Reigning in from Long Island, Andres Gallardo showed up to the interview with paint on his hands and a skateboard. An artist’s job is never complete, right? Sometimes, you just have to travel with your job.
Andres stays pretty busy with his work. He had just enough time to chat with ADDMAG’s resident art junky before getting ready to make some drop offs in his hometown. He is a little different from other artists. He doesn’t base his work off of making them for just because he loves art. He does his work mainly for his community.
He is currently working on something called The Gem Project. “I paint pieces and I leave them in random places for people to find. I’m almost at 300 that I've put out between here, LA, Atlanta and Miami. I’m going to Paris soon to do the same out there. “
He has a good thing going but why would someone take their time to create such a grand project and just give it away? The answer’s simple. “I think when people say activism; they just think that it’s political. I think I’m being an activist in that sense because it’s sort of activating happiness in these people because in that moment when they find the piece, they’re ecstatic. That’s like my treasure, The Gem Project.”
When he first started out with his Gem Project, he didn’t think anyone would care too much about it. He would make quick pieces and add poetry to them and leave them behind once he finished. When he noticed that the first Gem he made was gone within 20 minutes, he was surprised. He went home and made more. After dropping his first 50 set of Gems in random places, he would stay behind to see the different types of reactions his work received. He felt good knowing that he was able to produce this type of happiness. This has become an on-going project that he enjoys and feels that he cannot stop producing. “I love doing this for the community. It gives them something to do and they always comment saying ‘thank you for giving me something positive to do. “
Andres is very active in his community and loves to be involved by using his talents. He was heavily involved in the post Trayvon Martin - George Zimmerman trial. During the protest in New York, he used a stencil he made of Trayvon smiling and spray painted over it onto cardboard, handing it out to hundreds of people. Then people started asking him to spray paint their t-shirts. Before he knew it, he had been working for four hours giving away over 500 shirts. He wanted to use this experience as a way to show the youth in today’s world that art can used to start a revolution. He felt good knowing that his work of art was helping in sparking positive changes. “I will always try to use my art as a tool for activism.”
Various pieces of his work made it on the news and Time Magazine. He didn’t mind that he was the masked artist behind these posters and shirts. “I felt that this was a good glimpse of what can be for me. They showed just my hands spraying stencils. Most people were like ‘aren’t you mad that your face or name wasn’t in it?’ I mean my hands were doing all the work. My hands should be showcased if anything.”
But what made him decide to get into art in the first place? Andres says “I was in my hometown in Brentwood, NY and I went to an art show that a guy I knew was having. It was in a small cafe in one of the main towns and I walked in and he had art everywhere just hanging on the walls and there were so many people there. It was cool to see the reception and I literally thought to myself ‘I can do this’. That was like December 2008. I only did two paintings at that time. After that show, I went in. It was the moment you feel connected to something and you just transform. I honestly was not sleeping. I was banging out one painting a night, night after night. It wasn’t so much painting for a show, but painting in general, saying ‘I can get that much work’ and until July 2009, when I was like ‘man I have 30 paintings in my house. I should have something.’ So that’s when I decided to have my first show.”
Everyone’s road through art is different. Some have been more challenging than others. “It’s been a roller coaster emotionally but I think it’s really helped me evolve into who I am. I think too many people give up on their dream you know when they’re young, doing what they like to do, but society bashes that so many times. I actually feel blessed that I’m able to do this. I don’t bash anyone that decides to be a doctor or anything, I think it’s beautiful but at the same time, I know that when you were a kid, that probably wasn’t your first thought. This has been an emotional roller coaster to show that I’m still grinding.”
This journey would be one that Andres would do all over again given the chance to. It’s a beautiful struggle. The only thing he would do differently would be to start at a younger age. He doesn’t regret anything
His advice for any aspiring artists. Andres says “create a bunch of work and don’t let anyone’s opinion put you down. Andy Warhol said something to me that was one of the most incredible things. ‘Make a lot of work. While people are deciding whether it’s good or bad, keep making more work.’ I think that’s beautiful. If you have a collection and you put your work out there, you never know who you are inspiring. I think it’s important. Just keep pushing.”
His biggest inspiration is spoken word. “I’m really good friends with this crew called The Strivers Row and I think I’m always chasing what they do to their audience in a sense because it’s so powerful, the way they move you and keep you stunned for a while. I think I’m always painting so much because I want to stun my people as much. I’ve had the privilege of working with them and even creating pieces with them. Spoken word is my biggest inspiration. Then, I find beauty in women.”
His goals and inspirations coincide with each other. As an artist, being famous is something he would like to be for the right reasons.
“I can’t say that my goal isn’t to be a big time artist because what fame does is give you a louder voice. I’d rather be someone like Basquiat and be known while I’m alive even though he passed away at an early age than a Van Gogh, who is one of our legends but he never saw that. His paintings became so big after he passed away. I want to impact as much people through my art while I’m alive. My biggest goal is to be influential.”
You can follow him on Instagram to find out when he’ll be dropping more gems.