What makes good art? It’s a subjective question. For me, the impact has always come from a connection. When I know an artist’s story, I see a reflection in their work. This creative bond is what draws me to the art world. This is what drew me to the Wild Thing.
Here’s Bauvez’s bio in brief: raised on Long Island to a working class family, he went south for college. He’s bounced back and forth a bit, but is now set up in Gowanus, and establishing himself in the New York scene. Bauvez has a strong build, sharp eyes, and a taste for trouble.
I met Bauvez in Long Island City, at Sr. Lasso’s 30×40 group art show. The party was fun and everyone got on well. Jeff Beler introduced us. On first impression, Bauvez was self-assured and polite, with a firm handshake. We chatted a bit, before mingling with the crowd. Later, I saw Bauvez again, at the SpreadArtNYC show. He had art up, and we talked for a minute about Biggie. I gave him my card, and told him to check out my Sold article on The King of New York.
Some weeks went by. I missed the Fall opening of Underhill Walls because of my day job, and stopped by later in the week. I said hey to Jeff, Dirt, and a few other artists others hanging about. I checked out the new seasonal line-up which included some regulars (such as Albertus Joseph, Hektad, and Adam Dare) as well as some new faces (including J. Morello, Dylon Thomas Burns, ArtistikzNewYork.) On the corner panel, Bauvez was reworking his wall.
Bauvez told me that after finishing his piece on Sunday, he wanted to add more and came back. The mural, he explained, was one of his Wild Things. We shared a cigarette, and Bauvez told me a little about himself, and the importance of family in his work. Each of his Wild Things represented a piece of his family; the original three were for his sisters.
After noticing the outline was made of repetitions of ‘Zot,’ Bauvez told me about his graffiti roots. As a teenager, he tagged as ‘Menace.’ One day he came home, pants splattered with paint, when his father confronted him. Bauvez gave a snide remark about parents not understanding. His father stormed out, and came back to put young Bo in his place.
“He slammed his black-book down in front me, and said what do you think of that?”
From then on, Bauvez sprayed under his father’s tag, ‘Zot.’ The evolution of his art came later.
I liked his style and he liked mine, having read my Sold articles. I suggested we do a story and Bauvez invited me to come by his castle.
Fear and Loathing in King Killer Studios
Experience has taught me to respect universal vibes; I try to follow the positive energy, seeking signs of affirmation that I am on the right path. And so it was, when I came to King Killer Studios.
I arrived late on a Friday night. A large metal gate and keypad door kept KKS private from the outside world. As Bauvez came to let me in, he let out Zimer. I’d interviewed Zim for my King of New York article, and hold his work in high regard. I took this as a good sign.
Inside the gate, there was a large courtyard. A handful of walls had been painted by Bauvez (Wild Things #1-3) and others. But for the most part, the yard was still open.
“You know, you can do a lot with the space here.” I said, motioning to the empty walls. “Though, the gate might limit foot-traffic a bit.”
“I’m gonna be bringing guys to hit all the walls. It’s gonna be dope.” Bauvez said, listing a few names he had in mind. He’d also been trying to convince the owner about opening a weekend market in the future, to give artists visibility and get people paid. I respected the scope of his ambitions.
With Bo were two of his associates: TeoRock and a Wall Street fellow. We had a pow-wow over some smokes. Teo and Bo had met at an event, where Bauvez was painting alongside BK graffiti legend, Noxer. Teo is a musician, and after the show they linked up. The two joked about days when they had gone busking through the subway; Teo playing guitar, and Bauvez shaking the hat. They claimed $200 in a day. Not a bad hustle.
We went inside King Killer Studios. I got a brief tour, navigating the narrow halls filled with individual workshops where creative sorts practiced their craft. Bauvez’s studio was in a backspace, underneath a set of stairs.
Bauvez’s workroom was cluttered with tools of the craft. His desk was covered in markers, spray cans, and miscellaneous scrawlings. The walls were adorned with canvas collabs and solo projects. My favorite was a rendition done with Ian Sullivan and Al Diaz, “SAMO… AS AN END 2 THE COMMODIFICATION OF STREET CULTURE…”
We chatted about whatever, when the subject of Bauvez’s ex-girlfriend came up. Wall Street quipped, “she was a good girl, but bad girls go backstage.” We had a laugh, but I could tell Bo was playing it tough. Coming out of a rocky relationship myself, I could relate.
A piece encased in glass above the couch caught my eye.
“That’s me and Twible.” Bauvez said, following my gaze.
“You ever read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas?” I asked.
“Some of your work gives me a Ralph Steadman vibe. Kinda wild, kinda trippy, a bit chaotic, but I dig it.”
“Funny you say that. Ralph Steadman is one of the few artists that I’d go as far as to say inspired my work.”
“No shit?” I grinned. “Hunter S. Thompson is a big influence on my art writing. I go gonzo with it, keep it interesting.”
“No doubt.” Bo replied.
Our shared sense of aesthetic created a connection. And the more I learned, the more interested I became.
I returned to KKS the next week. Bauvez was out, and I got let in by Art Alchemist. It was a sunny day, and there was a bit of action in the courtyard. Fellow residents, Behind the Curtains Media, were hanging out and we all chatted a bit as the Alchemist worked atop a ladder. I told Mike of BCM it was cool KKS had a little community. He told me there hadn’t been much socializing until Bauvez showed up.
Several nights earlier, on a whim Bauvez and Art Alchemist had painted some models. Prior to that, Bauvez had only painted with a can, never a brush. He live streamed his work with SamiB, and the insta-show got a strong response. Several girls reached out, among them, VanillaChai.
Chai and Bauvez arrived and went to his workroom. After they set their vibe I joined them. Chai was charming and friendly, and radiated positivity. An interesting person herself, Chai is studying sustainability and is interested in bee advocacy. I talked with her about vegetarianism and her tattoos. The whole interview, Chai kept cool and confident, which I found very impressive. Not many people can act natural while naked in front of a stranger with a camera.
The three of us chatted as we got comfy, Bauvez painting Chai while I chilled on the couch and some old school hip-hop played. As he worked, Bauvez spoke about ‘catching signs’ from the spirits of loved ones.
“Do you guys know my story about the 804?” We did not. “804 was my grandfather’s ship number in the navy. Of all the people I’ve had die, I catch signs from him the strongest.”
“After he passed away, I was in school living a double life.” He explained. “College boy, soccer player. But I was also… running drugs.”
For extracurricular income, Bo had been moving weight between South Carolina and New York. Weed smuggling kept his pocket packed, but the cops caught on. Members of his distribution network were picked up. Bauvez and a friend pulled into a McDonald’s, debating their next move. There were afraid one of the gang would snitch, (“Shack was a little soft”). The friend wanted to leave, but Bauvez was hesitant, until the bill came:
“Alright, that’ll be $8.04.”
Bauvez took the sign. They high tailed out of South Carolina to lay low in New York. They read in the papers a massive drug bust went down in the south, with dealers arrested from Savannah to Charlotte.
Of course, karma can lift you up, karma can knock you down. After returning south, Bauvez was pulled over in front of his house with a friend. Though he hadn’t been driving, he got searched. The cops found “less than a gram of pot” on him, but his resistance led to a scuffle.
“They beat the shit out of me!” Bauvez chuckled, with a self-deprecating smile. “Ruined my soccer career. Plus it made it impossible to get a real job, ‘cus that mug-shot pops up when they run background checks.”
“Maybe that was meant to happen, so you could do this!” Chai suggested, motioning to the art.
Chai’s bodywork was starting to come together, as Bauvez added checkered boxes to her neck. He directed her, having Chai move this and that way so the paint wouldn’t smudge.
“That’s a helluva story man.” I said.
“I got mad stories.” He replied.
“Yeah? Tell me more. Tell me the shapers. The things that made you who you are, the stuff that feeds your art.”
He nodded. “My main body of work is based off two energies — the Darkness of Death and the Lightness of Travel.”
The first death led to two more. Bauvez was only fifteen at the time. Bo was hanging with his neighbor, Weber, when Twible rolled up on a street bike. Weber wanted to ride, but Twible was resistant. Eventually, he gave in. Weber took one lap around the block, before being hit by a car. Bauvez saw Weber’s head hit the pavement and split in half, killing him instantly.
Bauvez and Twible had always been close; people even remarked that they looked alike. They were best friends. But neither knew how to cope. The incident caused a falling out between them. Some time went by, until one day Twible reached out.
“He called me,” Bauvez remembered, his voice pained. “And was like, ‘yo Bo I need to talk to you.’ I lied to him. I fucking lied to him. I said ‘nah, I can’t, I got summer school.’ But really I was about to go smoke with some friends. A couple hours later, Finnegan calls. Like, my Mom just told me, did you hear? I said, nah I didn’t hear. He said, fucking Twible shot himself.”
He motioned to the glass piece above me, the Steadman-esque piece, titled: ‘Twible.’
“That’s me and him. I’m on the right, speaking to him across the void.”
Twible’s suicide caused Twible’s cousin to kill himself as well. Over the next few years there were more deaths piled on. They hit Bo hard.
Chai and I were silent for a moment, unsure of what to say.
“That’s fucked man. I can only imagine how it shaped you.”
Bauvez shrugged. The years have taught him to carry the scars.
“When I was younger, I didn’t know how to cope with it, other than being a bad kid. You know, getting into trouble. Fighting. A lot of stupid fights. But it also led me to travel.”
“When I say lightness of travel, I mean meeting someone for the first time, experiencing something for the first time.”
Traveling layers the lens through which we see the world, shaping our perspective. The places Bo’s been have fashioned his outlook. Just as coming down to South Carolina taught Bo to “slow his roll,” the traveled life gave him gentle insights.
“Every place I’ve been, the sky is different.”
Post-college, Bo hit Aruba for some R&R and island debauchery. There, he made his first major art sale. Bauvez was in a casino, chatting up a fellow gambler. He told the man that he liked the art around the slots. As it happened, the man was the establishment’s owner; the notorious Mike Posner.
Aruba’s casino kingpin and alleged mobster, Posner is a big money man. Bauvez saw the opportunity, and took a risk. Bo showed Posner his portfolio.
‘I want that one,’ the Chicago swindler said, picking a piece. ‘How much?’
Bauvez looked him dead in the eye, ‘$10,000.’
Posner laughed, calling Bo’s bluff. But he respected the ballsy move. He told Bauvez, ‘I’ll start your career, on a gentlemen’s agreement.’ Bauvez was paid five grand, on the promise that he would mail the piece down when he returned to the states. Although, most of the money ended back on the cards table, (the house always wins) for Bauvez, the money made his ambitions feel real; that pursuing artistic fame was possible.
Bad to the Bone
Chai and I have done our fair share of traveling ourselves. We swapped war stories from the road, as Bo put the finishing works on her bodywork.
“Alright.” He stood up and examined his work. Chai checked herself out in the mirror.
“Hell yeah!” She chimed.
“Shall we?” I said, motioning with the camera.
Bo flipped the music; we changed from chill-hop vibes to some good old rock n’ roll. George Thorogood – Bad to the Bone.
Chai rocked the shoot. She strut her body boldly, commanding the stage. Chai rolled through each pose with poise, from sexy to playful, daring to dangerous.
“Goddamn, that’s fire!” Bo howled.
“Shit’s lit.” I added.
Other members of King Killer Studios felt the heat. Several dropped by to check out Chai and Bo’s art. We made our rounds, wrapping up the photo-op with pics in the studio and the courtyard. A successful shoot.
Life on the Grind and Hustle on the Mind
Over the month I got to know Bauvez, the thing that impressed me most was that he was always grinding. Whenever I talked to him, he always seemed to be where the action was. Painting every day, hustling up projects to get the name out and his money up.
On a chilly 8am outing, I circumnavigated the canals of Gowanus, ignoring the smell. I found Bauvez and Art Alchemist in the back of an industrial car park, outlining a van in tape. They were there on a commission for the taco truck. Bo introduced me to the owner, Jefe.
“T.K. this is Jefe. He’s fam.” He said to me. “Jefe, mi amigo T.K. para Sold. El es, uh journalisto-
“-soy un periodista.” I shook Jefe’s hand.
“He’s writing a story. Para mi!” Bo said excited.
The two had met near the beginning of their New York careers, and had developed a bond. Jefe sold tacos by Bo’s train station, and Bo invited Jefe and his business to sell food while he was working on the Gowanus mural project. Jefe reciprocated by bringing Bo by whenever he needed something painted. The quiet, unassuming owner had recently upgraded to this new truck from a pushcart. His taco business, Mi Familia, was growing.
“We’re going to the top, and bringing the whole fam along!” Bauvez whooped.
Art Alchemist and Bauvez worked diligently, shaping the design and testing colors for the fills. I hung around a bit, until other duties called me.
“How long you guys gonna be out here today?” I asked.
Bauvez grinned. “Till it’s done!”
I caught Bauvez for a live painting, now a signature of his repertoire. It was going down in the basement of the Delancey. The space glowed with purple lighting, and artists lined the room, armed with easels and canvases. A DJ spun hip-hop tracks, and a film reel projected clips of Pablo Picasso.
The LES show was the 8th Anniversary of Collage, hosted by Savior El Mundo. Savior had started the weekly Tuesday event to bring together artists, letting them paint and get exposure. He does it as a way to give back to the community, encouraging artists to sell their pieces, but taking none of the money for himself.
Savior was instrumental in many a young career, including Bauvez. Savior fashioned each event around a celebrated artist, intending to inspire, and the Spanish legend was a good fit for the anniversary. I saw an unexpected face, when Savior invited one of New York’s wheat-paste kings to do a piece, SacSix. Sac worked his magic, pulling together a Picasso-paste beside Bauvez, who was painting SamiB. The night was good vibes, full of creative spirit.
Another artversary had me hustling. I made the trek out to Glen Cove, Long Island for the second annual showing of the First City Project. Despite the criticisms and controversies around the owner’s business decisions, Bauvez was there to pay respects to a place that had given him some of his first walls.
The crowd at the show was less graffiti heads and more local families, tourists in the art world, but an audience nonetheless. I smiled as I overheard a five-year old tell his Mom he wanted to grow up to be an artist. Bo gave me a quick tour, before I ventured off to explore on my own. I bumped heads with DTB and the Alchemist, as well as meeting some new faces.
The house itself is impressive in terms of scope of styles, with beautiful murals sprayed on every surface. While some have renounced their association with First City, I couldn’t help but marvel at the work. It’s hard to pin down a favorite, though I loved Rocko’s attic room, and the subtle social commentary of B.D. White’s stencil. Bo had a couple pieces up, and some canvases for sale. There were several buyers.
“He Who Makes A Beast of Himself, Gets Rid of the Pain of Being a Man”
When I met Bauvez, I had the sense he was on the come-up. Now I know it. His self-assurance at first bordered on arrogance, but now I understand it for what he is: the rugged conviction of an artist who’s been knocked down, and got back up.
During the course of the article, Bo demonstrated a skill beyond art: organization. Bauvez was appointed Creative Director of King Killer Studios. He’s brought through a range of artists to the studio: DirtCobain, TurtleCaps, Belowkey, the Art Alchemist, Dylon Thomas Burns, J. Morello, 1471OEA, Zimer, Outersource, Artistic Boozem and Artistikz New York.
Bo’s aura has helped him build relationships in the art world and beyond. We went out Halloween night; Me as a farmer, Bo with his face painted, and two high school friends in a Wolf onesie and the protagonist from Drive. They clowned him a bit for being a light-weight and being tired on our night out (Bo had spent the entire day painting the back-set for MTV’s Wild n’ Out. But jokes aside, they respected what he had created from his humble hometown beginnings. As the Driver told me:
“[Bauvez] is the most interesting guy I know.”
Bo and I are both set to travel south for the winter. I’m headed to Argentina, while Bo is bound for Miami, to shake things up in Wynwood. He’s already set up opportunities; a modeling agency has contacted him about doing live paintings.
Art reflects artist. The energy Bauvez channels into his paintings comes from life experience. And so, just as art mirrors artist, the artist becomes their art. Halloween night, Bo and I slammed a tequila shot. He looked me in the eyes with sincerity, and spoke truth:
“I am the Wild Thing.”
Written by T.K. Mills
Photos provided by T.K. Mills
For more by the author, check out his website tkmills.com
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