Before Eric Haze was tagging automobiles, making t-shirts with Stussy or partnering with G-Shock, he was tagging the walls and subways of New York City in the late 70’s. Haze helped usher in an era, becoming one of the most prolific artists of his time, and eventually inspiring the template for many of the crazy graf styles that came after him. He designed the logo for Public Enemy and did album covers for the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J in a time when Hip-Hop’s rules were still being etched and scratched out.
If you didn’t know who Eric Haze was, you definitely had to take notice at this past weekends affair, 30/25/15X4, celebrating G-Shock’s 30th anniversary, Haze’s 25th, and their 15 year partnership together in New York City’s Financial District. Not too far from Wall Street, attendees entered a venue decorated with framed collections of his t-shirts, skullys, and memorabilia that he’s done over the years. Walking through the exhibit was like taking a journey through time. A period when logos were the end all be all, sneaker culture was at its height, and graffiti was still drawn on trains. In the middle of the venue, lied his past collaborative time pieces with G-Shock, in chronological order, each collab more interesting than the next. Much of the work, emblazoned with his signature tag: bold lines spelling his name with a halo and a star, surrounded by a cloud. Haze is blessed, but he ain’t too surprised. “I don’t consider any of this accident. I consider it all a blessing,” he said taking a puff of his cigarette outside of the venue. He continued, “I feel like I’ve been aligned and dedicated with the culture since day one.”
And he has. Just passing across the Brooklyn Bridge, it’s visible that graffiti is still alive and kicking but the work is more refined than a tag, inspired by trailblazers like Haze and his contemporary Keith Haring. They were really amongst the first to establish a place between art and product in the 80’s when Haze and Haring collaborated on a t-shirt sold in his Pop Shop in downtown Manhattan.
An intimate crowd of about 500 people showed up ranging from actress, Rosie Perez, beloved for her role in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing to Downtown duo Va$htie & Oscar known for their 1992 parties. While legendary DJ’s Stretch Arm Strong, DJ Scratch, and Just Blaze surrendered the crowd with their multifaceted DJ skills, heavyweights mingled with the up-and-coming. Haze, who shied away from too much spotlight at the event, is almost 30 years into his career and shows no signs of slowing up. “I’ve been saying for a long time, I’m exactly where I want to be,” says Haze who’s nearly 50 years old. I wouldn’t really change anything right now.” He continues, “ The real sort of trick for me over the last 5 or 10 years is to find the healthiest balance between the roles I play. Whether it’s me as artist and an art director or product designer.” He’s reached the point where he feels comfortable in his head going through all three seamlessly.
So how’d this all come about? A 15 year partnership with G-Shock, one of the world’s most recognizable brands. All over the world Haze’s self-titled brand became ubiquitous with Hip-Hop culture. In Japan, almost 15 years ago, G-Shock extended their olive branch towards a partnership with the pop artist. “We developed the first watch in 1999 and it was it was a much younger and more simpler days of collaborations and co-branding. It was a major accomplishment and that relationship grew,” he says.
The collaboration started out with him just adding his tag to the G-Shock watch, but its flourished into his creative take on packaging and the overall product. With their latest collaboration, he believes it’s blended just right. “With Casio, I’m trying to just capture their identity with my fingerprints, ” says Haze. In 1999, he also retracted back to just being an artist, for fear of wearing his brand too thin. Now Haze is more of a design entity with a line of clothing rather than the reverse. “I think sort of changing my approach to allowed for companies like G-Shock to see the mutual value of working together,” says Haze. To commemorate their legacy together, they collaborated on a fourth time piece that reinvigorates the colors of red, grey and white from their previous watches.
Looking at Haze now, he’s mentally more mature but his willingness to create hasn’t died one bit. They’d been working on this two day exhibition for seven days a week for nine months straight, and it’s only a golden milestone in what he has plans for the future. You kind of get the feeling that it’s all kind of surreal, making this much fuss over an artform that started on the streets. “I never wanted to be Marc Ecko. I never wanted to blow up and be gone,” says Haze. Indelibly, his fingerprints will be left on the street and in pop culture forever.
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