THE "ART" OF HIP-HOP: ANDREW KATZ

KENT ISLAND, MARYLAND | ANDREW KATZ

KENT ISLAND, MARYLAND | ANDREW KATZ

INTERVIEW: TERRELL “REALIFE” BLACK [@REALIFEVMG]

PHOTOGRAHPY: MIG MARTINEZ [@THEMIGMARTINEZ]

ANDREW KATZ, AN ARTIST AND VISUAL THINKER WITH YEARS OF EXPERIENCE TEACHING AND CREATING ART HAS SPENT COUNTLESS HOURS HONING HIS CRAFT. RECENTLY HIS WORK HAS BEEN LARGELY INSPIRED BY HIP-HOP CULTURE, CREATING ONE OF A KIND PIECES OF ART. HIS PASSION TO DRAW AND LOVE FOR HIP-HOP HAS TAKEN HIM FROM SIMPLY BEING A FAN TO RUBBING ELBOWS WITH SOME OF THE CULTURES VETERANS TO COLLABORATING WITH THE ICONIC EMCEE CHUCK D (PUBLIC ENEMY). RECOGNIZING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HIP-HOP MUSIC AND VISUAL ART (GRAFFITI), I DECIDED TO CONTACT ANDREW KATZ TO DISCUSS AMONGST OTHER THINGS, HIS PASSION FOR ART, ARTS INFLUENCE ON HIS LIFE AND HIS EARLIEST MEMORY OF HIP-HOP CULTURE.

VALIDATED: WHICH CITY AND STATE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY?

ANDREW KATZ: ORIGINALLY, I’M FROM ELLICOTT CITY, MARYLAND. I NOW LIVE ON KENT ISLAND, ON MARYLAND’S EASTERN SHORE, AND I WORK AS AN ART TEACHER ACROSS THE BRIDGE IN ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND.


VALIDATED: HAVE YOU HAD ANY ART EDUCATION OR ARE YOU SELF TAUGHT?

ANDREW KATZ: I HAD A FORMAL ART EDUCATION IN SECONDARY SCHOOL, AND LATER I WENT TO ART SCHOOL AT THE MARYLAND INSTITUTE COLLEGE OF ART. I STILL BELIEVE, THOUGH, THAT WE ARE ALL SELF-TAUGHT IN THE LONG RUN. I HAVE LEARNED MORE SINCE MY TIME IN SCHOOL THAN I DID IN ALL THE YEARS I WAS ENROLLED IN A FORMAL PROGRAM. I CONSISTENTLY VISIT MUSEUMS, SEEK OUT NEW ART-MAKING EXPERIENCES, AND ALWAYS HAVE NEW WORK ON THE DRAWING BOARD. LOOKING AT NEW IDEAS, AND KEEPING ABREAST OF NEW TRENDS IN TECHNIQUES AND TECHNOLOGIES, KEEPS ME STRIVING TO ALWAYS IMPROVE AS AN ARTIST.


VALIDATED: WHAT DOES ART AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION MEAN TO YOU?

ANDREW KATZ: BY BECOMING AN ART TEACHER, AND CHOOSING TO MAKE ART CENTRAL TO MY LIFE, I WOULD SAY ART-MAKING AND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION ARE AVENUES THAT ARE PARAMOUNT IN MY ETHOS. ART HAS BEEN AN EMOTIONAL OUTLET, A MEANS TO AN END, AND A PASSION FOR ME. IT IS DIFFICULT TO QUANTIFY THE IMPORTANCE, AS ART HAS BEEN DELIBERATELY WOVEN INTO ALL ASPECTS OF MY LIFE. I AM VERY FORTUNATE TO LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHERE WE HAVE A LEVEL OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH. THE BEST ARTISTS ARE THE ONES WHO MAKE THEIR AUDIENCE THINK, WHO MAKE THEIR AUDIENCE UNCOMFORTABLE, AND WHO CHALLENGE VIEWERS TO MAKE THEIR OWN ART. 


VALIDATED: HOW HAS ART INFLUENCED YOUR LIFE?

ANDREW KATZ: ART HAS INFLUENCED MY LIFE IN MANY DIFFERENT WAYS - IT IS A SOURCE OF INCOME. IT ALLOWS ME TO EXPRESS MYSELF. IT GIVES ME A SENSE OF WORTH, AND ALLOWS ME TO CONTINUE THE LEARNING PROCESS. I BECAME AN ART INSTRUCTOR 23 YEARS AGO, AND THIS ROLE OF TEACHER, HAS PROVIDED ME OPPORTUNITIES TO LEARN WHILE I TEACH. I NEED TO BE PREPARED TO TEACH YOUNG PEOPLE, SO I MUST ACQUAINT MYSELF WITH MATERIALS AND PROCESSES THAT MIGHT BE NEW TO ME. BEING AN ARTIST AND AN ARTFUL PERSON ALLOWS YOU TO SEE THE WORLD WITH A SPECIAL LENS. I TRY TO USE THIS LENS TO EXTRACT MEANING AND MEMORIES FROM MY EXPERIENCES.

VALIDATED: WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS?

ANDREW KATZ: I’VE FOUND THAT IF I GET TOO COMFORTABLE WITH ONE WAY OF MAKING ART, THAT MY COMPOSITIONS AND PIECES ALL START TO LOOK THE SAME. AS A RESULT, I TRY TO LEARN NEW APPROACHES TO ART-MAKING EVERY SO OFTEN. I CAME UP WORKING MOSTLY IN BLACK AND WHITE CHARCOAL OR GRAPHITE PENCIL. A WHEN I GOT TO COLLEGE I HAD A LOT TO LEARN ABOUT COLOR (I STILL DO), AND HOW IT COULD MAKE MY ART MORE DYNAMIC. I WENT THROUGH A PHASE WHERE I DID NOTHING BUT CHALK PASTEL DRAWINGS. THEY WERE ENOUGH LIKE CHARCOAL, BUT I COULD EXPERIMENT WITH COLOR, AS WELL. THEN I FELL IN LOVE WITH WATERCOLOR. I ALWAYS THOUGHT WATERCOLOR HAD TO BE LOOSE AND FLUID. I WANTED A VIVID CRISPNESS AND A REALISTIC QUALITY. I BEGAN TO EXPERIMENT WITH MY OWN STYLE AND APPROACH, AND REALIZED THAT I COULD RENDER THINGS WITH CONTROL AND PRECISION. SO I DID NOTHING BUT WATERCOLORS FOR ABOUT 10 YEARS! RECENTLY, THOUGH, I WANTED TO BREAK OUT OF PATTERNS, AND I WENT BACK TO USING TEXTURED BOARDS AND INEXPENSIVE MATERIALS. I’M IN THE PROCESS OF MAKING A SERIES OF HIP-HOP PORTRAITS ON CORRUGATED CARDBOARD. IT’S CHEAP, EASY TO COME BY, AND IT ALLOWS ME TO USE THE BROWN COLOR AS A MIDDLE GROUND. AS A RESULT, I CAN ALSO USE WHITE CHARCOAL AS A HIGHLIGHT.  ADDITIONALLY, I HAVE BEGUN TO MANIPULATE THE CARDBOARD SURFACE BY CUTTING, RIPPING, AND EXPOSING THE CORRUGATION.


VALIDATED: WHAT'S YOUR EARLIEST MEMORY OF HIP-HOP CULTURE?

ANDREW KATZ: I’M A WHITE KID FROM THE SUBURBS OUTSIDE OF BALTIMORE. THERE WAS NO HIP-HOP CULTURE THERE UNTIL RUN-DMC, LL COOL J, AND THE BEASTIE BOYS PUSHED THE CULTURE FROM THE RADIO TO TELEVISION. “I TOOK THE BEAT FROM THE STREET AND PUT IN ON TV”, A LINE FROM RUN DMC WAS REALLY PROPHETIC, AND EACH OF THESE ICONS WERE ON HEAVY ROTATION ON YO! MTV RAPS AND EARLY MTV PROGRAMMING. IT WAS DURING THIS TIME THAT MY SISTER HAD A PARTY. MY PARENTS WERE AWAY FOR THE WEEKEND, CIRCA 1987-1988, AND WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE PARTIED IN MY BASEMENT FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS. WHEN THE DUST SETTLED, AND WE BEGAN TO CLEAN THE HOUSE, I FOUND THAT SOMEONE HAD LEFT A HOMEMADE, GREEN MAXELL CASSETTE TAPE IN OUR STEREO. IT WAS UNLABELED, AND I DECIDED TO FIND OUT WHAT WAS ON BOTH SIDES. THAT CASSETTE TAPE CHANGED MY WHOLE ATTITUDE TOWARDS MUSIC. “THE SHOW” BY DOUG E. FRESH AND THE GET FRESH CREW, “WILD WILD WEST” BY KOOL MOE DEE, “JANE” BY EPMD, “JAM ON IT” BY NEWCLEUS, “MICROPHONE FIEND” BY RAKIM, AND “SUPERSONIC” BY JJ FAD WERE AMONG THE JEWELS THAT WERE LEFT BEHIND THAT DAY; IRREVOCABLY AFFECTING MY INTERESTS AND MY THIRST FOR MORE OF THIS THING THEY CALLED HIP-HOP. I SPENT THE NEXT THREE DECADES ADDING TO THIS LIST OF FAVORITES, AND CURATING MY TOP FIVE.


VALIDATED: WHEN AND WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO FOCUS ON HIP-HOP/URBAN CULTURE ARTIST?

ANDREW KATZ: MY FAVORITE HIP-HOP TRACKS ARE ALWAYS STRONG LYRICALLY. I GET A RUSH OF DOPAMINE WHEN AN EMCEE TURNS A CLEVER PHRASE, BOASTS WITH UNIQUE FLAIR, OR TROUNCES THE COMPETITION WITH COMBATIVE RHYMES. WHEN THERE ARE POP-CULTURE REFERENCES, ESPECIALLY THOSE FROM MY CHILDHOOD, A SONG BECOMES MY FAVORITE. I LISTEN CLOSELY FOR THESE MOMENTS, AND DURING THE GOLDEN ERA OF HIP-HOP, THEY CAME AT US FAST AND FURIOUS. “I GOT MORE ACTION THAN MY MAN JOHN WOO, AND I GOT MAD HITS LIKE I WAS ROD CAREW” FROM THE BEASTIE BOYS “SURE SHOT”, AND “OK, IF KNOWLEDGE IS THE KEY, THEN JUST SHOW ME THE LOCK / I GOT THE SCRAWNY LEGS BUT I MOVE JUST LIKE LOU BROCK” FROM “CHECK THE RHYME” FROM A TRIBE CALLED QUEST ARE TWO EXAMPLES OF MY FAVORITE LINES. I IMAGINED A PAINTING OF HALL OF FAMER LOU BROCK, SIGNED BY BOTH BROCK AND Q-TIP FROM TRIBE, AND A PAINTING OF CAREW SIGNED BY PLAYER AND MC. SEVERAL YEARS LATER, THIS IDEA WAS REALIZED WHEN BOTH BROCK AND TIP PENNED PART OF THE LYRICS ON A WATERCOLOR THAT I PAINTED. THE FOCUS OF MY ART ON HIP-HOP ORIGINATED BY COMBINING MY LOVE OF ART, LYRICISM, SPORTS, AND MUSIC. IT WAS A SLOW BURN, BUT IT JUST MADE SO MUCH SENSE. THESE COLLABORATIONS REMAIN SOME OF MY FAVORITE MOMENTS OF MY ART CAREER. 


VALIDATED: YOU WERE SELECTED AS THE CURATOR FOR WWW.PUBLICENEMY.COM, HOW DID THAT OPPORTUNITY COME ABOUT?

ANDREW KATZ: IN 2012 I WAS BRAND NEW TO TWITTER. I WAS A BIT LATE TO THE GAME, AND SLOW TO PICK UP THE BENEFITS OF TAGGING OTHERS, AND ADDING PICTURES. AS AN ARTIST, IT AMAZED ME THAT YOU COULD SEND YOUR WORK OUT INTO THE WORLD, AND CONNECT DIRECTLY WITH THE SUBJECT OF THE PAINTING. I HEARD THAT PUBLIC ENEMY WAS COMING THROUGH DC, AND WOULD BE PLAYING AT THE 9:30 CLUB. I’M A HUGE PE FAN, AND IT WAS A GOAL OF MINE TO MEET CHUCK D. I SIMPLY WANTED TO SHAKE HIS HAND, AND TELL HIM TO KEEP UP HIS ADMIRABLE WORK AS AN ACTIVIST AND ARTIST. I DECIDED TO MAKE A PORTRAIT, AND BRING IT TO THE SHOW. LONG STORY SHORT (I TELL THE WHOLE STORY ON MY BLOG KATZART.BLOG), I MET HIM AT THE SHOW. I HAD BEEN TWEETING PE LYRICS AND THE NEW PORTRAIT IN THE WEEKS LEADING UP TO THE SHOW, AND CHUCK HAD NOTICED.  HE ASKED ME IF I WOULD KEEP PROMOTING THE SHOWS, AND SORT OF DO IT ON THEIR BEHALF. I TOLD HIM, “OF COURSE!” HE UNDERSTOOD MY PASSION, AND AS A VISUAL ARTIST HIMSELF, UNDERSTOOD THE POWER OF VISUAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL PROMOTION. HE ASKED IF I WOULD TAKE OVER DUTIES ON THE WEBSITE, AND I PROVIDED IMAGERY, ARTICLES, AND OTHER CONTENT FOR OVER TWO YEARS.  

“THE BEST ARTISTS ARE THE ONES WHO MAKE THEIR AUDIENCE THINK, WHO MAKE THEIR AUDIENCE UNCOMFORTABLE, AND WHO CHALLENGE VIEWERS TO MAKE THEIR OWN ART.” -ANDREW KATZ


VALIDATED: WHAT ARE A FEW OF THE HIGHLIGHTS/REWARDS OF WHERE YOUR ARTWORK HAS TAKEN YOU SO FAR?

ANDREW KATZ: MY ARTWORK HAS AFFORDED ME COUNTLESS, MEANINGFUL, AND INCREDIBLE OPPORTUNITIES. AFTER MEETING MY MUSICAL HEROES, THE FURIOUS FIVE, BIG DADDY KANE, BEASTIE BOYS, ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, RAKIM, LL COOL J, KOOL MOE DEE, GRANDMASTER CAZ, ROXANNE SHANTE, RED ALERT, TRIBE, KRS-ONE, PUBLIC ENEMY, EPMD, ICE T, AND MANY OTHERS, I FOCUSED ON USING THIS PORTFOLIO OF COLLABORATIVE ART PIECES, TO CONSTRUCT MY OWN HIP-HOP ART SHOWS. I WAS A PART OF THE RESPECT: STYLE AND WISDOM SHOW AT OAKLAND MUSEUM OF CALIFORNIA, AND I HAD TWO ONE-MAN SHOWS IN DC AND MARYLAND IN THE PAST YEAR. AS A RESULT, I’VE BEEN CONNECTED FORMALLY TO A GROUP OF ARTISTS ASSEMBLED BY CHUCK D CALLED MADURGENCY. WE ARE THERE TO SERVE THE HIP-HOP COMMUNITY OF ARTISTS, VISUALLY. BEING ON COVERS OF MAGAZINES AND PARTICIPATING IN INTERVIEWS LIKE THIS ONE, FEEL LIKE THE BEGINNING OF SOMETHING SPECIAL. OUR GROUP OF VISUAL ARTISTS, IN MADURGENCY, ARE READY TO MAKE A PROFOUND VISUAL IMPACT ON THE HIP-HOP COMMUNITY.


VALIDATED: WHAT'S YOUR REACTION TO HOW THE HIPHOP/URBAN COMMUNITY HAS EMBRACED YOUR WORK?

ANDREW KATZ: I’M NORMALLY A PRETTY SOFT-SPOKEN AND RESERVED PERSON. I DON’T PUSH AND SHOVE, AND WHEN IT COMES TO GOING TO LIVE MUSIC SHOWS, I’M PRETTY HAPPY HANGING BACK AND WATCHING FROM A DISTANCE. THAT ALL CHANGED WHEN I DECIDED TO BRING MY ARTWORKS TO THE VENUES. I WOULD FINISH A PIECE JUST IN TIME TO BRING IT ALONG, TWEET OUT A FEW LYRICS, AND USE THE PORTRAIT AS A TICKET FOR A NEW ADVENTURE.  HAVING THE ARTWORK WITH ME, AND REALIZING THAT THE WINDOW FOR MEETING THE ARTISTS WAS SMALL, I BEGAN TO SPEAK UP. I WOULD OFTEN SHOW UP EARLY, MEET SECURITY, AND HOPE TO CONNECT WITH THE TALENT BEFORE THE EVENT. IT HAPPENS DIFFERENTLY EACH TIME, BUT I WAS AMAZED AT THE ACCESSIBILITY AFFORDED ME. I WAS ALWAYS POLITE AND COURTEOUS WHEN DEALING WITH THE VENUE PERSONNEL. AS A RESULT, I’VE BEEN ABLE TO MEET ALMOST EVERYONE I’VE PUT MY MIND TO MEETING. THE COMMUNITY OF EMCEES, DJ, ARTISTS, AND SECURITY HAS BEEN INCREDIBLY SUPPORTIVE AND WARM. I’VE OFTEN RECEIVED EXTRA HELP FROM SECURITY GUARDS WHO KNOW THAT I’M WORKING ON THESE PROJECTS. WHEN I GET BACKSTAGE, THE ARTISTS HAVE BEEN ACCOMMODATING AND COMPLIMENTARY. A FEW OF THEM HAVE EVEN MADE A MORE FORMAL CONNECTION; COMMISSIONING NEW ARTWORK, OR PURCHASING THE PORTRAIT I HAVE WITH ME. THE HOWARD THEATRE IN DC AND THE KENNEDY CENTER ARE TWO PLACES THAT HAVE BEEN ESPECIALLY GREAT WHEN IT COMES TO FEELING LIKE A PART OF THE HIP-HOP FAMILY. I’VE BEEN ABLE TO ESTABLISH SOME GREAT RELATIONSHIPS APPROACHING LIVE SHOWS IN THIS FASHION.


VALIDATED: WHICH ARTIST HAD THE MOST MEMORABLE REACTION TO YOUR DRAWING OF THEM?

ANDREW KATZ: THERE HAVE BEEN MANY COOL STORIES. FINDING MYSELF IN A BACKSTAGE HALLWAY, A DRESSING ROOM, OR EVEN ON STAGE, IS ALWAYS INTERESTING. SOMETIMES THE ARTIST IS SURPRISED TO SEE ME THERE, AND OTHER TIMES THEY SEE MY IG OR TWITTER POSTS. THIS LETS THEM KNOW THAT I’LL BE IN ATTENDANCE AT THEIR SHOW, AND THAT I’LL BE BRINGING NEW ART WITH ME. THE CRAZIEST FEELING IS WHEN THEY KNOW WHO YOU ARE AHEAD OF TIME. WHEN I MET DIGABLE PLANETS, WE WALKED INTO THE GREEN ROOM AFTER THE SHOW, AND CRAIG “DOODLEBUG” IRVING, SHOUTED “ANDY KATZ, FINALLY! WE GET TO MEET IN PERSON!” THAT WAS PRETTY SURREAL . MEETING CHUCK D HAS CHANGED MY LIFE, SO I NEED TO MENTION THAT. HE HAS REALLY PROVIDED ME WITH SOME AMAZING OPPORTUNITIES, AND I’M ALREADY LOOKING FORWARD TO BUILDING WITH HIM IN THE FUTURE. THERE WAS ALSO THE TIME RAKIM TOLD ME THAT HE HAD MY PORTRAIT OF HIM HANGING IN HIS STUDIO. THAT WAS A WRAP. I CAN’T REALLY DO BETTER THAN THAT. 


VALIDATED: WHERE CAN THE READERS FIND YOU ON THE WEB?

ANDREW KATZ:

WEBSITE: KATZART.COM

TWITTER: @AJKATZART

INSTAGRAM: AJKATZART

KATZART.BLOG

AJKATZART.BIGCARTEL.COM

HTTPS://WWW.ETSY.COM/SHOP/AJKATZART