Cheating death is a conundrum no one’s cracked but U.S. artist and culture-jammer Ron English reckons art might just be the answer (kind of). English, dubbed the “Godfather of graffiti art” and a precursor to Banksy, reflects on his dance with death in new book “Death and the Eternal Forever” by Korero Press.
Metro catches up with the artist to learn about his art and new book.
Metro: What’s been your closest near-death experience?
English: Before I was an artist I was a bit of a thug, so I have been shot at with handguns on two occasions. Thankfully it’s hard to hit a moving target. Another time, before I was an artist, I had gotten work at the railroad driving spikes. The old railroad guys drank whiskey before work every morning and the younger guys smoked weed. I indulged in both, leaving me blissfully unaware of the passing trains. The older guys pulled me from the onslaught of a speeding train one time.
Would you say that art is an attempt to cheat death?
It’s a futile attempt but, don’t you feel like you know Jackson Pollock? Don’t you feel like you might actually run into him at a dive bar in NYC? What would Jackson Pollock have made of street art? Doesn’t he seem more real than say, Banksy?
Banksy’s works are often protected. Do you think that street art should be protected and preserved?
The only art that should be protected is Banksy. Everything else should be painted over.
Is street art popular due to its pop culture references?
Street art is popular because it is on the streets. It’s about accessibility. If you want to get hit by a car, go stand in the road. If you want your art to get seen, create it in places where people are.
Most street artists have broken the law at some point. What’s your story?
I have been arrested about twenty-odd times in my life, mostly for art. In Texas, billboard liberation is a second degree felony. I was arrested three different times on felonies, all of which I beat. Had I been convicted of all three I would have had to do automatic life in prison.