Futura Bold

October 10, 2013 6:11 PM

Futura came up in the grimy, visceral environment of New York City’s early 1970’s street culture of tagging, bombing and writing graffiti – making their art not in the city, but on top of it. Street writing renegades ran in crews representing their styles, influences, and neighborhoods, expressing themselves and eventually rising to mainstream popularity and brushing shoulders with gallery accepted darlings like Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol.

There was a shift in the mainstream’s psyche of what qualifies as “art”; their works were the first to crossover from New York walls, tunnels and trains to galleries, canvas, and frames.

In an overpowering whirl of art, music, and fashion-graffiti serving as the backdrop to the whole scene-global culture was transformed from a shockwave in Brooklyn.

Fast forward 40 years and you’ll find Futura’s artwork on collaborations with Nike, Stussy, North Face, Levis, Vans, A Bathing Ape, Beats by Dre, Hennessy, Supreme, as well as iconic album covers for UNKLE and The Clash.

TWELV sat down with Futura after his presentation in the SoHo Apple store announcing his latest collaboration with Apple and (RED) – Bono’s non-profit initiative to fight worldwide AIDS.

He was accompanied by Ramona Ring, Hamburg-based design student and winner of Adobe Creative Cloud’s global student design competition.

(RED)’s “DANCE SAVE LIVES 2” album will be released just prior to World AIDS Day, December 1, and will feature Ramona and Futura’s collaborative artwork as the cover art.


Futura, how do you see music and art as a creative partnership?

Thank you, I’m really psyched to be here, I’m really happy for Ramona, she’s really nervous so...

But I don’t know, growing up in New York City you start to go through the school system and hear of this high school called Music and Art, and that’s where you go if you want to be an artist. I couldn’t get into MnA.

I couldn’t get into M&A, they said my portfolio was weak. So I was initially rejected from that and got really down on art and got totally into music. The relevance of this event and how this record will ultimately help the cause AIDS, it’s the music that will push the sales.

Music has always been a part of my life, from Frank Sinatra to Kendrick Lamar. The whole range.


You mentioned some of your friends like Keith Haring. And you lost Keith Haring, a dear friend, to AIDS, so clearly this has an extra meaning to you.

I’ve been hearing about what (RED)’s been doing for years and when they asked me to participate in the next (RED) “DANCE SAVE LIVES” I was fully willing to lend my support. And we had this other thing involving the design with Adobe Creative, and thanks to Apple for having us here and selling the record.


All those guys, Keith, Andy (Warhol), not all of the artists over the past 25-30 years have passed form AIDS, but sadly a lot of friends I know have died from that disease, and if I can help in some way of course I would.


Can I ask which came first, the font or your name?

Well, Paul Renner (created the typeface in), I want to say 1933 or 1936, I’m not sure. My name is a direct bite/snatch, not from the typeface though, when I was a kid I didn’t know about the typeface but I knew about the car. The Futura car, which is a Kennedy-era 60‘s Ford. And actually If you see the script on the Falcon, the Futura signature is a little derivative of that logo.


So it has nothing to do with the typeface?

Never heard of it. 


Ramona, What’s the best piece of advice Futura has given you so far?

Ramona: I’m just very happy about how supportive he is. It make me a lot more confident about my work, that he likes it that much. That’s the most important thing at the moment.


Futura, what piece of advice is the best you could give to a young artist?

Don’t be intimidated. I think young people are looking for acceptance or they’re looking for some kind of attention or recognition. But a lot of times that isn’t there - the acknowledgement, the support, the props, whatever you want to call it - and people tend to get down about that.

I would just say to a young person, Don’t listen to anyone, you have to pursue what you’re hearing inside you’re own head.


Futura, you said the last thing an artist wants is some corporate bullshit to get in the way of your work. In all of your collaborations over the years how have you managed to keep your voice so strong?

F: Well, I mean, I think the people I’ve worked with, my reputational work history has been pretty good. When someone asks me to do something I’m going to be there, I’m going to do it, I’m going to deliver. I’m going to under-promise and over-deliver. I don’t have an attitude about myself, I’m not going to be pretentious about it, I’m just going to be a regular guy.

And I think the fact that I’ve been doing that for 25 something years, gives me that thing too. But maybe I would be offended, and I have been, in certain situations.


For me it’s not about the money, I mean, it’s part of our system, we have to trade paper and there’s an economic system. 

That doesn’t drive me.

So there’s nothing really someone can offer me that’s gonna sway my opinion. If I don’t feel right about it I’m not going to do it.


You mentioned the role of mentors, who were your mentors early on?

Well my parents moved on when I was a young man – I’m an only child – I basically quoted “All my role models are dead”. People I looked up to in life were older men, (I was) trying to find an older brother, a role model.

Joe Strummer, when I met Joe he was like an older brother and a dad. And I guess I have looked at men like that.

(Julian) Schnabel in the 80’s. I looked at Julian a lot and tried to learn from him.

But even Keith and Basquiat, when they weren’t someone of an older age, in fact they were younger but they were contemporaries and we were learning from each other.

I mean, Keith was enormously supportive of his friends and things that were in the sphere of his grasp and the way he could help people.

I’m also a byproduct of people being kind to me, generous as well. Opening doors for me. And this is a bit of a door opening.



Ramona’s work can be found here: http://www.behance.net/MonaRing

Futura’s website: http://www.futura2000.com 

The SoHo Apple store presentation (video and audio) can be viewed here: iTunes Store


Photos provided by (RED). 

By Austin Hafer

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