Alan Ket: Graffiti Writer, Artist, Creative, Curator
Ket talks his "Outside, In" show and development as an artist.
Alan Ket is set to embark on a new frontier, hoping to put people up on a few known unknowns in the graffiti realm with his upcoming show “Outside, Inside: A detour from graffiti and street art.”
Ket garnered success through his creativity, persistence, and diligence. Over the years, he’s produced and published a slew of books, served as a consultant to help re-launch Vibe Magazine, and played an important role in helping create a little publication and website called Complex. Ket’s work and creativity is far-reaching, but it’s important to remember that it all began with some acrylic on the wall. Graffiti has taken him the world over, and now with “Outside, Inside,” he’s hoping to show its significance and importance in creating dialogue through art.
In this statement from Ket below, he speaks on those he feels are inadvertently voiceless and providing an opportunity for them to finally be heard,
There are so many talented artists toiling in New York City that are huge figures in the graffiti world, but have yet to explode onto the gallery scene in the way that they should be. Because of this I wanted to pull some of these folks in to do a show. Cekis is a legend and pioneer in Chile as an example and an incredible artist. To be able to present his work, or as an example Ezo from New York, is an honor and a real privilege.
In addition to contributions from Cekis and Ezo, the show will feature the work of Aislap, Cern One, Ghost, Jan Kalab, Ket, Sofia Maldonado, Queen Andrea, Wane COD, and Ezo Wippler. As he prepares for the opening of his show, Ket took some time to chop it up with us on a number of subjects. Check out the interview below to see what he had to say about street art, his past and present with graffiti, and bridging gap between the streets and the gallery.
Mass Appeal: How would you describe the experience of displaying work in a gallery, rather than on the conventional graffiti canvas/wall? Do you feel the setting provides the potential to reach more people with the messages within your work?
Alan Ket: My own indoor work versus outdoor work is very different from each other. My outdoor work tends to be more aligned with the traditional New York City “graffiti” writing aesthetic and revolves around my name. My indoor work has taken a different direction, and these days I prefer to remove my name from the work and focus on creating art that deals with war, injustice, and oppression. Both allow me to reach people, and occasionally there is overlap on the messages and in the use of my name. My indoor installations are more intimate, and things get more compact and smaller with lots of messages in the details of the work. I want people to stop and read the collages, the scribblings, and connect to the deeper issues that I am presenting.
MA: You’ve been doing shows, publishing books, and adding your aesthetic to various publications for some time now. How was it making the transition from being seen merely as a graffiti writer to being acknowledged as a full blown creative mind, innovator, practitioner, and consultant?
AK: This happened a very long time ago with the launch of my first magazine. At first, it was odd to jump into the media space as a creator, but as a graffiti writer I was used to imposing myself onto places and situations, so it was just another way of me doing it. At this point, being involved as a creative person in various industries and media, it is quite normal and I feel like I belong. I still enjoy contributing and always like to work with clients and projects that are open-minded and push the envelope, both creatively and philosophically.
MA: Looking back on your early and formative days within the realm of graffiti, how has the reception from peers and others to the type of work you created both then and now changed? How does it compare?
AK: Well, I am basically a retired writer, so to speak as my output is much less than in the days when I started. My work now is better stylistically, but it was much rawer early on and had more of an outlaw attitude complete with plenty of ‘fuck you’ messages in it. Today, I am much more accepted amongst a larger group of people, and I guess I am easier to digest because of the overall acceptance of graffiti worldwide. Being a writer is no longer shocking to people. Also, as my own work has become more political, it really tends to resonate more with people on a level beyond the art and more about the subject of one’s humanity that I am dealing with.
MA: What is your stance on “street art” vs graffiti? Are they one in the same, or should graffiti remain separate and acknowledged as the base and foundation of “street art”?
AK: They are different aesthetically and that is the main thing for me when I observe the two. They both come from a place of needing to express yourself publicly, but beyond that, there is only occasional overlap. Graffiti, or writing as we know it to be, is much more common and has paved the way for all the street art of today, and many of the street artists are former writers (Banksy, Nick Walker, Adam Dare, etc) and will always exist. Street art is just a catch-all term, and within that generality, there are many sub-sets (posters, stencils, murals, stickers) that better define the type of art that it is. Regardless, street artists must recognize their graffiti roots whether they wrote themselves or not.
MA: Is there an overall theme for the show and the pieces within? What are some of the inspirations the artists involved chose, and what messages or issues might they be speaking on with their work?
AK: The overall theme is an escape from the streets. The idea is that you get to see art from artists that do work outdoors but also have a fantastic studio practice, and you might not ever be in contact with it otherwise. As far as the inspiration goes, it ranges from immigration, war, the metaphysical, and the abstract. To me, the style had to be strong in order to participate. These are all masters both in the streets and in the gallery.
MA: What would you consider the more gratifying experience: how you used to get up or, now, hanging pieces up in a gallery setting?
AK: They both gratify me but in a different way. As a curator, I am gratified in being able to present the art of many people and being able to give access to others of the art that I find beautiful and moving. Getting up now is also highly satisfying, but in a very old and selfish way. I get up for myself mostly and like to do it whether people see it or not.
Ket’s “Outside, Inside: A detour from graffiti and street art” opens August 16 at Tabla Rasa Gallery in Brooklyn and will run until September 27. Click here for further details.