From New York City to Singapore: Graffiti art that goes beyond borders
Curator Jahan and artist Futura at The Culture Story during his residency in 2018 (Photos: Melvin Wong for The Culture Story)

From New York City to Singapore: Graffiti art that goes beyond borders

Dubbed the “godfather” of contemporary street art, Futura will be holding his first solo exhibition in Southeast Asia at Gillman Barracks this week.

The coup of a show, which will feature 30 new works created by Futura in Singapore, is made possible, in large part, due to the friendship between him and Singapore pop artist Jahan Loh.

The legendary New York street artist was born in 1955 as Lenny McGurr. He was part of the early street art movement in the 1970s and known for his signature abstract style. He counts among his peers pop culture icons like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Futura’s signature move is the inverted spray technique, where he holds the can upside down, with the nozzle at half-clutch and close to the paint surface.

Loh was introduced to Futura in 2002 in New York City by their mutual friend, Jakuan Melendez, founder of the 360 Toygroup, which is behind some of the most sought-after vinyl toy collectibles in the world.

Loh and Futura’s friendship deepened over their shared love for street art and the show in Singapore will see Loh take on his first curatorial role. The exhibition, Constellation, will allow visitors to delve into Futura’s inner universe and celebrate his pioneering spirit and innovative techniques in street art.

Ahead of the opening of the show, presented by Singapore boutique art advisory, The Culture Story, we got Loh to talk about his love for street art and what to look out for at the show.

This large-scale painting by Futura, titled Rain Forest (2018, acrylic and aerosol on canvas), measures 1.7m by 3.7m and it will be on display at Gillman Barracks.

There’s always a first time

Loh first encountered street art in the early 1990s, in the pages of overseas magazines that his classmate brought to school. An advertisement in one of those magazines showed American pro-skateboarder Christian Hosoi holding on to an aerosol spray can; that image caught his attention, sparked his interest in the aerosol culture, and spurred him to experiment with spray painting. His passion and education in the art form was further fuelled by the visual art magazine, Art Times.

On the difference between street art and graffiti

Loh says: “Graffiti is an illegal form of self-expression and a very different type of art from sanctioned street art. I think that with time, and after 9/11, doing large illegal ‘pieces’ is harder, and most artists have taken their art into the studio, resulting in an evolution in their practice.”

Favourite piece in the show

Loh has a soft spot for the tropical jungle-inspired work, Rain Forest, which Futura made during his two-week-long residency with The Culture Story in 2018. The work features Futura’s signature strokes and techniques, and its “energy and sheer scale”, says Loh, points to how Futura has successfully taken his art from the streets into the gallery.

CONSTELLATION will run from 30 May to 9 June 2019 at Gillman Barracks, Lock Road, Block 9 #02-21. More information here.

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