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.