This afternoon, I walked down to Tribeca to visit Steve Powers‘ studio with my good friend Paris Starn. Born in ’68 in Philadelphia, Powers started his artistic life as a graffiti artist under the tag “ESPO”. By the end of his illegal graffiti career, Powers had painted around 70 gates. Since 2000, he has been a full-time studio artist, with his work showing in places such as Deitch and the Venice and Liverpool Biennials. Powers’ most recent project, a mural in Philadelphia titled A Love Letter For You, consists of 50 murals along the elevated train on Market Street in West Philly. An accompanying book of the same name (shot by photographers Adam Wallacavage and Zoe Strauss) was released and is now available. In addition, Powers is the author of The Art of Getting Over, a book on graffiti’s history.
My trip to Powers’ studio was my second studio visit (first being to Tom Sachs‘). I expected the usual short bio and then Q&A session; I was wrong. Powers greeted us in a green suit, donning a golden “Brooklyn” pin he had just received from Marty Markowitz after a quick visit to his office. The walls of his studio were completely covered by his art, as well as by the works of artists such as Os Gemeos. Powers was not only extremely friendly, but also remarkably smart, and spoke about art in a casual, not intimidating way. Steve discussed his change from illegal to legal work, while fully condoning any aspiring graffiti artists to keep doing what they’re doing. When asked about what artists inspire him, he told us that he didn’t really like many contemporary artists (with specific snabs at Schnabel and Hirst), except for Tom Sachs and his graffiti buds (Twist, etc.). He also listed Matisse as one of his inspirations. After finishing, he sent us away with cupcakes, coffee, and white lighters he had designed with the word “Stolen” printed on them.