Both Paul and DJ took a break from the long hours they’ve been putting into making everything for Saturday’s opening of “No Can Left Behind” at 941 Geary to tell us their backstory and answer a few questions.
The story of where Canlove first started begins with DJ having been spray painting for years before he considered what it would be like to paint the inside of the can itself. Spray cans come with a warning label that reads ‘Do not puncture or incinerate.’ It’s very counterintuitive to transgress that warning, but once he did, he realized that the residual paint in the can made it aesthetically complete and perfect just as it was. So he lost the desire to paint on it, but discovered that it could be used on its own. ICU of Los Angeles had already started the mission to collect discarded cans from graffiti scenes, and when DJ asked for some, they readily handed them over.
DJ admits that he doesn’t like most found art, since it usually incorporates the unchanged form of the trash itself. His goal was to create objects with a higher aesthetic value. Paul views the work of Canlove as a type of mummification, thereby considering the whole life cycle of a can. He continually states that for Canlove: “The medium is the message.” The fact that the collective is environmentally progressive was secondary to the fact that Canlove’s mission helps create a creative awareness underlining everyday objects, and it is the process that is important – not just the finished piece.
How will Canlove evolve? Where would you like to see the project go?
CL: We don’t view it so much as a project, because the term is too finite. We wish to build a basic foundation that can incorporate a public art wall, collection infrastructure, paint distributer, and processing center to create multiple fully functioning, and self-maintained locations. Once we have refined the process, and strung the whole constellation together, Canlove can develop independent spheres outside of L.A. and in other cities like New York, San Francisco and London.
Ultimately it would be great to develop a partnership between spray paint companies and us, who are the recyclers. Montana Colors of North America have already begun giving discounts to sellers who return their cans. We want to serve as a natural outgrowth from this type of dynamic.
The individual flowers are nice to sell to independent collectors, but we want to grow bigger and past the singular flower. We are now hand cutting every can individually, though we are growing past the ability to use only simple tools. We believe we are still in the ‘bronze age’ of Canlove, and we want to develop better tools and more sophisticated machinery to process the cans more efficiently. We are still the world authority on cans recycling, but its in the ‘doing’, the fundamental process of everything, where this whole idea really began and where it will continue to develop.
We want to support the genre of graffiti, which we consider the purest of all contemporary art since it is so unsanctioned and exists ubiquitously. Since graffiti is still young as an art form, we consider Canlove to be a natural evolution of it. We want to support the culture by getting like-minded people together through collaborations. This is much bigger than us, and any individual work here – its more about growing, making accessible, and facilitating this model so other people have a chance to get involved with the creative process.
Graffiti is such a pure art form because people are willing to get arrested and even face death to make their mark on the world, and we want to celebrate that, and to create a self-contained place for it.
Would you ever consider incorporating other discarded objects into your work, or do you think that exclusively using cans is best for maintaining the mission of Canlove?
CL: I think we want to stick purely to cans instead of moving onto other objects. We both met while interning for an advertising firm, and while it was sucking away our souls, we learned something crucial about building a brand: communicating simply is the best way to get your message out there in a consistent manner. So we are going to stick to the simple material of cans. Even if you look at something like our canscapes, and don’t realize what the material is initially, the message becomes all the more rich and meaningful once you’ve discovered what’s going on. Working exclusively with cans helps us to appreciate what it takes to build something from scratch and be considerate of every step that goes into it
CL: The ‘bleeds’ have been primarily DJ’s project. What’s challenging is getting enough color to work with from each discarded can. You end up using hundreds of cans per canvas: only getting bits of paint at a time. It’s a more personal subgenre and not fully part of Canlove’s mission. However, there are some positive aspects of the ‘bleeds’ since they are great for getting people to interact.
Since Canlove is also open to the public to get involved, we try to invite people to help volunteer and create things with us. So ‘bleeds’ have turned into a great way to offer the public a chance to interact with the organization. ‘Bleeds’ are powerful because they connect people to art who are not ordinarily connected. So if someone has reservations about creating because they “can’t draw a stick figure” they often have a lot of fun playing with paint by making a ‘bleed’.
What is the difference in satisfaction you derive from displaying your work publicly versus selling it to private buyers?
CL: Ultimately, we want to work with cities, which already have a very tarnished view of what a street artist is. We want to extend ourselves to places to help clean up abandoned spray cans and then turn them into something everyone can enjoy. This contrasts how graffiti artists are usually seen, but the private art sector will help lead us to that. So the private world will help fuel the public projects by legitimizing them and, conversely, more public projects will get more private collectors excited about our work.