The other week, we showcased some of Ash Hudson’s work as we profiled CONART for their exhibit/retrospective at the LA Art Walk. The Dopamine36 team had the opportunity to catch up with Ash and chop it up with him about CONART’s journey over the last 25 years as an OG figure in graffiti, art, and streetwear. Ash and CONART really pioneered putting graff art on clothing and have cemented their place in the industry by always staying true to their art, their vision, and their roots as graffiti artists making street art. Read our full interview with Ash below and be sure to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and CONART HQ.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
Pretty basic, no jewelry, LA street kid, low income, latch key kid. For me, it’s t-shirts, dickies, unwashed denim, Vans, Chucks. No frills, all black everything
WHAT IS IT LIKE SHOWING YOUR ART IN A GALLERY SETTING INSTEAD OF ON THE STREET?
I’ve always had mixed emotions about graffiti artists and galleries, cause it’s something that’s an art for the people. I feel like there’s a lot of cats in the game that are just in it for the fame, it’s kind of lost some of the ‘for the love of the art’ mentality. For a lot of the OGs that paved the way, there was no kind of economic backing for what they were doing. You had to go rack your cans, you had to put in work. There was no social networking or internet. Things have changed a lot. I’m not opposed to it, because everything evolves, and has its place, but I just feel a lot of is driven for economic gain. There’s a lot of kids riding that fame wagon. For me, it was about growing up seeing art in the streets and just that emotional feeling I got from seeing these pieces and how I feel in love with the art form. It was bound to happen that shit would fall into galleries and gain respect.
AS A GRAFFITI ARTIST, WHAT IS YOUR DREAM TAGGING SPOT IN LA?
I think the dopest shit that was ever hit was the Hollywood sign by SEEN in the mid 80s. My dream spot…[laughs] I was always kind of tempted every time I saw a cop car.
(New York graff artist SEEN with the tagged Hollywood sign in the mid 80s)
AS A COMPANY THAT HAS BEEN AROUND FOR 25 YEARS, HOW HAS CONART REMAINED RELEVANT IN THE GAME?
It’s really the same as it ever was. The shit hasn’t changed that much, we were that far ahead of the game now everybody sees that what we do makes sense. I still work with a lot of the pioneer artists, the OG heads that contributed to CONART back in 1989 but I’m always looking for new artists. It’s the content that I think keeps us relevant, with art you can draw or create anything political, environmental, you know whatever the latest trend or topic is so it’s evolving and staying relevant. CONART is the most underground authentic-to-its-roots company out there.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING CONART HAS KEPT THE SAME SINCE 1989?
You know, the logo is definitely the branding icon for CONART, so that’s never changed. Since the beginning we’ve stayed with that basic style. Keeping it authentic as much as possible, never trying to stray from that; we’ve always worked with real graff artists. CONART has been this hub where we’re working with all these different artists from all the different crews but we remain neutral. I’m still just a kid with a dream; I basically threw some shit on t-shirts, had no idea the response and level of success and how this shit would grow. Now there’s a global fan base and movement that are down with CONART and know the brand and it bugs me the fuck out how what we did had such an effect.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO MAKE YOUR GEAR IN THE US?
It’s always been US made, always LA made, working with local printshops, buying from local suppliers. It has global value.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS AND STREETWEAR COMPANIES?
My advice for young artists, entrepreneurs, brands in the game is that if you’ve got a dope vision, and you articulate your story correctly, really there’s someone out there to buy what you create. I started CONART with $100, printed up 12 black and white t-shirts, gave them out to 12 of my friends, then a bunch of other kids went crazy and wanted them. I couldn’t afford to give them to everybody so I made another batch and started slangin’ them out of a backpack at Fairfax High. Then I took some to a store to sell on consignment, came back a week later and they were all sold out. Dudes had gone in from Japan and New York and were asking for my number and right after that I had Japanese distribution. If you’ve got a concept, it doesn’t take a whole lot to create a brand. It’s just about the design content and originality, create your own path, and that’s what’ll keep you fresh. It’s about coming from the heart with your shit.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR CONART?
CONART is constantly trying to expand and redevelop the brand, refine shit. We’re about to drop a sneaker collection with Radii Footwear . We just entered into a fine art print deal with a company called Check This Ink so we’ll be doing a series of limited edition prints and posters. We got a sticker deal in place with USX United Sticker Exchange. We’re putting the pieces of the puzzle back together so that we can compete. Next year’s definitely gonna be good for the brand
Big thanks to Ash Hudson and CONART for taking time out to share some wisdom from a brand that has been around for longer than some of us here have been alive! Stay tuned for more from CONART and the new projects they’re working on.