Artist of The Week: L'Amour Supreme
Talking to L’Amour Supreme, you might guess he’s edging towards 30. He bounces around Mishka’s Greenpoint studio, where he serves as creative director, always excited about a new album cover or last night’s coolest party. His art, filled with everything from ogres to cartoonish judges and naked women, is instantly recognizable, and seems to emerge from a different era of New York. At 48, he’s gone through many iterations, starting as a Thrasher Magazine kid in the 80’s and becoming a dad in Long Island before moving back to the city where he works as an artist full-time. His perspective of New York and its ever-changing art scene is refreshing, and it’s easy to see why he’s so successful and well-liked among his peers. From collaborating with the Spaghetti Boys on Milk’s JamRoom mural, to designing graphics for Miley Cyrus and painting Fortnite helmets for Hypefest, its becoming apparent that L’Amour Supreme has discovered New York’s fountain of youth.
Are you from New York?
I was raised in the Bronx. My parents brought me here when I was 18 months old from the Philippines. They moved to the Bronx and I grew up there. I don’t even really remember what the Philippines was like. I went back when I was like nine and it was kind of brutal, the disparity between poverty and wealth. You’d pull up to a stop and all these kids would rush the car begging for money, and they had hardly any clothes on. Some of the kids were naked. And it disturbed me in a way where I didn’t want to go back there.What happened next? How did you go from being a kid in the Bronx to an artist living in Brooklyn?
It’s a good question. I’m still asking myself that. I mean if you think about it, I grew up in the Bronx, so late 70’s early 80’s, the birth of hip hop, the beat boy era, doing graffiti, all of that and high school in the Bronx. I knew I wanted to do art my entire life. My mom was super supportive and my dad was like “No, you’re not going to do any art. You’re going to be an accountant like us,” ’cause they were like CPA accountants. And I was like no, I would kill myself if I did that. My mom ended up passing away when I was 16 years old, in the middle of high school. My dad knew what my mom wanted for me but he was definitely not about it, so we kind of had a falling out my first year of college. I ended up going to SVA, School of Visual Arts, but then I realized that school really wasn’t for me in a lot of ways. I had also started working at Unique Clothing warehouse, which was this store on Broadway and Astor back in the late 80’s, where they used to airbrush and paint denim jackets in the window. I was learning more there, working and being in the scene, than I was going to college and paying all this money that my dad was complaining about. So I dropped out of SVA and moved in with this hard core punk band in Chelsea. This is like the late 80’s. I lived with them for a while and did that music scene, and then I ended up moving to Long Island. Got married. Was married for 20 years? Had a daughter—I have a 15 year old daughter. I got an architectural design job in Long Island, and I did that for 17 years. Then I was like I can’t do this anymore. This is sucking the life out of me. So I started working with Mishka over ten years ago, and started doing streetwear with the brand and street art and slowly I ended up getting a divorce and then I transitioned to full time artist. Now I live in Brooklyn doing this. It’s a long story, but it’s a lot of years [laughing].
It seems like you’re inspired a lot by comics, cartoons and graffiti. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Growing up, I think my first influences were comic books. Anything that was visual, hyper real, tv and logos. Riding the subway trains, my mom would take me to the city and the doors would open up, and back then the entire train car was bombed out with tags. Even the subway station was bombed out. The doors would open up, and there would be this black empty space where the ads would go, and there was a super intricate chalk drawing on it. It stood out; it looked like an alien did it. And as a little kid I was like who did that, and what does it mean? It was a Keith Haring piece in the subway system, when he would just tag stuff back in the day. That influenced me in terms of thinking about how I wanted my work to stand out. I wanted people to say oh, that’s weird, where did that come from, why did you do that?What are your favorite things to paint?
I mean people who know me would probably say naked women, but that’s not completely true. I like to paint things I don’t normally paint just to see if I can do it well and keep it fresh. It’s almost like I’m testing myself. I don’t want to be stuck doing the same thing over and over, like so many artists these days. They’re all known for specific images, and then they’re stuck doing that their entire lives. How boring and repetitive and mechanical. You might as well get a job as an accountant! I won’t be known for one specific thing, and that’s fine. I don’t need to be branded in that sense.
Going back for a second, why naked women?
Classical paintings influenced me as a kid. There was a lot of nudity in the classical paintings. My parents would take me to a museum and I’d be like “oh my god there’s a naked woman in that painting, that’s not allowed, she’s nude!” [laughing] and they’d be like shut up, don’t talk about it. It was such a taboo thing back in my culture, but why was it taboo? It’s so beautiful. I guess my aesthetics are somehow rooted in there.Who are your greatest influences?
When I was 15 years old in the 80’s I was a big skater. This was Thrasher magazine when it was newsprint and straight up underground. You couldn’t get it anywhere, and it was like our bible back then. There was no internet, and that was the only source of information. We dissected and studied every inch of that magazine, from the ad spaces to the editorials to the fan letters and music reviews. I wanted to be part of that culture. I was a super fan, and I could draw, so I drew on an envelope and sent it in because they would post an envelope of the month. I drew an undead batman on an envelope and I was like “this is definitely going to be envelope of the month. This is so dope.” So I sent it in and I’m waiting, and there’s no envelope of the month. I was super disappointed. Then I get this handwritten letter in a padded envelope, and right away just from the handwriting I knew who it was. It was Pushead, one of my idols and a legendary artist who created all the Metallica skull t-shirts and a lot of art for the Misfits. He had an article in Trasher called Puszone, where he would review thrash and metal bands, and he would always publish a picture in the article. He gave me this letter saying hey man, somebody gave me your envelope and I really dig your work. Would you be interested in doing a couple of drawings for Puszone? I was blown away. I was published twice in Trasher magazine, full credit and everything. He’s always stayed as a mentor throughout the years, and he’s probably one of my biggest influences. It was a specific time and place that we can never go back to.
You work a lot with the Spaghetti boys, and you painted Milk’s Jam Room for their first paryt in New York. How did that come to be?
I feel like we’re on this cusp right now—a razor’s edge of old energy and new energy. And it’s clashing in our faces, and it’s pretty exciting. They [the Spaghetti Boys] are the young energy. What they’re doing, it’s really weird how people are reacting to them. They’re not doing anything malicious, but the reactions that they get from the old energy…it’s like dude, if you can’t embrace that new energy and invigorate yourself with it, you’re old. You’re left behind. It may be uncomfortable or weird, but it’s so exciting. They called me up and I had to paint the mural in three days. They keep me on my toes [laughing], but the pressure and excitement is really fun. I literally had one day and one night to paint that room and the DJ booth, so it became this all night session where everybody dropped in and hung out in the basement of Milk studios.I feel like so many young people have this obsession with eras in New York, like early 2000’s or 90’s. What do you think of that?
Yeah, oh the 70’s! I miss the old New York! And I’m like dude, no you don’t. You have no idea what the old New York was like. Do you know what it was like to walk in Alphabet City from Avenue A to Avenue D back in the day? It was like constantly, constantly looking over your should and it was not fun. It wasn’t what it’s romanticized to be. Yeah it was crazy and fun, but guess what, all that energy is going on right now. You’re just not looking in the right places. There are still scenes and spots in New York City that are just as fun, if not much more fun, than what was going on back in the day. Talk about now: what party did you go to last night? Because there are cool parties going on still—you’re just not going to them!
Images courtesy of Seth Miranda.
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