A few months back, we reached out to the legendary Chor Boogie to see if he was interested in putting something special together for 1xRUN collectors. When he agreed we jumped at the chance to put work together with the seasoned spray paint connoisseur. Over the years, Chor has painted all over the world but that goes without saying. His work varies from the intensely detailed and surrealistic murals that he has painted on the Berlin Wall and at the China Olympics, down to his most simple signature spray paint only miniature works, The Boogie Bird. After talking with Chor and his team, we are excited to present his debut RUN: A Flock of Boogie. This was piece that has since been “lost” so to speak while putting on the Ritz in 2011. Read on for more on that. With each piece we wanted to give each collector a chance at a hand-finished piece, so 30 lucky collectors will have a chance to grab one of these hand-embellished with one of Chor’s signature spray paint Boogie Birds featured in this print. We caught up with Chor to talk about A Flock of Boogie as well as his latest works Divided States of America, which were recently showcased at the Democratic National Convention. Birthed out of a dream from an self made immigrant art collector in Southern California, the Divided States of America came about with a bit of a socio-political awakening from Chor Boogie as he and the collector expressed their feelings on the current state of the country and Chor painted these lyrical tapestries. Read on for much much more as we talk with Chor Boogie about his pieces, influences and much more in this extended 1xRUN Thru Interview…
1xRUN Thru Interview
A Flock of Boogie by Chor Boogie
1xRUN: Ok, so tell us a bit about this specific piece? When was it created?
Chor Boogie: This was part of a 30 foot mural that I did for The LA Art Show alongside 3 other artists. It was me, Shark Toof, Mear1 and Shepard Fairey showing some pieces at the Ritz Carlton here in Los Angeles in 2011. I remember Shepard Fairey had brought some stuff in that he sold right off the wall and me, Mear1 and Shark Toof painted the place up. I painted a few panels in some 9 million dollar penthouse. We were told the pieces were going to stay there until they were sold. So months go by and then we find out that our artwork had went “missing.” So hopefully it will get worked out in the long run. They claim they threw it away, we think that somebody took it and nobody is just going to cough it back up. For the print here I’ve added a few extra Boogie Birds in here, but this was one of the pieces that was in that show, A Flock of Boogie.
1xRUN: Whats the story behind the Boogie Bird, when did it first get started?
Chor Boogie: Ohh wow. Geez. I did the first one seven years ago. I did the first picture and it doesn’t look anything like the print we’ve got here. It looks like some crazy looking little chicken. I was on the verge…a lot of my work is very complex, it’s a bit of a complex burden. I like painting complex, detailed and intricate pieces that are still a bit abstract and surrealistic at the same time. But I just needed something simple. It’s basically the beauty in simplicity. Don’t get it twisted these things were way out there before Angry Birds were! I get a lot of people like, yea Angry Birds? Noooo. If anything, they stole that shit. I’ve got the proof! But, basically beauty of simplicity is my model when it comes to that, because that’s the simple side of what I do and I just wanted to create this little image that was simple.
I didn’t have a name for it, but I was working in this studio at the time and one of the guys that was running the studio looked at it was like “Ohh ya, the Boogie Bird huh?” so I was like oh shit, that’s for reeaaaal right there, yeah man! The boogie birds! So I just ran with it and kept painting them. These birds have also taken me places, I’ve made some environmentally safe toys out of ’em. I brought them all over. China. Australia. All types of places. I remember at one point I wanted to see how small I could paint these with spray paint. All of my work is done with spray paint. No additives, no preservatives, just spray paint that’s it. So I can basically paint the smallest canvas in the world, from my understanding. I think I’ve gotten them down to 1 x 1 Inches canvas. That was one of my objectives with the Boogie Bird, because their cute and small little cuddly things.
I had been doing them for a bit, so I decided to come up with a little story for them. They’re a crossbreed between a hummingbird, an owl, a penguin and a dodo bird. All 4 crossbred and spliced together by some mad scientist. They’ve all got special powers in their bird poop ya know? I created this story called Boogie Bird Saves The World and they use their bird shit/feces/poop to basically change all the minds of evil doers who want to ruin the world. They just roll around and then poop right on their head and they’re all lovey-dovey. That was one concept behind the Boogie Bird. It had gotten to the point where I was talking with a guy that was working at Dreamworks that wanted to make a movie about ’em. I don’t know what happened to him, he kind of fell off the boat.
1xRUN: Describe this print in one gut reaction word for us?
Chor Boogie: Fresh.
1xRUN: I know you’ve been painting for a while, where was the first place you started painting?
Chor Boogie: My sketchbook was all illegal. Yards, aqueducts, tunnels and places like that. I grew up out here near San Diego and those were my sketch pads, that’s where I practiced. The city constructed some legalized spots for people to practice and paint, so I had access to that too. But I’ve been doing it for the past 21 years and it’s brought me all around the world. I’ve painted at the Olympics while they were in China. Painting the Berlin Wall. All types of shit, you name it. Hugh Hefner, Jay-Z, all that stuff. Wu-Tang. I got to paint Old Dirty Bastard’s porch when he died. I’ve had a lot of fun dude, it’s been a good experience and it isn’t stopping, it’s still going.
The thing is, in the last 10 years we’ve had these images that are nice enough resolution to where we can produce some nice prints. But there are definitely a few years before that where I’ve had so many pieces that would be dope as a print, but they are just low quality images. Back in the 90s we weren’t really thinking about that. It was enough to get it archived. As long as you’ve got a photo of it you’re cool. I’ve probably done over 300 some murals in my life.
1xRUN: Yea, we’re noticing that you’ve been doing some more gallery stuff as late, do you want to talk about that?
Chor Boogie: Honestly I do consider myself a gallery artist, but I haven’t been approached by the right gallery yet. Maybe some don’t consider my art gallery artwork, but I do. I totally do. I believe the gallery world definitely can embrace my style. It’s all art. I’m just waiting for the right gallery or galleries to want to represent. It’s definitely a style that I can do with spray-paint that will resonate within the fine art gallery world.
1xRUN: We were curious about your Divided State of America pieces. After checking it out, we saw that a anonymous collector came to you with some dreams and feelings he had making his start in this country and it sort of exploded from there, do you want to tell us a little bit about those?
Chor Boogie: It all happened through my agent who was working with a gallery in Southern California and they connected me with this anonymous collector for a private art collection. He had had these dreams and we had talked, he had this explosion of frustration of immigration, poverty, on all these issues really. He had come to this country and had made his money after coming up from nothing, so it struck a chord with me. As my manager said, it was like somebody telling you a story and then you writing the lyrics to a song, it was a collaborative effort but he inspired me. Not necessarily to pick a side politically, just to start thinking on these things. He was shooting off some ideas and thoughts for me, as he is really tied into politics. I started off with the Lady Liberty, once we saw that piece he thought I had hit it pretty spot on, nail on the head. So that led to us getting started on the other pieces. The Lady Liberty piece is the forefront of the whole series because it speaks about so many issues: immigration, homelessness, poverty and war. There’s a ton of symbolism in it, just within the face alone. There are a lot of atrocities and truths that lie within America. Some face, some don’t. Basically the piece is intended as a modern day version of the Statue of Liberty, a fold-able, new Statue of Liberty. I came up with that piece and it really spurred me onto creating all of these other pieces on my own, it didn’t really start out as a project then, just a paint commission and as the images progressed with me it took off from there.
From there I started on “The Ultimate Sacrifice” which the collector was a little taken back by. I was taking with my manager about these recently, and he said that this first piece was 90% Chor Boogie and 10% our collector, and this second piece was 200% Chor Boogie. It basically doesn’t have much to do with Jesus, but people relate to Jesus. He is a symbol. Within all the pieces they are speaking about money. How money dictates the flow of everybody’s life. It’s to the point where the dollar bills are over Lady Liberty’s mouth with “freedom” scratched over it. There’s still freedom of speech, but you’ve got to pay for it one way or another. I think it’s definitely a problem within the United States. It’s something within our constitutional rights that are set in stone, but you still suffer the consequences for it. Coming back to the Jesus piece, The Ultimate Sacrifice. I call the priests pimps and politicians. Simply because peace is not related to Jesus, but this is what people sacrifice their life for. When I say that, I mean that the money that is encased in the cross. Jesus has sacrificed himself and he is this image that people can relate to around the world. Everybody around the world has taken sacrifices for the almighty dollar bill.
From there it lead to the oil piece, “Pain At The Pump”. This piece is based on the fact that the Democrats and Republicans are the same but they’re still at war at the same time. These gas pumps are another thing that are painful to the world, especially here in America. On this piece those are real dollar bills and that is real crude oil going down his face. When it comes to the Republican side there’s Halliburton running the missiles and weaponry throughout the world. For the democrats there is the green culture that is a promising start, but it is definitely not a perfected culture. There are still some problems with some green technology and that’s what the Democratic side is focused on. I believe honestly it’s better than oil, and that it will benefit us in the long run, but in the end nothing is perfect on both sides.
From there it leads to the “We The People” piece. This is where things are a little bit more influenced by the investor himself. We were talking about the piece to begin and he wanted to see something like corporations in business suits crushing the people. It’s pretty self explanatory. The corporations and businesses are running our capitalistic society. The White House. Capitol Hill. It’s all encased with dollar bills which runs everything in the bloodstream of this system to the point where they are crushing the real workers of America. That’s why you have the America people just holding up these corporations and being crushed at the same time.
The fifth piece we’ve got he “Life, Liberty + Pursuit of Happiness” piece. I had to intervene with a little bit of my influence when it comes to racism. When the investor and I were talking about creating this piece he wanted it to be centered around racism and the American dream, innovation and a general positive perspective. So that’s the top half of the piece. When it comes to the bottom half of the negative part of the piece that is where a bit of my influence is. The racism that is still systematic within the police force and at these corporations. Even if you’re at the top of the food chain you will still fall victim to these same standards. They will basically subject you to your race rather than your intelligence. It’s basically stating that there’s still racism in America. It’s still there. This country has been built up off it, changing over time, certain rights have happened but it’s still there and I don’t think it’s going anywhere. The center figure is the Trayvon Martin figure, but not really, it is a faceless figure that could represent any race. With the hoodie on it represents prison garments. It’s always being subjected to the fact of a corrupted prison system, a lot of these faceless names fall victim to that system because of race. This piece to me is a really deep piece.
The last piece is again a bit divided between myself and our investor when it comes to the outer perspectives of the piece. When it comes to the images in the middle I had some influences on that, but this piece was basically based off of public and private institutions. The images the figures to the left and to the images to the right are basically, when it comes to the portraits I had to put an American Indian in there as they are the foundation of this country. You’ve got immigrants. You’ve got Steve Jobs, you have a Chinese woman who is one of the main immigrants who were brought to this country. Then you have Ayn Rand and Albert Einstein. You have the liberty hand holding the torch and in between the streets paved with gold which represent the main street of America I had to keep the theme of the money coming along so I used the different types of currency in the beacon because all these different types of immigrants that helped build this country. The left and the right that’s system that we live in.
All of these pieces were originally created to bring in that 18-35 demographic but we’ve sort of progressed past that at this point. My intention after this is to continue the series with all of the things in America that bring us together, but those are still in the works. Ed. Note: All of these pieces should be heading back out on tour very soon. You can see more on Chor Boogie’s Facebook with coverage of the DNC and much much more.
1xRUN: Continuing off of your fine art, let’s talk about that transition from street art to fine art.
Chor Boogie: It’s been documented that I’ve combined and crossed both worlds with fine art and spray paint art, art from the street. Back in the day they used to call it ghetto art. It was never street art. I’m serious. Back in the day, in the 60s-70s, they didn’t have a name for it. They didn’t call it street art, they called it ghetto art. It was art in the ghetto. They’ve kinda dropped that and it’s a little more pretty. So it’s street art now. There’s the whole graffiti thing going on, but I don’t consider myself in that world anymore. My shit isn’t graffiti. It’s not. It just isn’t. You can call it graffiti art, but it’s just not. It’s too refined for that. I dunno. Graffiti is some grimy ass shit. Some street shit. Graffiti is more bombing to me, more illegal.
1xRUN: So you’re not going out bombing much anymore huh?
Chor Boogie: Nahhh. Not anymore. I did all that shit when I was a kid. I’ll leave that up to the young kids, they’ve gotta do their thing. I’d rather be the inspiration for people to see that you can start out that way, but there’s another alternative for these urban youth. Let them see some of the other options. I want to be one of those inspirations, give some of the youth some hope that you can get into the art world. There’s a few of them out there that came from the same place that I came from. Some motherfuckers are just all about bombing.
1xRun: When did you first start making art? What was your first piece?
Chor Boogie: I first started making art when I was 5 years old. My first piece was some grimy looking character, but what do you expect, I was an amateur.
1xRun: What artists inspired you early on?
Chor Boogie: Yeaa man, Phase2. Old school dude from back in the day. He’s like one of my brothers. That dude is the reason why everything is where it is today, along with Riff170 and Vulcan. They brought originality and style to the game. Everyone who paints has them to thank because they simply got their style from them in some way shape or form. It’s the lineage of style and they are the 3 fathers. Phase2 and Riff 170 are my brothers in arms, they over-stand what this is all about, it’s all about ART. Honestly they can speak for themselves on the topic of the G-word, from what I understand straight up they don’t like it and felt the world took this art form in a different direction because of the dilution of it’s purity and it’s original form. Just like how everything else in history been diluted from it’s original truth. I’m talking about the art form itself. Basically at the end of the day, these two dudes are the TRUTH and I have love and respect for them. To keep them alive.
An honest quote from the masters is “We did not get a chance to name it, why are you going to call something graffiti?” Look at it from this perspective. For such an anti-political movement–an underground movement a movement of being free– why are you going to call it something the government coined? And coined it with negative connotations so they did not like you at first and still don’t. NOW its a cool trend just like the same thing that happens to any hip hop movement/element, it gets raped.
1xRun: What artists inspire you now?
Chor Boogie: Myself…None. That’s not being an asshole, just telling the truth. There are a lot of amazing artists out there, I’m just not putting too much energy and focus on them since I have my own work to manage.
1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what? If not then what is your environment like when you work?
Chor Boogie: Of course. Hence the name BOOGIE in my name. Hip-hop. Reggae. Just plain dope music.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any living artist who would it be and why?
Chor Boogie: I’d collaborate with PHASE 2 again.
1xRun: If you could collaborate with any deceased artists who would it be and why?
Chor Boogie: Gustave Klimt, Dali and Michelangelo.
1xRun: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it?
Chor Boogie: A Yoda magnet from a friend that has the title “WORD” on the front. Yes. It’s still on my fridge.
1xRun: What was the last piece of art that you bought?
Chor Boogie: Some homeless artist was selling some of his pieces for like $20 and I hooked him up. The piece was really a really dope drawing of a skeleton getting head from some type of unicorn with rainbows in the background.
1xRUN: What else do you have in the works?
Chor Boogie: I will be down at Art Basel this year working on some murals. You can stay up to date on the latest at the links below.
Interview by Pietro Truba, Video Editing by Noah Levy. All Photos Copyright Chor Boogie.