Loving the arts from a young age, Gasparro cites his two hardworking Italian immigrant parents and his eleven siblings as being some of the first positive influences in his life.
In Gasparro’s second book, Kolorstorm: The Art of Louie “Kr.One” Gasparro, released this past fall, he reflects on his own work of the past 30-plus years in a visual autobiography. He provides access to his graffiti through dozens of photographs, sketches, paintings, illustrations and more, including an introduction to “graffantasy” — a term he coined to describe the convergence of graffiti with fantastical images.
How did you get into graffiti art?
When I first saw graffiti and it hit me, I was like 8 years old. I saw a train pull into Queensborough Plaza. I was going to see the Yankees play at Shea Stadium* with my brother. I saw bubble letter shapes, stars, cartoons, flying Snoopys. Just picture a 50 foot by 8 foot tall canvas rolling into a train station and leaving. I was mesmerized. There’s nothing as real as art on flying steel. Little by little I began to see it more and more and pay attention to it more.
I was an artist before I liked graffiti, but when I saw graffiti I said, “I’m drawing that.”
* In 1974 and 1975, the Yankees played their home games at Shea Stadium while Yankee Stadium underwent a renovation.
Where did you practice your art?
When I first started, in the schoolyard (P.S. 166 elementary school in Astoria). That’s where I practiced. And on paper at home and in my backyard. Then the RRs, BMT’s (the NQRW of the yellow subway line).
What was that like?
We snuck into train yards and we snuck into tunnels when the trains weren’t in service. My whole thing, I was young when I was doing it since I was a fan of the big brothers. I had to be really sneaky about it. We’d walk on the tracks when they were out of service.
On the weekends in Astoria, from Friday to Sunday, the out of service trains stayed on the middle track. So what we’d do, at night or even in broad daylight on the weekends, we’d walk on trains when they were parked. We felt we were doing art. The train was a moving canvas, it was just flying through the city.
There was a certain ego boost with standing at a train station and seeing your piece go by.
You’re a musician as well. With graffiti and music, were those happening for you at the same time growing up?
Yeah, it was. I loved graffiti before I started playing music. I was into music since I was a little kid because of my older brothers and sisters. I grew up hearing Motown, my sisters were dancing to disco, my brothers were into rock n’ roll and also dancing to disco. I was drawing first. I started to write my version of graffiti and then I got into drumming. When I started getting into drumming and writing music, I was still writing graffiti. I wasn’t doing it illegally anymore and the two fused. I became the artist of whatever band I was in. I drew the logos. I was doing them concurrently.
Do you still play music?
Yes, I still play drums, I stlll write, I play the guitar. I’m not in a band right now, which is a weird thing for me because it’s the longest I haven’t been in a band since 1982. My attention now is really focused on painting and illustrating.
How do you feel about the audience that is perceiving your art? Do you need or want them to take anything away from it? With Kolorstorm, what do you hope readers take from it?
There are a couple of things.
First, there is a lot of stigma attached to graffiti art and I’d like people to realize it’s a cliche but not all [graffiti] is like that. Second, Kolorstorm is a big reference book. If a kid wants to get into the art of graffiti, you could copy all of my stuff. I want people to be inspired by it because I was inspired by it.
If I’m fortunate enough to take these drawings and illustrations and these paintings that I’ve been doing for the better part of my life, and at this age be able to put out a book on them, that’s a heavy thing because it’s not easy to do. I want [readers] to be happy looking at it, I want them to enjoy the color of it, the line work, I pride myself on my technique of line work.
When you talk about technique—has yours evolved? And in what ways?
Technique evolves from doing the technique. If you draw a circle over and over you’re going to get better by drawing. My technique has gotten better in all the aspects of what I do from repetition.
If you love it, then you’re really going to get better at it because you don’t look at it like it’s work.
How would you describe Astoria growing up?
Back then it was a great vantage point for me to absorb [the arts]. It was a very tight-knit neighborhood, blue collar. Me and my brothers knew everybody and everybody knew us… We felt safe, not that it’s not safe now, it is, but we felt part of the neighborhood. Everybody that was from here, we felt it was ours.
I’ve read that you traveled a lot as well.
I traveled with bands. I really wanted to travel and see the world so I was fortunate enough to go on tour with Murphy’s Law, a legendary hardcore band from Astoria. I went all over Europe with these guys and I had one of the times of my life. I was able to go to South America with another band that I was in. I’ve been to a lot of places in the United States. I’m part of the international Meeting of Styles so through graffiti I’ve made it to Montreal, Florida, Chicago, and there’s more to come when it comes to the art.
And now you’re based in Astoria again. When did you move back to Astoria and why?
I’ve been back in Astoria for a little over a month (as of October) but I never really left Astoria. I just haven’t lived here since the mid-90s but my heart and soul is from here and will always be here.
I always want to give back to where I come from, that’s why I’m so much about Astoria because without Astoria, who would I be? It definitely informed my personality. The circumstances and my environment shaped me. I was exposed to all of this stuff that I just absorbed, and it was a big bowl of cereal that I just kept eating from.
Louie is now currently working on a third book about Astoria.