CYCLE is a graffiti writer’s writer. He started his illicit career in 1989 and since has mastered the art of tags, throw-ups and pieces. He hit clean subway trains in the ’90s, painted freight trains thereafter and bombed alongside the best and most-renowned writers in the world.
“About eight years ago, after a series of court cases, I sat down and thought about it. What more is there for me to do?” CYCLE tells ANIMAL in his Sunset Park studio — which is also his kitchen — surrounded by canvases, paints, brushes, tagged toy trains, memorabilia and his pet reptiles.
Chris “CYCLE” St. John, originally from Connecticut, grew up skateboarding in New York and has been firmly transplanted here for well over a decade. The young-faced, 43-year-old artist says he has “dabbled in the art world,” but now it’s serious and CYCLE knows the score. “Fame in graffiti doesn’t necessarily translate to gallery success,” he explains.
His style has always been not typical, varied and freeform. CYCLE tells us that female graffiti pioneer LADY PINK encouraged him to move away from creating “flat” canvasses in his studio, because he “could really paint.” Recently, he has been expressing the challenges he faces in the art world as hyperrealistic paintings of ferocious wild animals fighting each other for space and survival. “Fine art is not for the faint of heart,” he says.
“It isn’t always the people doing the best art work or the most interesting art work that make it. It’s being at the right place, shaking the right hand,” He says, carrying his latest painting Perseverance on Red to Black Book Gallery’s booth at SCOPE. The gallery sold a CYCLE painting at the last Basel Art Fair and this one’s a humble 24″ by 36″ canvas, non-exuberantly priced at $3,500. He’s been working on and off of it for a about month. If it sells, after the gallery takes half, he may be able to pay his rent and buy some iguana treats for Spot.
CYCLE and others at Black Book Gallery at SCOPE, Mar 6 – Mar 9, Manhattan
(Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork, Music: @Falside)