Graffiti legend Futura on making a sculpture entirely from waste
The artist has unveiled a 19ft behemoth created using rubbish excavated from Bali’s rivers. Now he hopes to inspire a new generation to think about sustainability.
Leonard McGurr, the graffiti artist and graphic designer better known as Futura, set up shop in Bali last month – not to sip piña coladas on the beach, mind you, but to collaborate with Desa Potato Head, the cult holiday resort-slash-cultural hub, on a larger than life, sustainability-focused sculpture. Enter: Pointman River Warrior, a 19ft statue made from repurposed waste materials gathered from Bali’s waterways.
Having started his career graffing on the New York City subway in the early ’70s, before painting on-stage backdrops for The Clash, Futura’s well-acquainted with creating future-facing work. Back then, he pioneered abstract street art at a time when his peers focused on more realistic work, and was among the very first graffiti artists whose work was shown in major art galleries in the ’80s. Since then, he’s veered into illustration and graphic design, collaborating with the likes of Nike, Supreme and Off-White. Pointman River Warrior presented a fresh opportunity to try something new – and for a good cause.
After visiting Potato Head in 2019, Futura noticed the resort was furnished almost entirely with recycled materials sourced directly from the rivers of Bali. Why not channel this into his own work? “It’s really all about the collaboration between [non-profit] Sungai Watch and [community organisation] Yayasan Kakikita,” Futura says of the creative process behind River Warrior. “Without their efforts, it wouldn’t have been possible.”
The Pointman is a character the artist dreamed up at the beginning of his career in the ’70s and has come back to time and time again. Instantly recognisable, with his double-pronged hands and appropriately pointy head, he’s manifested as sculptures, paintings and even NFTs. “[Pointman is inspired by] my love of science fiction and, really, Alien,” Futura continues. “For me, [he] is about being in front of the group.”
It felt like a logical next step, then, for the newest iteration of Pointman to be geared towards an eco-friendly future. Futura’s no stranger to using discarded materials to fuel his practice, either: “As a young artist with limited resources, I would scavenge trash and found objects to create unique pieces,” he says. “[Pointman] has gone through many changes over a considerable timeline, but this piece is very special. This is the first opportunity for me to expand my creative thoughts and align myself with sustainability.”
Futura’s main motivation as an artist is creativity, self-expression and evolution. He’s most interested in thinking about how his work will be perceived in years to come, by generations who haven’t even been born yet. “Even now, some ancient paintings seem timeless, as if they were painted last year,” he says. “Perhaps the work of today will have the same effect tomorrow.”
Most importantly, after they get past the sheer scale of the statue, Futura hopes it’ll encourage audiences to think about the alarming amount of waste being dumped into Bali’s rivers. He’s even got plans to create a waste management facility in partnership with Potato Head, as a follow-up to the unveiling of Pointman River Warrior.
Any parting words of wisdom from the veteran graffer?
“Find inspiration from life. Simply being alive is a blessing – and I never take that for granted.”