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Productions to Geometry: Tracing the Roots of Col Wallnuts
by Rhiannon Platt


Blocks beyond the train, running along 21st Street and the adjacent intersections, blockbuster murals depict fights between imaginary characters. Drawing upon pop culture heroes and cartoons as well as graphic design, Col makes up one part of the mural crew Wallnuts. Consisting of Muse, Free5, Been3, Soco, Phyme, Col, Met, Ree2, Chester, Dos, Riot, Kern, MadC, Zest, Mad, Detone, and Scane, the group has graced the cityscape with stylized large-scale pieces for over two decades. These pieces, that bring to life easily recognizable figures, such as Marvel Comics’ characters the Hulk and Dr. Octopus, appeal to a range of viewers, from comic fans to the average moviegoer.

Although the focal point of their collective pieces has been the adaptation of pop culture imagery, Col notes that his individual aesthetic comes from a background in graphic design. Defined by hard-edged lines intersecting floating shapes that float through the composition, the artist’s geometric style combines his collective background, honed by completing production walls with his crew, and his design aesthetic. The artist recollects, “I used to focus a lot on 3D works and was always interested in trying to break down that same form and structure of my letters. This has been a fun and interesting challenge to my work by still keeping a sense of dimension to each piece as well.” In fluctuating between pictorially direct and abstracted geometrics, the artist creates imagery that vacillates and, thus, appeals to a wide spectrum of individuals.

Col Wallnuts; photo by Royce Bannon.

Through his evolution, from production walls to graphic design inspired shapes, Col continues to push the boundaries of what he is capable of within the aerosol medium. Spectrum saw the artist develop layers of neon within the compositions’ flat planes.  When asked what the artist had in mind for the future, he stated:

“I do not worry about failure when working on a piece, focusing more on what can make this one better than last. Negative space, the pushing and pulling of layers and strong use of color, contrast and form. These aspects keep ideas flowing and open up endless possibilities to make strong works. Sometimes we get too excited knowing that we have a palette of unlimited colors to work with and we can easily destroy what we are trying to create. I try to somehow sit in the middle, by not using too much and not using too little.”

Straddling the worlds of traditional graffiti and the new abstraction, Col Wallnuts has aesthetically challenged himself through the melding of styles for decades past. This constant striving for improvement has seen the artist challenge himself with the completion of each project.

 

Rhiannon Platt

 

This essay is part of an ongoing series that examines the work of New York’s abstract aerosol movement, which combines the aerosol and typographical background of graffiti with abstraction to form a unified style within the urban art aesthetic.

To commemorate the “Spectrum” exhibition opening at Gallery Brooklyn, which features New York’s abstract graffiti practitioners, ArtSlant Street has conducted a series of interviews and studio visits with the artists represented: Col Wallnuts, EKG, Hellbent, Rubin, and See One. “Spectrum” opens to the public Saturday July 27th from 6pm-9pm and runs through August 17th.

Wallnuts Crew; photo by Rhiannon Platt.

Wallnuts Crew; photo by Rhiannon Platt.

Col Wallnuts; photo by Royce Bannon.

(Image at top: Wallnuts Crew; photo by Rhiannon Platt.)

 



Posted by Rhiannon Platt on 8/9/13 | tags: graffiti/street-art abstract graffuturism graphic-design

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