Aladdin is a legend and pioneer of the graffiti art movement in California Bay Area. He has been featured in countless magazine, Book’s, music videos, film documentaries, and his work has appeared on 2 NBA Posters. He has featured interviews on numerous television, radio, NPR and newspaper pieces. He has shown his work in various galleries and has been an additional artist in the “Burning Desire” exhibit which originally features Los Angeles Graffiti Artists such as Hex, Slick, and more. He is also a featured artist in various books on street art “Painting the Towns – Murals of California” by James Prigoff – Author and Graffiti Art Historian. And “The History of American Graffiti” book by Roger Gastman and Caleb Neelon.
See what Aladdin is up to now…..
Tell us a bit about where you grew up, and how you were influenced to become an artist?
I grew up in San Jose California, and the Bay Areas of San Francisco. I took summer art classes as a young teen in the at the San Jose Museum of Art in downtown. It was there that I was introduced to different mediums I had not been able to acquire as a young kid. I was raised in a very meager household.
As a kid I was already drawing images from cartoons or movie characters and posters I had hanging in my room. But it was really my Mother who influenced me, she would come get me from my room and make me draw caricatures of her friends or company she had over the house. My Mother put me in art classes, but I don’t remember finishing any assignments, in fact I didn’t pay much attention to the teachers, I just wanted to paint and draw. But I do know that experience sparked a new found love for art.
What are your most favorable mediums to work with, and how did that shape your art career?
I had been drawing for some time as a hobby, using colored markers, watercolor, and soon airbrushing. But It was really airbrushing and graffiti art that shaped my art career into what it is today. Today my most favorable mediums: Spray paint, Acrylics, Mixed Media.
How and what inspired you to become a graffiti artist?
I had always been a b-boy, breaking and popping in my neighborhood in downtown. In those days almost every kid was breaking or popping and dancing. I used to run with a pack of friends from high school, and we had a dance crew, all of us were either breakers, rappers, artists or DJ’s, I turned out doing all of them except for rapping. When the b-boy movement started peaking, we discovered a graffiti art documentary called “Style Wars” on our local PBS station. I was floored! And a new found love for this culture was running through my veins! And that is how I got married to Graffiti!
I started sketching all day and all night, anytime I had a chance. I was buying markers and Airbrush equipment and making a mess in my bedroom and garage. I needed to get more art supplies so I really needed to get a job. My first real job was at Great America theme park in Santa Clara California, I saw a job ad in the newspaper for an airbrush artist. I applied and they hired me right away.
I have to say, and I will take credit as the first ever graffiti artist to bring graffiti art to an airbrush booth in a theme park. They loved me cause I was young and had a fresh style and great ideas for T-shirts. It was not long after, 1 year perhaps, that I realized I wanted to expand and work other art shows and festivals, I realized how much money I was making the company and how much more I could be making? I bought my own gear little by little and started airbrushing at the flea markets, and soon I was setting up at art fairs and festivals, and later airbrushing at Lowrider car shows and traveling all over to different shows.
You also had your own clothing line?
Yes, I bought silkscreen equipment and created a clothing line. That did really well for a while, but when I got into tattooing, it took a lot of my time, it was a lot of dedication. I can tell you about that later.
I understand you started showing in the gallery quite a bit? Tell me a bit about that?
Well, after I had been airbrushing at shows and festivals, I got quite the attention and things kind of blew up. I started painting out of garage’s. I was painting everything from T-shirts, motorcycle tanks, to automobiles, murals and car graphics for car clubs, I was doing about 2-3 cars a week while still trying to keep up with painting for myself, and I was still bombing at night and painting commissioned walls. I gained so much popularity that I was invited to show my work at various galleries, and soon offered a studio space in a gallery called Genesis – sanctuary for the arts by the same gentleman Claude Ferguson who used to run the mural program at the museum. It was quite the time for me. I was traveling around painting and showing my work in the gallery. This opened a lot of doors for me.
I later received a call to paint the backdrop for an NBA poster for the Golden State Warriors team which included the 3 top players “TMC” Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullen. Right after the poster was printed, Tim Hardaway was traded and the poster became a collectors item, so they had me paint another with new MVP Basketball player at that time – Shaquille O’Neal, that was exciting!
I started getting alot of press, I mean I was in the newspaper or on the tv news almost every other month, I was on the cover of magazines, it was crazy. People were contacting me for all sorts of work, I was invited to paint live at the very first Lollapalooza Concert – a large constructed wall on the green, now that was my first public live music painting event! Was amazing!
Soon after that I was selected to be an addition to a very popular graffiti show form Los Angeles called “Burning Desire” its original cast was HEX, SLICK, MANDOE, SKILL, and DUKE
I hear you used to Tattoo full time?
Yes, I started tattooing since 1997, and opened my own studio in California, and wow let me tell you, it will consume you! You had better be prepared to eat sleep and tattoo, because this is all you will be doing. This would be the pause of my gallery life, this really paused my gallery showing in a huge way, but I was engulfed in tattooing and it was a way of life.
A friend Eric Ross taught me to Tattoo, him and I started Wildstyle Ink Tattoo, and soon my partner in crime, “Roper” came to work with me as well. I taught him to Tattoo. He’s the main one I partnered up with to bomb in the early days of graffiti. We both kind of started graffiti at the same time. We worked together for some time at Wildstyle Ink Tattoo. I don’t tattoo full time anymore. Although I get asked from time to time.
So what are you doing now, and where do you see your art career going?
I started focusing on the music more and gradually got into multimedia – Photography and Videography. And since I had been a DJ/ Producer. I fell back on that. But it wasn’t until I met an Artist by the name of Anthony Liggins of Gallery 88, that really sparked up the urge to get back in the gallery, and start to take my art serious again. One day I walked in his gallery and we chatted for an hour about art and life, and spirituality. He noticed my camera and asked if I would shoot his pieces? We are now really good friends and I now shoot for him on a regular basis, he is the reason I have gotten back into the art circuit. We have some real big plans in the works right now having to do with a documentary reality series, I am also working very hard in the studio for upcoming art shows as we speak. And I am booked quite a bit for Mural projects around the state at the moment.
Whether it be DJing, making music, or painting I am grateful to have the flexibility to do so. So I am going to give it my all while I am fixed here on this planet. Currently I have decided to reunite with painting and showing again, so here we goooo! Creating art! This is where I see myself going… There are a madness of things to come, and I am on my way!
Aladdin resides in Miami Beach and is actively working on future art , and commissioned murals.