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A Recent Article(Courtesy of coagula.com):

Whatever Happened to ’80s Grafitti Art Legend Futura 2000
by Erika Icon

If you could meet any famous person, who would it be? Most people would want to meet movie stars, but not me. For me, it is and always will be all about the art stars of the 1980s. When I was fifteen, I met Andy Warhol at Nippon, a sushi bar in New York, and it changed my life. Artists have always been the greatest inspiration to me, as an artist and as a human being. Although I usually write about emerging or underground artists, I could not pass up the chance to interview a living legend (and believe you me, he freaked when I called him this), Futura 2000.

If you really think about it, graffiti is as old as cave paintings, but in the late 1970s and the early 1980s, it exploded and became “the scene”. Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf blew up. There was also another crop of artists, kids went from writing (or bombing) in the streets to the galleries. Futura was part of this scene. He was not a Warhol protege like Basquiat, but a twenty year old scared kid from the Bronx who was thrust into this wild money-making machine known as the Manhattan gallery scene. In 1981, Fab-5 Freddy showed Futura’s work along with many other artists including Daze and Samo (Basquiat’s street name) on the 4th floor gallery located in the Mudd Club in a show called Beyond Words. In the same year, Futura had a one-man show at the Tony Shafrazi gallery. In 1983, he was in the movie Wild Style appearing as himself. He has also exhibited at the Fun Gallery and around the world.

Futura was riding high with many exhibitions and critical acclaim as part of the East Village Movement until one day in 1985, his career came crashing down. You may wonder what happened (I did). It wasn’t drugs, a woman, or somebody’s death–as Futura tells it, it was a review. A critic (who’s name he can’t remember) who wrote for one of New York’s art glossies wrote a bad review of one of his shows. She referred to his work as copies of an artist by the name of Wateau, who he had never heard of. Futura had no education in art and had attended one year of city college. He made drawings as a kid, but he wasn’t “feelin’ it” and really making art until he was in his twenties. Futura basically made art to make a new identity for himself and not for acceptance from the gallery scene, but this review hurt him personally because it came from an “important, respected” art magazine at that time (this was in the days that the New York art glossies had clout and were respected). When I asked Futura questions about the 1980’s in New York, I really had to push him, because he has put “the ball and chain of graffiti” and the art world behind him. He felt like a product of his environment, a B-Boy from the Bronx in the New York Gallery Scene and this made him feel out of place. He was not inspired by the “pseudo-intellectual” artists around him and felt intimidated because he did not go to art school and was freaked out by this crazy time of drugs, promiscuity, and art pimps. Futura was not secure about the art he was making, mainly because “I had always been a legendary king in the street, but I wasn’t shit in the art world.” His introduction to the art scene was “on the job training.” In looking back, Futura only wishes he knew then what he knows now and maybe he would not have been so paranoid and could have been a major player.

When it got down to naming names, I got him to share his true thoughts on some of his contemporaries. He referred to Andy Warhol as “a really weird guy”. One of Futura’s good friends during the ’80s was Keith Haring who he refers to as “…a sweetheart who was kind and generous… he really helped me with introductions and fitting in.” He does feel the loss of Keith. He really dug Jean-Michel Basquiat and thought he was ingenious, but felt he got so changed by the monster of fame. I asked him how accurate the film Basquiat was and he said he didn’t see it because Jean-Michel didn’t really like Julian Schnabel (Schnabel, the film’s director, never called Futura to ask him anything for the film, which he took as a snub). He views Julian, Kenny Scharf and Francesco Clemente more as “the superstars of the art world,” but he is still in touch with these people through his wife who is friends with some of these artists’ wives.

Speaking of names, I am sure you’re wondering where the name Futura 2000 comes from. He originally took the name (which he has copyrighted) from the Stanley Kubrick movie, 2001, in 1970. I asked him about the prospect of him changing his name to Futura 3000, now that we are in the year 2000 and he said he will just go by Futura now. And for the super curious, in his pre-Futura days he went by his given name, Leonard. After 1985 and the end of his career in the galleries, Futura stayed in New York and did what he had to do to survive by going back to the 9 to 5 world. He worked 9 months for the post office right across from the now legendary PS1 where he was in a show called New York, New Wave in the ’80s. He was a bike messenger which in those days was dangerous, but quite lucrative at $120 to $200 a day, until he had an accident and was laid off. Futura was almost a cop and was ready to join the force but it didn’t happen. His world changed again when a clothing designer who would later become known as Agnes B., boosted his career by purchasing 2 of his paintings at $5,000 each. He took the money, bought a PC, got carried away with Photoshop, and then he reinvented himself once again. These days Futura’s life is about computers, his family, and re-inventing himself and his role in the world. Futura spoke many times of his wife, daughter, and son and they are the focal point of his life right now. At 15, he found out that he was adopted and he felt that he could create a new identity for himself by writing graffiti. Somehow, he felt this would help him deal with his dark past of being adopted and his sense of alienation. At 30, he decided to start a family and taking care of his tribe seems to be part of his mission these days.

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