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Java.May.2017

ands—garage rock

ands—garage rock ’n’ roll stuff. The Hypno-Twists were a really good band, but it just fell apart. They left London and I stayed. I didn’t want to go back. Especially coming from a place like Phoenix, with a lack of historic architecture. You go there, and it’s everywhere. Here, the East Coast has some, but nothing like out there,” he says. When we meet again a few days later, Caraveo tells me more about his beginnings. “I was born and raised in South Phoenix and started painting large-scale [murals] right here.” He points down at the bar. We’re sitting at Jobot inside the Roosevelt Point apartment complex on Third Street and Roosevelt. The plot of land was once home to a performance venue called Planet Earth Theatre. Racy performances went on inside the building, while the outside walls became the canvas for young graffiti artists. “It was our graffiti haven. We started in ’91. The owner visited my high school and walked into our art class, saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got this big wall. I’d like to get some students to paint on it, if anybody wants to volunteer.’ Me and my friend said, ‘Yeah, we’ll do it!’ We went down and just started painting. We had it to ourselves for about a year, maybe more, and then people started catching on. It started getting out of control, and by ’98, it was shut down by the city. We had the really long wall that faced south, and every day there was something new on it.”

Caraveo has kept to his geographical roots. Up until recently, he and several other artists had a home at the Allery, which functioned as both a gallery and artist studios and was located just across 4th Street from the former Planet Earth. “The landlord just gave it to me. I did a big mural back there with the guy in a gondola and a Victrola. He really liked it, and one day he came into the Lost Leaf [where Caraveo was bartending] and said, ‘We really need to get you a studio.’ I said, ‘Nah, I’ve got a studio at my house.’ He said, ‘No, you need one down here. Here’s the key to your new studio.’ I said, ‘I’m not renting a studio.’ He said, ‘No, you’re not paying me, it’s yours. The one thing I ask is that nobody dies there!’ And then, yeah, I just brought everybody in. I handed it over to JB [Snyder] a few years ago. We were there for maybe five years.” The Allery had its last opening back in February before it officially closed its doors. The farewell show featured works in which participating artists used old archive drawers once belonging to Frank Lloyd Wright as their canvases. Caraveo’s pieces for the show included up-close perspectives of a cartoon-like eyeball, an ear and a set of pursed lips. Although Caraveo’s time at the Allery has come to an end, that environment led to many collaborative relationships, especially one with Snyder. Several of Caraveo’s mysterious faces are colorfully encircled by Snyder’s geometric patterns. “I’ve been collaborating with JB for five or six years. The Pueblo [on 2nd Ave. north of Crescent Ballroom], the big one behind Modified Arts, the alley one that we did about five years ago, and one we worked on behind the original Bud’s Glass Joint. It’s worked out really well. We give each other input. He’ll tell me what he’s seeing, how he’s envisioning certain projects. I’ll suggest some colors for him. We just give each other feedback. He’s easy to work with.” The process of conceptualizing the Crescent Highland murals was a change of pace for Caraveo. “It was a collaboration between me and Graham Carew, an artist from Charlotte. He flew in and we sat and discussed what we were gonna do. We started with a few ideas and then called it a night. The next day we came back and refined it a little more, and just kept hacking away at it until we were given the go-ahead to start.” “We came up with the idea of a woman holding a birdhouse. Symbolically, birds don’t have a home. We wanted the woman to be their home. In one of the other murals, there’s a tree with a birdhouse in it, but the woman is really the tree. I wanted to keep the transition of the growth of the woman through the murals. In the big one, she is younger. In the taller second one [outside the leasing office], she’s a little older—a young lady. Then the one in the leasing office, I was going for the mature woman feel.” Since Caraveo is extremely prolific, with traditional canvases as well as murals—completing large, surreal public pieces and immediately switching to hyperrealistic charcoal drawings or reproductions of famous paintings—it’s tough to tell what direction he will pursue next. After the Crescent Highland project was completed, he took only a few days off before beginning three more large commissions in South Phoenix. “The long-term goal is to do the new style and bring back something similar to the elongated jazz guys I used to do, but refine them using slightly different themes.” As a veteran of the downtown art scene, Caraveo has seen more of its transformation than most. But rather than waxing nostalgic, he seems to be working harder than ever. The Crescent Highland murals also bear a slight stylistic change for the artist. “I’ve worked with several artists who are just stuck doing the same thing over and over. I think it’s important to not pigeonhole yourself into one certain style. I want people to see my work and wonder who did it. I try to experiment and do something different all the time.” tatocaraveo.com @tatocaraveo on Instagram JAVA 11 MAGAZINE

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