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Sheryo and The Yok Talk Jungle Adventures and Their New Show ‘Shadows’

All images courtesy of Sheryo and The Yok


Only Yok and Sheryo could make even Death’s day-off a good time. For years now, the duo of professional spraycationers have been serving up their depraved mix of awesome illustration and paint, on walls and in galleries the world over. Their global travels and shared aesthetic for all things skate, surf, pizza, graff, and bugged-out cartoon cretins and snarl-toothed demons have merged into a singular hand. And you’ll for sure know that hand when you see it. Whether it’s designing a watermelon bridge for a playground in Singapore or creating a red-and-white psychedelic wonderland for the 21st Precinct show in NYC more than a year ago, Sheryo and The Yok always come correct, are wholly original and, to put it simply, are pretty fucking badass.

This time around, the duo have triumphantly returned to New York, and cordially invite all of us in on their next visual adventure: explorations in wooden and resin sculpture and a wealth of new black and white drawings. This Thursday night, at Masters Projects in DUMBO, Brooklyn, Sheryo and The Yok will unveil Shadows, a new exhibition. Come through and experience the twisted-but-oddly-always-joyful, Eastern-influenced headspace of their shared universe, with renderings of a chillaxing Grim Reaper, vacation-bound slices of pizza and pineapples-on-holiday galore.

We recently hit up the couple to learn more. Despite being in the full swing of last-minute preparations for the new show, they both made time to chop it up. They eagerly dished on their creative adventures in the jungles of Java, Sheryo’s ever-skillful use of charades, and their I-start-you-finish approach to collaboration.

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Mass Appeal: So tell me a story. What’s on deck for this show?

The Yok: We are stoked to exhibit our first resin works and first exploration of making some 3D forms of our bugged-out characters.

Sheryo: Our super exciting 3D, sculptural works made in the jungles of Java, Indonesia and new paintings, all in sleek black and white.

Are you stoked to be back in New York City? Does this still feel like a home base?

Y: Super stoked to be back in NYC. We are trying to spend more time in this wonderful land of pizza and good times.

S: Definitely. So many good peoples here and great tasting pizzas all day.

For your last gallery show over the summer with Rabbit Eye Movement in Austria, the body of work was all about hypercolor. What made you decide to go black and white for this? 

Y: Black and white is a powerful combination. It looks great and it tells the story in an instant. We like how it draws attention to the linework and the line weight. You can get really complex when you work with just two elements.

S: We really like to change things up and keep ourselves on our toes, experimenting with different themes and colors. For this show, we wanted a minimalist aesthetic that will bring focus to our linework. With the hypercolor work, it was all about simplifying our shapes.

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They read just like flash art, which brings us to: Sheryo, how goes tattoo time?

S: Tattoo times are good times. Getting to know new friends. You really get to know someone when you’re tattooing them!

What’s been discovered in your sculptural adventures in the last year? The sculptures and wood carvings/totems-on-holiday have been a while in the making? They were crafted and shaped overseas and then shipped here? 

Y: We made the sculptural works in the show from clay on the island of Java and then we made the final masters from resin. While we were making the pieces, a volcano erupted covering everything in ash. The jungle was this eerie white color. It looked beautiful. There was no one on the streets. It was spooky riding back into town and no one was around. The ash stayed around for a about a week. Strange days. One of the sculptures shows a grim reaper with a surfboard and a pina colada. It’s titled “Death’s Day Off.” We like to think that Death goes to the beach on his day off.

When we were making the wooden sculptures, we met a man with the longest toenail we had ever seen. He somehow used them to grip ahold of the piece of wood he was carving. He was holding it with his toes as he hacked at it with a machete. All he was wearing was some boxer shorts. Like a boss.

S: We rode on a motorbike along the coastline trying to find surf breaks and rustic shacks on the beach. Whenever we sat down, we drew pictures of our adventures along the way, and decided to make the characters we drew into real-life, 3D pieces with clay in the jungles of Java. One of them is a NY pizza who has just booked a one-way flight to Indonesia, found himself on one of the tropical islands, where he mets his new buddy, a local pineapple guy who lives in a surf shack on the beach. They hit it off despite the language barrier.

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When you are in Java or Papua New Guinea or any number of dope spots in the world, and you hear of a village that specializes in say ceramics, how do you go about making connections and earning the trust of those that live there so you can learn from them and create with and among them?

Y: I think it’s a combination of being stubborn, not taking no for an answer. If one place says no, just go next door and ask, until some one says yes. A combination of that and Sheryo’s skillful use of charades. No one can resist when Sheryo reenacts the scene of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore from Ghosts.

S: I have come to realize that I am quite amazing at demonstrating ideas with hand and body gestures. Plus, I’m not afraid to look silly, and we always make it a point to bring positive vibes to people we meet.

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Can you walk us thru the creation of the ‘Bunyip’ sculpture?
(Note to self: Bunyips are mammoth mythical water creatures from Australian Aboriginal folklore.)

Y & S: Ride motorbike 45 minutes to clay village.
Dodge chickens.
Enjoy rice paddies.
Work on clay.
Buy street durians for our new friends we made in the village.
Work some more.
Swim in the river.
Eat a fish.
More work till late in the night.
Eat some Nasty Goreng.
Ride back to town, dodging bugs kamikazing into your face.

What are some of the twisted cretin stories your characters are telling this time around?

Y: They tell stories of our travels. The work is a visual diary, of events, in-jokes, and ideas that we put down in our black books whilst we are on the road.

A lot of the drawings have been cranked out in the last few weeks in Brooklyn. Do these old, new (again) surroundings find their influence into the work?

Y: Definitely. We just did a piece that references New York rats drinking coffee and eating pizza, and pineapples stealing bikes in Brooklyn, and subject matter like that.

S: Our work is always based around stories and experiences at the time when the work was made. It is sort of a visual diary for the both of us.

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Can you talk about your collaborative process? Is it on the back-and-forth tip? Are concepts crafted in unison from beginning to end? 

Y: It started from a game we kind of started to play over lunch, where I would draw something and Sheryo would finish it off, or vice versa. We steal from each other all the time, so it’s hard to know which idea came from where. I will see some thing cool in Sheryo’s sketchbook and tweak it a bit and use it in a different way. One idea is informed by another.

S: We are constantly sharing ideas with one another. Usually, at the beginning of a show, we go through our list of cool ideas and pick one and work towards it. I enjoy collaborating with Yok. It has been really natural from the beginning, never forced; and I think our work has improved a lot just by drawing together.

How can it be that there is still not yet an animated cartoon of your gnarly, oddly cheerful creations? All in time?

Y: Yes, Anyone hit me up that’s down to animate it.

S: Yea dudeeee. We have a story all ready to go! And have a plan too. Just need an animator now!

If we were to split each of you open, what would fall out?

Y: Mangos.

S: Tropical cocos. 😉
Shadows flyer

Shadows opens this Thursday night, November 19 at Masters Projects (91 Water Street, DUMBO, Brooklyn) and will be on view until January 1, 2016.

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