In the second of ourseries
on Houston's street artists, Art Attack features2:12
, whose singularly colorful, fiendishly-cleverly placed
abound in the older, more run-down fringes of the Houston Heights.
While recent trends in his work -- an altar to the Virgin Mary and "Lupe," a demure yet sexy Latina classic era leading lady -- would suggest that he, like so many of Houston's top street creators, was from a Hispanic background, he writes in via email to tell us that's not the case.
"Sorry to disappoint but I'm not. I work with a very international group at my job and I'm exposed to all of these different cultures on a daily basis. I think that's where I get a lot of my inspiration from. The Virgin Mary/Lupe thing is just a coincidence."
And he answered seven more of Art Attack's questions...
Art Attack: Where does your name come from?
2:12: The thought of coming up with a "street name" seemed a bit ridiculous to me at first, I knew I couldn't use my real name because of the whole legal thing and I was leaning towards the anonymous route, no name, no signature but in the end I figured I was putting a lot of time, money and effort into creating the pieces and that it wouldn't be a bad thing to get credit for my work. I came up with 2:12 because I like the fact that the meaning isn't obvious, it's a bit cryptic. Is it a time? I get this question often and while I have never given away the true meaning, I will say the same thing I say to everyone. 2:12 is a very important time in my life. :-/
AA: What is it you love about grime and urban decay?
2:12: Ok, here is the question where I get all weird and artsy on you. I will do my best to describe this feeling to you but this will be hard to explain.
It's kind of like that scene in American Beauty where the kid is filming the plastic bag, talking about finding beauty in everyday things (or something like that) and I think that is part of the appeal to me... finding beauty in something that thousands of people pass by everyday and never notice. I see these spots as abstract paintings, accidentally created by a collaboration of man and nature. Man builds and paints a wall. The sun ages the paint, the paint flakes and fades. The rain causes the metal to rust, the rust drips adding another layer to the painting, etc, etc. It's something that is accidentally beautiful and I love that.
AA: You use color much more than other street artists? Why? Is it more expensive? Are there any special difficulties involved with that?
2:12: Well, I think it comes down to time and technique more than costs (although paint is pretty damn expensive). The path I'm taking is a bit of a hybrid between stencil art like Coolidge is doing and wheat pastes like Give Up and Dual. By working on paper I'm able to take my time creating each piece in my studio. This allows me to be more detailed with my works. Some paintings could have 20-plus layers and take several hours to paint. When working on the streets illegally you need to be fast so spending several hours working on a piece on the street wouldn't be a smart move. My goal has never been to blanket the city with my paintings; I like to take a quality over quantity approach and part of that is to use detailed stencils, vivid colors and patterns.
AA: You seem very attracted to the female form. Do you think Houston's grime needs more pretty women?
2:12: Haha, yeah, well it started out as wanting to do a series of women from different cultures but as of lately I'm loving the whole vintage Hollywood thing. Also, I think women are beautiful and I enjoy painting them. Definitely not something that I'm limiting myself to forever but for now it's fun.
AA: Where are some of your works right now? Who are some of your favorite street artists, both in Houston and elsewhere?
2:12: To be honest I'm not really sure what pieces are still running. Anywhere but Here is on Studemont in the Heights and that one has been running for almost a year. There is a geisha hidden amongst the shops on 19th and one of my oldest pieces is on a resale furniture shop on Yale. I have been lucky because most of my pieces have lived relatively long lives. The one on Yale was even painted around when the building was repainted by its new owners which was pretty cool.
As for favorite artists, that's a tough one because I know that I'm going to forget someone. I really dig Give Up, Dual and Eyesore. You can't be involved with street art in Houston and not appreciate what those guys are doing. In the last year I've seen some really nice pieces from READ and Shreddi as well. Non local favorites would have to be Swoon out of NYC and C215 out of France. There are so many others but those are the ones that stick out in my mind right now.
: Tell the story of "Anywhere but Here." Didn't that suitcase hang around a long time?
2:12: Yeah, she has been around for a while now, still waiting for that bus. I had conceptualized that piece for a different location but then it was fenced off for construction. Then had another spot in mind but it was turned into an art installation (go figure). Finally decided on the spot where she is now. The whole piece was scaled back from my original plans but I have been very happy with how she turned out. To be honest, I didn't expect it to last 24 hours, so I woke up super early the morning after to grab photos. The suitcase seemed to have taken on a life of its own; it would disappear and then return, people were even adding their own stickers. It finally disappeared for good a couple months ago so I made a new one and replaced it. That one lasted around a week before someone took it. I put another one last weekend and as far as I know it is still there but I haven't been by lately to check. I would like to keep up maintenance on that piece if I can.
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: You seem to place your works in more elaborate settings than most artists. I know Coolidge likes to use grass to make it look like his animals are grazing, but you take it even farther. Could you talk about some of your inspirations in that regard, such as your Virgin Mary?
2:12: Well that goes back to each piece taking so much time and effort to create. I will only make a few of each painting so I want to put them somewhere that will work with the piece. I have gotten lazy from time to time and just put the first spot that was convenient but most of the time I put a lot of thought into location. I also try to keep in mind how the final photographs of the piece will look because for me that is basically the full circle of the piece, from a photo back to a photo. I am also not very concerned whether or not a spot has heavy traffic. I really like the pieces that are off of the beaten path. I think it makes the piece even more special when someone just randomly discovers it in the most unexpected place.
The Virgin Mary piece is an example of a site specific installation. I was walking around Galveston one day taking photos and ran across the hole in the wall. I took a few photos for reference and sat on those for a while. Fast forward a month or two, I was going through some old boxes and found an painting of the Virgin Mary that belonged to my grandmother. After doing some research I found that the Virgin Mary was considered "The Protectoress" of the city of Galveston and everything just sort of came together.