Art With A Function: An Interview with CLR Therapy

If fashion can be art then in comparison art should be able to be fashion, at least that’s what Marcus Jahmal of CLR Therapy believes. Leading with the mentality of art with a function Marcus began his career as an artist working on canvas and the harsh terrain of the streets only recently having trekked into the world of street-wear clothing. Trying to make art more functional and accessible to the average joe who either doesn’t have the funds or the space for a large art work on canvas (you can count me in that category) Marcus began his street wear line by taking one of his piece’s that was painted on canvas and then cutting it up to make it into a backpack. Since then CLR Therapy’s philosophy of art with a function has taken off and Marcus has collaborated with Dr. Martens, KWay and other brands while he is constantly working on expanding his line of shirts, hats and backpacks. 

What I find to be the most powerful point of interest about CLR Therapy is that Marcus is still developing new art with an upcoming solo show in June entitled Farmland and several pop-up shops along the way all while transitioning that into his street-wear line proving that fashion is art.  Several weeks ago I had the pleasure to visit Marcus in his studio and pick his brain about all things art and fashion related. Oh and did I mention that him and his artwork were featured in a 6 page Cosmo magazine spread with supermodel Chanel Iman? 
Ya, up and coming artist doesn't even begin to cut it.

You describe your work as art with a function which I find extremely interesting. Did you start doing your work on the streets?

I actually started downstairs in my studio on large canvas. it wasn’t until I met other street artists that I started going out into that area. 
That was their thing and then it became all of our thing.

So you went canvas - street - clothing?

More like canvas - street - canvas - clothing.

Working in several different mediums in the way that you display your work do you feel that your art is geared more towards the fine art or the commercial world?

Fine art.

Since you didn’t go to school what made you decide to go out, buy a canvas and start painting?

It was a long journey. I was 18 interning at a bunch of music labels and going to school for music and was just engulfed in that world but eventually I realized that it just wasn’t me. Then I started working for a video game company and we were working on some console games and online games; then 14 months later it went down but everyone that was in that group was an artist of some sort and all the guys in the art department came from SVA so I was meeting all of these people and I just started painting and they were all encouraging me to keep going and then one day someone from the company bought 2 paintings from me and that moment was like the transition for me. It’s been about 3 years since then now.

Do you notice a difference between artists that have gone to school and artists that are self taught?

Yes, I feel like a lot of artists who go to school lack at times a raw-ness but they have other skills that I would love to have and it forces me to push myself and learn more but there is definitely a big difference.

By transmitting your paintings to clothing it becomes very much about the commercial world or do you see it differently?

I mean the clothing is all derivative of the art just a different medium but I think they are all synonymous with each other.

Do you have one that you prefer more than the other?

I definitely prefer canvas.

Photos of CLR Therapy clothing and bags taken by Sequoia Ziff

Do you make pieces specifically for the clothing or do you make the paintings first and then later decide to put them on clothing?

Well the thing is the brand started with taking an actual canvas and having it cut and sewn into items like my backpacks. We were just sitting around brainstorming one day and thought why don’t we just decide to turn a canvas into backpacks and hats? So we did a prototype and it was so unique, it hadn’t been done before and we just elaborated on it and now it’s been picking up steam. It’s basically making the art more accessible. You can’t necessarily afford a $5000 painting but most people can afford a backpack.

I’m kind of caught in the middle of two worlds because I have a love for fashion as well as art. I wanted to start a street-wear line and accessories because they are things that are more functional. It all comes from a canvas painting so it’s like 2 different mediums being transformed and I think that’s the most fascinating thing about it - that it is a canvas painting just being morphed into something else that people can actually use.

How would you describe your work in one word?


In previous interviews you’ve described CLR Therapy as the practice of healing with color. Do you have a favorite color?

Growing up it was green but I think it’s switched to blue now. Like electric blue, the way it makes me feel just gets to me.

How do you feel about working in black and white?

When it calls for it I love to explore black and white, I wear a lot of black funny enough. There's something about the simplicity I can't resist. 

Last month you collaborated on an editorial in Cosmo featuring Chanel Iman where you painted all of the backgrounds. How has life been since then?

As an underground artist it helped me reach the wider public audience with my work. It's also great to say I've collaborated with Chanel Iman whom I highly respect for her work as a supermodel.

Oil paint or spray paint?

Spray paint

Streets or canvas?


Canvas or t-shirt?


Art or fashion?


Do you see a difference between fashion and art?


So why art over fashion?

Art is the foundation. The fashion is influenced by the art. 

How would you describe your style?

Contemporary classic.

If you could be any cartoon character who would you be?

Katz from Courage the Cowardly Dog.

To see more of Marcus's work visit his site CLR Therapy here. 

SCOPE New York

Today marks only 2 days until the opening of SCOPE Art Show's New York fair and you can feel the energy and excitement building here in the Big Apple! As you may already know (but just in case you don't) I have been working in the exhibitor relations department at SCOPE for the past two months and couldn't have been luckier than to land a job with one of my favorite art show's in the world. What I really love so much about SCOPE is that they are all about supporting up and coming and mid level artists that come from all different walks of life whom you wouldn't always get the opportunity to see in a gallery setting. This is something that I have always felt very strongly about since my interest peaked in the fine art world as you might be aware of if you've been following this blog for a while. 

Sinead O'Donnell, 'Above the Clouds' courtesy of Golden Thread Gallery
David Spriggs 'Data' courtesy of Art Mur
Ayline Olukm 'Curtains' courtesy of Galeria Bertrand Gillig

For our New York show it is going to be a remarkably interesting mixture of artists that I think will impress not only the average joe who know's little to nothing about the upper echelons of the fine art world but also the curators, directors and collectors who spend their days looking at paintings, sculptors and mixed media work. I personally am extremely excited that we will be having pieces from some of my favorite street artists as well as ton of other amazing work by artists that I was not familiar with before. If you are in town I HIGHLY recommend that you find yourself at Skylight at Moynihan Station on 33rd street in between 8th and 9th avenue, March 7-9th; it's going to be a spectacle you do not want to miss.  
For more information about the fair you can click here. 

David Hanes 'Aware No.325' courtesy of Birch Contemporary 
Lottie Davis 'Viola as Twins' courtesy of Cynthia Corbett Gallery
Regine Schumann 'Color Mirror Rainbow' courtesy of De Buck Gallery
Speedy Graphito 'Game Over' courtesy of Fabien Castanier Gallery

Performing the Self

Performing the self - it sounds like a paradox but let me make my case first. A few weeks back I went to Bosi Contemporary to see the performance artist Marta Jovanovic discuss a book based on her art written by Kathy Battista that is now out for purchase entitled none other than Performing the Self. As I walked throughout the accompanied exhibit that included photography, video, installation and the written word all based on and staring Marta I felt an eerie connection to my own work. After listening to Marta discuss the details that have lead to where she is today it was impossible for me to not see the similar ties between her and I. 

When she was younger she was a ballet dancer just as I was and she learned to express herself through movement and appearance. The body became a medium and tool for her to express a message. After ballet turned out to not be her choice of career she was still very connected to the body as a vessel of expression; art became a form of therapy for her as a way of understanding herself more - self awareness. I have always said that much like psychology majors who often go into the field to try and diagnose themselves the same goes for artists. Like Marta I've always considered my work to be a form of therapy for me especially considering that it is inherently about me and my experiences. Whether it's going out and taking self portraits or getting dressed that morning or writing they are all a way to express what is essentially performing the self. 

So this idea of performing the self suddenly becomes very confusing but at the same time truthful i.e. the paradox. The other day I was discussing my self portrait series with a friend and mentioned that I was tired of seeing pretty pictures of myself and wanted to see the ugliness that I feel and thus the creation of my No More Pretty Pictures set. In response they asked if I am just putting on performances since I am self aware of this decision to express specific aspects of my personality. I couldn't disagree because I am making fully aware decisions to express this and not that. To show this side of something and not the other side. Working as a model and being a photographer self awareness is a vital quality to have so now the question comes to this: is it truly possible for the self - the way that you live your life every day - to be a performance? And if it is then is there a time when the performance begins and ends? If you document the self, write about the self and analyze the self then does the self become a qualified piece of performance art or is it just an overwhelmingly warped form of narcissism?  And also when does a performance turn from a conscious falsified or fantasized show into reality? Can it really be true that life is a performance and world is our stage and in that case isn't everyone a performance artist or must you be self aware for this to be true?

These are fine lines that can fluctuate depending on who is looking at the project and the answer is that both ways of looking at it are right. A urinal can be a urinal or it can be a sculpture if put in the right context as Duchamp proved over 100 years ago. The self can be a piece of art and the self can create a piece of art, it just depends on which one you want to be and it can be both as well as Cindy Sherman proved. This topic always takes me back to the philosophy of the Art Nouveau movement that everything in your life including yourself can be a work of art. It also reminds me of Andy Warhol's famous statement "Art is whatever you want it to be" yet not everything is art. Oh the enigma of the fine art world, what a troubled career path I have chosen..... 
What are your thoughts on the subject of performing the self?