July 8, 2014 Update:
By Stephanie Hart
Leon Reid IV has come a long way from being a typical graffiti artist kid to a professional public artist. He tries to keep comedy in his work, and his work affects the people fortunate enough to see it.
Reid’s upcoming project is a collaboration with Ryan Seslow, who has been teaching students about graffiti and street art at Post for three years. The artists will start a year-long public art project during the fall 2014 semester, which is part of the Public Art Festival organized by the Art department every year.
The two artists plan on creating an excavation site, where outdated technology such as old computers and music devices will be displayed as artifacts; showing how quickly technology changes and becomes useless. This project is open to all LIU post students who wish to participate in the process, as well as see how public artists work, and what their procedures are. In January 2015, they will present a Street Art and Graffiti show at the Steinberg Museum of Art.
Reid has gone by three different names throughout his life: “Verbs,” “Darius Jones,” and currently, his real name, Leon Reid IV. One might wonder why all the names and all of the changes. Reid is a street artist, also known as a public artist. The reason for having different names was to distinguish his different style shifts throughout his artistic career.
“Verbs” was used during the beginning of Reid’s career, after he saw the word on the shirt of a stranger. When he was about 15-years- old, he started his graffiti with friends, allowing him to explore his individuality, while simultaneously being part of a group – an important part of adolescence. Living in Cincinnati, the group would wait for trains to pass by in the train yard and tag their names on them, hoping they would be seen in different states, like New York.
One of his friends was more into the art than the words, and this sensibility influenced Reid in addition to the influence of his first girlfriend. This change in views birthed the alias, “Darius Jones.”
“Darius Jones” was more about the content, not the name; this was his entry into his street art phase, deviating from his earlier graffiti style. A lot of the new pieces were interactive and inspired by their locations. One of his works was in view of a very busy bridge, reading, “Honk if you love graffiti,” which many people obliged. The metal shop at the Pratt Institute, where the artist studied, allowed him to learn new techniques he later applied to his street art.
Jones and his friends learned that if they put on a hard hat, an orange reflective vest, and carried around a cordless hammer-drill, they could get away with installing almost everything during the day. In his flower series, Jones had flowers growing from concrete. This series was inspired by his amazement of how something as soft as grass could penetrate concrete.
In Britain, Jones and his friends adapted by changing their vests from orange to lemon yellow, as well as keeping their voices low in order to not rouse suspicion. While in the U.K., Jones noticed there were a lot of security cameras everywhere, so many that some of them ended up watching each other. Because of this, he had the idea to place two fake cameras facing each other, as if they were watching themselves.
Eventually, “Darius Jones” became just as limiting to Reid as “Verbs” once was. Under the “Jones” moniker, Reid was able to get away with some things, but many of his ideas were still too big, requiring permissions and funding. So, Reid left behind his two aliases and took on a legal, professional role with his birth name. Reid’s first legally permitted work was parking meters that were turned upward, eating leaves instead of quarters. Reid had to convince people both to let him build as well as fund these sculptures. This shift required the artist to use words as a tool to find backing. One of these newer pieces, entitled “Free as a Bird,” was done on top of a prison building. It showed a turkey vulture whose talons were padlocked to the building, trying unsuccessfully to fly away.
Reid and Seslow are currently seeking donations to help launch their latest project, Technophemora, to be installed on the LIU Post campus from September 2014 to April 2015. The installation will feature an archaeological site filled with dated technology cast out of concrete, like a hardware graveyard. The artists are seeking $9,550 for the project, which will be in collaboration with LIU Post undergraduate students studying visual art and archaeology. Donations will go towards the casting and mold making process: rubber molds, liquid concrete, and rewards such as artwork for the donators. These donations will also help determine the size and extent of the installation.
For more information on Reid, visit http://www.leonthe4th.com and kickstarter.com/projects/leonreid/technophemera to check out their latest project. For more information on and Seslow, visit http://www.ryanseslow.com.