Slvstr Is in Search of a Wonderful Place
We chop it up with Rare Panther designer and artist Slvstr as he prepares for his upcoming exhibition.
Photos by Durty Harry
Directly across the street from Purvis J Behan Elementary School, Reggie, better known as Slvstr, was going through a garage full of colorful paintings. The Oakland native had just returned from a trip to L.A. and was vigorously prepping for his upcoming exhibition, In Search Of A Wonderful Place, while juggling New York City expenses and his clothing line, Rare Panther. His studio space is a rusted garage with a couch towards the center and filled with large pieces, none of which will be showcased at his 30-piece show.
Black wooden stairs lead up to his second-story Clinton Hill apartment, making way to a cozy home also flooded with artwork, from a handwritten letter pinned to his refrigerator door to a framed photo of legendary rapper Gucci Mane in his living room. The green walls of the space are covered with large canvases inspired by the music of N*E*R*D and Kanye West, according to Slvstr. A vibrant painting of his signature character, “Sly,” rests in the corner of the apartment.
Last year, the artist collaborated with Trillectro Music Festival and Monster Products. This year, his dream collaboration with Japanese toy company MEDICOM lands in June. Yet, even with his success, Slvstr remains a humble and charismatic soul. His current goal? Other than creating album artwork for Kid Cudi, Slvstr plans to follow the example of SoHo Arts Club owner Harif Guzman and snag a studio space for himself (and the homies) to create freely.
You’re from Los Angeles ?
I’m from The Bay. I’m originally from Oakland and I was going to school in San Francisco. I moved to L.A for like two months. I hated it bro. I got a chance to come to New York and I dipped. I was literally there for two months. I was there for that month in a half and I set up my apartment. I got a bed got all this shit and had a chance to go to New York and left all that shit behind.
What’s wrong with L.A?
I feel like the people in NY vs. L.A are a lot more real. I don’t know I feel like the world is here. Me going back there now, from what it was when I was there to now, it’s changed a lot. There’s like a nice little movement happening in L.A. Downtown is picking up. It has a city atmosphere thats actually poppin’. There’s art. There’s bars. Before it was kinda like yeah you’re not in Long Beach or La Brea it’s kinda like where you at?
I’m juiced about [summer in New York]. When I first got this studio set up, I threw like a big-ass party [in the backyard]. I had like 75 to 100 people back here. I opened up the studio and people came in and broke shit. But it was like good cuz’ that’s what I want essentially. Hopefully, after the show in April, I’m able to get enough funds to get like a nice space. I want my space to just be a space for me to work in but for homies to come through and throw little parties and shit. That’s how shit starts going. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Harif [Gunzman], but like what he’s doing. He’s a older cat, but he’s still giving this foundation for a lot of cats.
Soho Art Club?
Yeah. That’s shit’s poppin’, and that’s what I wanna have too, but this is obviously not big enough to do it. He’s like this OG cat who used to design for Volcom. He struggled and had his down time, but now he’s up and he has this SoHo Arts Club spot and he’s throwing all these dope shows. I think he threw the ATL Twins first show. Before I left, he has some older cat he was like in his 50-60’s and he was an artist. Really dope pieces. You get all these young kids like Luka and A$AP. He just has this dope hub where he’s showing people his work, but at the same time he’s giving people a platform to do their shit too.
What’s good with your show?
My show is April 30. White Box NYC. I’m hella stoked. I actually gotta write the press release for that now, but yeah it’s going from the 30th to the 5th of May. It’s gonna be like a 30-piece show. None of this stuff is gonna be in here. It’s all new work. Pretty much the stuff I’m gonna show you guys in the house.
It’s called In Search of a Wonderful Place. “Wonderful Place” is the name of this painting that’s over there. That’s kinda catapulted everything. It was a piece that everybody liked and everybody knew me for. I named it “Wonderful Place” cuz’ I was listening to Fly or Die from N.E.R.D and they have a song called “Wonderful Place” on there. It has this whistling melody and I was like, “Damn.” Well, if I had a world the wind would blow this melody. What would the sky look like? That’s how I came up with that. That was one style, but I’m still searching for a style. That’s why I call it In Search Of A Wonderful Place.
The whole time I’ve been working on all these painting I’ve been painting in these Kanye West APC’s. I got the dark ones and the light ones. The dark ones really have hella paint on them so I framed the pants and in the show is like these are the pants I worked in. I feel like all of my life is like leading up to this.
All my new work I want it to feel like the in-between of 808’s and Heartbreaks and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so I’ve been listening to a lot of fucking 808’s and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and G.O.O.D Friday over and over and over again. For me that’s my favorite Kanye, like right in-between.
“How could you be so heartless.” He was a sad dude! Not even more so for what he was saying, but just like the textures of his music. He’s style, all the stuff. Graduation, College Dropout: all those albums were dope. But with Graduation, 808’s, and Dark Twisted Fantasy, we got to see Kanye go from this person who was this whole Japanese type of shit, and then he came into himself. Even with Dark Twisted Fantasy, I just feel like its such a good project because you get new Kanye and then you get old Kanye cuz he’s still sampling shit. Yeezus he did that too. What song is that? The first track on the album…
Yeah. [And the track] with the little classical thing. That’s what we love Kanye for. Kanye and Pharrell. Pharrell probably more so is a really big influence in general. Even in my work too. I [would have never] got introduced to KAWS and Takashi Murakami if it wasn’t for Kanye and Pharrell. Even in the brand—the Rare Panther stuff—it’s definitely a BAPE, BBC, Japanese streetwear-derived brand.
It’s funny, a dude hit me up on email and was like, “Hey man I’m interested in buying a print from you.” So he bought a print and was like, “Hey man, my daughter is a big fan of your work. Would you mind doing a studio visit?” So I’m like, “Cool.” So, him his wife and his daughter come here and it’s this little 6-year-old girl. She goes to that school [P.S.11] across the street, and she came in here and I had that orange painting. I didn’t have any of these other paintings, and she like ran in here and was like, “Sly!” Knew who he was the whole shit. I was like damn. That for me is the most important shit. Kids looking at it and being inspired. She might be at home drawing pictures and shit cuz’ she sees me doing it. In the show, I’m going to have a range of shit that kids that small can walk away and dude who collect art can walk away with. Pins, prints, posters. and of course the art to sell. It’s gonna be chill. Hopefully, New York comes out.
What about toys. You’re doing something with MEDICOM, right?
I went to Japan [with] the homies [at] The Good Company. They had a pop up in Japan and invited us out. My partner Palo, he knew somebody at MEDICOM who was interested in my work. We went and they were like, “Yeah man I love your work you seem like a really cool dude. We want you to do this fabrics project with us.” Basically, I took this print here and they put it on all this shit. Slippers, tote bags, backpacks, hoodies, button ups, bucket hats, tables…all this crazy shit. It releases in June.
Are you going to make a Sly toy?
After the shit in June releases, I’ll see how that goes. It’s been going pretty well, as far as stores picking it up and shit. They have these little surprise Bearbrick toys. You buy one and you don’t necessarily know which one [is inside] They’re gonna put me in that series first, and from that series, I’m gonna get to do 1,000 percent and work my way up this ladder. KAWS has a companion, you’re gonna have your Sly. MEDICOM was a dream come true. MEDICOM is amazing, and for them to be interested in what the hell I’m doing is definitely like … “Fuck.”