Studio Visit: Mint & Serf
14 January 2013
Mikhail Sokovikov and Jason Wall, the duo that compose graffiti team Mint & Serf, have been tagging the streets of New York since the ‘90s. Their work and creative relationship progressed beyond the streets and into the fine art world as well as collaborations with The Ace Hotel and Marc Jacobs. The Avant/Garde Diaries visited their Tribeca studio to hear what the pair think about street art in the Internet age and check out their latest paintings.
What’s an average day in the studio like?
Jason Wall: Roll over sometime in the afternoon, pound a coffee to get good and wired, turn on the music, pull out the paints and papers and start releasing whatever anxieties I have at the moment onto the canvases for a few hours. Usually have a couple of friends over for drinks and stimulating conversations to close the day off.
Mikhail Sokovikov: The day starts at night with a bottle of Bourbon, the team, and plenty of paper and markers for our OCD friends. That reminds me... def need to get more paper and markers.
What was your earliest exposure to art?
JW: I recall soaking up cultural references while watching the cartoon DuckTales.
MS: My mom taking me to see Malevich and Kandinsky at the Central House of Artists in Moscow. I think I was five or six.
What attracted you to do graffiti?
JW: Growing up in South Brooklyn, I used to hang around the older kids and listen to their stories about being chased by cops, fighting other crews, stealing paint, climbing onto the live train tracks, and climbing buildings to gain access to roofs. The sound of all of that was enchanting, and romanticized the idea of becoming a writer. I couldn’t imagine taking on any other hobbies as a kid.
MS: Legendary tales of the night.
How has the scene changed over the years?
JW: Like everything, the Internet has made it highly accessible and overly saturated. Styles progress at such an intense speed. I feel like everyone outside of New York is finally figuring out how to do a good throwy. And has my personal style changed with it? I used to be concerned with simplicity, form, and movement. I am still concerned with them but not as much as I am with conceptually charged pieces that are ridden with aggressive vandalism.
MS: The paradigm shift in most of underground cultures happened with the invention of the Internet. Sounds a bit cliché, but it’s the absolute truth. There is no such thing anymore as subculture. Everything is out there and everything is popular, with thousands of "likes" and a million retweets. Everything is POPULAR CULTURE.
What are your favorite comments you've heard about your art?
JW: I really love the silence that follows after a studio guest enters and views my new body. They seem to make people feel uneasy.
MS: When we invite guests to preview the new work we always make sure the chairs are arranged so the viewer is constantly staring at the large canvases. Recently we had a couple who are collectors come here to see the new series of paintings. The wife was so taken aback by the aggressive nature of the work that she had to sit down, take a few deep breaths, and then asked for water. It gave her mild anxiety. I was impressed.
Learn more about Mint & Serf HERE.