Our friend and Montana Colors design team member YUBIA took a first trip to New York City. Afterwards we interviewed her to get a graffiti writer’s perspective on a first visit to "The Mecca” and how it compares to the multitude of European cities she has painted in. Surprisingly the differences are less than the similarities, though as anyone that has visited or lived in New York – the city is unique unto itself.
If you had to summarize your visit with one word, what would it be?
New York. What expectations that you had about the city were right, and which ones were wrong?
At first I didn’t have any expectations in mind. It’s a city I knew I was going to visit at some time in my life (and more than once). I spontaneously got the idea to go after a dream I had after having talked with a friend of mine who had just moved to NY. I asked for a few recommendations about the city but my intention was to live out the experience, to go alone and to let it flow. Pretty much everybody warned me about how big it was and how difficult it was to get an idea of the city in so few days. It was something I had in the back of my mind but wasn’t that conscious of it until I was there, and it was much bigger and had many more things to discover than I imagined.
What differences do you see between New York and bigger European cities (Paris, Berlin)?
I don’t know any of those three cities that well but now having visited New York, it lives up to its reputation as the city that never sleeps. I was really impacted by the feeling that it was impossible to be alone anywhere, in the metro, in the street… there’s always people all over the place at any given hour. Berlin is the European city I’ve been to that reminded me most of New York because of its frenetic rhythm of events, parties, and people moving all over the place 24 hours of the day.
As a writer, the big difference I felt in terms of how the city experiences graffiti is that in both Berlin and Paris, you don’t have to have eyes in the back of your head to put up a sticker… in NY you do, so I don’t even want to imagine how it must be to live there and want to paint other surfaces!
Well, I think it’s pretty different. Here “everything goes” and “nothing happens”. Over there it’s all much more complicated… for example, something as simple as getting together with your friends in the MACBA plaza and have a few beers in the sun would be almost impossible over there. And it would be even more difficult to walk around the city afterwards with a few cans of beer. I think Barcelona is a much more liberal city in terms of street life.
Describe to us about the graffiti you saw around.
Sincerely, I didn’t see much. Less than I was hoping to see. In Brooklyn I saw murals but I don’t think they represent the real graffiti scene. It all seemed a bit more legal or permissive in that area. In Manhattan there was practically nothing. Unfortunately, I think the buff there is really quick. Generally what I saw were rooftops from the metro or from the odd bridge. I got the impression that there was a lot more graffiti high up or at least, up there it lasted longer. On the other hand, I was just there for 9 days and didn’t have time to explore the areas that are traditionally more painted.
The three things you liked the most.
- The Metro and its bridges
- Galleries and Museums
- The people were generally very friendly
The three things you liked the least.
- The never-ending journeys from a to b
- Too much people everywhere
- Not being able to drink alcohol in the street, lol.
What’s the weirdest thing you saw or that happened to you?
Nothing especially strange happened. The mere fact of being there and having seen the backdrops to thousands of movies and broadcasts seemed like living inside a movie to me.
Did you paint anything there?
Yes, I painted at Low Brow Artique in Brooklyn and at Tuff City in the Bronx, and also on a rooftop with my friends from Hamburg.
How was your experience with the Montana Colors shops there?
Awesome! In both Low Brow and Tuff City they were very good to us. Actually, I’d like to say thanks to Bishop from Low Brow and Med from Tuff City for making us feel at home.
Did you use the new 94 colors? Which were the ones you liked the most?
Yes, I used almost all the Montana 94 new colors. I usually paint with brighter colors but I liked using the more pastel ones. I would choose MTN 94 Porto Blue and for old time’s sake, MTN 94 Chocolate brown.
Do you think that there will be noticeable before and after in your graffiti after having visited “The Mecca”?
I don’t think there will be any changes to my graffiti but I do feel like it was a very inspiring trip in every way.
What other writers did you meet?
I went to a Jonone opening where there were a lot of really old school NY writers and to another opening for a Rime MSK exhibition where I met up with writers you and I already know.
How are the graffiti shops in Europe similar and how do they differ?
I thought they were quite similar actually. I think it’s interesting that they have a mural where people can paint since graffiti is generally illegal. In Europe, maybe it’s not that necessary since there’s a lot more legal spots to paint with friends.
The price of paint is quite different but I’m not surprised because it is an European imported product and NYC is a quite expensive city, anyway.
What about the customers?
We didn’t coincide with many since we went there during off-hours in order to bother the shop employees the least possible. In general, the Brooklyn crowd seemed more similar to Europeans while the Bronx crowd had their own style.
From the rest of the cities you’ve been to, what is New York similar to?
Can you recommend a place to eat?
I liked eating in Chinatown, almost any place there was great. I couldn’t get enough!
And a place to go partying?
Unfortunately, I didn’t go out to party. Being my first visit, I tried to wake up early and make the most of the daylight hours in the city as much as possible.
Any tips for anyone who’s going there to visit?
You shouldn’t organize your trip 100%. Let it flow and you’ll enjoy the city more that way.
If you are interested, you can check out more of Yubia’s work via the links below!