By Leo Fitzpatrick
Words by Nikolaj Hansson / Illustration by Sine Jensen
Making his debut in Larry Clark's renown film, Kids, Leo Fitzpatrick has starred in different films and TV-shows, while creating artworks himself and running Home Alone 2 gallery on the Lower East Side together with friend and artist, Nate Lowman. We had a talk with Fitzpatrick about the earlier years of New York, working with Larry Clark and his perspective on the New York of today.
Your first book was supposed to be called Unhappy Hour, but when making the cover for it, Nate Lowman changed that to Just Born Dead. What do those words mean to you?
Well, when I was younger, you might say I was depressed, but I think I was more angry and confused, like most young people but anyway. I was asked to be in a group art show curated by Brian DeGraw at American Fine Arts in New York and so, I just wrote this on a piece of paper and pinned it to the wall. It meant being born without feelings, like a robot being unable to love or some shit like that, that I was feeling at the time. Anyway, that was a long time ago now and I'm much happier now, but I still like the negative angles and asked Nate to design the cover of my book and call it “Unhappy Hour”. When I got it back, it said “Just Born Dead”, which is funny, ‘cause he never saw that original art show, so I'm not sure where he picked it up from, but I was just thankful that he made it and decided to keep it and now I like it better than the original idea, so there you go. Sometimes, your friends know you better than yourself.
Can you tell us about the time you went to Larry Clark’s house after a Back To The Banks-contest?
I was 14 at the time and drinking the cheapest beer, you could get your hands on, so it's a little fuzzy for sure. I had already seen Larry around a bit but didn't know him that well. You have to remember, that this is two years before the movie (Kids). Anyway, let me get back to the contest first. So, the Back To The Banks contest was the biggest of three contests on the East Coast that summer, the other two being in New Jersey and Connecticut. Before that, you'd never really see West Coast pros on the East Coast, but because of these contests, everyone came out; like every person you looked up to in the magazines growing up, so there was already that excitement in the air. The contest started off normal enough, but at some point, a rat ran across the course and the kids went nuts on some blood lust shit and decided to kill the rat, so now you have 40 or so kids chasing and trying to kill this rat with the rest of the crowd cheering them on. Once they caught and killed the rat, it released something into the air and a notoriously sketchy skater decided to rob the DJ, but the DJ fought back and split the kid’s head open and the chase was on again. Only this time, instead of it being after the rat, it was aimed at the DJ, with kids hitting him from all angles and beating him with the boards. Eventually, this would spill into the traffic and stop it, where the kids now started destroying cars and buses with their skateboards and graffiti markers. Anyway, the DJ escaped in a stranger’s car and the excitement died down. Larry noticed, that I needed a new board or something and asked me, if I wanted to go back to his house with some guys, who were gonna smoke weed, I think, and grab one, so I said sure. A little later, there I was in Larry's house with Mic-E Reyes, Julien Stranger, Coco Santiago, John Cardiel, Tobin Yelland and Andy Roy. Now, these guys were cemented legends in my mind and Andy Roy would always sit around with his balls pulled out of the zipper of his pants, so it was way outta my league for sure. I think I might have had a beer, grabbed a board and gotten the hell outta there.
Do you keep a certain balance between your careers as both actor and artist, or is it more coincidental?
I pretty much pick up one thing, when the other dies down. I definitely consider acting more of a job than the art stuff, but probably put more time into the art stuff between making my own stuff and running Home Alone 2.
Leo Fitzpatrick in André Saraivas short, The Shoe.
What do you believe sets your Home Alone 2 Gallery apart from other New York galleries?
Firstly, we’re more of a project space for artists to try out new ideas or revisit past work and put it into a new light. We don’t try to tell the artist what to do or guide them at all, our input is unimportant. All we do is to provide a room for people to think outside of the box and do things that their usual gallery would deem silly or unsellable. We don't care about selling art and we feel like the gallery should be a place to have fun and work out ideas, so artists are generally happy to show here, because we only have the purest of intentions. My motto is, that the artist is always right, even if I think it's wrong.
You were in New York during the period where the likes of Dan Colen, Dash Snow and Ryan McGinley were all becoming sort of more established or well known. What did that whole era mean to you, looking back now?
Well, those were the salad days, for sure. Young, dumb, full of cum and not a care in the world. You could survive without any money and drink and do drugs without being an addict. I’m always surprised, that I made it through my twenties, but I’m glad I did. The one thing I don't think people know about Dash, Dan and Ryan is, how hard they worked to get to where they are. Sure, they liked to go out and blow off some steam, but the three of them were also extremely focused most of the time. That's why, when I see these young New York art stars out at bars, I always tell them to get back to work! Not to be a dick, but because, as the next generation, they have a tough load to bear and luck will let you down, believe me.
Looking back at the 90’s skate scene and up until now, what is your opinion on the state of skateboarding today?
There's a lot of amazing things still happening in skateboarding and I still read all the mags and see the videos, but if I was young, I probably wouldn't be interested, it's just too big-time now. But because I did it for roughly twenty years, I can honestly say, that it's still my first love and something that will continue to influence me for the rest of my life.
You seem to use quite a lot of wordplay in your art. Where does this come from?
I don't know, to be honest. I have no education, so I think there's that and also, no one ever told me not to. Chances are, if it makes me happy, I'm gonna do it.
Most recently, your gallery, Home Alone 2, hosted a show by Larry Clark, featuring hundreds of his old prints and photographs. How did the idea of doing a show with him come about?
That was all Larry's idea. He came to a show in August at the gallery and saw what we were about and thought of the idea almost right away. It was a lot of work but in the end, everyone was happy with it, so it was worth it.
In “The Ocean Full Of Bowling Balls”, a short by J.D. Salinger, one of the characters, after having seen a baseball player strike out, says: “I’m going back to literature again. I can’t keep this thing under control.” How do you see this in relation to your own work, both as an actor and as an artist?
I always wanted to be a schoolteacher, haha.
In your book, Just Born Dead, you write: “i can't breath if you know what i mean / god its good to be back in new york city.” What is your perspective on New York today?
Did I write that? I like it. Must’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Dylan that night! I think what it means is, that even though New York is full of life, death, politics, assholes, grime and garbage, despair, gentrification, drunks and druggies, down and outs, losers, businessmen, hipsters, homeless, rich kids, glass buildings and 7/11s, Whole Foods, too many art galleries and not enough ideas, unaffordable rent (the list goes on and on), it's home and I love it. It's my longest addiction.