Carlos Mare | Physical Graffiti

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Carlos Mare, best known as the subway graffiti writer Mare139 (short for ‘Nightmare’), is not just a conventional graffiti artist. His roots lie deep in the foundations of the New York City graffiti scene. Appointed Cultural Ambassador by the US State Department, Mare knows how to flex all of his artistic muscles. An innovative sculptor, designer, media artist and NYU scholar in residence, he reinterprets his knowledge and skills to inspire, create and educate. After Mare used his graffiti lettering styles and adapted them to metal sculpture, he was asked to design and create the award for the annual BET/Black Enterntainment Awards, and collaborated with Via Spiga to design the packaging of their shoeboxes.

Back in June 2012, AVGDE visited Carlos Mare’s first Germany debut solo show – dubbed “Physical Graffiti” – at Skalitzer Gallery in Berlin (check out the video interview at the end of this article). After Skalitzers’ Kelly Reiffer bought one of Mare’s B-Boy works at Martha Cooper’s ‘Remix’ last year in Los Angeles, she got into contact with Stormie Mills, who is a fellow ‘Agent of Change‘ along with Mare and Jaybo Monk. Other than absolutely being in love with his work, Skalitzers found it important to show Mare’s work, as he was part of the New York graffiti movement during the 1970s-80s golden era and still continues to be part of the New York scene. Doing things a bit differently than most galleries, Skalitzer’s gives their exhibiting artists the chance to be reactive towards their time in Berlin  in order to get the best results for the final show, which is why they don’t plan too much of the show in advance.

But what is Physical Graffiti? If you put B-Boy dance, cubism, futurism, hip hop culture and graffiti in a blender! Mare’s works seem at first simple. Simplicity created with just a few lines on paper. But if the eyes follow the lines, the lines begin to move. Suddenly the simple lines take on shape and bodily movements, such as folding arms, moving forward and crossing the legs become evident.

AVGDE got the chance to observe Mare and Flying Steps founder Amigo experiment on a new study. Amigo’s animated moves seemed to have caught Mare off guard. You could see and feel the intensity of Mare exploring the moves and finding a way to translate them onto paper. He was tossing one drawing after another to the side, and asked Amigo to hold a freeze. It seemed to be an emotional process for him. Amigo’s dance moves were new and open. He has been experimenting with fusing hip hop element with traditional turkish dance. For Mare, it was very different drawing him, as he was noticing how his hands, eyes and lines moved differently. Knowing all the B-Boying moves by heart, his trained eye had a difficult time at first to calculate how Amigo’s dance moves would end.

After pausing their session, both looked at the drawings together and then work on the right pose and finding the right intention of the body. Seeing Amigo and Mare pour over the sketches, discussing the breaks, the lines and the structure was like witnessing two scientists who just invented a new formula. In the end, both understood each other’s intentions. Finally, when Amigo held a freeze, Mare was able to “capture the geometry” and the intention in his dance, and Amigo took Mares input and interpreted it into his dancing.

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Note: Special thanks to filmmaker Marco Woldt and Skalitzers Contemporary Art!
All photos by ©Zaza Weissgerber