Black Tap Mideast: The Fumeroification of Two Nations
One of the two major highlights of 2018 was traveling to The Middle East to create interior murals for two different Black Tap restaurants in two different Gulf countries. I have never been further east of Turkey and that was a hop, skip and a jump from the Greek Isles on a boat. This time it was a twelve-hour, non-stop flight to Kuwait City with a final destination at 360 Mall. First on the list was the third Kuwait City Black Tap under construction inside the 360 Mall. It is called 360 Mall because it is basically one gigantic circle. This Black Tap is located on the mezzanine level close to the escalator inside the main entrance at Gate 1.
Looking up from ground level, the lush green plant life covers the mall walls and beyond the vegetation one can see the contrasting warm colored background with the “Tru York” imagery filling up the very large wall that parallels the terrace. A winding stair case leads up to the Black Tap neon entrance sign. When I was painting this entrance wall into the restaurant I thought about the Propylaea, the ancient gateway to the Parthenon on top of the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. The entrance mural combines the iconic blue striped water towers that can be seen across the desert highway in the distance outside of Gate 1. Next is the Empire State Building and the downtown Kuwait City tower on the right. This mural leads into the main room. The bar is next to the 'boom box' booth table seating inside the round circles that represent radio speakers. Above that is the non-objective Grafstraction filled with a myriad of my 'skittled schemed' palette. Beyond the main room is what I call “the monster wall”. This huge wall is almost as wide as Nanny's Kitchen wall in Wynwood, Miami (2016). The dimensions of this colossal wall is 12’H x 49’W (feet) and was was the first wall I targeted for completion. The background alone took 17 hours to finish and more time touching up or adding to.. This beast of a wall, although a worthy opponent, was no match for The Glartiator. When this wall beast was subdued, I began to fill in the 7 images that I had outlined prior to the background design. I chose 7 images keeping in mind the Seven Heavens of Islam. Staying with 80's and 90's old school theme, the multiple imagery, I incorporated a boom box, a Biggie, B Boys (Jamel Shabazz), bus, Table Series Logo, break dancer and subway train. If you notice the Table Series Logo, the central male figure in the family seated at the table is not holding a beer bottle in his hand. The reason is because Kuwait is a 'dry country' and that means there is absolutely no alcohol allowed, it is against the law. The bus is the #529 symbolizing the very first Black Tap in Soho located at 529 Broome Street in Manhattan (2015). The BTNYC #529 to 360 Mall only goes one way and that's my way.
If you are familiar with my work ethics, you know that I was busy painting long hours. I worked nine days strait to get this project done on schedule. If you follow Fumeroism on Instagram you saw the progression as it happened. This was a time sensitive project. Black Tap 360 was scheduled to open to the public in late November. I had a scheduled flight to Dubai prior to the opening date and immediately upon completion of 360 Mall.
Before leaving Kuwait I was interviewed by CP Magazine. Close Up Magazine is a publication as well as internet magazine. CP circulates in Kuwait, United Emirates and other Persian Gulf countries. The three representatives from CP, including a photographer were very nice people and excited to have my art in Kuwait City. It was very humbling to hear what JameeI Arif, the founder and publishing consultant from CP told me. He said that I am the first artist to bring graffiti art to Kuwait. At first, I thought he meant Kuwait City but he said not just the city but to the entire country of Kuwait. It was very unexpected and pretty cool hearing that.
It never crossed my mind about me going to the Middle East that I would be introducing graffiti art to the Kuwaiti people, especially when in actuality I don't paint graffiti but it's a common misnomer that I am frequently labeled with. “It's got to be the spray can in my hand”, is what I said to Jameel, “I wonder, am I still painting graffiti when I create on canvas with acrylic and a paintbrush?” What I do requires a more specific description, one that a common label such as graffiti cannot explain. My approach is an evolved graffiti-esque design specifically among line, shape and color. I'm not painting letter styles even though I am creating complex 'wild-style imagery'. There is an evolution of Classical Art. Classical Greece, Hellenistic and Roman are similar but yet quite different. Even my objective art is abstracted with an abundance of exaggeration and my non-objective subject matter is derived from graffiti motifs to which I combine into what I call The Grafstract. Jackson Pollock is not a direct influence during my artistic life's journey. However, Futura 2000 and Quick, to name just two pioneering NYC graffiti artists are direct influences. It was NYC Graffiti Art where I learned about abstract art first.
Being on a steady New York state of grind made the days and nights go by quickly and before I knew it, it was time to say arrivederci 360 Mall and on to the next.
The day I flew to Dubai was my first day off and a well needed respite was in order, so I enjoyed the hotel jacuzzi and sauna, relaxed, packed and headed to the airport at 7 PM that evening. After an almost 2 hour flight from being 8 hours ahead, I was now 9 hours ahead of NY time. I began working on Black Tap Festival City Dubai the next morning. I had three walls to paint and three columns, and no monster wall to contend with nor did I have to take taxis because Festival City Mall is adjacent to my hotel. Black Tap was an elevator and a short walk away. Upon entering the restaurant from outside (bayside) patrons are greeted with a 15 foot colorful Table Series Logo.
The entrance from inside Festival City Mall is the Biggie Smalls portrait. On the other side of that wall facing the main dinning room and bar is a fumeroized version of Brew Dog's brand logo and the columns for Lagunitas brewing company. Inside the back dinning area is the collaboration of the iconic NYC x Dubai skylines with a B boy (popper) posing along side a boom box and on the far right side is another B boy on the hood of a yellow NYC taxi. I painted a main column and two smaller ones. I began working on this project on November13th and completed it on the 19th with less than 12 hours before my flight back to JFK in New York.
On the last day I visited to Dubai Mall and went up to the 148th floor of the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world (Burj ; tower). I came back by 7pm to do a photo-shoot with Black Tap and their very talented photographer, Bob McCaffrey.
Following that I went up to my room, ate dinner and began to pack to catch my flight later that night. That journey began at 2 AM when I left the Crowne Plaza Hotel back to Dubai Airport and back home. It was all work and no play but that is fine with me because warriors come out to spray. The Black Tap restaurants at 360 Mall and Festival City are designed by Chris Barnes and the firm Broadway Interiors He is an incredible architectural designer and all around good guy. This was the first time we collaborated together combing our vision to create an ambiance unique to the Black Tap brand. It was an honor and a pleasure to compose murals surrounded by his interior artistry. Everybody I met at 360 Mall and Festival City were so helpful and they treated me very well. It was an amazing experience and one I will always remember that I walked the ancient sands of Arabia and left my mark sprayed in paint.