From the NYC tunnels to art galleries the world over Futura2000, née Leonard McGurr, has been making his artistic presence felt for 40 years. His collaborations with brands like Nike, Levi’s and agnès b have produced some the most unique and coveted items to hit the market and now with his recent collaboration with Hennessy, his artwork will grace the 360,000 cognac bottle labels worldwide.
A product of NYC and the graf world, Futura is an old acquaintance of Mass Appeal so we dug into our archives to bring you an interview we did with him back in 2001 for our Manhattan issue. It was only right that we featured Futura because though he’s been to many places he’s still Money Makin’s own.
Interviewer NYC LASE chatted with Futura2000 at the studio he shared with fellow writer/artist STASH in Williamsburg. Check out Futura’s wise words, we could all learn a little from his outlook on life.
Words by NYC LASE
I had stopped by STASH and FUTURA’s to see what they were up to. STASH was heading out to a meeting, so he asked FUTURA to give me the tour of their new headquarters located in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The space was nothing short of impressive!
Futura then showed me a film he was working on. We chilled and bullshitted for a while. It was the first time I really hung with Futura and I have to admit that I was blown away by his train of thought, the way he expressed himself, and who he was as a person. Straight up, one of the coolest walking da globe. With that, I asked him which borough he was originally from. His reply: MANHATTAN!
LASE: Every graffiti artist has someone who’s responsible for igniting their fuse, who’s work lit yours?
FUTURA: I have to say STAYHIGH149, because when I started writing he was someone who’s tag I fell in love with. To this day I’m more of a writer from a tag era than of a piecing or a whole car era.
What Year Was That?
’71 or ’72.
Damn you’re old school! I remember being at the 149th Street station (the old writers bench) seeing this top to bottom whole car with nothing but colors on it. I never saw anything like it. It left a powerful impression on me, I called BIO and described it to him. He told me it had to be FUTURA2000. From that moment on, I put you in a category all by yourself. Where did you do that train and was anyone with you?
I was with DONDI and I think we were at the Utica lay-up, which was underground.
I can’t imagine this, but did you have any rivals or beef back then?
Actually, yeah. At one time I had some beef with SHOCK123. And that was over the fact that I was tagging up the insides and pulled up some posters to tag under, and there was a SHOCK tag right over this STAYHIGH149 tag, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Like first of all the STAYHIGH tag was there which blew my mind, and then seeing the SHOCK tag over it!
That’s when I started crossing out SHOCK tags. For a while there I heard he was going to fuck me up. So one day we were both at some event and some shit broke off and we both found ourselves on the same side of some crap which kind of blew off our beef, but I lived in fear for a hot minute.
(Laughing) Yeah I heard he recently got out. T-KID told me he was one of the most ruthless cats out there! I’m sure you have many graff related memories, but some stick out more than others, can you share one good, then bad memory?
I think my best graff memory was the premiere of the movie Wild Style in New York. The excitement of everybody seeing that movie for the very first time and everyone who was involved was there.
My bad memory was in September of 1973 in the 1 tunnel. My partner and best friend caught on fire over some cans exploding. He sustained some very serious injuries.
Who was that writer?
He wrote “Ali.”
I’m sorry to hear that, I didn’t know anything about that. If you could do it all over again what would you have done different?
For me I would have tried to have been more educated for the environment I got myself into where graffiti got into the gallery system.
I’ve caught a few of your art openings in the past and I must admit that my first reaction to your work was, what is this shit? But now years later, it’s evident that you, as always, have been ahead of your time.
Well damn. Thank you. When working, I like to search for an area where I can create my own environment in. So it’s just a reflection of me trying to find a space to be.
I think I’ve caved my creative area weather I’ve been ahead of my time or not. In my own mind, I’ve always been in my own time, but again, thank you.
You’ve done trains, walls, canvasses, clothing, skateboards, 3D figures, and recently the Futura book (which is available on Amazon.com and other fine book stores.) What’s next?
I think the next realm for me would be film, like some video shorts of visual expression. Animation is another possibility. Maybe create an actual comic with my character giving them some identity and life through fiction. I’m actually pursuing some of these subtly and quietly.
I love asking this particular question: When it’s all said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
Probably as an interesting, down to earth, good human being.
Talking with Futura, I had mentioned how famous people have quotes from which they’re remembered by. I asked him to think of a quote to leave behind, because he and his accomplishments were more than worthy:
“Avoid arrogance, complacency and greed.” – Futura2000