“When I paint, especially in public, it puts me in a zone where I become super-energized and I feel as though I have wings.”
Fumero’s obsession with art began at the tender age of three. He considers art an extension of his body and mind; just as he needs air to breathe, he needs art to feel alive. His artistic journey includes everything from stick figures and bubble letters to the illegal papering of public walls. His unique ‘grafstract’ wall art is now featured across the globe, from New York City to Kuwait.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Fumero. I am a New York artist. My style is called Fumeroism, the ‘ism’ being the Grafstract. Grafstract is the mechanics of my visual approach to fine art. Grafstract is not an artistic genre; it is my coined term to represent the evolution of the distinctive style of art that I create.
Tell us about your education.
I went to the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City. I was there as an undergraduate art student. It was where all the artistic stimuli I explored throughout my life came into fruition and culminated into what I do today.
How did you become interested in graffiti?
I became interested in graffiti art at 5 years old. I would see the trains in the subways and the elevated trains in The Bronx, NY. Even my older sister remembers how I used to get excited about NY subway art. At 13, I began creating graffiti in my ‘black book’, a sketchbook used to practice my letter designs. I also started ‘paint-bombing walls’, or spray painting bubble letters at that age. At 14, I created my first 4 colour piece with a 3-d perspective.
How old were you the first time you tagged a wall?
I have been creating art since I was 3 years old. I have documented proof because my mom took a picture of me crouched down over a puddle in the sidewalk, consciously making a ‘puddle design’ with 3 branches from a bush that had yellow petals, and 4 clothes pins (red, light blue, yellow and wood coloured). At the age of 4, I began drawing on lined note paper, drawing stick and bubble figures.
Where was your first mural? Is it still available to see today?
My first mural as Fumero, a professional artist, was in 2010 at Art Base, Miami. I painted a large portrait of my grandfather, ‘The Grampa.’ It no longer remains.
Is Fumero a tag name? Can you tell us a bit more?
Fumero is not my tag name, it is my real name and the name I use as a professional artist. When I was a teenager writing graffiti, my tag name was Gusto.
What inspires you to keep creating?
I couldn’t say what inspired me to create art when I was 4, only that it is innate. What keeps me inspired is the thrill to create. I love to draw and I especially have a passion to illustrate the human anatomy. Creating art has always been in my life and is an extension of my body and mind. It is like oxygen; I need air to breathe and I need art to feel alive.
What makes your work unique and different?
I use an extensive colour palette and top it off with a black contour. I love how the black outline makes all the colours fuse together and pop even though the colours are separated. The manner in which I see the real world and translate it into my reality inspires me. I love the process and my process is a thorough one. I see colours as shades. I exaggerate and abstract any person, place or thing with vivid colours that bounce and contrast against each another. This is what causes my art to stand out and be distinctive from other artists.
How has your work evolved through the years?
My work has evolved from graffiti art. I abandoned the letter designs and transferred the ‘wild style’ colours into the human anatomy, landscape, or anything from the natural world. I use unnatural colours to express how I see tones of shades. Fumeroism is the embodiment of the evolution from graffiti to what I do, the Grafstract.
Do you paint with spray cans or do you use other techniques or media?
I am primarily an acrylic on canvas painter. I use paint and a brush as any traditional artist would, but I execute my vision in an untraditional style. I use line, shape and colour to create movement. I love to place warm and cool colours, and light and dark colours against each other. This formula captures the viewer’s eye. I also work with oil pastels, paper collage and spray paint. When I paint public murals I use mostly aerosol. I use latex paint as well to cover large areas on a wall.
Which of your artworks are you most proud of?
I have a few I am proud of. The Table Series is a serious body of work on canvas and was the inspiration for my street logo, The Table Series Logo, made for New York City streets in 2006. The paintings are of my family, a lower middle class (poor) and ethnic Italian American NY family sitting around the kitchen table. The TS logo is a symbol and the message is not only about family but how ‘the table’ brings family together. That is how I grew up. The family that breaks bread together stays together is the message. It is very important for young children to grow up like this; keep your friends close but your family even closer. The Table Series Logo is not my family, it represents the universal family unit, gathered together around a table. I started ‘getting up’ this image as street art in 2006.
I have murals that I am very proud of. The Grampa, my first large scale mural was painted in 2010 at Art Basel Miami in Wynwood, Miami.
Also, The history of Itri, in southern Italy in 2013. I returned in the summer of 2014 to continue this 70 year long mural on Via Cescole, Itri, Italia. The city commissioned me and it is still there today.
The Grampa was also painted on a six-story building in the city of Yonkers, NY. A year later I returned to Yonkers to paint my Table Series Logo, based on of the yellow circle sticker I created in 2006. That is what started it all; it represents the origins of my career as a public street artist and contemporary muralist.
In 2016, I copied a Table Series painting titled Nanny’s Kitchen and recreated it using aerosol during Art Basel, Miami.
In 2017, I painted Tru York for Black Tap inside their Lower East Side location on Ludlow Street in Manhattan. I loved it so much I recreated it on a 24 by 48 inch canvas and sold it to a Brooklyn restaurant.
I am very proud of the fumeroized Dutch Masters Cigar Box that came out a couple of months ago. I redesigned the Dutch Masters logo on canvas using aerosol and acrylic paint and they loved it so much they made 55,000 boxes and called it the Fumeroism Limited Edition. These cigar boxes hold 55 individually wrapped cigars and the box looks fantastic! They are on the shelves now in stores.
I love to paint walls because they are large and I love to create large scale imagery and compositions. I enjoy painting for people, bringing the culture of a gallery out into the streets and beautifying communities. Why should walls be dead and barren? That is not esthetically pleasing to the eye. I love to bring my colours to cold and barren walls, bringing them to life. Not everyone walks into galleries or museums but everyone walks the streets. This is why I paint fine art on walls. It inspires me. When I paint, especially in public, it puts me in a zone where I become super-energized and I feel as though I have wings. It takes me away to another place as though I am lifted off the ground. I do not get hungry or tired. I can paint for hours nonstop, climbing up and down ladders. Only rain or darkness can stop my flow. Give me water and a banana and I’m good to go! When I put on my respirator mask, my shades, hat and gloves, I become the ‘glartiator’; an art warrior battling the wall and the hot sun and heat, and challenging myself to go in hard and rock it out.
Have you collaborated with other artists?
I have collaborated with a few artists over the years in Brazil, Miami and New York, but just for fun. 99% of time I paint alone.
Is there a dream place worldwide where you would like to create an artwork?
I would love to paint in Paris. I would also like to paint in Japan and Africa. I’ve gone global every summer since 2012. I painted in Brazil, Germany, Italy, England, Spain, Denmark and, more recently, in Kuwait. I’m currently painting in Dubai. I am living the dream every time I paint outside of the US.
Can you tell me what it’s like for you when you paint a wall?
I have painted in some ‘shady’ places, one of which was in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I painted a large mural in an abandoned lot; a wasteland of garbage and broken beer bottles. There was a huge hole in the ground that was once a basement. It was camouflaged by the mound of garbage and I could easily have fallen 15 feet and been seriously hurt. The mural took a few days to complete. It was in November of 2013 and it was very cold; my fingers were numb even with gloves, because I was outside for hours at a time. This was the craziest mural I painted. I also painted for Black Tap in Las Vegas at The Venetian Casino Hotel. It was crazy because of the construction. There was noise and dust all around me in a tight area.
Tell us about your collaboration with Black Tap? What have you created on the walls of the newly opening branch at the 360 Mall?
I began painting for Black Tap in the spring of 2016 at their first location on Broome Street in Soho, Manhattan. The second time was in the spring of 2017 at their LES (Lower East Side) location, then in Las Vegas, and now here in the Middle East (Kuwait and Dubai).
How long did it take to finish the project? What was the biggest challenge in this project?
The Black Tap at 360 Mall was a challenge because of the huge wall there. The background alone took me 14 hours to complete and I did that in one day. I began Black Tap 360 on November 3rd and finished on November 11th. The challenge was not only the very large wall but also the time constraints to complete the project.
My vision for Black Tap 360 Mall was to bring the Tru York theme to the Middle East. I incorporated old school New York which is what Black Tap is all about. I included my Grafstract and, on the entrance wall, I incorporated NYC iconography with Kuwait City iconography.
Where did you visit in Kuwait and what did you like the most?
I didn’t get a chance to see Kuwait and meet the people. I worked every day and I only experienced the hotel, the 10 minute taxi ride and 360 Mall. That is all is was able to see of Kuwait City. The people I met were very nice and pleasant.
Do you have a message for the team at CP magazine?
Thanks so much for having me, Kuwait. It was a great experience to be the first NY artist to introduce what you call graffiti, but what I call Grafstract, to the ancient sands of Mesopotamia. As-Salaam-Alaikum.
I live by the ‘carpe diem’ philosophy. Live each day like your last and make every day count. I am always in a NY state of grind. It is not important whether a person likes or dislikes my art, what is important is that they remember it.