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Buff Monster on ArtSlant Street

Our friend Swax McIver recently interviewed another friend-Buff Monster- for his upcoming show in Berlin. Check it out on ArtSlant Street!

Interview with BUFF MONSTER: “Pretty in pink…and before”

by Swax McIver for ArtSlant

Neither a stranger to the press, nor to his now-trademark use of one such colour in particular, Brooklyn-based Buff Monster has come a long way since his formative poster-pasting days on the West Coast. Having developed and elaborated upon a theme that, initially, was a simple, yet immediately recognisable two-tone graphic, found anywhere from the streets of San Francisco to the galleries of Sydney and several cities in between, Buff has gone on to significantly bigger and brighter things. Literally.

On the eve of his appearance at this year’s Pictoplasma conference in Berlin, Artslant STREET tracked the man down to the depths of his New York studio, putting the finishing touches to a body of new works that will also be on show in the German capital at the same time. And the subject of cutting one’s teeth became the key talking point of the day…      

Courtesy Buff Monster

Swax McIver: What was it like growing up in Los Angeles, in terms of early influences: art, street culture, music…?

Buff Monster: I didn’t actually grow up in LA, I grew up in Hawaii. It was nice, of course, but I was very isolated from a lot of things. For example, the graffiti scene there was tiny, so we would look at magazines and some videos and then just learn to paint by trial and error. Those were fun days.

SMI: Was the city an inspiration?

BM: No, not in Hawaii. I moved to California when I was 17, and that was inspiring. It was LA: the history of glamour and Hollywood and all that, but the dirty industrial areas downtown were great too.

SMI: Did any artists in particular stand out to you early on?

BM: Garbage Pail Kids were a big inspiration for me when I was about 7 years old. I knew they were painted, but I didn’t know that it was a man named John Pound who did a lot of those crazy paintings.

SMI: How old were you when you first went out pasting posters?

BM: I started painting graffiti when I was 16. I started putting up posters when I was 20 or something like that.

AS: What was it that interested you in it?

BM: My experience of painting graffiti gave me a good understanding of the fun and effectiveness of putting up stuff in the street.  

SMI: Most artists I’ve spoken to say that once you start, whether it be poster-pasting or spray-painting, it becomes an addiction that is impossible to stop. Was it like that for you? Is it still like that?

BM: I guess it’s always exciting doing new things. Doing graffiti or posters early on was, but then it’s just something you do.

Courtesy Buff Monster


SMI: Did you learn the hand-silkscreen process yourself from scratch in the beginning, or did friends help?

BM: I took a class on silkscreening. My teacher worked for Warhol; he had funny stories to tell. I didn’t do any of the class assignments and I probably got an F. I don’t even know, I never got a report with my grade from that class. I didn’t care. I just wanted to learn how to silkscreen.

SMI: What first interested you in Japanese culture?

BM: There is a very big Japanese influence in the [modern] local Hawaiian culture.

SMI: Your work has now gone on to be shown all over the world with not only canvases or wall pieces, but also large installations, merchandising and the like. Do you still have that same grass roots, DIY approach to your work that you had in the early days when you were first starting out?

BM: I would still prefer to do everything myself, and I still do a lot of things myself. I only have someone else do something when it makes sense.

Courtesy Buff Monster


SMI: What advantages and/or disadvantages are there between where you were in LA, and where you are now in NY?

BM: New York is awesome. LA can be great too, but I needed a change.

AS: So what are your plans for this year’s Pictoplasma conference in Berlin?

SMI: There’s a new piece [I’ve done] for Pictoplasma’s big portrait show called “Buffbob Pinkpants”, and I just got word that I’ll be speaking on Friday the 2nd of May, in the slot from 18:00 – 19:30 for 30 minutes [followed by a short Q&A], at the Kino Babylon. I’m also doing my own very small show at the Retramp gallery. Everything for that is going to be really last-minute though…

Courtesy Buff Monster



Reuterstraße 62

12047 Berlin


—Swax McIver


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