Photo credit:  Jacob King

Photo credit: Jacob King

We welcome you to an interview with Darius Airo, a visual artist living in Chicago. To give you a taste, his social media handle is @assiest and his bio simply reads: "gettin' kinda fat."

From massive murals to solo shows to a premeditated trilogy of books, Airo is incredibly prolific, capturing a unique style unlike those around him. He's created artwork for artists like Towkio, Hurt Everybody, Swill, and even the Tokens compilation I curated earlier this year. I spoke with the 21-year-old talent about his upcoming work, his literal lack of dreams, his massive archive of content, and some of the music he has on repeat.

Where are you currently located? Describe your environment for us.

I live on the north side of Chicago in the Edgewater neighborhood, and my studio is on Michigan Ave. right in the loop. I need the neighborhood stuff in Chicago, I love the speed and depth of the loop but there's a different type of vastness in Chicago neighborhoods that I need here. People from all over building up a space. I live less than a block from Ashland so when the windows are open at night you can hear cars flying down the street, I really like that. 

You are very prolific in nature, but most of your created content is no longer available online. Do you plan on archiving it all one day or is it gone forever?

Yeah I keep my website catalogue super manicured, I want it tuned up to my immediate practice. My Instagram is kind of the most thorough archive available to the public, even that I end up editing down sometimes. It's a weird thing, I'm always down to share new work as soon as I make it and I'm almost sure it's done. Old stuff is different, I'm really young so making a lot of work means flying through a lot of different styles and genres. Not all of it is a good representation of the identity I want to share with everyone artistically. Instagram lets me curate the shifts that happen in my work, editing out the stuff i don't like. I have a huge archive of work, I document everything so nothing is gone forever. 

What can you tell us about your new endeavor involving books?

I think a lot about how most people interact with my work as a picture on a screen. That impacts my paintings, each thing I make has a presence in person and as a photograph. The first book, titled Vessels, addresses my work as image with photo collage, digital media/photo manipulation, text, and drawing/painting as exclusively image based - a 2D thing to look at. The book is the object, so photos of paintings are entirely removed from their physical presence. I had a great time making the first one and learned about my relationship with digital media. I have a primitive, haphazard way of using Photoshop but it's so much fun and I get it to do what I want. I'm releasing a second book early next year. Vessels is three nonlinear chapters; Vessels, American Manic, and Just Friends. Each chapter is going to have its own book, so Vessels is a trilogy. 

What's the rest of the year / early 2017 looking like for you?

So busy! A ton of stuff available to the public with other artists and a solo show in Chicago in February that I'm really excited for. I'll attach a lil' Darius itinerary below:

* Just painted a mural in collaboration with Danny Sobor at a space ran by Chicago Sleepers. 

* December group show at DIY space location date TBD. 

* 12/3 group show at The Dojo - 2304 S. Blue Island. 

* Releasing 2nd book in conjunction with the big show I'm focusing my energy on, "Vessels", at Adventure Land Gallery on Feb. 3, 2017 1513 N Western Ave. in Chicago. 

Beyond that, maintaining full time hours in the studio and beginning promotion for the solo show. Keep an eye out, I have a lot in store leading up to it. 

What are some studio essentials?

Hahahaha I use so many things every day. I'm a little neurotic and fidgety so I'm constantly doing or ingesting something. I drink a bunch of coffee with honey in it, I think my favorite tool is my razor scraper for my glass palette. So gratifying. I've been working on big ass sheets of paper with acrylic paint in deli containers and loving it. 

Do you have any memorable dreams that have occurred recently?

I haven't remembered a dream in so long, I have a weird relationship with sleep.

What have you been listening to / watching / reading lately?

Baby by Donnie and Joe Emmerson on repeat, one Hit wonder from the late 70's that I'm loving. Lots of Frank Ocean: Channel Orange, Blond and Endless. AND THE NEW TRIBE IS SO GOOD HOLY COW MAN I'M SO SAD THAT PHIFE ISN'T HERE RIGHT NOW! 

Do you have any advice for artists working on their craft?

Make a lot and talk a lot and look a lot and try to be happy every day.

Any final words/thoughts/shout-outs?

Shout out all the people of color, LGBTQ, religious minorities, and women who drive me to be the best person I can be every day I am by your side!!!