I caught up with ClockWork Cros at a show he did on Mott St. a few weeks ago with Leghead Loves and Magoo to the Moon.  We drank from an open bar and basically balled out of control.  

Get a glimpse into the mind of NYC’s one and ONLY surrealist, pop-art-clock hotshot…{what does that even mean??}  Find out below…

What’s your name?

ClockWork Cros, but my real name is Crosby.

Where are you from?

I’m from the Lower East Side, Downtown Manhattan, Alphabet City, Born & Raised.

What was it like growing up in the Lower East Side?

The LES was similar to the south bronx in the 80’s. I still remember the drug dealers’ code words. They would yell up and down the block when cops or junkies would be near by. And I was still like 6 or 7. But the LES wasn’t all empty lots and abandoned buildings. It was a mixed neighborhood of families from all over, artists, writers and people trying to make there way in the city where they could afford a place to stay. The LES is a big part of my identity and I feel a slight responsibility to represent it in the best possible way I can, Art.

I see you as the guy in the streets, very connected to the fabric of the city, do you consider yourself a New York artist?  

I might not consider myself solely a “New York” artist because my work is accessible to the world. My work can travel beyond borders because anyone, anywhere, can understand it, you don’t need to speak english or french to understand a face. If you see someone looking happy or sad, you already know what that means, its a universal sign you can understand. The face of the clock works in a similar way. So even though I represent New York as an artist, I’m not bound strictly to the city, it’s half the reason I get excited to send my clocks out internationally.  I’d love to have a clock in every country around the world. I’m also a fan of Salman Rushdie’s Imaginary Homelands, something I’ll let readers go and search.

How important is New York to your self identification?

New York has a long history of creating celebrity and turning hard work into fame. New York comes with an entire slew of perks when you travel. If you go anywhere in the world people go crazy when you tell them you’re from New York. So there is a pride you have when you say “I’m from New York”. It’s kind of the same for me being from the LES. Even in NYC when I tell people I’m from the LES born and raised, they are surprised because not many original people are still here. I wear New York on my sleeve everyday and forever but I never forget that I have my sights set on the world. 

What’s up with the clocks?  Tell me how this started…

The clocks fell into my lap. The idea behind them developed over a long period and along with my crafting a better way to make them. Originally, I was studying the surrealist movement and learning about the ideas behind surrealism as an art form. I got really into a few of the artists from the period and the whole movement they had going on. Between Andre Breton and Salvador Dali I began to think I was already a surrealist. The clock already has a number of elements that make it interesting and I began to stretch the imagination of the surreal to create something my own. The face of a clock became the face of a clock, with the clock movement and dials coming out of the eye. So when you look at the time, it’s like the person is looking back at you. The dials are gold, as gold represents the idea of value. All the elements in my work represent an idea or a challenge to the “normal” idea of what something is. The ticking of a clock is almost like a heartbeat and the idea that you could look at someone that is dead and who you admire fuels the interaction you can have with an idol or someone who motivates you. When I make the clock I have to cut the eye of the face to put the clock through, the act of cutting the eye is a surrealist act based on the film “Un Chien Andalou” where they cut into a women’s eye. There are a number of different elements to each part of my clock that represent the overall idea behind how and why I started making them, but in the end I just want to inspire and motivate people with them.

It trips me out to see Bloomberg’s face next to Prince’s face, both with gold minute and second hands rotating around them.  Why these pop cultural symbols?

I did the Mayors of New York specifically for the (pictured) show on request. I put Andy Kaufman at the end of them all as a little joke to lighten the seriousness up. I think pop culture has a captivating appeal to the public and certain people bring out certain feelings, so when you mix the people up you start seeing them in a different light. I always think about it like a cafeteria in high school, who you sat next to meant something very specific. People felt a certain type of way if you sat at a different table. So when I put Dennis Rodman next to Kim Jong-un people really responded to the pairing. When you put up a 100 clocks, there are a lot of pairings and interesting correlations to draw conversation from.

Who do you sell your work to?  How do people find out about it?

I sell my work to everyone, I sell them online as well as art shows. People who know spread the word and I think it’s because people connect with it personally that they do that, that they tell other people. I sell them for $25 because I want people to be able to own them, I want people to be able to afford a clock and be able to collect more if they wish. I like to think that I am introducing a new generation into collecting art and even attempting to understand what art is in general is the first step. 

I knew you as a hip hop artist before I became aware of your visual arts work, is there a connection there?  Do you still rap?  Do you consider yourself a ‘hip hop visual artist’, in the same vein as break dancing and graffiti?

I’ve always made music and I still do. I just finished writing a new album that I’m in the process of recording now. I had to take a step back from performing to take my art serious but I decided to go by ClockWork Cros instead of Crosby in music as well because I want the two to be connected. The two are both different art forms but I’ve done both for a number of years and I feel like now I can emerge with a real body of work, I’ll let the people decide if they like it or not. I might not consider myself the rapping clock maker but I definitely see the interest Hip Hop has in the arts, with constant references to Basquiat and songs like Picasso Baby, Hip Hop is more than just graffiti art now. I’m just trying to make sure that if it is transcending the traditional forms, it stays for the people.

Where do you see your work going in the future?  

I’d like to think worldwide, I’d like to do a show in Europe and come back home a hero. But for right now I am shipping clocks off to Taiwan, Germany, Ireland, Australia and all over the world, so I’m happy if even just the clocks are making it to those countries. I’d also like to work on more collaborations like the Gucci Ghosts clocks I’m doing with Trouble Andrews. Collabration is a great way to creatively approach the same idea from a different perspective with someone. It’s one of the reasons our show worked so well, Gazoo to the Moon really used his talents to help create our wall and the experience it gave the entire show.

What do you see as the roll artists can play in the current (fucked up) state of the country and the world?

The Arts are always the first thing governments cut funding for. Artists are always bottom of the list and constantly fighting to keep what leverage they have. I think artists uplift the people, with music, with poetry, with color and talent. Artists have always played that role and continue to do it today. It’s part of the reason I make clocks, the ideas and principals are the same as well as positive. I think artists and the arts will always play that role whether or not the world is falling apart. At least I know I will. 

Lastly, what’s your favorite drink?

Whiskey.

Cool, i’ll buy you a round next time I see you.

In order to not completely miss the boat, check out clockworkcros.com