Who is Abe Lincoln, Jr?
For weeks toy fans were speculating what the super-secret chase figure would be in the latest set of Kid Robot’s widely popular Dunny series. In the past, Dunnys designed by kings of lowbrow like Kozik and Coop have spurred hundreds of vinyl art collectors to scurry to hunt down these hard to find chases.
Then the news broke. Last week, at San Diego Comic Con, a few lucky fans scored a Dunny that looked like no other. Sporting a top hat, a beard, and a set of buck shot between the eyes, the latest chase turned out to be a 3D version of President Lincoln, by none other than New York’s very own Abe Lincoln, Jr. So, who is this crazy artist that has the vinyl and art worlds buzzing about this controversial (not to mention extremely rare) new figure? Life In A Bungalo decided to find out from the man himself.
Could you tell us a little about Abe Lincoln Jr.? In all honesty, most vinyl fans first heard of you when your Dunny was announced, but you’ve been doing urban art for years. How did you get involved in the scene and where are you based?
Well, I’m Abe Lincoln Jr. and I live and work in NYC. I first got some notice as a Street Artist first starting back in 2003. I was originally known for my pooping bird character named Char that I put up all over Downtown NYC. I got some of my work posted up on Wooster Collective and then shortly thereafter I started being asked to be in art shows and projects that featured Street Artists. Now look at me, I’m a fancy toy guy!
As far as getting involved in the scene I used to go slobber over the toys at Zakka and Kid Robot, I discovered Pete Fowler and James Jarvis and that was it. I can’t let myself get too into collecting vinyl though cuz otherwise my family would starve. I’m a packrat like that. I have ridiculous collection habits; at the moment I collect 50’s and 60’s cookbooks for the illustrations and the food photography.
Your art style is rather distinct. The cartoons are cute, but often in precarious situations. How did you create your style and how has it changed over the years?
My style is pretty much a conglomeration of my early influences. Hannah Barberra cartoons, and Marvel Comics of the 70’s were like air and water for me as a kid. I was a skatepunk in the early 80’s and that whole scene and its art is evident in my work too. How has my art changed? I think its more how I’ve changed. Initially I just did Char, he’s a great character, but I was also nervous to show off my hand drawn stuff. A lot of that has fallen away to now and I’m not as critical of my own stuff as I used to be. I can say now that I like my work, so it’s easier to be all “Hey look at this cool shit I just did!” and not have that self-consciousness undermining your game. You know, learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.
Can you give me some insight on where your name came from? Does Abe Lincoln have a real name?
Abe Lincoln Jr. was a name I’d used in 1999 for a band I started called Gettysburg Express. I dressed up like Abe Lincoln (in an orange convict outfit) and sang hardcore songs about “being Abe Lincoln”. The guitarist was John Wilkes Boothe we played a blazing set of hardcore that lasted for 15 minutes and then John Wilkes Boothe shot me on stage and that was the end of our career. We even got written up in Details Magazine before we ever played a gig.
I do have a real name but its secret for a reason.
The world of non-paint graffiti art has caught on, and you see a large amount of sticker work around cities like Manhattan. How has the art of sticker tagging influenced your life and where to you see it heading?
I started with the stickering back in the olden days, slapping up skate stickers, band stickers, and my own hand drawn/photocopied stickers. I dunno if stickers will “go anywhere” as more remain a constant presence. Now you can get arrested in NYC for putting up stickers, if that isn’t the lamest law ever I don’t know what is.
What media do you work with in your canvas work, and how do you incorporate the graffiti style with fine art?
Mainly when I paint on canvases it’s with my art collective/street art crew, The Endless Love Crew. I’d never really considered painting on canvases until we got together. Now I really like it. On my own, I’ve started painting acrylics on paper for paste-ups. But I’ve been terribly remiss in my street duties as of late.
How did you get involved with Kid Robot and the Dunny project?
I did an article for an online magazine about Miami Bass music a couple years ago. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve done. A friend of mine who runs a Miami Bass newsgroup wrote the article and I’d illustrated it with classic hip-hop record covers re-cast with Char in it. Someone at Kid Robot saw the work and eventually asked me if I’d like to do a Dunny. I said yes.
In the last few Dunny series, the chase figures were made by pretty huge artists (Obey, Baseman, Kozik, Coop). How does it feel being on the same level with these guys?
Well I certainly wouldn’t say that I’m on the “same level” as these guys. I definitely feel like a rookie in this game. In 15 years if I’m in the same place they are and I’m doing consistently excellent artwork you can interview me again and ask me.
Am I pleased as punch to have been selected to a) do a Dunny and b) have it be the chase figure? Hell yes! Who wouldn’t be? It’s a big step up for me, there’s a whole new group of people that are seeing my stuff for the first time and hopefully into it. I’m super stoked to be a part of it all that’s for sure.
What were you trying to convey with the Dunny? Was it easy to transfer your 2D work to a 3D canvas?
Well, the whole “Death of Abe Lincoln” is a theme I’ve touched on before. Besides the band, I did a drawing of Char as Abe Lincoln getting assassinated that’s also on the cute/twisted tip. I’m not going to get all fine art and come up with some bullshit treatise on my message. There is definitely one part “Oh wouldn’t that be funny/fucked up if there was a Kawaii dead Abe Lincoln Dunny?” and then there’s the other that is kind of calling out history books. People on the Kid Robot message boards picked up on that right away so that made me happy.
As far as difficult, I went through a lot of sturm und drang when coming up with the initial design. I’d never attempted any of this stuff before so I was very nervous that I’d screw everything up and they’d throw me out of the Dunny club. Luckily they’re all mad cool at Kid Robot and I survived. I’m working on a design for a The Smirts now and the whole process has been a lot smoother. I dunno what the selection process is there but hopefully I’ll have a brand spanking new Smirt coming out in the future.
You have a small but outspoken group of people who are offended by your portrayal of the president. Was the shock expected? Do you think they’re just being silly?
I was actually surprised. Everyone I showed it to was all “oh ha ha, that’s great!” no one batted an eyelash. But I live in NY and people here are definitely more liberal than say”¦ Illinois. I don’t have a problem with people not liking the toy, or even the design itself–it’s a matter of taste. I mean in hindsight I totally see why someone would get upset. Lincoln IS pretty much the most beloved president of them all.
So, a week ago you were an urban underground artist, then SDCC happens and you’re the talk of the town. Did you expect this sort of reaction when you decided to work on the Dunny project?
Am I really the talk of the town? Cool! I didn’t know what to expect. But this is all new territory for me so I was trying not to put too much thought into the outcome. It’s been a long haul from when I was asked to tomorrow’s release.
Why Girls Bike?
It’s short and easy to remember. It’s also a song I wrote in another old band of mine called Dynamite Christmas. The song was a first person account of this kid who would ride around on a girsbike and get shit from everyone but he was all “˜fuck you, I LIKE riding girlsbikes” and by the end of the song dudes riding girlsbikes is a big fad and he’s shaking his head at all the poser girlsbike riders.
What other projects are you presently working on and what does the near future hold for Abe Lincoln Jr?
Well aside from the Smirt design I mentioned earlier, I just got asked to do a tee shirt with Owl Movement they make sick tees. Letterpressed just asked me to do a card so that’s coming in the future. That’s all come around as a result of the Dunny. I’m curating a t-shirt art show in November in Sacramento and I’m too dang tired to remember the rest. Keep checking www.girlsbike.com for more Abe Lincoln Jr. and Char related news.
Photos courtesy of Abe Lincoln, Jr. He will be appearing tonight, July 27 at the Kid Robot NYC trading party from 6-8 pm.