Matthew Giles interviews Lee Quiñones in Vulture:
Of your work that you’ve created, which did you feel was the most important?
The "Howard the Duck" handball wall mural, which I created in 1978 and was the first of its kind. Basically that mural broke open the conversation of what this art movement was capable of and the trajectory it was pointed in. I felt that I had arrived as an artist at that point. "The Lion’s Den" mural was behind it. I loved the "Lion" mural more than Howard, because it was when I felt I brought the technique of spray-painting to the next level. Instead of outlining things in a cartoonish way, I was working with stories of light and depth and feel. Both were a neighborhood prescription.
When you say "neighborhood prescription," what does that mean?
The Lower East Side is an unsung hero itself. A lot of talents came out of there, but it is always at the back of the bus compared to the rest of the city. I felt the neighborhood was hurting and wanted something refreshing to look forward to.
An influence I wouldn't have expected:
As you were developing your talent, what other NYC pieces were you looking to for inspiration?
Jenny Holzer. Her writings on the wall were instrumental. In the 1980s, in NYC, there was an abundance of abandoned buildings and walls. The presence of all those empty buildings became almost normal to some people, but when you saw something painted on a wall as crude as the phrase "Broken Promises" or "Sense of Power Is Domination," it gave a whole new purpose to the climate and the actual buildings. That was riveting to me. Jenny Holzer makes me feel so illiterate and stupid when I read her stuff. I am a visual person, and when I am down and out in my work, I always look forward to her work. Her work is like she is throwing a huge party on the street that no one is ever late to.
On Banksey, Street Art, and Greed:
For the past decade, there has been so much attention focused on street art. What did you think of Banksy's NYC residency?
I love a lot of Banksy’s work. I was really busy when it was going on and I wasn't trying to get on that herd drive, but I saw some pieces later on and thought they were genius. They were hilarious and brought up some real issues. Giving away drawings for $6, he is having a laugh at the hypocrisy of how people are in a crazy rush to buy and own something. Me, me, me. Art is a powerful tool, and right now street art is more than ever economic and a tool for planting a flag when talking about displacement and replacement. When you see street art coming up in a neighborhood, you know that will be the next neighborhood.
It’s interesting about the owning of street art. In that HBO Banksy documentary, people were taking the pieces almost immediately as they were being "discovered." It’s the start of a nasty fire. It’s all about personal greed.