Heavily influenced by the habitués and visual language of counter culture’s heydays, the work of New York-based artist Othelo Gervacio is causing quite the fuss lately, to say the least. His unique style of drawing, which mixes photorealistic beauty with watercolor paintings of the omnipresent Grim Reaper and skilled logotype - more than often in the very same picture - doesn’t necessarily hint at his past as a graffiti kid, but confidently positions his oeuvre between heavyweights such as Wes Lang and Laurie Lipton. With a couple of cool one-off collaborations and a few exhibitions - amongst them a solo show in October at New York’s “Magic“ gallery space - it is a safe bet to say that Gervacio could be the next big thing coming from NYC, indeed.
Othelo, your work is rather influenced by the counter culture of the 60s and 70s... long before everything was simply labeled as pop culture. So, yeah, please tell me a bit about your background...
Well, I grew up as a suburban kid. There wasn’t much to do so aside from going to school, dealing with teenage angst, listening to music, skating, graffiti, and watching mindless movies. I suppose the most relevant and earliest incite into counter culture came from listening to early metal bands - Black Sabbath most prominently. From there I went down an exploratory rabbit hole finding out about biker culture, psychedelic culture, early tattoo culture and so on.
I went to school for design and art direction, but for as long as I can remember I have been drawing and crafting things. I suppose I’m mostly self-taught. But in my first few years in New York, I worked for and was mentored by Scott Campbell, where I did hone a more refined technique and approach.
Were you always painting predominantly in greyscale?
Yeah, it just kind of happened that way. I like painting in greyscale, there’s something bold about it. It’s also a challenge trying to make a powerful image with a singular palette. I’m beginning to shift now though. I started putting in accents of color or gold leaf here or there and now in my most recent group show “Slow Burn”, I introduced some new full color pieces.
I try to pull from all my influences and interests and apply them to my art in one way or another. I try to make sure every piece I put out there is a true reflection of me or what I’m into.
I was wondering if you’re actually still working full-time for Alldayeveryday... or if that’s about to change now that the buzz around your work is getting louder by the minute?
I am currently an art director on the very small creative team at Alldayeveryday and have been since almost the very beginning. It was a company started by a few friends of mine, so it’s not an ordinary 9 to 5 for me. But, really, who knows what will happen in the future though, I’m just playing it by ear.
I’ve been in New York for ten years now... and I’ve seen it change tremendously! It’s still cool, but definitely not what it used to be. It for sure isn’t a place for the “starving artist” any longer. There are Starbucks and Whole Foods literally popping up everywhere. But aside from that, it’s still an inspiring place especially with the great established local artists and the engrained history here.
Words : Forty