Friday, August 12, 2011

Living Artists: OverUnder

Posted By on Fri, Aug 12, 2011 at 11:04 AM

overunder6.jpg
  • Courtesy OverUnder
As part of our ongoing profiles on artists at this week's Living Walls Conference, we chatted up Brooklyn wheatpaster and painter OverUnder. He was on a break from working on a mural on the corner of Kirkwood Avenue and Kenyon Street and he was hyping the importance of breakfast, having had none that day.

Seeing as part of the conference is lectures from public art luminaries like Gaia and Freddy, we asked OverUnder what his street art thesis would be were he doing a talk himself. “That's the last thing I'd want to do at a street art conference,” he says. “Maybe what street artists are eating — the importance of breakfast.”

Or maybe he'd take his moment on the podium to talk about the homogenization of the street art scene. “Back in the day it was all about street cred,” he says. “Now, it's all about Internet cred.”

OverUnder knows “back in the day,” seeing as he's been in the game since 1996. Originally from Reno, he's set up shop in New York and San Francisco, and has traveled to the Balkans, Brazil, Cuba, and Europe to paint, staying and collaborating with innovative artists like Barcelona's Ripo and Irgh from Berlin. With the advent of a thousand street art blogs, however, the moments where he's shock-and-awed by new styles of getting up are getting fewer and farther between.

“It's a more streamlined phenomenon now because of the Internet,” he says. “It's almost like a singular voice for street art.” OverUnder is of the mind that two general schools of street art — the graffiti aesthetic and Banksy-style figurative work — have begun to dominate. “The Internet has killed a lot of mystery in street art.”

Inspired by the “gritty, dirty” New York City lifestyle, OverUnder largely creates characters that mock the contained existence of the urban dweller. “You know how you see people walking their dogs and they look alike? I try to apply that concept to people and their homes.” The result is wasted people stuffed into uncomfortable positions, sometimes squeezed into miniature houses like when Alice winds up wearing the cottage after biting into the “Eat me” cookie in Alice in Wonderland.

The piece he's working on this week with Montreal's Labrona — whose multi-Mona-Lisa-faced spirits seem to be a perfect aesthetic match for OverUnder's creations, well done Living Walls — deals with the similar direness of city living, just a bit more tailored to Georgian reality.

“Atlanta is such a car city,” OverUnder says. The two submitted a sketch to the neighborhood association for approval that shows a traffic scene with human figures gliding along the top, almost using the cars as rollerskates.

Clearly, despite OverUnder's assertions that the mixing and mingling of the street art world online is causing a standardizing effect, he's not against in-person connections. He's staying in the close living quarters the festival has rented for visiting artists — the two-room “Condo,” where nearly 30 of them are being housed.

He finds experiencing Atlanta with so many other first-timers in the city refreshing. And best believe he'll be gleaning inspiration from this week of celebrating street art community. After all, “why travel if you don't take anything aaway from it?” he asks.

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