Back to the Future: Futura 2017
It's interesting too see how BAPE founder and Streetwear legend NIGO continues to bring his buddies over to UNIQLO for some nice global exposure. First it was NY artist KAWS that had Hypebeasts go crazy, now it's Futuras turn to release a capsule collection with the Japanese fashion retail giant.
Sometimes I wonder if such a project really turns new people onto art and Graffiti or if this collaboration just appeals to the same old fans that are already on board. In any case: I love it!
As I am growing older I can't justify spending crazy money on T-Shirts anymore, and the never ending hunt for the next hype item get's pretty tired. I rather just walk into a store and get what I want at a reasonable price!
So that NIGO picked Lenny McGurr aka Futura to create the next UT collection makes me more than happy.
It's not secret that I am a massive fan and have had the pleasure to bump into Futura many times in London. He was always super cool: Embracing the fans, signing items and having a chat.
A green UNKLE toy based on his designs was my first purchase on eBay many moons ago and I am still here in 2017 collecting his stuff!
For me Futura embodies all aspects of the Urban Lifestyle that I love: Music, Fashion, Technology and Art. Being it his early works in the 80ties, the artwork for MoWax in the 90ties or all his projects and collaborations since... I just never get tired of seeing his artwork!
So let's take a journey down memory lane and recap. This is by no way an extensive retrospective of his work, more like a quick introduction for anybody who is not familiar with Futura and would like to know what all the fuss is about...
Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan Lenny McGurr aka Futura 2000 started spraying at the tender age of 15. After an unfortunate accident painting with a friend in a train tunnel he put his art on hiatus. After four years he picked up the can again, painting alongside New York Graffiti legends like Dondi, SEEN and Zephyr.
When Futura painted his "Break" train in 1980 he turned heads: Abandoning the traditional Graffiti lettering style was revolutionary and way ahead of his time as normally writers would make sure their names would be boldly featured. Futura stuck with this style and the rest is Graffiti history.
This FUTURistic approach blurred the line between traditional Graffiti and abstract art and made it possible for him to crossover to the fresh new art scene that formed in SoHo at the time.
Rubbing shoulders with Pop Artists like Kenny Scharf, Keith Haring, Basquiat and Warhol, Futura went on to exhibit in galleries like the Mudd Club, PS1 and Fun Gallery. Especially Keith Haring was very proactive in getting Graffiti artists acknowledged and helped getting them to mingle with the more established art crowd. At some point Futura even dated a young Madonna! True story...
A fun clip from 1982: A young Futura creating the logo for the Film "King of Prussia"
After people like Agnes B starting to collect his art he caught the attention of the British band The Clash that embraced the new Hip Hop sound and the Urban Art scene. They invited Futura to paint during their concerts and he started to get involved in designing their album covers too.
When long time fan James Lavelle started to purchase his painted canvasses to use them as artwork for his newly founded label MoWax in 1992, Futura was again at the forfront of a new cultural movement.
As Lavelle connected the creative energies of Tokyo and London by signing Japanese acts like Major Force West to his label, Futura soon got exposed to a whole new world based on fashion, otaku culture and limited edition art objects.
When Lavelle and NIGO clicked and NIGO started releasing albums on MoWax, Futura was once again the man to go to for the album artwork...
The MoWax cover that made him notorious was the cover for UNKLE's magnum opus "Psyence Fiction": It sold millions and featured heavily his "Pointman" characters. As MoWax boss James Lavelle loved creating different versions and promo items for each UNKLE album, soon Futuras signature pointmen and atoms could be spotted on various UNKLE releases and merch like T Shirts, Jackets and collectable toys.
Futura soon translated his art into his own collectible toys, sneakers and fashion. Most of these items were exclusively sold in Japan for a committed scene of collectors.
2000 to the future
Ditching the "2000" in his name and going forward simply as "Futura", Lenny McGurr still goes from strength to strength. Collaborating with brands like Nike, Maharishi, Medicom, Converse or Hennessy, his visual iconography, typography and abstract aerosol art still stays as relevant and fresh as it was back in 1980.
Apart from all his achievements in the past and present, another thing that fascinates me about Futura is his love for technology! He was one of the first artists to creatively embrace the internet, launching his site 1995 as more of an art project than a portfolio website. Although the site hasn't been updated in ages, it's still impressive and fun to browse.
Continuing the digital legacy of his website is his Instagram account @futuradosmil where he shares pictures from his travels, photo manipulations and new artwork. You rarely see a picture of Futura without his camera, snapping away as he travels the world. A true digital nomad...
So as you see, Futura has been part of Urban Culture for over three decades. Adapting, collaborating and creating. And never standing still!
Ok, so I stop here. Before I sign off let me share with you a litte fun list of...
5 essential Futura pieces I wish I had:
1. 1000% Futura Bearbrick
Created by Medicom Toy in Japan, this big blue alien is the perfect accessory for any MoWax fan out there and towers literally above all other toys based on Futuras designs...
2. OG Futura UNKLE BAPE Jacket
One of the early collaborations between NIGO and Futura: This BAPE jacket features heavily the Pointman UNKLE logo and will turn heads wherever you go.
3. A real Futura Canvas
Very obvious I know... d'uh! Maybe one day when I win the lottery...
4. OG Futura FLOM
Apparently only 24 pairs in existence. Made to celebrate the launch of his Futura Laboratories store in Japan 2003. Worth 15.000$ a pair... peanuts!
5. Futura x Colnago Limited Edition Master Pista Bike
This bike sets you back a cold $100.000: One of 38 custom made Futura 2000 frames with hand painted wheel details! More about this beauty here...