Looking like a cross between a rogue border patrol agent and a cowboy dandy, Erik Brunetti is the founder and fearless leader of one of the most iconic American street wear brands. The brand’s name alone, FUCT, harkens a kind of dissidence and lassitude belonging to that doomed generation that came before the digital dark ages and the millennials struggling to survive in its cold pixelated miasma. While street wear brands like and Supreme and Stussy opted for safety in numbers, the FUCT brand, which was conceived in Brunetti's Venice Beach bedroom in 1991, remains uniquely intact and connected to its DIY roots. Starting off as a graffiti artist in New York City, FUCT became a kind of extension of Brunetti’s seditious ideals. Just recently, Brunetti teamed up with Paperwork NYC to publish a book of new drawings. Entitled Astral America, the book is an ode to post truth with a smattering of India ink renderings of drones, US military propaganda, pop iconography and psychologically damning, accusatory, and anti-consumerist slogans aimed squarely at the gluttony of American culture. We got a chance chat with Brunetti about the book, the current state of FUCT and why it’s not cool to justify war with hashtags.
AUTRE: Okay, lets start off with your upbringing in Jersey, which is close to New York, but seemingly a world away, what was your first introduction to culture and did you get a chance to escape to the city?
ERIK BRUNETTI: I was born in New Jersey, I grew up in Pennsylvania and Virginia. I only started visiting NYC in the late 70's early 80's with my mother, going to punk boutiques, CBGB, etcetera. I eventually moved to New York on my own and became a bike messenger when I was 18.
AUTRE: You were in New York during the halcyon days of graffiti writers – what was it about this world that was so romantic to you?
BRUNETTI: I discovered graff through a friend of mine named Darnell. We went to school together, and I noticed all the tags on his school books, same style of graff that I would to see when I went into the city, so naturally I inquired about it. He then took me to the yards and opened up an entire world to me. I then started writing for many years since throughout the tri-state area.
AUTRE: When did the idea to start the FUCT brand come to you – was it something that you decided to start right away or did you mull it over?
BRUNETTI: It was an accident that I had to cultivate. There was no blue print or business plan, there still isn't one to this day.
AUTRE: Did you have any idea that it would become this multiple decade brand experiment?
BRUNETTI: I knew it was different, I never think too much about it's future.
AUTRE: Do you feel like it would be hard to start a brand like FUCT in this day and age?
BRUNETTI: The opposite. It was hard to start a brand FUCT in 1990 due to the fact that nothing like it existed. It would be much easier to start today. The groundwork has been carved out and people are more indoctrinated and accepting of subversive ideals because due to the internet.
AUTRE: It seems like the message that you are trying to get across with FUCT is more important than ever – it seems like subversion is crucial, especially in our current political climate?
BRUNETTI: It depends how it is presented I suppose. It could swing either way.
AUTRE: Let’s talk about Astral America – can you talk about the central focus of the book?
BRUNETTI : The books title comes from a chapter in Jean Baudrillard's book, "America." In that book he writes about the grotesque aspect of our country that American's seem to celebrate. My drawings in Astral America are observations and critiques of today's wasteful country. Unnecessary oversized parking lots, shopping mals, fast food feeding overweight people, televison and movie stars becoming activist to save the day. The USA starting as many wars as we possibly can in the Middle East and then justifying them with hashtags and social media slogans.
AUTRE: How did the book come about – was it a collection of work that you’ve been meaning to put out for a while?
BRUNETTI: I had began working with India ink as a medium again last year, just drawing much more and compiling a body of work that was based on the above mentioned theme and ideals, with no intention of showing them. Fast forward, Mike, from Paper Work NYC contacted me earlier in the year and came to my loft to visit and saw them and thought they would be great in a limited edition publication. So, we laid it out and it was done. It happened very naturally. I work with people much easier when meeting in person rather then via email or social media. If we
hadn't met, it wouldn't have happened. I like to see people, develop a working relationship and become friends, it shows in the quality of work that is then put out.
AUTRE: Where do you see FUCT in the next 20 years?
BRUNETTI: Done, hopefully.
AUTRE: What’s next for you as a fine artist – any exhibitions in the works?
BRUNETTI: I'm in the studio working everyday, I don't really make plans, if someone approaches me I'm into it. The art world in general is in a weird place right now. I'm also terrible at networking and putting myself out there. Art in the states is boring and contrived right now. I might move to Spain.
You can purchase Astral America on the Paperwork NYC website. photographs by Mike Krim. Interview and text by Oliver Kupper. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE