Avi Spivak is a Brooklyn based artist. You might find him working at Rebel Rouser, the record store that he co-owns with drummer Josh Styles from Daddy Long Legs and William Martin. Or you might find him djing his 45s at Clem’s bar in Williamsburg or one of Jonathan Toubin’s super fab parties. Avi is a laid back gentleman, withdrawn and polite. His artwork, however, is a bit rough and crude, with its punk/comic book aesthetic, for example, his bold and graphic drawings of musician Link Wray, The Ramones, or greasy men fighting. They demand attention and are quite beautiful. We are also mesmerized by his colorful, impressionistic cityscapes and florals. One day we may see his prints on a high-end designer’s clothing line, or perhaps even on household items like sheets or towels. And we dream of seeing them blown up, super huge in a downtown gallery or even uptown at a museum. Avi’s work is not unknown. You’ve probably seen it in a zine or used for a band’s artwork or flyer. But part of us loves that his work is still underground and somewhat undiscovered. It’s a little gem for us to selfishly enjoy, for now! All artwork courtesy of Avi Spivak. http://www.avispivak.com/https://www.instagram.com/avispivak/?hl=en
PONYBOY: Avi, we are enamored with your artwork! Tell us about your background. Where were you raised? Did you get into art at a young age?
AVI SPIVAK: Well, thanks for the kind words. I grew up around Peekskill, NY, a small and depressing Hudson River town. And I guess I got into drawing from the usual methods, comic books, Saturday morning cartoons, not paying attention in school, daydreaming, OCD, etc. and then blossomed from there through punk rock and juvenile delinquency. Luckily, it was just a train ride away from the city, which eventually opened a lot of doors for me.
PONYBOY: Tell us where you find inspiration?
AVI SPIVAK: That’s a tough one. Obviously, living in NYC is a constant source of visual and human inspiration, the concrete jungle, the sounds, the streets, the bums, all the beautiful people, it’s really everywhere, and a lifetime of absorbing music, film, books, art, etc. I’m constantly pulling on different threads and seeing where it will lead me.
PONYBOY: What mediums do you work with?
AVI SPIVAK: I’ve used all kinds. My go-to tools have always been a brush and ink but I don’t like to be limited. Different kinds of pens, paints, watercolors, collage, and of recent, dollar store markers.
PONYBOY: Tell us about your work with Norton Records.
AVI SPIVAK: Well, I started out as a fan, of course, and I think that helped because that’s really what that label is all about. Then when I heard they were looking for help I ended up working in the warehouse and doing shipping and stuff like that. I did that on and off for quite a while which led to some cool art related projects along the way, most notably my 2011 comic book collaboration with Billy Miller “Kicksville Confidential” which is this jam-packed book filled with all the great stories about the history of the label and all the crazy artists that lived in that universe. It’s really quite amazing.
PONYBOY: You’re also part-owner of the Rebel Records store in Brooklyn, which you do the artwork for as well. How did that business come about?
AVI SPIVAK: That’s a funny story actually. I was with an old roommate about five years ago who invited me to a weird alleyway party in Bushwick. So, I went and saw what people were doing with these little shipping container storefronts. It wasn’t yet what it is now but I saw the potential for doing something I never would’ve thought possible in the current NYC climate. It was a strange night but the vision of the alley stayed with me and the next day I called my buddy Josh Styles and we went and checked it out. And I think put the first months rent down right away. We’ve had a few different partners over the years, but the store has been growing the entire time to become the unique and special place it is today.
PONYBOY: What’s been your favorite collaboration so far?
AVI SPIVAK: Easily the Kicksville Confidential book with Billy Miller. Lots of times working with other people has been less than satisfying for me, with one person clearly more invested in the project and carrying the bulk of the work load. This book was probably the hardest I’d worked on anything at that point, but with Billy it was an equal partnership with both of us pushing each other along. Billy was easily one of the funniest people I’ve ever known and his humor and stories translated so well into comic strip form. Anybody familiar with Norton Records knows the hard work and passion they put into everything they do, and that spirit is something I’ve definitely taken out of my experiences working with them.
PONYBOY: Your cityscapes and florals would look incredible on clothing. Have you been approached by any designers about a collaboration?
AVI SPIVAK: Thanks, but unfortunately nothing yet. I’ve become really interested in patterns and would love to incorporate them into the fashion world.
PONYBOY: Has your artwork been exhibited in group shows or galleries?
AVI SPIVAK: I’ve done a bunch over the years, no major galleries but some fun things that have taken me to Europe and around the US a bit. I was lucky for a long time to be able to exhibit somewhat permanently at my local cafe here in Brooklyn. I think in some ways it has influenced the style and themes of my work the last bunch of years, thinking about making original works for display, rather than solely for reproduction. And also within the context of the neighborhood, it was immediate and anonymous, two aspects of the art making process I enjoy quite a bit.
PONYBOY: What are your thoughts on the art world in general?
AVI SPIVAK: That’s really broad, but if you’re referring to the fine art/gallery world, I honestly don’t really follow it too closely. I like that there seems to be lots of new opportunities for artists to thrive outside of the “art world”.
PONYBOY: What aspirations do you have for your artwork in the future?
AVI SPIVAK: For me, I’d be happy to continue to be able to work on the things I want to do. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I feel extremely lucky to find myself in that situation most days. I’ve always felt that if you just keep plugging away and working hard and doing interesting work, then the right people will find you. I know it’s not always the way it works, but it’s nice to think that way.