I stopped by Leon Reid IV‘s studio in Greenpoint to see what he’s been up to lately. He’s been pretty busy. Last month, he installed “100 Story House” a public art piece created in collaboration with Julia Marchesi. And he released a new sculpture series less than two weeks ago. On top of all of that, he’s in the midst of raising funds for “A Spider Lurks in Brooklyn”, his proposed project to put a giant spider between the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge during October of 2014 (you can get involved with the project here). So I was pretty psyched that he was able to make time to show me around. Leon’s been creating public art in some form or another for eighteen years now, and his studio was full of past projects and concept sketches.
Leon started writing (under the name VERBS) when he was 15-years-old and living in Cincinnati. He came to New York to study painting at Pratt but quickly realized that sculpture was more his thing. He didn’t want to abandon his roots in graffiti though – he still wanted to display his work on the street. He was one of the first to do what we now call “street art”, installing humorous sculptures in urban areas all over the world. Gradually, he moved into the tedious process of securing public sanctions for his work, but he’s never lost the playful vibe that runs throughout his process. His art is accessible to people of all ages and cultures, and is really meant to make our lives just a little more enjoyable. He’s pretty honest about his influences (shouts out to REVS, Barry Mcgee, JJ Veronis, Stephen Powers, and Miles Davis), and what he’s about in general.
“When I got to Brooklyn in ’98 I started to see all these sculptures hanging off streetlights and I could see that they were done in metal. So I found out that it was this guy named JJ Veronis working in steel. And Pratt has one of the best metal shops in the whole city and I was like, sign me up.”
“100 Story House”, collaboration with JJ Byrne Park, Park Slope
“I’m inspired by cities. I see a location, and I think, ‘how can I make this better?’“
“After five years of writing as Darius Jones, I started to realize that my ideas were too big to pull off illegally – that was kind of holding me back a little bit…I wanted to pursue what I wanted to pursue, not just what I could get away with.”
“The drawings are spontaneous – there isn’t a whole lot of planning. Just pencil, paper, and it’s there. Big difference from sculpture, steel, cutting, etc.”