ANDREW JEFFREY WRIGHT
Over the past 20 years AJW has made me laugh, cry, and inspired me as a friend and contemporary artist. He continues to see the world in an unfalteringly humorous and loving way. He is un-compromised in his integrity and his vision. Andrew's work grows from his unique ability to navigate through multiple mediums. In my opinion some of the best video and performance art being made today is by AJW and his collaborator Rose Luardo. It is an honor for me to introduce this extraordinarily talented artist, Andrew Jeffrey Wright. - Barry McGee
Andrew, I basically got introduced to Philly through hip-hop... artists like Schoolly D, Steady B, later The Goats, and obviously The Roots. Since you were heavily into graffiti back in the day, I was wondering if this first wave of “underground hip-hop“ had an effect on you as well?
As a grade schooler in the Philly suburbs I knew nothing of the underground rap scene. Apache and Rapper’s Delight became radio hits and made waves before graffiti and breaking became widely known. I was doing graffiti and breakdancing before it became a part of pop culture. I was friends with a kid named Mike that had cousins that lived in the city and we found out about breaking and graffiti from them via Mike. The scene I was a part of was little kids in the suburbs, nothing of note. I remember a local Philly rap group called the Cazal Boys. I heard them on the radio on Power 99fm. They never got famous, but I like their song about Cazals. I didn’t know of Schoolly D until later in life. I remember seeing The Roots perform on South Street as the Squared Roots, but by then I was in college. As a little kid I really liked RUN DMC, Fat Boys, Whodini, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. I’ll never not like that stuff.
At least from my perspective, Philadelphia was always standing in the shadow of the nearby NYC in terms of its pop cultural life... would you say that there’s a high level of fluctuation amongst Philadelphia’s creative community because sooner or later everyone flirts with the idea of moving to New York?
Philadelphia is definitely in New York’s shadow in some real ways. But Philly has its own culture. It’s an incredible place. A lot of fun happens in Philly. It’s big and little at the same time. If you love Philly and live there you are set for life. A lot of people never even give New York a thought. A lot, but not all. There is a great scene in Philly even with the nonstop outflux of people moving to New York. They also move to LA.
You co-founded “Space 1026“ around 2000. How did its creative community change over the years? Did things become more professional/serious or is it still the same creative chaos?
We actually started in 1997 already. It was like six people and grew fast. We had a pretty solid crew for over half a decade, but then new people would come in and not stay as long, so there have been a lot of members over the years. The new people coming in for the most part know the vibe of the place and the chaos has never left. I think knowing you can’t control the Space has contributed to its longevity.
You work with a lot of different media... do you prefer one artistic expression over the other or are they all connected through your pretty twisted sense of humor?
I feel all the work is connected through my humorous vision, even the abstract stuff. My preference for one type of media over another changes all the time, which is why I work in live performance, video, comics, paintings, photography, zines, and whatever else. Certain ideas make the most sense being executed in a particular media, so I can’t limit my media choices. I need to stay open to the possibilities.
I’ve read somewhere that your parents raised you with Christian values... are the drug references and silliness and occasional nastiness in your illustrations a reaction to that?
I was raised in a serious, but not overbearing Christian family. My art isn’t reactionary. I never wanted to do drugs. But I loved drug art and I didn’t know it was drug art. And after I found out it was drug art, I still loved it. I love Surrealism and Dadaism and Abstract Expressionism and to me, drug art is just that. As far as the nastiness goes, an appreciation for boobs, butts, and boners is in all of us, except for maybe asexuals. But are asexuals even real? Sorry if you are an asexual and you are reading this. I believe you are real.
Do you still find the time to publish zines these days?
Yes, I love making zines! I mainly make screen printed zines. Usually collaborative. In the last few years I’ve made zines with Isaac Lin, Barry McGee, Ken Kagami, and Dan Murphy. I make a silk screened calendar called “Labs With Abs“ almost every year. Sometime in early 2014 I should be finished a new zine I am making with Ken.
Not too long ago you co-founded the comedy project “Comedy Dreamz“... please tell me what it’s all about? Would you say that you’re rather putting your focus on it right now than on your illustrations?
I started doing comedy performances around six years ago. I was doing solo performances and wanted to work with another person so I started working with my friend Rose Luardo and we called ourselves The New Dreamz. At the same time we started a larger project called Comedy Dreamz with our friend Jayson Musson. Jayson quit after the first show saying he wasn’t interested in live comedy after all. Rose and I kept doing it. Comedy Dreamz is one of my favorite projects. We’ve been doing it for three and a half years now. Rose and I have different performers on each show, we screen videos, have a dance crew called Body Dreamz, we have DJs and an after comedy dance party. Rose and I host and perform on the show of course. It’s wild fun. We do it in New York and Philly. As much time as I do put into live performance, I still spend more time drawing. Way more. Way, way more. Way, way, way, way more. I have a comic that comes out every Monday on theartblog.org and one that comes out every Friday on theworldsbestever.com
If you had to describe to someone in one sentence what your actual profession is, it would read like this:
I do 47 different types of art and six of them actually make some money and I live off of that money.
What do the hold for Mr. Andrew Jeffrey Wright in 2014?
I don’t know what the future holds for me. I’ll probably listen to Kate Bush’s “Hounds Of Love“ album a bunch. Right now I’m working on Web Art. Maybe later I’ll work on some Net Art. Which means I’m making drawings and videos that will live on the internet. Thanks!
Intro: Barry McGee
Interview: Forty for lodown no.89 in 2014