Rest in Peace: Johnathan Estes

The Houston arts community is mourning the loss of one of its own this week. Johnathan Estes, executive director of the Southern Artist Foundation, died early Tuesday morning. Estes was well known for operating Montrose Proper Art Gallery on Westheimer and Kingspoint Community Art Lab, affectionately called "The Mullet," an art warehouse located behind Almeda Mall.

According to, HPD patrol officers were called on Monday night in response to a shooting at 10900 Kingspoint in Southeast Houston. The victim, later identified as Estes, suffered from multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital, where he ultimately succumbed to his injuries.

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Local Streetwear Entrepreneurs Shirk Convention, Do It Their Way

Photos by Keith Luter, Jr.
It was a beautiful Sunday morning and the guys of men's streetwear boutique Urban Assault, Daniel Gonzales, 32, and David Ruiz, 26, opened their doors for me to see their pride and joy.

"I guess you can say that we are a specialty boutique that caters to the young man that prides himself on being different and wearing clothes that are stylish, modern and are not mass-produced," Gonzalez said when asked to explain what set the shop apart from the mountain of retailers in Houston.

The two have been best friends for 16 years growing up in Pasadena, and for the past two years have built a name for themselves in Houston streetwear.

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Bomdiggidy Smoke Shop's Glassblowers and the Art of Getting Stoned

Photo courtesy of Bomdiggidy Smoke Shop
Shop owner Matt and one wicked expensive piece

The temperature from the torches in this back-alley shop is brutal, even from a safe distance, and yet no one seems to notice but me. Every two feet or so, there's an artist standing over a torch, and they're all deep in the process of melting glass. This fire-meets-molten glass is their comfort zone.

One of the bespectacled guys begins the process of blowing into the molten glass, gently blowing the glowing material into an ever-expanding bubble. As I move a bit closer, I am completely unaware of anything other than the glow of the lava-like glass, and I come entirely too close to wiping out an entire table of glass pipes. Expensive glass pipes.

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The Rest of the Best: Houston's Top 10 Graffiti Artists

Photo by Marco Torres
My first Houston Graffiti photo, November 2006.
It was a cool, sunny November afternoon back in 2006 as I was driving down Harrisburg Boulevard on the east side of Houston, when a series of colorful patterns flashed through my rear-view mirror. I circled around to an abandoned shell of a building that consisted of three walls and a few support beams where the roof used to exist. Along the walls was graffiti by such H-Town legends as Jade, Colors, Weah, Prime, Bekit, and Kaze. Having recently purchased a used DSLR, this would be my first encounter documenting graffiti in Houston, a project that continues to this day.

The last year Best of Houston® included the "Best Graffiti Artist" category was in 2010, with GONZO247 taking the top honors. A lot has happened in the Houston graffiti scene since then, with wheat paste artists gaining fame and traditional art galleries embracing the culture. Here is our list of the top artists still showcasing the art on the Houston streets:

10: Howie

Howie's style is clean, fast, and fun. From fill-ins, tags, trains, and rollers, he constantly hits highly visible spots and seems to shift around the city with ease. Plus, his monster face character that lives in the last "e" is whimsical with just the right amount of menacing.

9. Abels

Photo by Marco Torres

This young menace was the virtuoso of illegal graffiti in Houston a few years back. Hitting spots other graffiti contemporaries only dream about, Abels ran the city and quickly rose to King status here and across the country.

Story continues on the next page.

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Banksy Digs Alt Weeklies, We Dig Banksy and Street Art

Categories: Street Art

Banksy is unquestionably the most famous street artist in the world. It's not even close. Thanks to a combination of talent, mystery, and marketing, he's become the face of street art, even if no one knows what his actual face looks like.

Up in New York, Banksy is hitting the streets for a month of new work that goes by the name of "Better Out Than In." It's pretty exciting to follow, even thousands of miles away, as every day people hit the city and social media in hopes of finding the new pieces. People have to move quick because just as fast as the pieces go up and get discovered they get defaced.

While all of this is going on, our sister paper The Village Voice managed to score an exclusive interview with Banksy, conducted through the magic of email. Why The Village Voice? Because he "feels an affinity with people who provide quality content for free on street corners."

Sounds just like us here at the Houston Press!

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EYESORE and give up Team Up For a Street Art Gallery Showcase

photos by Marco Torres

To evolve and adapt. In the world of street art, those factors are as important for success as the development of a unique aesthetic and consistent output. You gotta stay up. As street art hits the galleries, the same is true. When the idea of a joint showcase first hit artists EYESORE and give up earlier this year, the venue of choice was the now shuttered Domy Books.

Now that the duo has found a new gallery for their latest works (Cardoza Fine Art,1320 Nance), we spoke to EYESORE in anticipation of this weekend's opening for a preview of the show:

Art Attack: What lead to this collaboration between yourself and give up?

EYESORE: Besides being friends, we hold the same interest in the dark, ugly, and misunderstood subject matter, whether it be animals or people. We are the same in that respect, always riding around and seeing inspiration for our works hidden in the dark.

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Breaking Taboo: A.G.R.O. and the Art of Human Suspension

Photos by Angelica Leicht

As I sat against one of the graffitied walls at the Kingspoint Mullet, watching the beads of sweat creating pools under the chin of a shirtless guy straddling a chair, I had to wonder if all of the sweat dripping from his brow was due to the miserable Sunday afternoon heat. Surely part of it was fear. I mean, I was sweating for him, and I wasn't the one who was seconds away from having metal hooks shoved into the flesh of my back.

As the piercers took aim, his brow furrowed a bit more, his eyes closed and the room grew eerily silent. And then, with one swift movement, it was done. Two three-inch spots on his back now bore metal hooks, mechanisms from which he'd soon be supporting his body weight as he hung from the rafters of the Mullet. Willingly.

It was my own preconceived notions about suspension, and perhaps about the people who practice it, that led me to tag along for a meeting and performance with the A.G.R.O. "family." Even as a person with extensive tattooing, and even with what I like to think of as a relatively open mind about body art, I still couldn't wrap my head around the idea of a person hanging from the rafters by his skin. Just couldn't do it. What in the world was suspension? And really, why were folks doing it?

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Os Gêmeos and Hennessy Present Limited Edition Collaboration in Houston

Photos by Marco Torres

In the world of contemporary art, few people have risen to the level attained by Otavio and Gustavo Pandolfo. Known as Os Gêmeos, these identical twin brothers from São Paulo, Brazil have captured the imagination of the art world with colorful scenes inhabited by the jaundiced caricatures of self expression and whimsy.


The duo visited Houston on Monday to celebrate their most recent collaboration with Hennessy, a limited edition bottle with Os Gêmeos artwork designed and printed on the label. Previous manifestations of this type of art collaboration have seen Kaws and Futura2000 as the featured artists.

The Houston Press was one of three media outlets invited to a media roundtable and luncheon held at Diverseworks Gallery in Midtown, which included local artists Gonzo247, Dual, Skeez181, 2:12, and Dandee Warhol.

Highlights of the interview are provided below:


We started with drawing at an early age. Drawing for us was the best way to play. We later discovered drawing was our tool to express ourselves and communicate with family and friends. Later in the '80s we discovered other mediums, specifically spray paint. So we started to discover our city through graffiti. That was our key to the city, a city full of surprises. That later led to paintings and sculptures and gallery work, inside work. We do not call ourselves graffiti artists, or street artists. Yes, we do that, but that [graffiti] is outside. We work also inside and do it all. We use many different way to express ourselves. Graffiti is just one way. We respect too much this outside, graffiti world, and try hard not to mix.

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Iranian Street Artists Icy and Sot on Their Way to Aerosol Warfare Gallery in Houston

Icy and Sot
"Merry X-mas" Brooklyn, New York, 2012
Since the 2009 uprisings in Tehran, the Iranian creative community hasn't had the easiest time of it whenever it chooses to question its government. Whether they stay or leave, a small yet flourishing underground art culture has emerged globally.

Two of the most prominent figures in that movement are brothers Icy and Sot, skaters and street artists from the city of Tabriz, in northwestern Iran, specializing primarily in stencil artwork. On March 14, they and their work will be paying a visit to Houston at Aerosol Warfare Gallery - another stop on their East Middle West Tour of four U.S. cities. Fellow Iranian rabble-rousers the punk rock band The Yellow Dogs are part of the excursion.

We recently spoke with Icy and Sot in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Tell us about the East Middle West Tour.

Icy: It's something we have been planning with The Yellow Dogs for a few months now, so it's exciting to be finally living it -- taking our art to a broader audience and spreading awareness. We will be introducing new work and also site-specific installations in each city, with live sets from The Yellow Dogs at each opening-night event.

Sot: It will be eight guys traveling 8,000 miles in a small van, but it has been and will be worth it. There are so many people that we have met online and corresponded with, but until now we have not been able to meet them face to face. So that's been really special, and we can't wait to meet more of those people in Houston and Chicago, and to also make new friends and earn new fans.

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Grocery Store Gets Graffiti: GONZO247's YUMMY! 247 Exhibit at Phoenicia Specialty Foods

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Photos by Altamese Osborne
Across the street from Discovery Green stands Phoenicia Specialty Foods Downtown Market, a stately eight-month-old addition to the family-owned grocery store's original Westheimer location. Inside the store, blinding white walls are lined with shelves holding ethnic foods and goods, while freshly baked pita bread puffs work their way down a conveyor belt and into an employee's waiting hands. Walk down what employees call the "runway," and you bump into the store's adjoining Market Bar, an intimate brick space that offers dishes culled from Phoenicia's own aisles, a nightclub atmosphere and art-lined walls -- like artist GONZO247's Yummy! 247 exhibition, which opened to a hip crowd Wednesday night. ("Yummy" is, not-so-coincidentally, Phoenicia's slogan du jour.)


The Market, or MKT, Bar regularly hangs art pieces on its walls, changing exhibitions every few months. "It was time to rotate the art," said Haig Tcholakian, Phoenicia's Wine and Beer Manager, listed on the store's website as "The Brother of Brews." Phoenicia's key players already had GONZO247, graffiti artist extraordinaire and cofounder of street art group Aerosol Warfare, in mind for the next rotation. Tcholakian had taken a graffiti writing skills class from the artist, and Tina Zulu, owner of public relations, web design and branding firm Zulu Creative (Phoenicia is one of her clients), was already a fan of the "spray can artist," as GONZO247 calls himself.

"I asked how he could tie in the market to the art that he created," Zulu remembers saying.

GONZO247 took about three weeks from conception to execution to create a 16-piece series of spray-painted works. "The theme is a day in the life of Phoenicia," he explained.

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