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See One X Soho: A Graffiti Experience

See One at Bloomingdale's Soho

Among sunglasses, perfume, and jewelry cases at Bloomingdale's Soho in Manhattan are seven back to back columns. These seven columns now feature colorful graffiti cascading from floor to ceiling in one of the city’s high end department stores. In true soho fashion, the columns stretch to tall ceilings, and are now prominent art themselves. Walking in the Crosby Street entrance, graffiti is juxtaposed against the classical facade; it looks striking yet appropriate in this neighborhood - it’s as if someone tagged a monument or landmark and got away with it.

See One, the ST.ART artist featured at this iconic New York shopping destination, has incorporated his graffiti writing background with his colorful layering style and techniques, making this work look urban and authentic, something you’d see outside a few blocks down the street. We asked him some questions about his background, inspiration, and design process unique to this project.

ST.ART: See One at Bloomingdale's Soho

See One at Bloomingdale's Soho

ST.ART: See One, you’ve mentioned you’re inspired by colorful graffiti seen in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. How has this influenced your work at Bloomingdale’s? What graffiti artists did you study? Who was your favorite from back then?

SEE ONE: I’m inspired by the legends. Growing up in the ‘80s when graffiti was pioneered by Seen, Futura, and Lee Quinones, I discovered it when it was cool. Being from Brooklyn, I would see their work throughout the city, whether on trains or walls in different neighborhoods. Discovering then was noticing it walking around, or through graffiti magazines.

ST.ART: How has your style evolved over the years?

SEE ONE: I started with illustration - using markers, paper, color pencils. I only began canvas work as a medium when I was asked to be in art shows. I needed another platform for showing my work, something bigger. So I transitioned into painting for presentation purposes. As for my style, it expanded based on the vision of how I wanted my art to look. I’ve moved from illustration - capturing objects, things, more literal, into abstract. This happened organically, over years. I found myself creating motion, applying color different ways, all through experimentation. Now its come to be a hybrid of abstract and character work, and I’m tightening it up to be my signature look.

ST.ART: Did this project feel natural to you, painting on columns, or was this out of your element? It’s obviously very different than doing a flat wall.

SEE ONE: It was a challenge in some ways, but it was appropriate, because graffiti is on all types of surfaces. Graffiti writers tag everything, including curved surfaces. I’ve painted on so many random things on the street. And you have to be comfortable with heights. Getting up there, moving around - it’s part of the business.

See One at Bloomingdale's Soho

ST.ART: What was your design process, in order for this to look realistic? How did you customize this job, and what did you do differently than you usually do?

SEE ONE: I kept in mind different tagging styles - I wanted the tags to look like it was all from different people. I used my right and left hand, sometimes with two cans at once, and tried different handwriting and flourishes. I tried making some tags look it was done by a beginner and others by a master writer. And for it to be impromptu, looking rushed, since the circumstances are usually hurried.

Another effect I wanted was it to look weathered, painted over and on top of each other for years. To do this I used a mist technique with white paint. It creates a sense of depth, pushing the color back when sprayed on top of the tag. It makes the colors appear dimmer, like its inside something. Then adding color on top of that makes that layering convincing. The dripping effect I applied is a signature of mine but it also worked with the randomness of the tags, organic feel of the project.

ST.ART: Were you surprised that the client was Bloomingdale’s?

SEE ONE: It was unexpected at first. I didn’t think a big, corporate company would do that. But the look fits with the location in Soho. It shows the growth of graffiti, street art culture thats become more commercialized and mainstream. So it makes sense.

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