For the past year, Juxtapoz has teamed with mural artists from around the United States on the "Wall Sessions" project with Boost Mobile. We asked each artist in a city they live or work near to create a site-specific mural, and in Albany, New York, Hellbent added his abstract and colorful pattern work to the cityscape. We sat down with the Brooklyn artist to see about his process, his Wall Sessions piece and what he has coming up next.
Juxtapoz: What's your favorite part about working in public? Do you like the interaction with people as you are painting, do you like driving by when you are done? I feel like all these years artists always give me different answers.
Hellbent: I go back and forth with it. Yes, in general I do enjoy talking to people as I am working and getting their thoughts about the piece, and how they react to it. A lot of times you have to talk them through it. They say, "what is it?" (My work is abstract so there really is no it). And then I say well what do you think it is and then they start doing the work and thinking through what there eyes are showing them. Then it becomes more meaningful for them because they come to their own conclusion about the art and it becomes special for them, It also gives me a different perspective on the work as I hear their thinking about the piece. But other times you are trying to charge through and get something done or figure out some problem that only you as the artist see as a problem and then someone wants to talk and you just want to keep your head phones on and keep rocking things out. But it's definitely nice to get out of your own head and talk to peeps as your doing it
Do you still remember the first mural you did?
Oh yeah, I lived in a warehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn when I first moved to New York, 17 years ago, at that point I had mostly been catching tags and occasional pieces. We would throw these art parties with bands and art on the walls and I did my first mural for one of these shows. It was a simple city scene with severed hands as comets attacking the city. I think it was right after 9/11. It was around then that I got the thirst for walls.
How separate is your public art practice from your studio work?
They don't separate to much beyond scale. In fact I will try out some things I am thinking about for paintings on walls before I start delving into them in studio.
If you are working on a gallery show, or paintings in general, do you like to have a mural project come up to get you outside a bit? Is it a good way to stretch your legs and sort of change the pace up a bit?
When I am getting ready for a show its pretty much full on studio mode, but if its a nice outside i cant help my mind from wondering how nice it would be to be painting outside and not in my cramped Brooklyn studio. But then again when i am outside painting and getting rained on and the wind whipping my stencils around my mind drifts back to being in the studio. So always back and forth. Forunetly, if i am getting ready for a show and in studio a lot i will usually apint a mural in the city of art show, so i know I will be outside soon enough.
What did you create for this particular mural project?
For this project i took a que from a Swedish abstract artist named Ollie Baertling who was working in the early 20th century that i recently became aware of. His sense of color was very similar to what i have become known for. The mural for Albany Boost store is a further exploration of geometric hardedge abstraction i have been working with the last few years, Using a variety of patterns and dissonant color vocals to add depth, these opposing dynamics give a surprising balance and chaotic movement.
What do you have coming up next?
Well, shortly after this mural i completed another mural in Albany. It was a 6 story parking garage that i completed in a different style, so really cool to be able show 2 different styles in the same town. and my first sculptural project was unveiled in Brooklyn which was a lot of fun to do. I am in process of finishing up a larger canvas pieces (8x8') that will be installed in the lobby of corporate building on Wall St in New York City. And in talks for a few more large scale murals in city. As fall is setting in here the outside projects are wrapping up but I am in talks for murals this coming spring. So i got some time to get into studio and work on some things which will be nice.
Follow all the Juxtapoz x Boost Mobile Wall Sessions stories here
photography by Halopigg