By: Camila Álvarez
A year after we talked to HOX at his studio in Little Haiti about his process and the development of his patterns, we met up with him again, this time at a warehouse in Wynwood—the first of his Nomadic Studios, a new project where he barters with developers to get spaces for him to use as temporary studios, a fucking genius idea.
“I tell them it’s the Nomadic Studio’s series and if they can give me an empty space, I can activate it and I can give them a piece in trade, or we can figure out a way to barter.”
He told us about the projects he participated on last year in Detroit, New Mexico, Vienna, and Dominican Republic, about the new machines he is using to develop new, sick patterns, and about his next show on Friday, April 24th, where he will display his studies and large-scale works…
R17: Last time I went to your studio in Lil Haiti about a year ago, you told me you were about to move to another studio close by. What happened after that?
HOX: I put myself in storage. I hit the road for almost 6 months. I did a project in Detroit, which was the beginning of a recess project, which is going to be a life-long project integrating the arts with public school systems. I got into it because I found myself doing four schools in one year. This one couldn’t afford it, so I raised the money to do it. It was their 30th anniversary for Nataki Talibah Schoolhouse, which is like a Montessori, basically. So I did a mural there and then I ended up working with 1Xrun on a project. I had really good host in Detroit, I had Tristan Eaton showing me around, Library Street, and 1xrun has a really good residency there. I couldn’t have had a better time.
The schools just like my work. If it wasn’t a school, it was some kind of educational organization, like Young Arts. My work is really approachable. I didn’t set out to mess around with sacred geometry and golden ratios, helixes, and fractals, but my work is falling into this, and I’m learning to embrace it more and think about it more.
That’s very cool. And now, going back to your trips…
After Detroit, I went to Santa Fe in New Mexico to give a lecture to the Architectural Institute of America of the Mountain Region. I gave a presentation on gentrification and my experience with Wynwood and Primary Flight.
What did you tell them?
The history of Wynwood… Deco Drive actually did a really good article, and they had a timeline, which really nails it on the head. Starting on the beginning when it was a Puerto Rican area and then there was that riot, to Primary Flight’s intervention, to when Tony Goldman got involved, all the way to now, when a square foot is US$600 or even more…the Design District is US$5,000 per square foot. So yeah, I spoke about the general history and went into a lot of the artists who have done mural installations here in Wynwood. I left it open to however you wanted to take your take on it. I definitely have mixed emotions on Wynwood, but it’s the nature of the beast, and I know I’m getting work because of where Wynwood is going, I mean, not directly, but there’s always something going on, while 5 years ago, there was nothing. Now, there’s too much shit going on. Now it’s like: “fuck, we gotta go to Wynwood” or it’s like: “why is this so busy?” Or even on a regular Saturday night, Wynwood is packed. It sucks.
Yeah, it really sucks…
Yeah, now it’s all a memory. We had a good run. Like even Little Haiti, it was a good run. Some people are still really upset about it, but whatever.
You think Little Haiti is also done?
Yeah…I mean, it’s not, I still have a little space there now, and there’s still a group of good artists, but what it was when Bhakti and I where sharing a studio…like he wore the shirt today, the Lil Haiti Country Club shirt, and we had people at Home Depot asking where they could get one, and we were like yeah, it was our studio. We don’t have a studio, but now it’s an idea, we don’t have to have a physical studio. Basically, it’s what I’m doing here at Nomadic Studios, I can set up a studio anywhere…
Tell me about Nomadic Studios…
I didn’t even finish telling you what I did last yeah [laughs], so let me do that really fast…
After Santa Fe, I went to Vienna for a month, I had a solo show with Ernst Hilger. Then I came back for Basel madness, had a show with Library Street Collective, had a two man show with Johnny Robles called Time & Play, then had a solo show on Palm Island, which was really good and weird in a good way. The New World Symphony played, and I heard the food was amazing. I had like, a crab cake [laughs].
Did you sell some work?
Yeah, it was the best Basel I’ve ever had. I sold enough to make this year a little bit stressful.
After Basel I went to Dominican Republic for my first mural festival, where I got my nickname—La Máquina.
Because of the way I paint. I painted 8 houses, 2 restaurants, a barbershop, 2 boats, 5 motorcycles, a bicycle, a skull cracker. I hung with the navy and I got drunk with the captain’s rum [laughs]. One captain even caught me a mahi-mahi, one guy got me a pack of smokes and a bottle of rum because I painted his bike, and then another guy did the same.
So yeah, I paint really fast. I know they had a lot of respect for what I was doing with a can of paint. If you’re living the Island life, you need to have a lot of ingenuity and make a lot with nothing.
We just published an interview with Parcialmente Nublada, and you’re all over it.
Yeah, she has two really cool shots of me painting in Dominican Republic…
I heard it was a beautiful experience for everyone…
Yeah, it was beautiful. By the end of it, the town had more pride and they were cleaning up everything, painting other walls, it was really cool.
I yelled at them…where I was painting, there was trash everywhere. I told them they should pick that up and that they didn’t have to live like that. And they did. The next day they had picked up the trash, it was pretty cool.
Awesome. And now coming back to Miami, tell me about Nomadic Studios…
Yeah, so I came back and I thought I had a studio waiting for me so to speak, but I didn’t. Some people had promised me a studio and storage when they bought my old studio, and then when I came back they started charging me for the storage, which I didn’t even want in the first place. I don’t know, it was weird, some people just don’t get it… they don’t know how to run artists’ studios.
So, basically I had a picnic bench for a studio, that is in front of Mike Vasquez’s and Robles and Bhakti are in the same area. So I did a series of painting at the picnic bench, and then Mike gave me a little 5×5 area in his studio and I made some work there, and then I came to realize that what I did on the road for 6 months was that I had to make studios wherever I was, so I just continued the same process here where I lived, cause odds are I’m leaving again soon, and I’m not at a point in my career where I can afford the space I need for a studio all year.
How do you pitch the idea of Nomadic Studios to the developers?
I tell them it’s the Nomadic Studio’s series and if they can give me an empty space, I can activate it and I can give them a piece in trade, or we can figure out a way to barter. Tony Cho is the first to give me a space.
Tell me about the new machines you’re using to paint…
Basically, what I have realized I’ve been doing with spray paint is that I’ve taken a mechanism that delivers paint and then I developed a series of markings, an alphabet so to speak, but really just patterns that a can or a paint pendulum can make. I’ve always planned on building other painting mechanisms, but the ones I started with now are ready-mades— I don’t have to make them, they already exist. One is a home improvement electric painter that you buy at home Depot, and then another one is an electric airless spray gun that commercial painters use to paint big buildings or larger projects.
Really what happened was that I was creating and environment for a show at the History Museum, where they exhibited all these watercolor painting of birds, and I was creating some psychedelic color fades, which were a nice offset to these historical, biological drawings of birds, and I used this handheld paint sprayer that compresses the paint at the nozzle, so it makes this repetitive spray that jolts paint out at two different speeds—one really fast and one really slow. You’re supposed to move really slowly when you use it, so you can get a consistent coat, but what I’ve done is I’ve sped it up, so it makes these teeth-like, or diamond-egg-shape. As I’ve continued to investigate this gun, I’ve gotten to actually make the opposite mark that I do with spray paint, which has been really exciting. It just destroys my wrist to do a circular spiral because I have to do it in a continuous movement, which is really hard to do.
I’ve implemented other tools, like a skateboard, the wheel chair I used once, but it didn’t really work that well, but it’s funny, I’ve realized that in the realm of action painting, this it’s definitely as action as it gets. I feel like I’m at basketball camp, essentially going back and fort, running, jumping on the skateboard, or walking on a ladder really fast.
And what about the other machine?
The other one is the big industrial gun, and I’ve got it making this arrowhead, feather markings, it’s really wild.
Let’s talk about Friday’s show. What’s the concept behind it?
I should call it a preview, but it’s really a party [laughs]. Basically what I’m presenting is a body of work, some of it is installed, so I created this environment, an intervention to display these paintings. They’re all pretty much large-scale.