Born and raised in Queens and still a New York resident, Greg Lamarche is respected world wide for his unique cut and paste style of graffiti, showcased in his self-authored Skills Magazine which dominated the early ’90s. He experiments with both fine arts and graphic design, and is famed for using clean, precise lines in a geometric style. While having been in the game as a graffiti artist for more than 25 years, Greg continues to elaborate his work through drawings, paintings, collages and installations made by hand and digital.
“I am not trying to recreate graffiti but instead utilize the aesthetics. I explore and expand certain concepts from graff, like repetition, movement, layering and color combinations.”
Format: I read that you were immersed into the world of arts, early, in your childhood years (courtesy of you parents); which artists would you say influenced you as a young’un?
Greg: People like Red Grooms, Joseph Cornell, Sol Lewitt and Kurt Schwitters were some of the artists that my parents turned me on to when I was a kid. They all had an influence on my work early on.
During the early 80s, when I first started writing, my folks took me and my friends to openings at many of the early, original graffiti galleries like Graffiti Above Ground, Fun Gallery and Tony Shafrazi. I remember meeting Dondi, Futura, Tracy 168, Skeme and Iz The Wiz among others and getting them to sign my black book. These experiences still influence my work to this day.
Skills Magazine (a publication dedicated to black and white graffiti) had a prodigious following the in the 90s, why did it end?
Skills was actually black and white on one side and color on the other. When we first started making the magazine it was all made from copy machines. We tried to do color on both sides but when you put it through the color copier for the second time it would melt the first side.
It was always important for me to show all aspects of graffiti not just pieces and legal walls- aspects that really resonated with people. Throw ups, mop tags, block-busters and bombing are what I was into but I never got the light in other magazines.
I stopped the magazine when I moved back to NYC in ’95. I wonâ€™t lie; obtaining ad revenue was not that easy back then. I also wanted to start fresh and dedicate my time to other things.
Format: You moved from graffiti writing to collage work, did you see a connection between the two, if so what is it?
Greg: I have been doing collages and graffiti for about the same amount of time, since ’81. The first time I consciously merged the two was for the cover art of Skills issue #5. Since then I have been developing my style and the two really began to mesh. I am not trying to recreate graffiti but instead utilize the aesthetics. I explore and expand certain concepts from graff, like repetition, movement, layering and color combinations.
Format: In 2004, you created a promotional wrapping paper design which was dope; have you ever thought about creating a line of graffiti art wrapping paper? I ask because youâ€™re all about uniqueness and I doubt itâ€™s been done before?
Greg: Thanks for making note of my uniqueness, I appreciate it. Like so many ideas itâ€™s on the back burner.
Format: There is a vintage, flower power, hippy feel to your work; itâ€™s a fact that hippies live by the code that was to oppose everything accepted by mainstream society, is it safe to say you too follow this ideology, explain?
Greg: I think what youâ€™re responding to is that my work uses a lot of the papers that are vintage and evoke this faded flower feel. I donâ€™t follow any ideologies.
Format: The use of geometric shapes and vintage colours seem to be your signature staples, how did this come to be?
Greg: Most all of my work is based on letters. Iâ€™m interested in the shapes and the positive and negative spaces letters create. The color sensibility is definitely taken from vintage spray paint colors like avocado, cascade green, pastel yellow, adobe, terra-cotta to name a few.
Format:How much of your work is done on a computer and much is handmade?
Greg: All of my collages are hand cut and hand-made, the computer does not play any role in the actual making of my collages. I do take digital pictures for reference and when a piece is finished and it can fit onto my scanner, I scan it for my inventory book and keep hi-res files for books and magazines.
But I also illustrate letters for design projects and commercial work. These works are made from drawings I do by hand and develop through illustrator, for example, the type treatments I made for the Piece Book projects and a recent t-shirt designed for Thalia Surf Shop.
Iâ€™m glad you asked this because most people see my work online or in a magazine and it flattens out. Most often people look quick and assume itâ€™s all computer-generated, because it looks so clean but actually if you look closely you can see itâ€™s all hand-made.
Format: For your handmade cut outs, do you follow the process of rearranging the layout and composition for hours on end, or do you go with the flow and let things organically fall into place, without tampering with it?
Greg: Yes, a lot of rearranging, which is the lengthiest part of the process. That having been said, there are definitely some things that happen in the moment while Iâ€™m putting pieces together.
“Most often people look quick and assume itâ€™s all computer-generated, because it looks so clean but actually if you look closely you can see itâ€™s all hand-made.”
Format: What are some of the commercial projects that youâ€™ve created that mean the most to you and why?
Greg: Every situation is unique and presents a different challenge. All the projects mean a lot to me, especially while Iâ€™m working on them. Working with Mass Appeal magazine was back when, was important because it gave me a platform, a large number of people could see my work, many for the first time. I still get comments about issue #16.
Format: What is it about living and gallivanting in New York City that keeps your creative juices flowing?
Greg: Just That. I am inspired by the city, the streets, the signs, the trains, which all provide a seemingly endless flow of ideas.
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