Artist Gregory Siff brings The Spirit of Sunset to Saint Laurent's Fall '17 collection

by Kylie Obermeier

Gregory Siff struck viral fame in the early 2010’s by writing positive affirmations in Sharpie on free post office stickers and slapping them up around Los Angeles. Now, the artist is collaborating with the likes of Saint Laurent, but the loose and spontaneous energy of the streets is still very present in his Basquiat-meets-Andy Warhol work emblazoned on a series of sweaters within the fashion house’s Fall ‘17 collection.

Siff--—deemed ‘the Last King of Melrose’--is an artist for whom any barriers between street art and fine art, between the commercial and the creative might as well not exist. He wants to be seen simply as an artist who “makes things that relate to the moment.”  For him, this has meant working across disciplines and mediums, from photography to play writing to spray paint scrawls on some wall in Hollywood and mohair and viscose on a $1350 St Laurent sweater.

It's not the first time Siff has collaborated with a fashion brand; Vans and Helmut Lang have both felt the mark of his messy brushstrokes. Siff relishes adding his touch to clothing that has the power to energize your day and make your life better in a small but real way. He also continues to do work that benefits others more concretely, most recently with his participation in the Moma PS 1 project “”Rockaway!,” intended to bring awareness to the continued recovery of New York’s Rockaway Peninsula in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Siff spoke with us about the collaboration, the emotional fuel behind his work and how—despite the grandiose Melrose-referencing title bestowed upon him—Sunset Boulevard is his eternal muse:

FLAUNT: What were some inspirations behind the artwork being showcased within the new collection?

Siff: Masculine and feminine. The tangle and braiding of these two forces and the power in both.

Do you wear Saint Laurent? What do you like about the brand and/or the rest of the Fall ‘17 collection?

Yes. It’s a good feeling when you find a piece that you identify with that gives you energy when you wear it. It’s like looking at paintings; when you connect with a color, a fabric or accouterment that adds to your overall being, it makes your day even better. I love the whole ritual of finding your song in the clothing. The new collection is alive and free, full of beat poetry and leather and pops of color. It’s for the new Wild Ones.

This is not the first time you have collaborated with a fashion brand. How do you feel about making art through the medium of fabric instead of paint and a canvas? 

I love it. When you are painting from your heart and the paint misses the canvas, hits the floor, your shoes, or your shirt, there can be no mistakes if it’s real. In the end I approach it all the same. There is a story to tell in the painting. There is a story to live in the sweater.

You do a lot of painting but you also make a lot of different things--plays, installations, photography--as well as painting that is less than traditional (i.e. your Treats project). How do you see yourself as an artist in relation to disciplines? Does the title of painter feel limiting to you considering your variety of work?

I feel that to be an artist one must be a Swiss Army knife of emotions and be able to get out these feelings with any tool in your arsenal. All driven by your heart and experience. 

You bio describes you as having a “distinct emotionalism style that merges unique elements of abstraction, pop, and action painting.” Does using the term ‘emotionalism’ mean that you consider emotions the driving force behind your art? If so, can you expand on that?

I feel that as you mature as a person and move through life, these things put you in places to create, and expressionism is how I deal with it. You look around the studio and your room and when its rough you find yourself treating the materials and mediums different than when things are smooth. Sometimes it’s a clean brushstroke, other times a knife to the canvas. As long as I leave evidence of life, I feel like I’ve done my job.

What do you think about the high-low dynamic to your work? How do you balance the artistic side of things with the more commercial side? 

I like that it looks handmade. Anthony Vaccarello did such an exquisite representation of my art in his collection. I never find a conflict in creating work and sharing it with the world. I make work that I love and my friends would hang on their wall or wear. I never look at it as a balance. It flows itself out. 

Are you consciously trying to break down the barriers between break the barriers between street art and fine art and commercial art or do you just not notice them? 

I never saw a barrier. If it’s felt, that’s what counts. For real. It’s like people and friends. You either magnetize to them or move on. I like being the magnet and making more magnets exist.

Does living in LA influence your work and if so, how?

Yes. Sunset Blvd. is my forever muse. I love her. Just walk it one night. You’ll understand.

How do you think you’ve evolved as an artist since your first opening?

I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be as long as by the end of the night there is a new painting hanging on the wall.

Can you talk about your new project with the recently opened Los Angeles location of Dream Hotels?  

The Dream Hotel is literally a Dream. They are big supporters of the arts.  Not only have they commissioned me to create one of my most important paintings that now hangs inside the bar at Avenue LA, but they are giving me and my manager, Lisa Falcone, a space on property to share a balance of studio-life-meets-gallery-meets-creative-hideout. Picture a modern day Keith Haring Pop Shop mixed with clean gallery walls. Then you turn around and there is paint dripping off of an unfinished canvas. As I shake your hand, you get paint on it . . . Then we go to the Highlight Room on the roof of the Dream and talk about why art is so important and why it’s such a great world we get to live in because of it.


All photos courtesy of 2wenty

Written by Kylie Obermeier