Greenpoint Studio Visit with Leon Reid IV
You may know Leon Reid IV through his street art or public art and now he has a new body of work conceived and developed in his Greenpoint studio over the last five years. Recently, I caught up with Leon at his studio to talk art, technology, and what it means to combine the two.
Andy Smith: How long have you been keeping a studio in Greenpoint? What’s your favorite thing about Greenpoint?
You began working on Tech-Art: Soul for Technology™ in 2011 but only recently premiered it? Why such a long period? What was your initial inspiration to start working on this body of work?
TECH-ART: Soul for Technology™ is my current body of work that reflects the look of the information-age through drawing, painting and sculpture. Some tech-themed works from 2011 added to the group later, however the bulk of the works are from 2014 onward.
In 2014, I recognized an opening to exploit the little symbols provided by our devices to move around cyberspace, (loading wheel, power symbol, battery full etc). Since halting my illegal street art activity in 2005, I had been looking for a new visual language to be inspired by.
My observation was that these tiny tech symbols direct us around the digital environment in the same way that street signs (my former muse) direct us around the urban environment. Because tech-imagery is so so wide-spread, I decided to make the work in isolation for two reasons:
One, so that no other artist could get a scent of the direction I was taking and take a similar approach before me.
Two, so that I could develop the work fully, (experiment, make mistakes) without pressure or expectations from other people.
For two years I kept this body hidden from my peers. The work was unveiled as a solo-show at 17 Frost Gallery in March of 2016.
Coming from a prolific street art career, how does this new work signify a change in your approach or process?
Tech-Art: Soul for Technology™ is made legally- that’s the relevant difference regarding my graffiti/street-art past. However, I consider this work a visual extension of my street-art days because I’m subverting a visual and functional language to express human emotion.
You’ve started signing your work with your fingerprint… do you think artwork authenticity is somehow endangered? What was the catalyst for that?
Why? Because 3D printing is a process designed for mass replication. A work of art’s value is based on authenticity and rarity. The fingerprint is means to protect against any possible unauthorized access and reproduction of my print files. In such case, an illegitimate work couldn’t be authentic without my fingerprint.