Streetwear and illustration go together naturally, it doesn’t even really need explaining. When you look at the work of Gerone Perez, the connection between the two is obvious. He’s not the only one doing it, but he’s definitely doing it right. Labels provide crucial texture for his work. “I try to put everything and anything onto my characters and hope it works,” he says. “Most of the time the words and logos are just about creating aesthetics and layers.”
Straight lines and perfect circles. Forward-thinking designs. Hyper-realistic pieces. Pretty much any kind of tattoo you’re looking for, Jhay Colis has got you. While he prefers to focus on black and grey pieces and neo-traditional styles, he’s wildly a versatile artist. Colis works out of a small shop in Wharf Plaza in QC across the way from graffiti supply shop Carrot Bombing (which is probably why he recently did a Nemo design for one lucky customer).
Before he became a tattoo artist, Colis was a painter and performance artist, often doing public interventions focused on freedom of speech. But ten years ago, after getting his second tattoo, he got pulled into the world of skin art. With a cash gift after graduation, he bought his first tattoo gun and set about finding early victims to experiment on. After two years his work became presentable enough and he found an apprenticeship to bring his style to the next level. In late 2016 he finally opened the doors to Jhay Colis Tattoos, where he’s since worked alone with an apprentice. In the decade he’s been working, tattoo culture in the Philippines has exploded. “When I first started there was still a stereotype about tattoos, but people have become more open-minded now,” he explains. “Local events like Dutdutan helped a lot, but so did Western TV shows like ‘Miami Ink,’ ‘LA Ink,’ and ‘Ink Master.'”
His work has evolved into something of a catalog of recent styles. Paint splatters mixed with bold blackwork, small anime boxes, gothic realism. Colis has a steady hand and is versed in most of the latest techniques, so pretty much anything you’re looking for he can do. At Dutdutan last weekend, he even won second place in the neo-traditional category. Do not sleep on this man.
Browsing through the artwork of Tyang Karyel evokes the childhood pleasure in small things. A single candy, a plastic toy, an old movie. As we grow older it’s a little harder to find joy in these things, but the Cavite artist puts a low brow art spin on things, refreshing their aura. Her pieces are art objects for the everyday fan, often made in cutout shapes or packaged in satchels. “I’m fascinated by cheap, local brands with weird designs and wobbly lines. I especially like product labels and ephemeral stuff,” she tells us. “Everything looks clean, crisp, and shiny these days. It’s too perfect so we forget about the simple stuff.”
Last weekend the cul de sac of Cubao Expo was once again filled with creatives from all walks of life, this time to celebrate the fifth anniversary of The Twelfth House’s storefront opening. People filled the shop and overflowed out its door into the cool night air. The label dropped a series of 12 collaborations with other brands and DJs handled the decks all night, juggling styles from reggae to rap to chill electronic beats. “It was a culmination of eight years for the brand and five years for the store. Years’ worth of work, friendship, and growth for me and the brand,” says owner and founder Mikki Dela Rea. “I wanted to give back to the community that helped me grow as a person, found a family within, and built a business with that keeps me fed.”
Yes, it’s the AirMax 720s again. But these ones are an unreleased colorway and they’re customized… kinda. The aurora green kicks that were gifted to Kayo and appear on today’s special edition of OPENING ACT are clearly not a stock version. As he unboxes them you can instantly tell that something happened to them, but the question is whether they’ve been ruined or improved.
Al James is no stranger to success and his latest video “Latina” is on track to become one of his biggest yet, hitting 5 million views in less than two months. As his sound has spread throughout the Philippines, he’s switching up his style a bit to stay ahead of the imitators. And he’s also invested some more in the video since it was clearly going to be a hit. The updated flow, crisp animation, and cinematic views all come together for a true leveling up.
Tahoooooo. Tahooooo. This early morning siren is one of the sounds that define the Philippines, and the warm feelings it evokes in so many is why the artist Qwark sought them out during a time of personal crisis. His new series is not just the about the magtataho though, but street vendors in general. As a young kid, he’d watch them on his way to school every day, and they left him with an impression he couldn’t fully explain. “I’d see the same ice cream man in the morning, at lunch, and afternoon,” Qwark explains. “I never understood until I grew older how these people spend long hours working for minimal income. I admire their resilience, their dedication to providing for their families. So now I depict these people as modern-day gods: people of wonder and might both in body and will.”
On the hook of “Maestro,” the Kartell’em crew rap how they’re intent on letting the city know who they are, that they’re set to “make this place aware.” It’s a mission statement, and they’re definitely doing a good job following through on that promise. To do so, they’re aiming higher than the stage and looking to the sky. Specifically the rooftops. If you gaze out the window of the LRT in Manila, you might spot a recent big ‘ole blockbuster at eye level with the train screaming TELL’EM. It’s so crispy it looks like an advertisement, which we guess it is, but it’s a DIY one painted by the crew themselves to promote an upcoming tee collab with cmplct.
For a small island country located far from the centers of street dance culture, the Philippines plays an outsize role in the scene worldwide. Legit Status, a team founded in 2009 by coach Vimi Rivera, has continued that reputation. This August they captured the bronze in the top category of Hip Hop International, one of the world’s biggest street dance competitions. Every year, around 50 countries descend on the West coast of America to battle it out in a dozen different categories, and Filipino teams nearly always rank among the top in the mega crew competition, beating out teams from the US, Japan, and other bastions of street dance. “This year had the most intense level of competition,” Rivera says. “It’s crazy”
It can be tough to choose among your favorites, but sometimes you have to. For today’s OPENING ACT, Kayo pits his two highest-rated sneakers—Nike’s Air Vapormax 2019 and the AirMax 720—against each other in an attempt to pick an all-out winner.