iOS app Android app More

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington

GET UPDATES FROM Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington
 

Bathroom Graffiti on Canvas With Mint & Serf

Posted: 11/21/2012 9:02 am

New canvases celebrate the graffiti-covered bar bathroom and its aggressive lack of style.

A quick snort, a scribbled tag, and you my love.

Now that you are caked with sweat and nearly deaf from gyrating and slamming your body to the music at your favorite jam-packed downtown dive, it's time to hit the line for the unisex bathrooms and wait behind frat boys, saucy girls, and a couple of drag queens.

The closet-sized bar bathroom is barely big enough for a toilet and sink and may have been cleaned sometime in the last week. This one was last remodeled in the 1970s probably -- and has been a thin slice of respite, however tawdry, for years -- shunting many guests away from the rumbling roar of a New York nightclub and providing a private moment.

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartjaimerojobathroomanddetail1112web12.jpg
An actual bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on the left. Detail from a new canvas by Mint & Serf on the right. (both photos © Jaime Rojo)

With battered and buckling flooring underfoot and one bare light bulb overhead, it's a good place for guests to fix their hair, snort a line of coke, perform a rushed sex act with a new friend, or perhaps to barf. If you happen to have a juicy black marker in your boot you can scream a quick tag across the pileup of graffiti that smothers the walls, or slap a sticker on it, before zipping up and pushing your way out the door to find another beer.

For Mint & Serf, this is inspiration.

And now they are bringing it to the canvas.

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web6.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

"Like when you go to some Williamsburg bathroom and you see this pile of tags -- that's the aesthetic. That's the graffiti," explains Mint during a recent in-studio visit," because graffiti to me is this aggression, this turbulence. The beef, the sex, the fame. You know what I mean?"

The new collection is still evolving, and it began initially with spreading canvasses out and inviting friends to hit them up whenever they visited the studio. "[It's been] an ongoing therapy session where a lot of our friends would come in and start doing fill-ins and tags. Then about a month or two ago we started taking them down and focusing more on each one," says Serf.

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web17.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

When viewed on their own, each of these canvasses does look like a sawed off chunk from a sleezy restroom wall, but not like a Banksy. While the guys appreciate that Street Art and commercially successful graffiti artists have their place, this bathroom aesthetic is from the CBGB punk era perhaps, rather than the MTV polished rebelliousness that followed. Raw, aggressive, unstyled -- it's a return to the gestural, the raw markings of graffiti, in an effort to strip it back to the nerve endings. If the campy stylings of latter day Banksy are Green Day, Mint & Serf are evoking the Dead Boys or Sex Pistols. Not that early punks were unstyled, and neither are these deliberately raging canvasses.

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web11.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web10.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

As they talk, there are references to some of the 20th century painters whose work was repulsive before it was revered, and these thirtysomething graffiti artists are not afraid to disgust you while pursuing work that feels real. "Because there is beauty in ugliness," Mint opines as he talks of initial responses to Bacon, de Kooning, and Picasso. With time, he says, people realized "they actually are masterpieces, you know."

But you may hear them bracing for some criticism, even as they appear confident in this direction. "I know it's probably gonna be kind of hard to swallow for a lot of people just because they are used to seeing graffiti work nowadays being very precise and calculated," says Serf, "But it is what it is. It is probably the most honest work we have done to date."

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web8.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

The stripping back, the lack of artifice, the aggression -- it all comes through here on this collection that is not yet ready for public display. For guys who have had commercial success as graphic artists creating more stylized installations for hotels and night clubs and who have a solid track record in product and lifestyle design, this new work is a return to what originally attracted them to doing graffiti on the street.

"One of the reasons I got into graffiti is because of the crazy stories I've heard about it. About jumping rooftops, stealing paint, staying out late, going to raves, getting laid -- all this shit. The turbulence of that lifestyle, that's what turned me on. Not doing a piece for 20 hours," says Mint as he stares up at the cacophonic canvasses.

He continues, "For us it's taking an existing portrayal of graffiti, which is these beautiful, colorful pieces, and just stripping it down to graffiti."

And as a specific reference point, Serf couldn't be clearer, "It's all about the bar bathroom."

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web5.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web4.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web1.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web3.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. Detail. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web2.jpg
Mint & Serf in studio, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web9.jpg
Mint & Serf, Pablo Power and Jacuzzi Chris at The Broadway Chapter. February - August 2012, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartmintserfmirfjaimerojo1112web7.jpg
In studio with Mint & Serf, NYC. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartjaimerojo1112web13.jpg
Graffiti and stickers cover the walls of a bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartjaimerojo1112web12.jpg
Inspiration: Graffiti and stickers cover the walls of a bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartjaimerojo1112web14.jpg
Graffiti and stickers cover the walls of a bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartjaimerojo1112web15.jpg
Graffiti and stickers cover the walls of a bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

2012-11-19-brooklynstreetartjaimerojo1112web16.jpg
Graffiti and stickers cover the walls of a bathroom in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. (photo © Jaime Rojo)

This article was also posted on Brooklyn Street Art.

Read all posts by Steven P. Harrington and Jaime Rojo on The Huffington Post HERE.

See new photos and read scintillating interviews every day on BrooklynStreetArt.com

Follow Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington on Twitter and http://brooklynstreetart.tumblr.com/ .

 

Follow Jaime Rojo & Steven Harrington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bkstreetart