Monday, October 11, 2010

The Rene Gagnon Interview and Print Giveaway

I am beyond excited to present my interview with an artist I have admired and appreciated for a long time, Rene Gagnon. From his street work to his print work to freaking out Homeland Security. Rene always takes an original and thought provoking approach to his art. Rene took a tour of his studio taking pictures to share with us and those are the images above. Rene is also gratuitously giving away 3 prints to you my faithful readers. You will have to check back each day this week to see which prints and enter.

Be sure to check out Rene's website to see all his work. Thank you again to Rene for the interview and giveaway.

Now I give you Rene Gagnon:

Is it correct to assume your real name is not Rene Gagnon ?

That my friend is the right question.

Rene Gagnon was one of the Marines in the famous Joe Rosenthal photo Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima any connection to your name ?

I was told we are distant cousins.

Your tag is/was SNO where did that come from ?

When I first got into graffiti (1984/85) I actually did my first few pieces using my name ‘Rene’. During that time I met a fellow artist from Brooklyn that moved to my hometown of Fall River. MA that used to tag ‘STER’. We were shooting the shit one day about graffiti and he said I needed a tag. We played with a few names and ‘SNO’ stuck. It was super quick to tag, I’m a white boy, and I do love the snow so it just fit. My father actually gave my youngest sister the middle name ‘SNO’ when she was born.

Not much is known about you, can you tell us about your back ground art school or anything else?

Always been an artist. My family has many creative types, architects, fine artists, illustrators, etc.. So I guess you could say it’s in my blood. I majored in illustration and graphic design at the Massachusetts College of Art and graduated in 1999. Worked as a freelance illustrator/designer after college for a couple of years before I found out that I can’t work for people. Especially people that ‘think’ they know how to design. I’ve been told on three separate occasions by clients that I have an edge to me. LOL So I gave it up and got into teaching. It allows me to be the boss and gives enough time to pursue my art. I’ve been a high school and college design teacher for 10 years.

Was there a significant moment or piece of art that had an impact on you to become an artist ?

The first was when I was a kid, not sure on the date, late 70’s early 80’s, I watched this guy on TV hurling buckets of paint at a canvas as he stood behind the jet engine of a 747. (Jurgen, Prince von Anhalt) I was like,”Hell yeah I can do that!” Also seeing the book ‘Subway Art’ for the first time changed my life forever.

Where do you draw your influences from , besides someone ripping off you work ?

Everything, everywhere. It’s actually a curse at times. I’ll have ideas and want to make them real immediately. Which isn’t always a good thing. Sometimes some extra thought helps. I get lots of ideas watching mindless television and the news, keeps me in touch with pop culture.

How did you make the jump from bombing to creating Fine Art ?

In 1990 I was arrested and charged with graffiti. They couldn’t connect me with my tag but this was pretty serious at the time, made all the local papers. Me and my boy smashed a bunch of lights that lit up a wall on the highway and did our thing on it. We payed hefty fines and did community service. I slowed dramatically after that because the consequences were becoming to great. In 1992 I got my ass into college to get my life on track. I was a teenage dad as well so I wanted better life for my daughter - Ms. Always In Season.

Do you still get the itch to go bomb ?

Oh of course and I still do just in a different way. Doing street work is a real rush to me. Although a lot of it is in broad daylight these days.

Were you ever been arrested for graffiti and if so how many times ?

2 or 3 times for destruction of property, and 3 times for stealing paint if I recall correctly. I managed to evade being charged with the hundreds of tags around the city. Although one day a Major Crimes Division Detective showed up at my door and talked with my father. They had compiled roughly 150 tags on mailboxes. Which are federal offenses. They told my father that I had better call it a day because I was really starting to piss people off. I heeded the warning.

Favorite spray paint ?


You call your style of art "American Post Graffiti Abstract Expressionism" can you explain what that is ? Is it this generations "pop art"?

Ha ha I wish I could. I came up with that term about 10 years ago. At the time my work was about the act of tagging and doing graffiti in the same vein as the abstract expressionist movement being about the act of painting and not the painting itself. My version of this expressionism came after the graffiti movement. So "American Post Graffiti Abstract Expressionism" seemed to fit the bill. And it sounds important. I have it used by others these days, but I doubt I’ll ever be credited with the movement.

Do you think too many "artists" are using the term street art to gain credibility for their work ?

Absolutely. I have a problem with artists putting their stuff in the street because they see it as an opportunity to be recognized for their art. You have people putting their canvases around outside, taking photos of them, and they call themselves street artists, go figure. I’m old school. You earn your stripes on the street first then migrate into the gallery realm. Not the other way around. But hell, to each their own.

What are your thoughts on the whole Mr. Brainwash "craze" ?

Well. That’s the world we live in. One big hype machine. The thought of writing more on this makes my head hurt.

What are your feelings with all the hype over other artists who seem to be using VERY similar subject matter as you ?

It’s all good. We have all been influenced by other artists. We are bound to regurgitate things, even sometimes on a subconscious level.

Do you find that you are marketing yourself more to an American audience or toward a European/British Audience?

Mmmmmm not sure I never gave that any thought. Most of the work I have sold has been overseas to the UK and Japan but this past year I have seen a lot more domestic sales.

Where is your biggest fanbase located?

Another tough question. Probably the UK and Japan.

What artists do you follow ? What other artists work hangs on your walls ?

I follow all my favorites. I hate naming them with fear I may forget one. Banksy, Shep, Nick Walker, Dolk, Pobel, Parla, D Face, Logan Hicks, Dotmasters, Invader, Missbugs, Herakut etc.. I make my internet rounds daily. I have a Blek le rat print hanging in my bedroom. The rest is my work.

What are your thoughts on Banksy stealing your work for his movie poster giveaway ?


Do you plan to watch "exit through the gift shop" and what are your thoughts on it?

I wasn’t going to see it but I did. I was physically sick during MBW’s footage of his first show in LA. I felt that it was at the expense of me and some other artists that basically had their ideas and techniques we had been developing for almost a decade ripped off by someone with money and sold as their own. Some of the layered graffiti paintings with his tomato spray image really, really affected me. It was painful, and I consider myself a pretty tough individual. The pieces at first glance looked like something plucked from my website. A trained eye could notice that MBW and his staff have no hand style but most people could give two shits about that. One part that shows Shep walking through the gallery really stuck with me. He had this perplexed look on his face very similar to mine during watching the movie. I felt like he was thinking,”What the fuck is this shit.”

Last piece of work by someone else you bought?

Blek’s print from Wooster Collective - The Man Who Walks Through Walls.

Do you have any desire to work with someone else on a piece ?

Oh shit yeah. I have approached a couple in the past that have very different styles like Logan Hicks. Thinking the contrast of my chaos and some anal retentive stenciling could make for some interesting work. No luck so far. Maybe they think I have an edge to me. Also C215 and myself could make a great collab. IMO

Any chance of the your "Bomber" image becoming a resin or vinyl figure. It would look great with the 3 colors coming off of it ?

Too many ideas, not enough life to give life to them. Maybe...

Do you hand pull your silk screen posters or do you send them out to be printed?

Everything, and I mean everything up until this point has been done by me. Every burn, every pull, all the packaging, stretching, etc.. Has been done with my hands.

Print or painting of yours that you feel is your best one and why?

Print: Creation. For me it sums up the constant separation between street artists and graffiti artists. Painting: Addition By Abstraction - 2002. It represents me finally letting my inner self show throw by letting the graffiti be more a part of the work. This was a huge step for me, in school my professors despised anything graffiti related so I hid that part of me for a long time.

Which do you prefer... your street art work or your gallery work?

They are both one and the same.

Where are you happiest working out on the street or in the studio?

Again, they are both one and the same.

When is your next gallery show ?

January, Black Book Gallery, Denver, Colorado.


  1. Rene took a tour of his studio taking pictures to share with us and those are the images above.

    where are the photos?

  2. great interview, thanks. really love his work and love it that he is a new englander like myself.

  3. Great interview, can anyone post more info/discussion on the banksy stealing stuff for a movie poster giveaway comment?!

  4. Great interview. I had him as a teacher for 3 years; very intelligent and talented.