Interview: How and Nosm
The twin brothers take over Jonathan Levine's pop-up gallery
by Vivianne Lapointe
On 1 February, Raoul and Davide Perré AKA How & Nosm unveiled their latest body of work at Jonathan Levine Gallery's new pop-up at 557 West 23rd Street in NYC. You'll find the artists' signature reds and blacks as well as their trademark themes in "Late Confessions," but the talented identical twins take their work to the next level with surprising site-specific installations for their first solo show in a gallery space. We sat down to discuss their experience painting the Bowery Mural, their story, passion and the thrill of brotherhood.
This is your first solo show in NYC, just a couple months after you took over the famous Bowery Mural in the middle of the storm. Can you tell us about this experience and how the city's been treating you since?
How: Being chosen to paint the Bowery wall was a great honor to us. Looking back at the lineup of artists that have created epic pieces there, it was a reward for all the years of hard work. To be included in that lineup speaks for itself, so it was natural to outdo ourselves by creating a fantastic piece not only to satisfy the audience and the city, but also to honor the wall's patron, Tony Goldman. Our gift to the city and its people in such hard times when nobody was expecting it was warmly received and many times appreciated. Ever since, our style has been recognized more and more.
"Late Confessions" happens here in conjunction with Jonathan LeVine's launch of a temporary exhibition space in Chelsea. What do you like about pop-ups? What are some challenges?
Nosm: To be honest we have never had a pop-up show before and it doesn't feel any different than having any other show or installation. We are very pleased with this new space, though—it is quite big and we had enough time time to do site-specific installations. In total, we completed three and we are very happy with the outcome. We didn't know what space the pop-up would be in until about three weeks ago so we had to be spontaneous with the site installations and work rather fast.
How: Usually you get offered a much bigger space, which allows you to create an entire atmosphere and world to support the actual paintings without worrying about architectural restrictions. Considering that most galleries in NYC are simply smaller than in other cities because of high real estate prices, we were able to work with the wreckage from hurricane sandy, forcing the prior tenant to abandon the place and giving us the chance to renegotiate a better deal. We restored it from ground up, which challenges you in a very inspirational way. When your surroundings are not known two to three weeks prior to the opening, it makes you push your own creative limits by trying new things out with a certain time pressure.
At what age did you start painting together?
Nosm: Well we are twins so it is hard to answer that question accurately, but we started doing graffiti together back in 1988.
How: We started painting in '88 together. That's 25 years we have been creatively collaborating.
How has your upbringing followed by traveling all over the world as teens shaped your narrative?
How: If you pay close attention everything is there for a reason and purpose. Having experienced a lot of "not so pleasant" moments while growing up, our travels have showed us how fantastic life, people and cultures can be. It has made us better human beings and we have matured in a way to be able to work out those painful issues and transcend them into our works. The result are what people call these intense paintings that show how complex and detailed life is.
Some people say twins don't have to talk to understand each other. Describe your creative process. How has brotherhood affected your dialogue? Who does what? How do you evolve together and separately artistically?
How: Being twins gives us an advantage over others for the simple fact that we have known each other our entire lives. We share many experiences together, which enables us to work easily and barely with any communication. Life is similar for us so we approach it in a common way. In our work lives, we share all the work equally. Having solved most of our personal issues as teenagers, the ego is rarely blocking the creative process. So our ideas build and grow on each other—that way we can work towards the best result.
Nosm: We actually don't discuss every move and detail we do when creating a mural or a painting and if so, it is usually very briefly since we have been working together forever. Normally one of us has an idea for a new work, we discuss it briefly and start working simultaneously. Eventually, we fuse our works into one so that it looks like one person painted it. So basically we both do it all—characters, backgrounds, designs and more. Over time, we try to refine our style and we usually do evolve and develop fast since we influence each other with new ideas and share them all. We don't have the problem of taking the other's good idea since it is for the benefit of the both of us and our work.
What are some underlying themes of this new show?
Nosm: Many of our life experiences and memories, both good and bad ones, but also issues of life that everybody lives through at some point.
What's next for you? Are there any upcoming projects you want to share?
Nosm: We are doing a three story building in San Francisco right after our show, a pretty big mural and residency at Pitzer College and a lot more that we'll just keep off the radar for now.
Photos by Monica Müller