Scratching the Surface: Cosbe

January 27, 2015 | Aymann Ismail

ANIMAL showcases a different street artist regularly in our feature, Scratching the Surface. This week, we profile Cosbe 1.

Kid Cosbe

Decade you were born in:
I caught the tail end of the 70s and grew up moving all over the world with my army dad. When my parents got divorced I was raised by cartoons and weird adult TV. By the 80s I was a full-blown latchkey kid. By the mid 90s I wrote graffiti, ran away from home and was all over the West Coast and back, was into raves and drugs. Then my subsequent recovery from all that through my early 20s. Moved to NY with my high school sweetheart and have been in NY ever since.

City you currently live:
Brooklyn, New York.

Drugs or natural highs?
I would try anything once, but now I just smoke the occasional marijuana cigarette. Drugs are fun and mind-expanding, but once you go down that road, well, you’re gonna figure it out. Just be smart about it. Drink plenty of water. Eat an orange. DO NOT DO GRAVITY BONG HITS, LISTEN TO RAP, AND THEN GO TO THE VIDEO STORE.

How did you get your name?
My name was given to me by a notorious graffiti writer from Chicago who later wrote EGGS RGS. He wrote COSBE before I did and handed it down. It was kind of funny because I caught a lot of shine off it. I remember meeting people and they would say “Oh shit, you’re this guy, you had that tag off Montrose Avenue,” and I’d have to tell them that’s not me! But I definitely took the name over and kept the momentum going. The original Cosbe, Mike Gambino, does some amazing video art, you can catch his vine gli†ch videos online.


Why do what you do?
Lately I’ve been asking myself that very same question. I use my work as a form of communication. I’ve been drawing since I can remember and it just comes out of me very naturally. Like I can be chatting with a friend and I’ll just be doodling the entire time not really thinking about what I’m drawing. Often I’ll include bits of my conversation in the work.

How does your mother feel about your art?
She has always been supportive. My mom was only 18 when she had me. She taught me to be moral, to help others. By the time I got into writing graf she really couldn’t handle me. She would get worried when I would come home late when I was obviously in some train tunnel somewhere. Eventually she stopped bailing me out out of jail. I’ve been beat up by the police before, once I was given a concussion. Anyway, I never learned to appreciate her until I became older. She was raising two kids all by herself when she was the age I am now. Love you mom.

Are you making a living off your art? How’s that working out so far?
I do okay. When I talk to older artists, and I mean much older, they ask if I sell and I say yes and they say good for you. I feel like if you’re 50-years-old and you’re still making a go at it that’s awesome.

Fuck the art world or embrace the art world?
I’ve worked for a few multi-billion dollar art companies and a dozen art transportation companies over the past few years and have seen quite a bit. Pull back the curtain. The only thing holding anyone in or out of the “art world” is dictating it as a “world.” I just do my own thing and try not to overthink it.

Do you bring your smart phone into the bathroom with you? Why?
One year I almost touched every garbage can in Lower Manhattan putting up stickers. I got the idea from ALONE. It was after all the paper boxes were super saturated with labels. Man, did I get sick. Using your phone in the bathroom is like the same thing. Nothing you handle all day and put up to your face should come in there with you, but people now don’t know how to unplug. I feel like if you’re a New Yorker you’ve been exposed to just about every germ.


Do you ever feel like giving up?
I try to remember that sometimes life can seem bad at the moment, but ten years from now you’ll be like shit, that was awesome, life was so easy, and I looked so good!

Suggest an artist to follow.
I really like Maurizio Cattelan. I like how he just doesn’t give a fuck.
I also recommend following Luke Reich, a punk toymaker. And Damian Rivera.