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Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art

An interview with Steve Powers from the new encyclopedic book redefining street art

by CH Contributor
on 05 May 2010

"Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art" is a behemoth of a book loaded with a who's-who of the contemporary urban art scene edited by Patrick Nguyen and Stuart. Surveying the work from figureheads such as Aaron Rose, Wooster Collective, Deitch Projects, Stephan Doitschinoff, Faile, Brad Downey and Swoon, in-depth interviews supplement loads of color images and artist biographies to create a 400-page tome of information.

Below, Cool Hunting gets an exclusive preview of the book (it comes out in the U.S. on 20 May 2010) with this interview excerpt conducted by Nguyen with New York-based artist Steve Powers, a.k.a. ESPO.

Londoners can catch the U.K. book launch party the Friday, 7 May 2010, from 6-9 pm at Phillips de Pury & Company on Howick Place. For those in New York, the event takes place Thursday, 27 May 2010, from 6-9 pm at Deitch Projects.

Pick up the book from Gestalten or pre-order from Amazon.

What led you to become an artist in the first place?

It was just raw, desperate hunger for attention. Because I grew up in a household with a lot of other children, drawing was a way to separate myself from the pack. So I got into it as a three-year-old and have been a compulsive drawer ever since.

Is it true that you were an art school dropout? If so, why did you quit?

Yeah, I dropped out of two different art schools. I just had a sneaking suspicion as I was handing over my tuition that you probably didn't need anything they were teaching at art school to be an artist. Like being a musician, either you have it or you don't. If you have the talent and you put in the hours and you get lucky, art school's not going to help you anyway.

When did you start doing graffiti?

I was doing graffiti as a teenager, basically as a sophomore in high school in the suburbs of Philadelphia. It was something new to me. It was just brutally breaking out of the neighborhoods of New York and Philadelphia and starting to go national with "Style Wars" and "Subway Art." And it had everything I wanted in art: color, design, line, it was illegal, but not that illegal—all the things that captivate teenagers. Typically in those days, in the mid-eighties in Philadelphia and New York, it was really a young person's game. They'd start at 12 and were done at 18. I started a little late at 16, and I didn't really finish until I was 30.

Continue reading and see more images after the jump.

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