For twenty years, “Law & Order” ruled the television airwaves, broadcasting stories ripped from the headlines into the privacy of our living rooms. From 1990-2010, the show brought the darkness of New York’s criminal world to the light. What made the show successful was the way it refused to turn away, but instead moved into murky waters in every episode. For some, truth was found in the details. Talented location scout purposely chose graffiti-laden settings as backdrops upon which these tragic dramas were told.
In tribute to the show that stood so long, New York artists Mint&Serf began publishing SGU (Special Graffiti Unit), a newsprint publication. Featuring photographs, stories, and art, SGU was designed to be a tangible catalogue in what is becoming an increasingly digital world. “Never Too Young” the seventh edition of the publication, is being released in a conjunction with a group photography exhibition of the same name, running August 22- September 7th at No Romance Galleries at 355 Broadway, NY.
Featuring the work of four emerging photographers including Osvaldo Chance Jiminez aka Slutlust, Mike Krim, PJ Monte, and Harry McNally, the exhibition showcases a world that is equal party edgy, glamorous, and banal, a world that is New York City in the new millennium. Co-Curator Mikhail Sokivikov (Mint) spoke with The Click about the ways in which restless youth continue to define the city’s ever-changing landscape. .
Sokovikov observes, “This is our first group photography show. We began by curating the show with focusing on two photographers and realized we needed to open it up to different aesthetics and the ideas behind them. We chose to work with emerging photographers because didn’t want to tap anyone who has already had shows and acclaim. We never had anyone who looked out for us, and thus we were always making our own mistakes. It’s great to be able to give back in a way. We can share our experiences in the art world with these artists, put them on to things they may not know about. It’s the underdog you fight for.
“The title ‘Never Too Young’ is in reference to an early 60s soap opera about teenagers in southern California. It felt like it was in tune with what we are all about. All of these guys, they didn’t go to college or to art schools. We could have gotten names,” Sokovikov continues, before dropping a few gems. “But for what?” he asks, rhetorically. “They don’t need it. We are focused on giving these four artists a platform to share their work.”
Mike Krim is a lifestyle photographer that Sokvikov met for the first time two months ago. Sokovikov notes, “His photographs are dark. There’s a general sense of despair in his work, like a photograph of someone’s back with a gory knife cut across it or a photograph of a corpse laying in the L.A. River with the police seen at arrival. I’m interested in ‘the brutality of fact,’ to quote Francis Bacon.
“I divide art into two categories: artists who face reality and those who escape reality. I lean towards brutality, towards thinks that make you wake up. A lot of people are confronted with this every day and don’t want to look at it at all. They want something serene, and that means nothing to me. It doesn’t do anything. I have respect for Bacon; he confronts the viewer. The artist will create and the writer will interpret, and the public will interpret the writer’s words. The artist needs to let the art speak for itself without a placard.
“Harry McNally is able to take banal objects and ordinary situations and find the glamour in it. The setting and the objects are really boring but there’s something beautiful about the way he objectifies them. They are still-lifes of mundane things. It’s a Warholian thing.
“Once we started thinking about the show we realized that we wanted to have a full circle of emotions that people would be able to take away. OJ (Osvaldo Jiminez) is a born and bred New Yorker deep into nightlife as a lifestyle. He has what it takes to capture a certain scene. His work is unfiltered stream of consciousness inside the big Apple after dusk.
“PJ Monte is on of the youngest artists i know. He’s a kid from Montauk who has been transplanted since the age of 18. He’s been throwing parties, hosting rap battles, DJing at downtown clubs, he has a T-shirt line (Don New York) and a record label, Sweatpants Money. In addition he is an exceptional chef, whose cooked a number of artist dinners for us. He has a different take on nightlife. OJ is Williamsburg and Bushwick and the Lower East Side. OJ is in tune with the seedy side. PJ is the Hamptons and the West Village. PJ is in tune with affluence.
“You can tell a lot about a city by its graffiti and nightlife. If it has both, it’s culturally rich. The night brings so much. It opens people up and lets people go. The day is so fucking boring. Some love their work, but a majority of people do not. Most people go to work and nothing happens but if you go out at night, something is going to happen. Maybe you won’t remember it, but something interesting happened. An event occurred.
“Let me tell you what my day looks like if I didn’t go out the night before. I set my alarm for nine in the morning, get up at ten, and come to the studio at noon, then I email until seven or eight in the evening. That is the most boring thing ever. Basically, I’m on email for six or seven hours, then there’s time to play and to paint and then go out. I find myself still getting excited about the same thing I have been doing for the fifteen years. Still chasing the night, trying to find the magic. The only downside is—as with drugs, you want more of the sparkle, more of a bang.”
“Never Too Young” takes us along a path, a path that reveals new corners of the human spirit. Sokovikov reveals, “One of my favorite movies is ‘Point Break.’ One of my favorite lines comes at the end, when the cops know who they are. Patrick Swayze says, ‘What's the matter with you guys? This was never about the money, this was about us against the system. That system that kills the human spirit. We stand for something. We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human sprit is still alive.’
“The human spirit of adventure and living—I always thought growing up that everyone has the opportunity to achieve something interesting. Nightlife is the space for a lot of drama and artists are channels of that; great art has to have a great amount of drama in it. There are no boundaries. And art I like has to have drama. There has to be a fight. There has to be a battle. Without conflict, you are boring.
“My values are trying to describe what I se in a very honest way. We put together a show that creates a nostalgic reaction to the image. I think successful art is the way to community to the viewer and for the viewer to reflect on his own experience and in this way art can be the intermediary.”
Editor's Note: Jason Aaron Wall (Serf) was unable to take part in this conversation due to the fact that he was installing graffiti across Europe.