NECK FACE

NATALIA BONIFACCI MEETS NECK FACE, THE GRAFFITI ARTIST KNOWN FOR HIS DARK DRAWING STYLE AND HIS CLEVER WRITINGS. HIS WORK IS A WINDOW TO A CULTURAL COMMENTARY BOTH FUNNY AND POIGNANT. WHEN HE'S NOT DRAWING OR SKATING HE CAN OFTEN BE FOUND AT BLACK, THE LOS ANGELES BAR HE OWNS WITH SOME OF HIS FRIENDS. THEY MEET AT THE KIBITZ ROOM IN WEST HOLLYWOOD WHERE THE TWO HIDE FROM A SUNNY LOS ANGELES AFTERNOON. HIS PRESENCE IS OVERALL CALM. THERE'S A REAL SWEETNESS IN HIM HIDDEN BEHIND HIS INITIAL ALOOFNESS. OVER A JIM BEAM AND COKE HE OPENS UP WITH NATALIA ABOUT HIS CAREER, HIS LOVE AFFAIRS WITH NYC AND LA, CURRENT PROJECTS AND A COUPLE OTHER LITTLE STORIES

INTERNO NATALIA MEETS NECK FACE 2

What did you do last night?
I went to my friend’s house and we barbecued food. And then we went to Black. I don’t remember leaving.

If you were to explain what you do for a living to a small a child, what would you tell him or her?
I would say that I paint monsters and people give me money for it. I tell that to people that aren’t kids, it’s the only way to describe it.

What current project are you excited about?
I got this thing that I am working on that is super different from what I usually do. What I usually do is the art shows and all that stuff, but… The work that I am making because of the art world and how that world goes, well… Those paintings are super expansive. They just get marked up, that is how it is: as soon as they go up, you can’t come back from it, they stay that way. If you come back from it, it looks bad: it is as if you’re on clearance sale. So, basically, my work is gone so much up there that is not accessible to my real fans: the kids, all these skater kids and weirdo kids. They can’t afford a three thousand dollar painting. They wanna buy a shirt or a print. Even that is pushing it, a print is $175, that’s a lot of money for them. I’m gonna be making stuff that is more accessible to my fans. I’m not gonna bring down my art work value or whatever, but I’m gonna be making little things for the kids to go home with.

Is it gonna be in stores?
It’s gonna be online and I never thought I would be online, but that’s the way things are now. You know, I never wanted to be “that” dude. You are going into a show and all these things on the walls are fucking thousands and thousands of dollars. I don’t like that shit, but that’s the way it is and that’s what happened to my work, which is cool, but I also wanna bring it to the kids.

How did you move from being a graffiti artist to ending up in galleries?
What happened was that I moved to NYC in 2002. I moved when I was 17 and I turned 18 while I was in the air. I didn’t know anybody or where to go, I was on my own. I was already writing on shit, so while skating around NYC I wrote on everything and I was writing on stuff as a kind of direction thing. I’d go somewhere and see one of my drawings and be “Oh, I was already here. Let’s go some other way.” Marking where I was at. I wanted to explore the city so much. By the time I was 19 my shit was everywhere, all over the city. There was already like a buzz, nobody knew who I was. Is it a guy? Is it a girl?. People thought I was a crackhead writing on everything.

Then, I met my friend Rich Jacobs who is an artist and he was one of the dudes that was like Ok, your graffiti is cool, do you make art and paint and all that stuff too? And I was “Yeah, my graffiti is one thing, and my art is another thing…”. He liked my art work, and he told people to do stuff with me and that’s how I got my first solo show at New Image Art when I was 19.

He knew this lady, Marsea and he was like Hey, I’ll tell this girl to give you a show she’ll do it. He had already brought so many artists to her in the past, she gave me shot. I remember Rich telling me just a heads up She’s crazy, she’s awesome, but crazy and that she knew how to do her job. I met her and I was thinking this lady is insane, she is crazy in a good way. I was this little kid and she was asking me How much do you wanna price the paintings for? “I don’t know, 50 bucks?” No, we’ll do five hundred and I had never seen 500 bucks ever, so I was like “You’re tripping, no one is gonna buy that stuff for five hundred, because I wouldn’t buy that stuff for that much. No way.” she was like All right fine nothing is gonna sell then, it’s too cheap. “Ok, whatever.” but in the back of my head I heard Rich saying She’s crazy, but she knows what she’s doing. I let her price it how she wanted to and I sold everything.

Was that the moment that you realize it had become a job?
Yeah, kind of. I mean, I still don’t think it’s a job sometimes, but, yeah, that was one of the times. I dropped out of college after two years, art school, that was the reason I had moved to NYC. My parents were tripping What the fuck! I did some shows, a little thing for a magazine and as soon as I started getting the checks my parents were like All right, he knows what he’s doing. I just kept going with it and playing it smart.

What the fuck! I did some shows, a little thing for a magazine and as soon as I started getting the checks my parents were like All right, he knows what he’s doing. I just kept going with it and playing it smart.

Was that the moment that you realize it had become a job?
Yeah, kind of. I mean, I still don’t think it’s a job sometimes, but, yeah, that was one of the times. I dropped out of college after two years, art school, that was the reason I had moved to NYC. My parents were tripping What the fuck! I did some shows, a little thing for a magazine and as soon as I started getting the checks my parents were like All right, he knows what he’s doing. I just kept going with it and playing it smart.

What the fuck! I did some shows, a little thing for a magazine and as soon as I started getting the checks my parents were like All right, he knows what he’s doing. I just kept going with it and playing it smart.

Then, I met my friend Rich Jacobs who is an artist and he was one of the dudes that was like Ok, your graffiti is cool, do you make art and paint and all that stuff too? And I was “Yeah, my graffiti is one thing, and my art is another thing…”. He liked my art work, and he told people to do stuff with me and that’s how I got my first solo show at New Image Art when I was 19.

He knew this lady, Marsea and he was like Hey, I’ll tell this girl to give you a show she’ll do it. He had already brought so many artists to her in the past, she gave me shot. I remember Rich telling me just a heads up She’s crazy, she’s awesome, but crazy and that she knew how to do her job. I met her and I was thinking this lady is insane, she is crazy in a good way. I was this little kid and she was asking me How much do you wanna price the paintings for? “I don’t know, 50 bucks?” No, we’ll do five hundred and I had never seen 500 bucks ever, so I was like “You’re tripping, no one is gonna buy that stuff for five hundred, because I wouldn’t buy that stuff for that much. No way.” she was like All right fine nothing is gonna sell then, it’s too cheap. “Ok, whatever.” but in the back of my head I heard Rich saying She’s crazy, but she knows what she’s doing. I let her price it how she wanted to and I sold everything.

Do you ever get nervous?
I don’t ever get nervous. Mhm, no. I don’t get nervous at all, ever. I think I did when I was younger and then I realized getting nervous just fucks your whole shit up. “Oh man, I hope people come and buy my stuff and people show up whatever…” Fuck that. As long as you’re happy with yourself and the product that you put out and the work that you make, as long as your happy with it up here (he touches his chest by his heart) it’s all good. Getting nervous doesn’t bring you anything. The same thing goes with stuff on the street. When you’re nervous ‘Oh man, am I gonna get caught’ this or that, that energy brings it to reality, so if you’re thinking that shit, it just brings you down, you know? Same thing with chicks. “I wonder if she likes me or not?” or this or that. No. She likes me. And then you talk to her and then she’s like I do like you. (we both laugh). Being nervous is not good. I stopped being nervous a long long time ago. And I don’t think I was that nervous to begin with. You have to be confident in everything that you do ‘This is the best thing you’re ever seen!” (he smiles). That bad energy doesn’t bring anything to the table.

What’s the best quality about you and what’s your biggest flaw?
Best quality? Being able to make someone laugh. Even if I’m really bummed out or something making someone laugh makes me always better. You know when you see a little kid crying and you cheer him up and he goes from crying to smiling? That’s the best feeling ever. I like it. My biggest flaw? (he pauses) I don’t really have any flaws. (he stays silent for a bit) Yeah, I don’401
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Auff a long time ago (he laughs). I’m a perfect running machine right now. Dustin (Dollin) was saying he’s never seen me getting mad about anything, I don’t get mad. I brush it off the shoulder. No time for that. Yeah, I don’t know what the biggest flaw would be.

If you were to meet your fifteen year old self what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Nothing. I would let him figure it out on himself which is what happened. If I have someone telling you this and this  and don’t do that, all that shit is given to you, you don’t go though all the little fun things like embarrassing yourself, that’s how you really learn though.

What’s the quality you admire the most in people?
What would I say? Not loyalty. Loyalty sounds like my pet or something. Just to be able to be there, real friends. The ones that can come over any time, talk about some real shit and for them to actually take it in. I like when people listen. If I tell someone something, and months later they still remember. Oh, you were listening, you were actually paying attention, you know what I mean? A lot of people don’t pay attention.

What’s the thing you despise the most in people?
People that talk about themselves too much, it ain’t like a despise, but yeah. People that are trying too hard. You know, I kind of like that because I have such a filter, it helps me filter out these fake ass people right away.

Is there a piece of work you’re the most proud?
I love everything that I make. The times I’ve tried to give up on a painting before it’s even done and I keep working on it… Well, I like those one the best because I already signed them off and then I bring them back to life. But the thing I am most proud of I would say… Probably getting the cover of Trasher Magazine almost 10 years ago. It’s like getting the cover of the bible (he laughs). To get that was the biggest honor because I’m a skateboarder, but I’m not that good at it and I got it anyway through my art.

I really like that I am able to live off of my work. I never had a job ever, this is my job now and it doesn’t feel like a job. When it does feel like a job I step back from it and I just do work for myself like I’ve always have… If I didn’t paint also for myself or make anything for myself I would go crazy.

You also say no to a lot of collaborations. On what do you base those decisions?
I’ve done a bunch of brands and stuff. None of the brands that I’ve done I’m bummed on, everything is chosen. You know how you were asking about your fifteen year old self or whatever? If my fifteen year self liked this artist, let say me, and then he did an album cover for somebody who is weak as fuck, some thing that didn’t fit? No way.  What would the kids think? I’ve been dead broke and I had people offering me thousands and thousands of dollars for some projects that I didn’t believe in and I would just say no. All money ain’t good money.

What’s your idea of the perfect day?
Wake up. Have a beer (I laugh). 9AM and someone calls me up to go skating. Go skating all day. Jump in the water. Have some more drinks and then go down some hills. Grill some food and then go to the bar, hang out with your friends and then go home with some chick and that’s it. It didn’t involve any painting (he laughs).

What do you say about that?
I’ll pick up the board before I pick up the brush.

Did you ever compete skateboarding?
No (he laughs). Never. But I wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for skateboarding. That sounds corny as fuck, but it’s true.

What’s the most important encounter in your career?
New York City, because that’s where I did all my shit. That was the platform. That’s where I met everyone.

…and now you live in Los Angeles. Why LA: do you miss New York?
I don’t miss NYC at all. The only thing I miss about NYC is this one girl and two restaurants. That’s it. New York is now more LA than LA is. I live in LA now and I love LA, which I never ever thought I would say. I had this group show at the Moca’s Art In The Streets and I was staying here on Spanky’s couch working on an installation for 4 or 5 months when the spot where I am living in now opened up. I took it. NYC was getting whitewashed and taken over, it’s just not what it was before, I saw it changed so much. I was over NYC. Let’s say this is a video game and there are different cities that you have to pass. I passed NYC. LA is a whole bigger level: just when you think you know Los Angeles there’s another new zone, a new future, a new vibe. Also, in NYC the day goes by so quickly, you wake up and it’s nighttime already. A day in LA goes by slowly. LA is good.

Growing up, was there any graffiti artist you looked up to?
Both of my older brothers are graffiti artists and they had a graffiti shop when they were like fifteen. I was maybe five at the time. My mom had five boys and she would drop us all off there. It would be like a daycare thing, but where we were ghetto as fuck: dogs everywhere, kids painting on the walls doing graffiti, so I was always around it. When I was little I would run, pick up cans and find some that had a little bit of paint them. I would just write ‘fuck’ or whatever, little kid shit. I think the main graffiti that I looked up to it was bathroom graffiti.

Why?
Because it’s just funny. That’s why I do all my stuff that way, to make it funny. You go in there to take a piss, you look at the wall and you read some shit and you are like What the fuck? It’s all so random. Yeah, I think bathroom graffiti is my favorite graffiti.

Do you have a motto?
I would say “Born to Lose, Out to Lunch. Lose a Hoe, Gain a Hoe.” That’s my motto. That’s just how it is…

 

Instagram: @nastyneckface1

INTERNO NATALIA MEETS NECK FACE_1