Collaboration Station: Mint+Serf x Coach Pop-Up
Mint & Serf, a graffiti duo from New York City, have been navigating their own path through both the graffiti community and the fine art world for over a decade. Their good friend and collaborator Osvaldo Chance Jimenez has been along for the ride the whole time, culminating in their latest triumph, a Mint+Serf collaboration with luxury fashion brand Coach, and is here with an exclusive mini-memoir for Cell Vision documenting the highs and lows of the duo's come up.
All photos by Lorenzo Fariello
New York Graffiti duo Mint & Serf, aka ‘The Mirf”, are a household name in the graffiti and fine art communities. Their most recent venture is a collaboration with another household name, the high-end fashion brand Coach. This fashion week they debuted a collection of handbags, clothing, and more for the brand. This collaboration wouldn’t have been complete without a pop-up store in Soho. The result was a meticulously overlayed, hand and spray-paint-crafted assemblage of colors and scribes. Layered tags on top of tags inside and outside of the space seemingly leaving no area untouched. This is the final weekend to catch the Mint+Serf X Coach pop-up at its 89 Crosby Street location—to mark the occasion they will be releasing a 100-page #COACHXMIRF limited edition zine with Paperwork on Saturday between 6-8 pm. Throughout the years, fellow artist and long-time friend, Osvaldo Chance Jiminez has been with Mint & Serf for the wild ride experiencing the unpredictability, debauchery, and most of all comradery. Jimenez presents Cell Vision with a mini-memoir of their various escapades and photographer Lorenzo Fariello captured the Mint+Serf X Coach pop-up installation process from inception to final drip.
OSVALDO JIMENEZ ON MINT + SERF
I can’t remember when I first entered the Canal Chapter, as my memories of the aughts seamlessly blend into what I now know to be one long dawn in an after-hours party that never ends. But I do remember walking into the studio, stumbling from a long night of carnal consumptions, looking at the curated chaos that cut deep into each canvas thinking “this is fucking terrible… I love it.”
"Go ahead and get up." Mint would say, passing me a depleted can of five-finger-discounted paint.
"BUT NOT RIGHT THERE!" Serf would yell, while I was in mid-scrawl, now anxious I ruined the mess that would become their masterpieces.
"I'm fucking with you, go ahead..." Serf would then say, as he would break character and the studio filled up with laughter, leaving me to mutter "asshole" under my breath.
This scenario played out at least once a week for several years before any of these canvases saw the lights of a gallery.
"It was pure insanity. The sake never ran out. There were flames. One of us went to jail for 3 months."
Then one day (2011/12?!) I woke up in Japan, still groggy and feeling my perpetual hangover, in the middle of a collaborative effort between graffiti artist Curtis Culig (LOVE ME) & the gang for the 10th anniversary of some huge brand I can only describe as a Japanese Urban Outfitters or Opening Ceremony. The Mirf (the name used by Mint + Serf for their collaborations) wheat-pasted their throwie on what might have been a ten-story building, with a huge LOVE ME tagged over it. And on the day of the opening, we all tagged the entire thing.
It was pure insanity. The sake never ran out. There were flames. One of us went to jail for 3 months. And that's when I finally understood what my avant-garde artisans were trying to communicate.
"The Mirf decided to focus their craft on the most instinctive behavior of their art—the vandalism part. The absolute destruction of an available surface, adding to the conversation of who owns a public space."
I never understood the appeal of a Pollack painting, until I saw videos on how he created them. I never comprehended the erraticness & spastic illustrations of Basquiat until I understood what influenced him. And while the art of graffiti has advanced through the years from the stick and arrow Sharpie days of Taki 183 to the repetitive outline & fill-in era of JA to the complex aerosol acrobatics of Tristan Eaton, The Mirf decided to focus their craft on the most instinctive behavior of their art—the vandalism part. The absolute destruction of an available surface, adding to the conversation of who owns a public space. The collaborative nature of strangers and their innate desire to leave a mark on the bathroom stalls and alleyways of their reality. The urge to write "I wuz there"—because you were—knowing without certainty that someone else will come along and write "me too".
The juice is in the squeeze.
In 2014, The Mirf found time to escape their dungeon of eradicated illustrations, to collaborate with The Lisa Project NYC (A non-profit group that focused on bringing artistic diversity to Downtown New York) to bring one of their collection of nihilistic vandalism canvases to a wall of a magazine shop on Mulberry & Kenmare. The neighborhood saw it as a chance to clear up some of the blight and to capitalize on the "Street Art Tours" that were now rebranding all of Bushwick. So of course they invited The Mirf, who then invited every writer that has ever passed out in their studio. So of course our ragtag crew of graffiti writers and NYC nightlifers infamously known as the Peter Pan Posse came out —Old English in their respective brown paper bags—and contributed their nom de guerres in the same violent manner.
The community hated it, with a passion only matched by crimes of the heart.
It was supposed to run for like 3 months. and it was covered up within 2 days. They didn't even go the normal route of buying paint, and instead got carpenters. If you’re ever by the Iconic Magazines shop, their outdoor magazine booth covers that mural to this day.
Two years later we got to do it again, this time in conjunction with the Wallplay gallery, and we got to take over their entire three-story building on the corner of Delancey & Orchard street. This was an open invitation for all writers to leave their names, and it was truly a majestic sight to behold, as so many pushed aside their personal beefs to collaborate on this enormous effort.
The city of New York painted over it within a week. And I had the unfortunate luck of witnessing "the buff" on my birthday.
Mind you, by this time they were already several gallery shows deep, from NY to LA and Moscow, and they were doing commissioned Birkin bags (this was when people had to wait two years to get one), but we couldn't keep a city block for more than a week.
"I guess people don't like the arts, huh?" we thought.
Thank the Universe and all the stars in the sky we didn't listen.
Because here we are now, on the week of my birthday, six years later, creating curated chaos with Coach.
How good was the launch? Once I stepped out of the party I couldn’t get back in, and I just woke up several hours later in a barn in Woodstock.
That’s cool tho, I’ve snuck out of more parties than I’ve been invited to. 😉
To anyone reading this that has a creative vision nobody can see: PLEASE KEEP GOING. The right eyes will find you in time. And if the wrong ones are looking at your work, cross those out and draw new ones. and keep crossing them out until your nothing becomes everything.
You can check out The Mint + Serf x Coach handbag and connect with them and Osvaldo Jimenez on Instagram via the links below.