Weldon Arts Interviews NETHER about his work and solo show: Crumbling Cities, which opens this Thursday, January 24th.
1. What first inspired you to start doing street art?
It all started by collecting stickers back in the day and constantly transforming the deck of my skateboard with stickers and stencils. Once the board (which I still have) had seen enough resurfacing I started putting my stuff elsewhere. As I continued doing art, having a presence on the street was always a part of it. When I started really wheatpasting hard a few years ago it was due to the realization that the work I was doing had a lot to do with [location] so installing my work around Baltimore seemed most appropriate. As soon as I started pasting everything changed.
2. Is there a difference to you between painting on the street and creating works for a gallery setting?
Yeah, there is a big difference as there is also a difference between working legally and illegally outdoors. Painting legally and gallery are similar in [the] sense that the time you have to work allows for a lot more experimentation and artistic development. At the same time, the legal doesn’t give you that rush at the moment when you grab your shit and are walking away from a spot that you just hit. In the end both are pretty essential to most artists and personally I find my gallery work pushing my street work and vice versa.
3. Nether originally began as a social message in Baltimore. Since your origination, you have painted in cities around the world, including New York and Paris. Does your work change outside of its original context?
At the beginning my pieces were only being put up in Baltimore, but I have always loved to travel and one of the biggest kicks I get out of street art is seeing pieces from artists who have traveled to put up their work in different cities. Also putting up work is a great lense [with] which to explore cities. Seeing work from artists who aren’t local to Baltimore in Baltimore is something that is also really exciting and helps hype up Baltimore’s street art scene.
When I travel and put up work I find [the] most value [by] staying true to what I know best. I think it is really interesting when people in, say, Shanghai, are able to see something that is usually only found in a completely different place on the globe. These types of connections between people in different places all over the world are truly beautiful.
4. What do you see as the role of the artist in society?
Freddy Sam [said it in] the most beautiful way I have heard: “removing the greyness from the soul of the city is the job of musicians, artists, and poets.” I feel that the most positive effect that public art has is its ability to solidify the connections people have to their surroundings. The more that this happens the better off our societies will be.
5. How do you want to affect viewers of Crumbling Cities?
One of the problems that I have had doing street art gallery show’s is how pristine as well as conformed the whole experience can be. I thought it would be appropriate to bring the types of canvases I paste on in the streets into the gallery context. Since the biggest passion in my artwork is addressing Baltimore’s mass vacancy problem, I thought I’d bring parts of the actual under-maintained vacants into the gallery context. Just about all of the pieces in the show are actual large sized street piece originals on plywood or created from scraps that I have gathered from vacant properties that are literally in the process of falling down.