Huntington Native Phetus Honors Street Art

“He just goes. And he doesn’t talk about it, he just paints . . .“ said Cherie Via Rexer, owner of Ripe Art Gallery in Huntington, describing famous street artist and Huntington native Phetus as he works.

Movement. It seems to have been a constant theme in the artist’s life, from as far back as the 80s, when hip hop culture made its way to Long Island and triggered his interest in graffiti. With fewer buildings to use as canvas, much of Long Island’s small graffiti culture emerged behind train tracks.

Phetus discovered his artistic inclinations at a young age, and credits drawing with keeping him out of trouble. “For some reason, you get a pass, just in life, from what I’ve come across, when you’re considered an artist,” he said. He used drawing as a way to escape academic pressure, and was able to get by.

In the crowd that Phetus grew up with, everyone was a rapper, a DJ, a break-dancer, or an artist. He stuck with art, but was never afraid to explore different mediums. He knew the members of the rap group Public Enemy before they were famous, and eventually designed clothes for Flavor Flav and other artists’ tours. He’s designed everything from toys to an iPhone app called “Graffiti Spray Can,” which has over 5 million downloads to date.

Phetus is always looking for the next opportunity, always moving. “I know somebody that’s a film director and they’ll film a video and I’ll go to the video with some clothing, the next thing you know, the artist likes that clothing and then I get introduced and they’re like ‘Oh, you’re an artist, I want a painting for my kid’s room . . ..”

Phetus’ next stop is home. His “Stripped” art show will be Ripe Art Gallery from June 21-July 12. The show is about his journey as an artist, he’s moving from Huntington streets to a Huntington gallery. Car parts help tell that story. “…It’s kind of like back in the 80s when they would strip a car and burn it on the side of the road, that’s like my past, and now the future is, those car parts are now painted inside the gallery on a higher end,” he said. He wants to bring his art to Long Islanders who would not otherwise travel to Brooklyn or Manhattan, where most of his work is based, to see it.

But Phetus does not stay in one place for long. Along with prepping for “Stripped”, he has also been painting Knickerbocker Avenue in Brooklyn, and already thinking ahead to his next solo show, at the Poppington Art in Manhattan, the newest art gallery owned by Dame Dash, Jay-Z’s former partner at Rock-A-Fella Records. Phetus has a very laid back vibe about him, but he seems nervous about this show.

“It’s independent on a high level,” he said. He’s done solo shows in Manhattan, but not at a place of this caliber.
He’s also focused on growing Smiles & Cries, his clothing line with partner Toshio Yori, which features casual street clothes ranging from sweatshirts to snapbacks. The guys have used social media to help the brand grow, and they now ship orders as far away as Japan.

Phetus doesn’t sleep much. “. . . I’m burning the candlestick on both ends, it’s like nonstop,” he said, describing a day in his life. Whether he’s in London getting arrested for painting Big Ben or at his office in Williamsburg meeting a client, he never stays in one place for long. So, catch his “Stripped” show in Huntington while you can.

esme mazzeo

esme mazzeo

Esme Mazzeo is a freelance writer and TV junkie who enjoys writing arts, culture and lifestyle pieces. Follow her on Twitter @EsmeMazzeo