As far as New York’s art scene goes, Todd James puts the “big” in the Big Apple. Prestigious tags like that come from damn-near a lifetime of work during New York’s golden era of graffiti—the ’80s. REAS’ rep is also rooted in signature characters like the apple-bottomed big girls featured in some his best commercial work (i.e. Supreme’s sloppy girl T-shirt from the ’04). Real classy! Having graduated from having his alias “REAS” seen across the city, his cartoon-inspired style has been immortalized commercially in streetwear, TV shows, and music.
REAS’ work is everywhere—San Francisco, Philadelphia, Tokyo; hence REAS International. He’s back in NYC this week hosting his first solo exhibit at the Gering & Lopez gallery in midtown. The display is titled “Make My Burden Lighter” which will show his series of artwork blurring the lines between politics, and media contrasted by his colorful, beady-eyed illustrations of girls, and skeletons. Before the exhibit opens on Friday, here are ten great commercial projects by Todd James.
Stussy LA (Interior)
Photo via: Reas International
• Los Angeles has the good weather, the best weed, and most importantly cooler installations at Stussy’s Los Angeles flagship. Can you blame them though? REAS’ pink-hued piece is in the
G-spot of the La Brea strip.
Nike’s Windrunner Project
Photo via: Freshness
• Good things came in threes last summer when Nike commissioned Todd James, Misha Hollenbach (of Perks and Mini), and Parra to design the Running Man collection of apparel and sneakers. REAS’ lightning bolt character was a flash of brilliance that appeared on T-shirts, hoodies, and a limited run of blue Nike Cortez kicks. But the project wasn’t complete without a voice for the Windrunner in a series of hilarious viral shorts. Click here to watch “Game On”.
Thirstin Howl III “I Still Live With My Moms” f/ Master Fuoul
• We know Mos Def, and Tracee Ellis Ross as alums of MTV’s Lyricist Lounge sketch comedy show. Let’s not forget though, Thirstin Howl III. The Thirsty Man was a spitter’s spitter. He traded bars with the best of them—Eminem! When his album Skilligan’s Island dropped, Todd James brought “I Still Live With My Moms” to life. To add his own twist to the throwback tune, REAS made the video cinematic by having Rudy Ray Moore (a.k.a. Dolemite) narrate the intro.
Jewcano from Minoriteam
• It’s safe to say Minoriteam, a racial parody cartoon was too hard for MTV, not black enough for BET. So Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim—where cutting edge animation lives—picked up Todd James’ production with Peter Girardi, and Adam de la Pena. The show never really had a chance to catch on with audiences having only been on the air for less than a year. James and company attemped to take the sting out of race relations by creating a troop of superheroes that represented various ethnic backgrounds. Even with a really cool approach by adapting Jack Kirby’s moving comic book style for the show, people just didn’t get it. In this quick clip, we learn the nature of Jewcano’s powers when his alter-ego hits the town with his black girlfriend.
[FYI: For those who have XBOX Live, episodes of Minoriteam are for sale. Buy them and enjoy a show that was ahead of it’s time.]
KAWS x REAS: The Twins
Photo via: Freshness
• Oft-collaborator, KAWS hooked up with REAS in 2006 for “The Twins” project with ORIGINALFAKE. It’s a tri-state area connection when these two graffiti O.G.’s connect, kind of like the New York Giants playing in East Rutherford, NJ.
Art Direction for Complex Magazine: August/September 2008Image via: Complex
• The August/September issue of Complex is kind of a big deal. In the fashion world, it’s the start of the fall season; in music, it’s the start of the fourth quarter. On one side of the mag, KAWS added illustrations to accompany cover subjects NERD, then the second cover set Lupe Fiasco in outer space with summer-themed characters created by REAS. Watch a video of Lupe talking about style & design here.
Art Direction for Mass Appeal Magazine: Issue #47
Image via: 12ozProphet
• What’s scarier than monsters? The answer is New York in the 1980s (and a little bit of the ’90s, son). In NYC shit wasn’t sweet, especially around Halloween. REAS got goulish for the cover of Mass Appeal‘s issue #47. But it was right in line with the magazine’s direction to document graffiti, rap, and sandwich-in some of the most definitieve edititorial on topics related to those two little words: “urban” “lifestyle”. R.I.P. Mass Appeal magazine.
• While Mass Appeal converged graffiti and journalism during the magazine’s early inception, Artifacts paid homage to New York’s street art scene with the cover for “Wrong Side of the Tracks”. The dynamic duo of Tame One and El De Sensei hired REAS to design “Wrong Side…” picturing one of the lost artifacts of graffiti culture—a spray-painted subway train.
• Testify Books has truly given back to the city’s lost arts. Their collection of photos and stories on New York sneaker culture, and graffiti have been authored by Bobbito Garcia and Todd James, respectively. In Mascots & Mugs, REAS and David Villorente, who recently released Piecebook compiled a history of graffiti’s most iconic cartoons. Click here to purchase a copy of Mascots & Mugs.
Crank Yankers (2002-2007)
Vodpod videos no longer available.
• The cast of Crank Yankers were the kings (and queens) of prank calls. The puppets, created by Todd dramatized the acts of Dave Chappelle, Wanda Sykes, and Tracy Morgan. Despite their movie, Jerky Boys never had any major production value until Comedy Central gave us Crank Yankers. Fast forward to 18:52, and let Spoony Luv do the talking.