Graffiti Genius In Manila

MANILA, Philippines --- World-renowned American graffiti artist Futura is in the Philippines in celebration of design, color, and style.

The visit is a homecoming of sorts, for he is no stranger to the Philippines.

Interviewed yesterday at the Café Ilang-Ilang of the historic landmark Manila Hotel, he shared that he was, in fact, with the US military forces stationed at Clark and Subic during the '70s.

One of his favorite anecdotes was the famous boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, the Thrilla in Manila. For so long, he had been bragging about having watched the bout live at the Araneta Coliseum. Now that he has returned to the country, Futura felt it was time to own up and confess. "No," he admits, "I did not see the fight. I only saw it on close-circuit TV. But because I had the Thrilla in Manila T-shirt, people thought I was actually there."

This time around, Futura's return trip coincides with the launch of his new design for the limited edition Hennessy Very Special bottle.

This collaboration between art and taste blends the warmth and sophistication of Hennessy's distinctive cognac with the unique soulful style of the leader of the "Abstract Graffiti" movement. Accustomed to painting on larger spaces like walls and trains, Futura expounds on the artistic challenges and fulfillment of designing the bottle. He said that the reduced scale of the Hennessy VS bottle invited a different kind of approach to "create something interesting." "I was very aware of the canvas, which is now the bottle," Futura remarks. "But in the end, I saw the result of this collaboration as a marriage of two souls and identities, the vast history and prestige of the Hennessy brand and my own unique and personal creative process."

In designing the bottle, Futura "looked at the color" of the cognac. Using its warm color palette, he employed abstractions from his signature atomic motif, as well as lines and shapes.

Born Leonard "Lenny" McGurr, the artist changed his name to Futura, having been greatly influenced by the book "Future Shock" by Alvin Toffler. Starting as a "graffiti writer" at age 15, he went on to become "the first artist to paint an entire subway car without any lettering." This form was unusual at that time as graffiti art is characterized by "writing or drawings that have been scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place."

Deviating from graffiti norm, Futura's lyrical abstraction style reflected his individuality. Defined by "his use of color and line, his dynamic graphics, and high energy," this signature style differentiated his pieces from all other works around. Later, he transitioned from the underground to studio work. And from the late '70s to the early '80s, Futura exhibited his collections of street-wise expressions in cutting-edge galleries in New York. Through the years and on various international venues, he has visited his design genius upon subway trains, walls, record sleeves, concert stages, sneakers, and clothes, among an eclectic canvas. Today, Futura's worldview can be seen through his website, "a logical extension for a multi-faceted artist who continues to innovate and surprise."

These were the qualities that drew Hennessy to tap Futura for the design of the new VS bottle. Emillie Bissonnet, International Communication Project Manager for Hennessy, said that Futura's unlimited capacity for creative discovery and his pioneering spirit resonate well with Hennessy's essence of conquest, constant innovation, and search for excellence.

The limited edition Hennessy VS in the uniquely Futura-designed bottle is now available in the Philippines.