Gearing up for CRUSH, the annual street art event next week, artists from all over the state, country and world will descend upon RiNo for a week-long celebration of art on the streets. Seven years ago, CRUSH was only a small gathering of graffiti artists, but now is a full-blown street art festival that will have 100 artists participating this year. Along with its expanded roster, this year CRUSH will go beyond its typical weekend format, instead lasting almost a week, from September 11 through 17.
With the growing support and excitement over CRUSH, 303 Magazine has outlined some of the artists not to miss this upcoming week. Not every artist will be painting every day of the festival — and not every artist has disclosed their position in RiNo — so finding them will be something of a scavenger hunt. But part of the beauty of CRUSH is the availability of these artists to viewers. Walking through RiNo next week can consist of just looking at neat, free and outdoor art, or it can also consist of engaging the artists with conversation and learning more about your favorite guerrilla art form through people who are actually doing it.
Denver artist Anna Charney’s work, as described by her fans, is like digital taffy. She has been a painting artist for as long as she can remember, but street art is a new venture that she embraced easily and wholeheartedly just last year. Organic and modern at the same time, her artistic style is highly influenced by patterns found in nature, though her delivery of that inspiration uses bold colors and thick black lines. About painting large scale exterior works, Charney remarked, “My first mural was at CRUSH last year — that was my first time ever picking up a can and using spray paint to create and it was epic. You know when you just get that feeling like, this is what it’s all about right here. I immediately knew that I had to make it a priority to learn more and make it a huge part of my career and goals.” Charney did not disclose the location she will be painting during the festival, but her style is something that will immediately stand out.
Though Debbie Clapper painted her first mural in 2011, she has not focused as much on murals until the last few years. Most of her work consists of intricate line drawings and custom painted skateboards, cars and skis. She has been perfecting her line-heavy doodle designs through a lifelong evolution of filling sketch books and eventually working in graphic design. Her most recent mural was painted on the Boulder Creative Collective this summer (pictured above) and exemplifies her style that is saturated with geometric influences and punctuated with strong, straight lines. Though this will be Clapper’s first time painting at CRUSH, she is excited about being part of the growing involvement of women in the street art scene. Clapper explained, “I think I’m so used to things being a boy’s club, as a graphic designer, when I’m not making art for pleasure. But I would like to see more female artists getting the same attention as male artists. I know there are plenty of female artists out there, we just need the credibility.” Clapper works in Boulder and will not be able to attend every day of the festival.
John Moody (aka MDMN), based in Hollywood, painted his first outdoor wall five years ago and hasn’t stopped since. Coming from a design background, he shows his meticulous eye for composition and color through precise images with immediately apparent messages. His art is driven by “inner strength and feeling the power that we all have within.” There is always something visceral about his pieces, something that tells a story behind the image. This will be Moody’s fourth year participating in CRUSH, and as a veteran artist he said, “My favorite part of this festival is the connection [the artists] have with each other while in town. We all definitely take it all in and celebrate together in a way you just don’t get anywhere else.” All Moody knew about his location at the upcoming festival was that he will be on the same wall as artists Ease One, Casey Kawaguchi and Birdcap.
Tom Bingle (aka inkie) is well-known for being one of the forefathers of the street art and graffiti scene in Bristol, England in the 1980s. He was considered a “kingpin” and arrested as part of “Operation Anderson”— an operation aimed at stomping out graffiti, which obviously failed miserably. Good thing Bingle didn’t let that get him down because now he has been a bonafide street artist for over two decades and his expertise has allowed him to collaborate with other famous street artists, including Banksy. Though his street art career has slowed down a little — he now teaches art and graphic design — his style remains a pivotal point in the transition of graffiti-like tagging to street art. He brings just enough class without being snobby, and just enough street without being notorious. This will be the first time Bingle will be painting at CRUSH, which gives fans an amazing opportunity to find him and talk to him about what we can only imagine are fascinating stories and expertise like almost no other participating artist. He will be visiting from across the pond, making him one of the international participants in the festival.
As the founder of CRUSH, Munro is an absolute must-see during the festival — if you can find him. He’s been a participant as well as the organizer for seven years, making him the ultimate veteran. Much of his style mixes old school graffiti with other juxtaposed imagery, both of which use saccharine-like colors. In many ways, his artwork mirrors his actions within the Denver art community — bridging gaps where conflicts used to exist. Even if you aren’t a fan of his style, he deserves respect and at least a few kudos for putting together such a successful festival.
Lauren Napolitano is a traveling artist, making her mark all over the globe with a characteristic style that blends natural elements with black-and-white geometric outlines and ornamentation. She likes Denver and though she has never participated in CRUSH, she has painted numerous murals around the city. The one pictured above, on Bar Fausto is still there, as well as the one on the Cherry Creek bike path. Much of her work is heavily influenced by her mother’s Mexican heritage. Because she does everything freehanded, she likes to accentuate the flaws that are inevitable, making a point of highlighting imperfections. But, to those of us just admiring her work, those little imperfections are barely noticeable, and instead her contrast and designs are impeccably sharp and interesting to look at.
Quickly becoming one of Denver’s most beloved street artists, Thomas Evans will be painting for CRUSH for the third year in a row. The mural pictured above, which was painted last year — and is located outside Nocturne Jazz Club — will be painted over, in the annual creative renewal the festival brings to the neighborhood. Evans’ murals and studio art are painted with rich, bright color schemes and connect art with music and urban culture. His ability to blend photorealistic portraits with abstract or imagined backgrounds sets him apart from other portraiture artists, and each one of his paintings exudes a positive energy that is nearly unparalleled.
Visiting from Portland, Oregon, Blaine Fontana will participate for the third year. Fontana seems to like Denver, as he has displayed studio art at Svper Ordinary, painted the outdoor patio at Ratio Beerworks and keeps coming back for CRUSH. We won’t complain because Fontana always brings his obsession with collage, color, geometry and an almost art-deco design inspiration. His ability to cleanly produce large-scale murals to look as if they are decals or stickers is impressive. Maybe it helps that Portland and Denver share many characteristics, but Fontana understands the vibe of the city and more specifically, RiNo, and consistently delivers murals that compliment or enliven its surroundings.
Born in Juarez, Mexico and raised in Dallas, Texas, Victor “MARKA27” Quinonez started his graffiti career over 20 years ago, when his M.O was painting rooftops, train cars and alleyways. Now, he has had the opportunity to paint large murals all over the world and has displayed smaller, take-home art in galleries. His style is best described as “neo-indigenous” or “retro native,” with cultural traditions driving his influence. Now that he has been experienced in both street art and gallery art, he said, “I believe murals are fine art, but more intense because they’re for everyone no matter social status, race, age, gender to see and judge. I have always felt that painting on the streets has a huge social impact on a larger scale, so in some ways, I do feel more accomplished with murals than with gallery art. I do however feel pretty good when I sell paintings.”
Denver artist Mike Graves knows how to make a name for himself through branding. His consistency in style is not overshadowed by the fact that each one of his murals creates a cartoon-y character with weird eyes and goofy facial features. With the odd characters, Graves narrates a story in each of his paintings and usually doesn’t cease to trigger some smiles from passersby. Some of his notable murals in Denver are at Illegal Pete’s on East Colfax, outside and inside Crema Coffee House in RiNo and underneath I-70 as part of Duct-Work 2.
Denver’s very own yarn bombers since 2007, the Ladies Fancywork Society brightens neighborhoods with colorful, playful and harmless textile coverings. Their website says, “What began as a group of crochet-loving friends just chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool and shooting some b-ball outside of the school has transformed into a diabolic art hydra capable of putting together large-scale projects, international art shows, and installations. Also, we’re fun at parties.” If that doesn’t make you want to see what kind of kooky and unique creation they will come up with this year, then nothing will. This will be the second year in a row that the Ladies Fancywork Society will be participating in CRUSH — so far they have even put up some art at Ratio Beerworks. Aside from their on-point sense of humor, the LFS diversifies the line-up of artists at CRUSH significantly by working in textiles, rather than paint. Perhaps their continuing creations at the festival will encourage artists who work in different mediums to try their hand at large-scale outdoor installations too.
Another old school graffiti veteran, David Louf — aka Mr. June — entered the scene in 1985 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, at the same time as he was heavily involved with hip-hop and breakdancing. After years of that lifestyle, Louf entered into the graphic design and advertising industry, only to leave to pursue his own course with his art. His graffiti style changed into a street art career, and now he also teaches art. Louf’s designs harmonize graffiti, graphic design and a keen insight on what people want to see, with an abstract twist. He is exceptionally capable of filling an entire wall without making it seem cluttered. Outdoor murals by Louf have been painted all over the world, but this will be his first one painted for CRUSH.
Based in Miami, Florida, Douglas Hoekzema aka Hoxxoh, will be traveling to CRUSH for the first time. His art has developed from 2D canvas paintings where he allows a pendulum-like instrument to take control over the design structure, creating rounded and natural patterns. Painting murals that way would be pretty difficult, but he uses the shapes that pendulums create — mainly circles, ovals and spirals — in his outdoor pieces. Though the descriptions he sometimes provides about his art can verge on the esoteric side, the main concept that he likes to explore is the visual embodiment of time. Hoekzema’s website says, “It isn’t about the ebbs and flows of time eventually determining whether our existence will stand to be recognized, but instead serves to show that time in itself is a beautiful energy meant to be marveled at.” What all of this translates to, on walls, are murals that propagate on circular patterns of neon colors, where each one appears to be a portal to another dimension.
Since 1993, Patrick Kane McGregor has been producing hand-painted murals and fine art. His experience hand-painting advertisements — which started as an internship in Portland, Oregon, moved him to Brooklyn, New York and then returned him to Denver — allowed his reputation as a muralist to grow. Much of his subject matter focuses on portraiture and landscapes, though many of his portrait-influenced murals highlight animals rather than people. His skill in fine art, and particularly photorealism, sets him apart from abstract artists and will probably catch the most attention from people who also love photography. This year will be the second year of his participation in CRUSH.
Anthony Garcia Sr. grew up in Globeville, making him a Denver native. This will be his third year in a row painting at CRUSH, though he’s been a staple of the Denver graffiti and street art scene for years, especially after he founded the BirdSeed Collective in 2009. About his introduction and journey to his current position as a known Denver street artist, he said, “The way I got into the art scene was I did graffiti because that’s just what kids from the ‘hood do — that’s the only art that they’re exposed to.” In order to help change that aspect of his upbringing — the lack of access to art aside from graffiti — he and the BirdSeed Collective spend a good deal of time on public art projects, like the Sun Valley Dumpster Beautification Art Project or the I-70 Viaduct project. His personal murals showcase a deep connection to patterns, specifically ancient patterns that are seen throughout the Americas. Even when he only uses blocks or stripes of colors, there is always a sense of order that makes it pop out of the wall and catch your eye.
Nicaraguan-born artist Luis Valle now calls Miami, Florida home. But, last year he came to Denver to participate in CRUSH for the first time, and then returned this summer, painting a mural on the side of the bar and restaurant Local 46. His style, according to his website, is inspired by “indigenous cultures, psychology, shamanism, religion, spirituality, frequency, vibration and energy.” Each mural of Valle’s tells a story in the same way that a dance tells a story — gracefully and with room for interpretation. What also makes Valle a unique artist is his obvious admiration of female iconography and his use of feminine colors and shapes rather than straight, masculine lines and borders.
Other street artists that you may have heard of before that will be participating in CRUSH this year are:
See the full announced list of artists for CRUSH 2017 here.