Chances are, if you’re familiar with street artists you’ve probably come across works of Phil Frost, whether you know it or not. (Remember that Frank 151 chapter?) One of the original artists to hit the scene in the early 90’s, Phil helped shape where contemporary art’s at today.
Cruising the depths of Instagram on Bob Marley’s 70th Birthday, we were tagged in a post that brought us a new fact about Phil – that he’s a big fan of reggae music and in particular, Bob Marley. Naturally, we had to reach out to him and hear more. Peep the interview below!
HOM: Are you still NYC based?
PF: I actually live in upstate New York now. I moved up here 7 years ago. I was always moving around trying to find more space to make my work while I was in town. I relocated up here after I found a giant space that facilitates all of my work.
HOM: A lot of our team members quote your work with Frank 151 as a way they discovered you. Can you tell me about that?
PF: Steve Malbon from Frank151 arranged for a studio visit and came upstate to do so. There he saw the drawings that MQ and I were collaboratively making, and the conversation to participate by sharing an issue together came from that.
HOM: I came across your post in celebration of Bob Marley’s 70th Birthday on Instagram, where you talk about Bob Marley and reggae – what is it that draws you to the two?
PF: I’m drawn to reggae music because of it’s inherent morale and uplifting nature; to want to better yourself and your surroundings and be humble, kind and respectful of things. So it appeals to me like that, in that I like the message of it; and then I like the energy and rythym also. It is good natured and positive and I was taken by it. At some point, I got really interested in wanting to hear it more. I began to collect the 45’s and records because a lot of the music isn’t necessarily released digitally. I don’t know too much about digital music anyway, but at the time a lot of the music wasn’t really able to be found on a CD or digital format so a lot of the rare music is only on a 45. Seeking out the records and collecting them was a way to be able to introduce myself to parts of the sound I couldn’t find otherwise. At some point, it began to seem like I was protecting old records by archiving them, like a way of preserving them and their relevant importance.
HOM: Do you mostly listen to music on records?
PF: I guess I mostly listen to music on records. For some reason its kind of relaxing.
HOM: Would you say you listen to it when you work, when you’re painting?
PF: Music has its place in my life. A lot of times I listen to silence, but then silence gets in the way. Listening to music is actually something of a distraction when I’m working, in that i’m not able to focus as much on whatever is resounding inside me. Yet, then there are times where I’m working, and I’m not experiencing that kind of inner dialogue and music can be something that helps the time pass more enjoyably. Sometimes I listen to music when I work and sometimes I don’t. There is part of my work process that music is just in the way of; and for that, it’s silence that keeps me more nimble. Then there are times where there is a task, something I am supposed to do, and I don’t have to figure anything out and nothing’s on my mind, and it’s those parts of the working experience where listening to music is more fitting. I guess it can be like therapeutic, the parts of process where you can zone out.
HOM: Such a great answer and one that really makes sense to me, personally. Can you tell us a bit about how you got started making art and what that was like for you?
PF: In the mid and late 80’s I was into skateboarding. I was skating a lot in Brooklyn with friends. Thats where I can say I really got into art, and by skating in the city and being into hardcore music I was exposed to graffiti. I started to get into tagging. When I was 18 I moved to Queens and then I began to work more seriously with it. Before that I would tag a bit when skateboarding, but it wasn’t an all consuming thing. Then when I was 18 I was on my own and living in Queens and working in the city – it’s when it took over and kinda became a part of me in an overall way for a period. I started to draw all the time and do wheat pastings. Then I started to spend a lot of time with Revs. I started to help out and do missions with he and Cost.
HOM: What was it like working with Revs and Cost?
PF: Revs and Cost, they kind of started the whole wheat pasting thing and the block buster rooftop rollers. I was so honored to help and work with them and spend so much time with Revs. I started to help them. Mostly, I started to help Revs all the time, but both of them sometimes too, on their missions, and sometimes with Revs simultaneously while doing my own. After a while it just kinda started to be a thing I used to do. I would find some sort of weird industrial thing coming out of a building or some sort of utilitarian piping, or venting boxes coming off a building. I would measure off the different panels and cut the measured panels out of brown butcher paper. Then I would draw with ink and paint paintings on those paper panels. I would figure out the best option for pulling it off, like a particular night or if even in broad daylight and then I would go and wheat paste them onto those things to create some type of painting sculpture sort of work in the street and feel that pulsing inner rush type of inspiration from it.
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There are meetings with people that leave you feeling inspired and almost in awe – wanting to learn more and understand, and this certainly was one of them. We hope to bring you more of Phil Frost’s works in the near future! In the meantime, you can check out more of his work on his gallery’s website – Galeria Javier Lopez, Phil’s personal website, and if you’re like us, Phil Frost’s Instagram. Big thanks to Phil for taking the time to speak with us!