the gate you guys do together for The Bushwick Collective. We discussed during out interview how I saw the Bowery Wall and sent him a message because it looks like he was on the wall twice… which he was! Was he the only one that made it on the wall more than once?
Nah, my son’s in there three times, and there’s a few other ones. No one would ever be able to tell but there’s a bunch, you know someone would be way in the background but not large or clear enough that you can actually tell who it is so I needed to place some people again in the foreground. But Joe is very prominent though both times in the foreground, he’s one of the more visible people for sure.
Well now that The Bowery Wall is all done, you’re gonna have the print release at Taglialatella Gallery in manhattan on January 26th, but I think you said the print is almost sold out?
Yeah it’s getting there! So defiantly get to the show early if you want to snag one of the remaining few.
What’s next for you? Vacation?
Nah I wish, I enjoy working so it’s all good, but we’re doing the release at the Taglialatella gallery, then I have a small show in Paris in April, I’m also in a group show currently in Paris, I’m also in a group show in San Francisco, then I plan on going out to Paris and living there for the Summer with C215 and just working for a couple of months.
Well you had a very busy 2016, it was nonstop for you…
Seriously, But anyway in February I’m going back to Dubai and painting a mural there, and then at some point going back to morocco to finish up a residency.
Awesome, is the Dubai mural smaller?
Yes, smaller… it’s about 15 by 35 ft.
You can’t do something like the Bowery Wall to yourself again this soon…
Well you know the Bowery was one of those things where you just kinda do just to test it out. The good thing is that with the Bowery Wall we keep all the stencils, and I’ve been working with this guy who’s gonna be able to secure an aircraft hanger for me, I’ll end up spraying that out there in actual size on canvas.
It’s better to spray the whole thing flat or on the wall of the hanger?
Well, when you’re spraying stuff out it’s best to spray it flat, it’s a lot easier to do just cause simply you’ve got gravity so the paint falls more consistently, the stencils aren’t falling off, and you can leave them there overnight if you need to. I plan on spraying the Bowery Wall and the piece I did for the Miami Dolphins there as well.
So when you’re working any particular music you like to listen to, or any traditions that keep you going?
Yeah, you know I have a regular range of stuff I listen to but the one song that I’ve played for every mural that I’ve ever done is Big Daddy Kane’s “I work”, that’s the one song I always start off with.
Okay so that’s your music tradition… is there anybody’s work lately that you’ve been really digging?
I like that dude Michael Reeder, he just finished his residency in Detroit at the Red Bull House of Art, but mostly I stick to myself and good friends like Joe Iurato, Chris Stain, C215, the same people I have liked for years. Oh we just got a Faith47 piece for our house I’m really happy with, and of course I’ve always loved Crash. I get truly inspired by other people so I like to have their stuff in my home and not really mine… I get to see my work all day in my studio. I may have a collab or two on my wall though… like this one with Anthony Lister but really I did a little pattern that is maybe 2% of the piece and the other 98% is painted by him.
Anything else you want talk about before we end the interview?
Nah, not really… people will have serious eye fatigue at this point anyway, they can just enjoy some more photos.
Thanks as always for letting me hang out, and I’ll see you at Taglialatella Gallery on January 26th!
Taglialatella Gallery – 229 10th Ave., New York, NY January 28th 6-8pm.
All Photo’s & Text Copyright 2017 Matthew A. Eller. Follow me on Instagram @ellerlawfirm