Third-generation New Brunswick native RH Doaz fuses folk art imagery — inspired by Hungarian folk art patterns — with the aesthetics of street art to create beautifully crafted, poetic images both on the streets and in his studio. I was delighted to feature his work in On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey, a group exhibition of NJ-based artists that continues through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey. A brief interview with him follows:
When and where did you first get up?
In the late 1990’s – with stickers and tags in New Brunswick and in NYC.
Had you any preferred surface back then?
The backs of street signs. That was always the best! Newspaper boxes. Anything with a surface that I could stick something onto that would stay up!
Did anyone or anything in particular inspire you at the time?
Yes! Among my early inspirations were: the handmade posters I saw in New Brunswick advertising basement shows; Shepard Fairey’s Andre the Giant image, and the simplicity of Michael DeFeo’s flower image.
Do any early graffiti-related memories come to mind?
Taking the NE Corridor train into Manhattan and seeing different graffiti crews at every stop.
Have you any thoughts about the street art/graffiti divide?
They’re two mediums competing for real estate. Graffiti always wins!
How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries and museums?
The more people who see your art, the better!
What about the corporate world? How do you feel about street artists and writers collaborating with corporations?
As long as the artist is given full credit, I don’t have a problem with it.
How do you feel about the role of social media in this scene?
It allows me to connect with other artists, and that helps me feed my kids.
Have you a formal art education?
Yes. I minored in Art at Defiance College, located in northwest Ohio.
How would you describe your ideal working environment?
Any huge outdoor wall in October.
What inspires you these days?
Nature, folk art, nostalgia….
Are there any particular cultures that have influenced your aesthetic?
Skateboarding, Hungarian, folk art, punk rock and hip-hop.
Is there a central theme that ties your work together?
Telling stories that haven’t yet been told through folk art.
Do you work with a sketch-in-hand or just let it flow?
These days I usually do have a sketch-in-hand.
Are you generally satisfied with your finished piece? And how do you know when it’s finished?
Absolutely! I know I’m finished when there’s no more space left. The pattern feels complete. I’ve reached the sense of saturation where nothing needs to be added.
How important are others’ reactions to you?
I’m honored when others like my work. I like knowing what others think. I feel like I need to know.
How has your work evolved through the years?
I’m better at storytelling, and my patterns and palette are more refined.
Have you any preferred colors?
As I’m color-blind, I need to work with colors that strongly contrast one another with bold black outlines.
What media do you currently most enjoy working with?
How has the work you’ve done on the streets impacted your studio work?
I’m more willing to experiment with patterns and palates on the streets, and this experimentation has impacted my studio work.
How long do you generally spend on a studio piece? On a street art work?
I spend anywhere between 5-10 hours on a piece I do in my studio. An outdoor mural generally takes about 60 hours, 6-7 10-hour days.
How important is it to you to maintain a presence in the public sphere?
What do you see as the role of the artist in society?
It is to tell visual stories that no one else is telling. Our most beautiful aspect is our aesthetic expression.
Note: You can view RH Doaz‘s talents in On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey through February 27 at the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey and at Woodward Gallery‘s current exhibition New in 22.
Photos and interview by Lois Stavsky