Erni Vales began painting the sides of subway trains in the mid to late 80s. It was the peak of the graffiti years in NYC and he was able to get into the gallery scene quickly from there. He started, Lower East Side Clothing with graffiti partner Gil Aviles but after painting murals in clubs like Tunnel, Limelight and the World he changed from clothing designer to large scale mural maker. For a while he may have had murals in about 500 clubs from NYC to Miami before a Hollywood producer brought him out west to paint murals on shows sets in the early 90’s.
In 97, Erni made his way back east to begin what would become a 10 year project working and consulting for the Chelsea Market. This is where he met David LaChapelle and began to collaborate with him on legendary sets for shoots with the likes of Madonna, Elton John and L’il Kim. Erni has also designed over 15 restaurants and clubs including Atlas Bar in Moscow. He is currently launching EVL World (Erni Vales Ltd.)- Company based on twisted graffiti ideas and naughty, sexy images of teddy bears in bondage. He is also launching a high end line of graffiti inspired sculptural jewelry.
How does NY city inspire you as a person and as an artist?
Just as I get influenced by life all around me, Life in NYC is always grander, more charged, and more diverse. People in NYC enjoy life more than anywhere else I have seen, they are challenged more and they are more creative and expressive. No matter where my travels take me I always return to NYC for that extra boost from life!
Most interesting projects you have worked on?
I did a huge metal sculpture that lives in the elevator bay at the Mercury records headquarters in NYC. It was my only sculpture and was very challenging and I love that it still exists today. The general nature of graffiti is that it’s temporary most of the time. I also loved designing Atlas in Moscow because I had to learn the metric system and overcome the language barrier to get everyone on the same page with me. I guess I always lean towards the new chapter, the bigger challenge!
Other artists you really admire?
You would think that my favorite artists would be in the graffiti world but they aren’t.
Chuck Close is such an amazing artist; he overcame a crippling disease, reinvented himself and became better because of his struggle. I recently got turned on to the works of Ernest Pignon. Really original and creative stuff.
Most interesting subjects?
The project I am working on now, the release of my limited edition merchandise line, EVL Productions, (Erni Vales Ltd.) I haven’t been this excited about something this personal in some time, the line consists of designs on shirts for men and women, classic graff pieces that I am releasing as a 2 part CD Rom and a line of 3D sculptural jewelry.
What kind of music and talent do you love?
I love most kinds of music, somehow I cant get into country music but everything else, hip hop, funk, soul, disco, house, electronica classic rock, lounge, I love it all, my ipod is always set on shuffle so I never now what comes next from my library which has over 5000 tracks! I am always impressed with any talent that I cannot do such as writing, singing and especially dancing because I don’t dance nearly as well as I would like too! Good dancers really impress me.
All time favorite club venues?
I am not into this new trend of bottle service and celebrity fueled nightclub venues, I have been going to clubs since the early 80’s and have gone to many great parties worldwide but I find the clubs of today kind of boring and everyone (most everyone) looks so similar, there’s not much creativity anymore.
The last best venue I remember was a party called Jackie 60 at Mother that was in I cellar in meat packing district years ago run by Chi Chi Valenti and Johnny Dynell, that was the last really great NYC club I remember in NYC.
My summer in Ibiza, 2007 also was a great and amazing party and club and music experience outside of NYC! I believe there are still great parties going on in NYC but I just haven’t found any better than those clubs from back in the day.