Anyone visiting Miami in the last several years has certainly seen the droopy-lidded street art eyes of artist Ahol Sniffs Glue. Like the storied Dr. T.J. Eckleburg billboard that loomed over the city of ashes in the Great Gatsby, Ahol’s eyes know all/see all in silent stoner judgment.
The beloved Miami-based street artist, whose real name is David Anasagasti, has a distinctive look with his heavy black and gray beard, gold grills, multiple gold chains, and pendants made from his designs. When not painting walls, storefronts, and canvases, he hosts “Cyber Trap Boutiques” at various locales either from his Roach Coach truck or by transforming an empty place into a popup such as he did 2 years ago at Churchill’s. There he took over a backhouse attached to the funky Miami dive rock club, painting the walls, floor and ceiling and selling limited-edition items for fans – pillows, shirts, hand-drawn empty cigarette packs, and flip-flops – who might not have the bucks to spend on one of his more traditional artworks in an “effort to leave no demographic behind,” he says. “The idea is to take the unique place, flood it with my highly recognizable eyeball pattern, and make it look nothing like it did before with ghettofied, boutiqueish, worthy, limited-edition run of apparel and other collectable, handmade, affordable items.”
Now a new mural and book at the Museum of Graffiti in Wynwood will celebrate the opening of Biscayne World, an exhibition by Ahol. He says the new work is a love letter to Miami and its cast of characters, culled from three years of riding the bus (!) up and down Biscayne Boulevard.
“From rich people to poor people and all the characters in between, Biscayne Boulevard is a petri dish with the perfect cross section of this awesome city. In the same Biscayne that’s typically underappreciated and taken for granted, I saw as a reservoir of untapped shit that served as unlimited inspiration. I listened to the conversations, the coughs, the cries, the many languages of the bus. I breathed in every smell possible, and I took the happiness along with sadness. We were all trying to get somewhere. That’s Biscayne World,” he says.
“The Museum of Graffiti was built to celebrate stories of people like David Anasagasti, one of Miami’s most recognizable public artists whose roots are entirely punk and street and whose pseudonym, AHOL SNIFFS GLUE, yells out anti-conformity,” said Alan Ket, co-Founder of the Museum of Graffiti.
In his show Biscayne World, and new book with the same title, viewers get a close-up into his work ethic, his illustrations, his desire to show the drawings that make up his Miami – scabs, bullet holes, dirty clothes and all.
“His choice of subjects and illustration style are outrageous but so is Miami and its people,” said Allison Freidin, co-Founder of the Museum of Graffiti.
Published to coincide with the exhibition, the new limited-edition book, “Biscayne World: The Art of Ahol Sniffs Glue” will be for sale exclusively in the Museum gift shop for $50, with only 100 copies made.
From a young age, he started on a path toward art-world notoriety with persistent sketches in his notebooks.
“I was around friends that got me into painting on stuff that wasn’t a traditional surface like canvas or paper. I did these whole civilizations of characters,” he says. “One day, I just decided to take their eyes and make a pattern out of it.”
His art evolved “with practice and patience. Things get better. The mind gets sharper. Everything in Miami inspires me. The good and the bad. Miami Full Time.”
Asked if he thinks his art makes people see Miami differently he says “I don’t really know how they see Miami. I just make sure they see my work. One way or another.”
Ahol has become fiercely protective of his turf, having been in two high-profile lawsuits to defend his art. In one he sued Rich Wilkerson, Jr., a celebrity pastor who married Kim Kardashian and Kanye West after he used Ahol’s murals to promote his church without permission or compensation.
He also went after American Eagle Outfitters alleging that the teen apparel brand used his work in a global advertising campaign without permission. They photographed models against a wall of his work and then used that background extensively in ad campaigns. Anasagasti’s suit ended in a confidential settlement.
The lawsuit claimed, “Given that he hails from the counter-culture world of underground street artists, Mr. Anasagasti’s reputation as an artist has been founded, in part, on a public perception that (he) doesn’t ‘sell out’ to large corporate interests.”
The suit said, “the eyes are decidedly anti-corporate. They represent the working class, who struggle and are good people. They may look a little droopy, a little sad, but it’s his way of saying, ‘You may be down today, but you’ve got to keep going.’”
Ahol agrees. When asked what his future plans are he answers ”A little bit of everything. Stronger every day.”
Tuesday, December 1 | 2020
BISCAYNE BRUNCH: The “First Look” of the new show begins at 10 am with VIP invitation-only, and open to the public beginning at 11 am with timed ticketing strictly enforced. Tickets available at museumofgraffiti.com
BOOK RELEASE + SIGNING: The artist will host a celebration and book signing at the Museum from 5 pm to 8 pm December 1, with timed ticketing strictly enforced. Tickets available at www.museumofgraffiti.com/events
Museum of Graffiti | Wynwood
299 NW 25th Street
Miami, FL 33127