Described as “the thinking man’s graffiti artist,” PUSH‘s work straddles the line between refinement and disorder, building sequence with the use of colors and chaotic lines. While at first glance, PUSH’s art may not immediately resonate with graffiti, yet on closer inspection, formative strokes and steady line-work present examples of his expertise. As a self-taught painter and sculptor, the Los Angels-based artist credits his early affinity for skateboarding and graffiti, mentioning fellow AWR/MSK member SABER as a key influencer to his aesthetics. PUSH recently collaborated with Element Skateboards on a capsule collection. Consisting of T-shirts, vests, shorts, caps and skate decks, the collection transformed streetwear staples into striking, mural-like pieces. In this conversation, we learn about how the collaboration came to fruition, how he developed his geometric style, and the parallels between skateboarding and graffiti.
To celebrate the launch of the collaboration, Element’s Paris will be hosting a special launch party on May 15 featuring the previous board wall painted by PUSH. Be sure to stop by if you’re in the French capital and have a look at the video as PUSH works through a rather beautiful mural on a wall of boards.
From Graffiti to the Gallery
What was your introduction to graffiti?
I grew up drawing and skateboarding. It was the people that I’ve met through skateboarding that kind of introduced me to graffiti. A handful of kids around me got into graffiti and still skated. I think just hanging out with them all the time, it kind of just sunk in. In 1993 I started writing Push.
How did you join MSK/ The Seventh Letter collective?
Saber is one of the skateboarder/ graffiti writers I grew up with. He had already been doing graffiti a few years before me and was from AWR/MSK, so he took me under his wing. AWR/MSK was what I knew and who I always painted with. So eventually I got in MSK, then AWR a few years later. MSK used to be kind of a stepping stone into AWR. The Seventh Letter came much later, a more professional way of presenting ourselves.
How have members of AWR/MSK inspired you approach to art?
AWR and MSK have definitely given me a strong foundation. From what I’ve learned through graffiti still carries on to what I do now. Proportions, colors, painting techniques, surfaces, large scale, etc it is all rooted from graffiti.
Maneuvering from the streets to the gallery, how did you evolve from graffiti to your current dimensional style?
It just happened naturally. Just painting elements from my graffiti kind of opened a new door and gave me a new approach.
“Proportions, colors, painting techniques, surfaces, large scale, etc it is all rooted from graffiti.”
PUSH on how AWR/MSK influenced his art
Style and PUSH x Element collaboration
Building from a blend of colors and shapes, how did you develop your technique?
Always creating artwork it’s like practice, you are always problem-solving and coming up with new tools and techniques. Working on large murals or drawing on a piece of paper, surfaces, surroundings, they all have an influence on your art and give you new ideas.
What is it about geometric lines and shapes that appeal to you?
I love the simplicity, the boldness, the vibrancy, and the balance.
How did the PUSH x Element collaboration come to fruition?
I think The Berrics mural I did got a lot of attention in the skateboard world. Element reached out to some people I knew, and we got in contact.
What would you say are the parallels between art and skateboarding?
For this particular project I got the easy part, I just came up with the actual artwork. I had some input here and there, but let Element work their magic.
Approach and Process
For the Element collaboration, what did you consider when approaching apparel and skatedecks as your canvas?
There are many. I would say that style is important, how something is done. Creativity, what you can come up with on a wall or on a skateboard. And originality, how you just make it your own, there is a distinction and people can recognize it.
You artwork is both abstract and orderly, what do you look to convey with each art piece you do?
I always like to try something new, or have a new approach. That’s what keeps it interesting for me.
Can you share with us the process of painting a mural?
It’s always different. Ninety-nine percent of the time I come up with it on the spot. It also depends on the situation and surroundings, or which style best suits the wall. For this style like I did at The Berrics is always fun, I just find a place to start and kind of just let it take over wall.
What does the rest of 2014 hold?
I am in Paris right now for the launch for this Push x Element collection. I will have a solo show at the new Seventh Letter space in Los Angeles this October, along with a small capsule as well. And a couple of large murals in LA are in the works.
“I always like to try something new, or have a new approach. That’s what keeps it interesting for me.”
PUSH on what he seeks to convey in his art