Greenpoint Studio Visit with Leon Reid IV

Leon Reed IV with Load Paintings, Tech-Art: Soul For Technology
Leon Reid IV with Load Paintings, Tech-Art: Soul For Technology

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?

Leon Reid IV: I’ve been working on and off at the studios at 99 Commercial Street since 2002. In 2011 I established my own studio there. My favorite aspect about Greenpoint is the remoteness. I’m at the northern tip of the neighborhood where you can still enjoy a panoramic view of Manhattan in solitude.
Tech-Art: Soul For Technology by Leon Reed IV
Tech-Art: Soul For Technology by Leon Reid IV

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.

Tech-Art: Soul For Technology
Tech-Art: Soul For Technology by Leon Reid IV

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.

Tech-Art: Soul For Technology by Leon Reed IV
Tech-Art: Soul For Technology by Leon Reid IV

You’ve started signing your work with your fingerprint… do you think artwork authenticity is somehow endangered?  What was the catalyst for that?

The authenticity of my artwork is not endangered. However I’ve taken many precautionary steps to protect my work. I recognize how vulnerable I am as one artist, operating in the field of ideas in the age of quick information.
 

I began applying my fingerprint to authenticate my 3D prints in 2014, I call it Fingerprint Signed. It was first applied to Leon Reid IV’s 3D Print Poetry at MakerBot.

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.

I liked the concept and the look of a fingerprint, so I began applying it to Tech-Sketch and Binary collage series. From an aesthetic perspective I think the fingerprint adds a human touch to the works that people can connect with.

To see more of Leon Reid’s work, visit  Techart.nyc.

About Andy Smith

A.P. Smith is a writer, photographer, and record collector living in Greenpoint with his dog, Luigi.

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