Up From the Underground

Alex "Pr!mo" Luster got himself a documentary from the street art life.

Today, the poster is long-gone. So is the house it once adorned. Luster says he drove by the other day and for a time, couldn't even tell where it used to be.

And now Give Up is gone too. Give Up gave up on Houston and headed to Austin.

With the capital's film scene burgeoning, could Luster be far behind? Don't bet on it. He admits to being a little intimidated by the Austin film scene, in which he would be just another in what is now a school of hungry little fish.

Marco Torres
...and Eyesore: Three of the artists Luster profiles in Stick 'Em Up!
Marco Torres
...and Eyesore: Three of the artists Luster profiles in Stick 'Em Up!


Read More:
Blog post: An interactive map of Houston's best street art.
Blog post: Stick 'Em Up debuts at River Oaks Theatre
Blog post: Coolidge, Houston's answer to Banksy
Slideshow: Stick 'Em Up Premiere at River Oaks
Slideshow: Houston's Most Gorgeous Graffiti
Slideshow: Street Art for Tropical Storm Allison

But it's more than that. He's less scared of Austin than he is in love with Houston. Friends of his have moved to the capital and regretted it almost immediately, he says. "I know this one guy who moved there six months ago and he's like, 'Dude, I miss Houston. I miss the smells, I miss the streets, everything about it.'"

Luster believes he would feel the same way. "When you go to Austin it's all just Austin. There's college kid Austin, old hippie Austin, cool music Austin, all just Austin. But Houston has that mixture."

His whole extended family is putting down roots in Eastwood, the live oak-shaded, old bungalow-dotted heart of the old East End. His mom, brother and other family all live very close by, and his wife Esther's grandparents live right behind them. They've pulled down the back fence and adjoined yards. "How hard would it have been for us to do that in a city like New York, or even Austin?" Luster wonders.

Luster says he loves imperfection, and that's a good thing, for the East End is a rough diamond of a neighborhood even by messy Houston standards. "One of my neighbors parks in his yard," he says. "The cops are at the house across the street regularly. I live catercorner to the worst Kroger in town. The floors are sticky, and there's only one lane open at all times."

On some days, it was all enough to make Luster and Esther think long and hard about moving out to the cul-de-sacs, some place like Katy, the better to give their two young kids room to roam. But just as he refused to give in to the documentary expert's advice to make Stick 'Em Up! about places other than Houston, he also plugged his ears to the siren call of the suburbs.

"Finally I was like, 'Screw that, I don't care. I like Eastwood,'" he says. They would miss the mom-and-pop businesses too much, places like original Ninfa's, Spanglish arts Mecca Bohemeo's, Thai dining institution Kanomwan, and Pete's Barbecue. Two light rail lines are headed his way; in a few years, he would be able to take the train downtown. Luster would also keenly feel the absence of certain magical days when the wind hits the East End just right and he can smell coffee roasting at the big Maximus plant, a yeasty aroma from the old Mrs. Baird's bakery and a warm caramel smell from the panadería across the street.

He's finally got that Big-style downtown loft he's dreamed of since he was a skinny kid struggling to hoist a news camera, albeit not as his home. Instead, it's his new Shoot.Edit.Sleep Productions studio in the Warehouse District around the corner from Last Concert Cafe, just a mile or two from his house. There the works of his favorite street artists gaze down on him as he edits his projects amid his constantly rearranged furniture and equipment.

He's not worried about shopping Stick 'Em Up! to festivals this year — he tells all who ask that he is still concentrating on coming up with the very best final cut he can muster. (That's why he stresses that the show at the River Oaks had been a screening and not a premiere.)

Stick 'Em Up! is his bid to plug this city's ever-larger memory hole. And Luster says he is ready to take a stand in the only hometown he knows or wants to know.

In the Q-and-A session that followed the first screening, Luster was asked what the street artists in cities like New York, Los Angeles, London and Berlin thought of Houston's street art. It's a fair question — those cities are generally regarded as the world's best street art towns.

Luster thought a good long while and came up with the briefest of answers.

"I don't know," he said at last. "I am from here."

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Tieuel Legacy
Tieuel Legacy

Very big piece. A lot of information, secretos y mas. Several funny parts also. He'll have to go back into the underground at some point. Hopefully I'll catch a cut of the film before he does. Tieuel Legacy! Motion