STREET ARTIST ARREX TAKES OVER THE THREADLESS MEN’S BATHROOM!
Last winter, we put street artist Arrex on a mission: transform the Threadless men’s bathroom, and make it extra cool. Needless to say, after spreading his trademark images of skulls, decaying teeth, and awesome absurdity in posters and stickers across the bathroom, he definitely accomplished the task. After Arrex finished turning the bathroom into the stuff colorfully weird nightmares are made of, we caught up with the street artist to learn a little more about him and his work. Read on for the interview, and to get a glimpse of our super sweet new men’s bathroom!
Street artist Arrex takes over the Threadless men’s bathroom.
How about a quick introduction?
I go by “Arrex” or “Rx Skulls”. I’m a street artist based out of Portland, Oregon and I specialize in screen printed and hand-cut vinyl sticker art.
What’s your process like?
I love getting my hands dirty. I’m a graphic designer by trade and get bored sitting in front of a computer. I’m most happy playing in my screen printing studio, mixing inks and printing stickers by hand. Getting where I am today included a combination of drawing with pen and ink, block printing, stenciling, and digital editing. When I finally landed on my trademark skull image, it became a matter of maintaining that consistent branding while keeping things fresh and interesting at the same time.
Arrex creates his trademark skull image in a variety of colors and slight modifications to keep his work fresh and interesting.
How did you first get involved with doing street art?
I’d been heading toward becoming a street artist for years before I even realized it. In college, as a part of a site-specific art project, I placed fake tickets on cars and stickers with social commentary. I constantly photographed graffiti and street art but it never occurred to me to create that type of art. It wasn’t until I moved to Portland after college that I noticed consistent imagery all around the city. These street artists had obviously spent hours upon hours and what seemed like thousands of dollars to create this ephemeral artwork with complete selflessness. I felt instantly hooked.
What was your inspiration for the installation in our men’s bathroom?
I knew that I wanted lots of color and variety; to visually attack people right as they walked in, and hold that attention. It was important to me that I create something that belonged in THAT space specifically. The tiles were the first thing that caught my attention - I knew wheat pasted posters would not be ideal on that surface, but stickers were perfect. I screen printed on giant sheets of vinyl, collaging designs with different colors and layouts. I then had a plotter cut out squares that fit the tiles. The rest of the installation was me just playing with the space and being spontaneous.
Arrex continues to spread his coolness everywhere.
What do you hope people take away from your art?
I have no expectations of people to be honest, street art is often white noise in the cityscape. A crisp clean branding is important because you really only have a couple seconds to catch attention. To a lot of people my artwork is just a skull; a graphic rendition of one of the most popular icons in pop culture, or a fun addition to a water bottle or cell phone case, and that’s all. To me, though, it’s about the fragility that is life and a carpe diem of sorts; a reminder that life should be enjoyed, valued, and appreciated. When four members of your family are diagnosed with cancer in the span of two years, not to mention my own diagnosis of a brain tumor, you get thinking about these things quite deeply. Art has always been my outlet.
How would you describe the difficulty of stickers vs. wheat paste?
The reason I love stickers so much is their accessibility. I can comfortably have over 200 little pieces of art in my pocket at any point in time, ready to give to anyone or put wherever I want. They are truly like little wheat paste posters in themselves, but without all the mess. Wheat paste, however, is a very economical way to apply art. Both paper and paste are cheap, plus you can attract a lot more attention with a big poster than a sticker. This also means, though, that it is likely to get removed much more quickly. It’s a trade off when it comes down to it: would you rather fly in the face of the passerby for a short amount of time, or hide with a sticker, catching less attention but riding on the streets far longer?
You heard Arrex. Wash your skulls.
Do you think street art needs more appreciation?
I think both my generation and younger generations appreciate it, as its popularity is growing. My hope is that as my generation ages to become the elders, street art will become more accepted. This “broken windows” theory and zero tolerance attitudes are largely outdated and sometimes even backward. It will always be hated by some, tolerated by others, and loved by (hopefully) most.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve done?
As far as stickers go, my favorites are my white on transparent skulls. I screen print the inner part of my skull with white ink on clear vinyl. Almost nothing in the street is white, which means a pure white pops off almost everything quite strongly. These stickers don’t appear to be floating; instead, they drink in the substrate and become apart of it as it shows through the clear vinyl. It’s almost like a little stencil spray. When it comes to fine art, my favorite pieces have been my wood pieces. I screen print on wood, and then glue on prosthetic eyeballs and real human teeth.
Arrex’s white on transparent skull image bids adieu as you exit the bathroom.
What’s the biggest challenge or weirdest encounter you’ve had?
My biggest challenge has been both staying anonymous and funding my artistic endeavors. If I could I would give all my stickers away for free; I’d mail them to everyone who wanted one and pass them out in stacks. That’s really the goal as a street artist, isn’t it? Beside having fun, it’s spreading your image around as much as possible. I don’t care if you know who I am, but I do want you to be familiar with my image. Selling sticker packs has been a requirement for me to continue to fund the equipment, chemicals, vinyl, and inks that allow me to keep making sticker art. I could go on and on with sticker related incidences, which got me thrown out of places, yelled at by pedestrians, and forced me to run from…well, you know.
A table of Arrex’s sweet stickers!
Do you have a formal art education? Do you have a day job?
I have a liberal arts degree in art, and am a graphic designer by trade, which has helped me understand the importance of branding in street art. You can create a hundred different images and get them up and that’s all fine and dandy, however, if you want people to know it’s you, consistent branding is necessary.
What would be your advice to young artists trying to find their groove?
Passion and persistence is all you need. You have to love what you do and just never stop. Street art is not like art in a gallery. If you are putting up your art in the street, expect that it will get torn up, gone over, and critiqued to the bone. You have to have thick skin and persist past the negative energy.
No space is safe from Arrex.
What are some of the trends you’ve found in other cities?
It seems like every city has a slightly different style. Graffiti especially; if you look at graffiti in Philly compared to what’s found in Oakland, you will see some huge differences in technique and style. Stickers can have similar differences city to city. Portland, for example, has an abundance of screen printers, so it seems 80% of street artists here have some sort of makeshift silk screen setup. This means we can produce far more artwork quicker and for a cheaper price. Because it’s vinyl it also lasts in the street a lot longer than paper stickers. Other cities value hand-drawn stickers over screen printing, some do more stenciling and block printing.
Have you ever considered submitting to Threadless?
Indeed! I submitted a couple of designs while I was in college. They were absolutely terrible; you could tell it was submitted by a person who literally just learned how to use Adobe Illustrator. Needless to say they didn’t quite get enough votes to make the cut, which, in retrospect, I’m glad for!
What goes well with skulls? A whole bunch of decaying teeth.
Where can people snatch up some of your stickers?
www.arrex.bigcartel.com is where I sell my sticker packs. All stickers are screen printed by me and hand-cut individually. They are not pre-made packs; I make them whenever I get an order. A quick check to my Instagram is a good way to see what I’ve been printing lately and what will be included in the packs at that time, though there are certain classic designs that always get thrown in. All money goes towards traveling and art supplies!
Where can people continue to follow your artwork?
I post stuff on Instagram and Facebook pretty regularly! Friend me!
The tiles get stickers, the walls get wheat-pasted posters, and the stalls get skulls. The bathroom becomes a true Arrex original.
Any last words or shout outs?
Dangerous question to ask a street artist!! There are so many rad people who have helped me get to where I am today in my art.
Shout outs to my homies PKVD from New York, Nick from England, and Flattiron from Barcelona: these guys help spread my art around places I can’t always afford to visit. Big love to my friend Stickee from England, he’s given me priceless screen printing knowledge and been a great friend. I could go on and on with fellow artists names so I’ll just mention the ones I work with most closely, which are The Lost Cause, Skam, Renone, Doctor Rasterbator, Kanye, Obit, James Fulk, Twigs, & BlackWhite.
Shout out my friends Jeremy and Paul at Blaq Paks for letting me use their giant plotter to make all those cool squares for the bathroom tiles.
Lots of good vibes to “Portland Stickers”, a local photographer who takes an amazing amount of rad photos of sticker art in our city, allowing the ephemeral to last forever.
Love to Vanessa Ruiz who was the first person to publish my art out in the public eye on her rad site.