A Basquiat Emerges in Brooklyn

09.28.12 Irina Dvalidze

Basquiat is experiencing a spike in posthumous popularity this week, but unlike the controversy surrounding Yale University’s SAMO notebook, a new mural that has recently emerged in the heart of Brooklyn is less imitation and more tribute. Located across the street from Basquiat’s final resting place at the Greenwood Cemetery, this newest Basquiat mural was created by two Brooklyn natives who (hilariously) call themselves “PI 3.14” and “Pinto 10.4,” refusing to give their real names. ANIMAL spoke with PI 3.14 about the legal piece.

How did the project come together? How did you and Pinto 10.4 end up collaborating on this piece? 
PI 3.14: When we met, Pinto 10.4 was doing something down by Red Hook. It was something called the Brooklyn Recycling Project. He would get these people together and try and get schools and local businesses to participate and he had a pretty good following with that. He had seen some of my art and had thought it was in the same direction (as his) so we just hit it off, you know… That was about a year ago.  And then I found this spot that was getting a lot of complaints and I said to him lets do something here. And we have been getting people from the neighborhood and asking them what they wanna see. We’ve been asking a lot of people taking surveys. People that actually didn’t like it on the first day, are now stopping by and saying that they love it.

When did you start the project? 
About a week ago. We actually physically started… we’ve been thinking about it for months

How did you get into graffiti?
I do all kinds of art, drawing, painting, oil painting, I’ve done some graffiti also. But I don’t like to consider this graffiti, because that’s got a kind of a negative connotation. We’re trying not to keep labels on anything, cause then if people, they consider it graffiti then it’s a problem then.

What are your thoughts on graffiti/street art being constantly persecuted?
It (Graffiti) inspires the people and also the authority and corporate businesses in industrial areas to instead of having to keep painting over peoples graffiti, if they would have a couple of respected artists from the area paint the side of the wall, no one would touch it. But since you are leaving these blank canvases all over the place, people run by and unfortunately sometimes all they can do is a quick tag and they don’t get to develop their skills as an artist, because of the cautions of getting caught.

What’s your dream project, if you could do anything?
I would like to put something on the moon. I want to have the first something on the moon.

Why are using 1970s vibe pseudonyms?
My initial reply to people…  Some people have referred to me as just Pi Pi Pi, but then I started looking into it and it made a lot of sense with the numbers. Even Basquiat  used Pi-s in his artwork.

Why did you choose Basquiat in particular for this project?
He is in the cemetery, he sleeps there and not a lot of people know that so we are trying to educate the public. But we are leaving some things for the public to figure out on their own.

How do you feel about the Yale lawsuit?
Haha. Sometimes imitation is the best form of flattery. It’s interesting that they didn’t properly look into it if someone was going to buy it.

Have you had issues with the neighborhood?
Well the owner(of the wall) started getting complaints. Some people call up and they say it belongs in a museum it doesn’t belong here. Some  people may even have a little racist overtone saying you know “the work belongs in Bedstye or something like that.” When we ask why do you think that because it’s a black male and then they don’t have anything to say. The people that are calling in to complain, some of them will call and say: I don’t even know if I am calling to complain or just because I wanna talk about it.”

SO in this case, are you collaborating with the owner of the wall/property?
We told them about Basquiat too and they got very excited about that thinking it could be very trendy, so they let us do that. We’re not like getting paid for it, but its with the owner’s approval it’s not illegal. I don’t want to inspire people to start going over there and start writing on the walls. Since we’ve already had a couple of people deface our project along the wall, so we’ve had to go back and redo things. It’s kind of frustrating also with the elements, but its still going to be really good.

You are using MTA maps. What is up with that?
My partner specializes (in them) right now, he is doing mosaics with metro card art with some really great portraits. That’s what inspired the maps.

What’s the future of the project?
There was a little kid that came by a little while ago while we were fixing the maps and he said : my mom really wants to buy something from you guys. This other woman asked if we’re going to sell it after we take it down. She just threw it out there, so what we thought we might do was just auction off the pieces, so whoever really wants it… goes to the highest bidder.

So it’s made to be a temporary project?
Yeah it will be there a year, year and a half.

What time frame are you looking at to have it finished?
Well we’re getting ideas every day, so we have a basic outline. But people keep giving in their input. Little by little it’s coming together. I’d say probably within the next month at least that side, the Basquiat piece, Cause around the corner we’re going to start doing other things.

The Basquiat mural can be found on the corner of Fort Hamilton Parkway & East 2nd Street in Brooklyn.