The enigmatic graffiti artist Jason Innocent, who, for the past four years has plagued New York city with mysterious street tagging, many with a humorous tone and childlike style, and who also recently had his own solo show in Broadway dubbed WALL 2016, is back again – this time, with a political charge.
Creating a parodic, unofficial campaign poster, Jason superimposed ‘egomaniac’ on perhaps the most recognisable American face in today’s global politics, playing around with the image of a figure who has polarised opinions since even before he announced his running for presidency. The images were first captured by Getty photographer Alex Wong, who subsequently sent it to Jason, and were thus given his signature playful typographical makeover.
As opposed to an explicit endorsement to the Republican candidate, the work is more a way in which to activate the public to vote, encouraging democracy to live out its full potential. Awareness of the personalities and intentions of the candidates is another facet of the work, where the political theatre can often be shrouded in dishonesty and falsity.
Jason’s exhibition space is downtown New York, as he will be putting up posters in the areas of Lower East Side, East Village, Chinatown, and Soho, up until the presidential election holds. In between his unofficial political campaigning, he gave us an insight into his artistic process, his inspirations, and his history – and though teasing a little bit of truth to the mystery that surrounds him, nonetheless remains a thoroughly confusing and intriguing anonymous character.
When did you first decide to become an artist and has your style changed since you started getting involved in art?
I knew I wanted to become an artist at an early age. I think probably at the age of 5. I used to draw cartoon characters and things I saw on the TV and books. I wanted to be a cartoonist. My style has changed to more abstract and childish writings and figuration drawings.
Have there been any artists, musicians, or public figures that have greatly affected or influenced you?
Jean-Michel Basquiat is my favorite artist, including his alter ego SAMO. I love Marcel Duchamp for tagging up objects. And finally, I am a huge fan of the Dada movement. I listen to classical music, 1920-1960s jazz and 90’s alternative rock and grunge.
What role does vandalism play in the world of street art and graffiti?
Vandalism play a huge role in street art. It limits people, but than again it make you think – it’s creating something catchy that will stick with people.
Where did the name ‘Jason Innocent’ come from?
I don’t know. I guess you can call Jason Innocent mysterious, lacking social abilities and paranoid of being caught in person.
Has your art ever gotten you into any trouble?
Ooo yeah – it was scary. I remember I tagged all the cars in a neighborhood in Harlem, NY with black-and-white shoe polish. I came back in the morning so I could take a pictures of it. The entire neighborhood was outside, including cops, angry of what they saw. I overheard someone say to the cops: “I want you to find this Jason innocent person, writing on people cars.” But luckily I never got caught.
Do you see New York as an essential part of your artistic persona and work?
I see New York as the Mecca of creativity. I get inspired all the time. If someone bumps me on the train, I will tag a wall saying “watch where you going bud” or “when walking keep your head up courtesy of Jason Innocent”. That’s what makes people think.
What is the most underrated thing about New York city that you wished more people knew about?
I wish people in New York appreciate graffiti or street art – instead they tend not to acknowledge it.
What was your reason behind creating a mysterious aura and anonymity around your identity as an artist?
I don’t want people to know who the the real JASON INNOCENT is. It’s plain and simple. Tagging property or private property is illegal. It’s mind boggling to people.
Who has been your favourite person to collaborate with in your career so far?
I work with a lot of celebrities and public figures but I wouldn’t call it a collaboration.
For more information and to download his latest work, click here.