Josh Falk and Greg Maxim-Burdett, who goes by MRNVR, have known each other since the 1990s, when they were high school students in Leominster. They got involved in an active graffiti scene, and today they both work as visual artists. They have long had a close circle of artist friends who would mount group shows and throw underground parties at the South End basement apartment Falk and MRNVR shared from 2002 to 2004.
That informal group has since formed a collective called Project SF, short for the comic book characters Super Friends, and taken on mural projects around the city. This weekend at South Boston Open Studios, they have assembled a group show for the unveiling of the Thomas Young Gallery, Project SF’s new gallery space, which happens to be in the loft that MRNVR shares with his wife, Fumika Yamizaki, a member of the local band Viva Viva.
Q. You two met through graffiti and skateboard and punk circles as teens. Did you ever imagine you’d turn your art into sellable products?
F. We all wanted to evolve. In Massachusetts, adding any foreign medium to a public space is considered a felony. We wanted to expand and come up with something better, and throwing parties was a way to get a large group of people together to share art. When you get all those creative people — artists, musicians, DJs, hairdressers — under one roof, it’s like a think tank. Good things happen. But there’s always animosity in those situations, too. People might not like what the others do.
M. That’s one of the problems that comes from graffiti. It’s territorial.
Q. So why did you end up establishing a proper organized group? Does working with others ever distract you?
M. Human beings in general can’t live solitary existences. We all need to depend on others for something, whether it’s food or electricity or whatever. What I get out of my relationship with other artists is more motivation. It makes me want to be a better artist and strive for higher goals. I went to Mass Art, and in art school you’re subject to critique. In real life that’s not the case. Sure, people say they like your art, but when you’re around other artists you’re able to honestly critique each other.
F. It’s good in that it’s constructive criticism.
M. Sometimes. Also, for me it’s a way to continue the things we started in 2002 when we were having parties on Tremont Street. Now we get a chance to show artists who are up and coming. That’s how you build your network.
Q. A collective is a great way to flourish as an individual, but Project SF has already shown that it’s also a way to develop bigger projects with artists who might have a similar aesthetic. How did the group creations you’ve done come about?
F. People who weren’t in the group were hating on us for diverting attention to mainstream art or shows, that we wanted to make money instead of vandalizing things. The group started melding together, doing projects together under one moniker. Once word got out that we were doing mural work, we got gigs for things like Northeastern. Every year since 2005, we’re hired by Northeastern to do a freestanding mural at the school’s Spring Fest. We saw that people are infatuated with the process; it’s something they don’t see on a regular basis. They can look at a finished mural any time.
Q. Speaking of murals, tell me about the “free wall” you helped establish on the side of Central Kitchen in Central Square.
Is it true that anyone can paint on it?
F. A friend of mine owns Central Kitchen. He’s a big supporter of arts in general, particularly street art. He likes the dialogue it creates. People can go before the restaurant opens at 5 p.m. and paint on it.
M. It’s not just our wall, it’s everybody’s wall.
Q. Your gallery is also your living space, Greg. What prompted you to do that?
M. I was in Japan for a few months. There are mom-and-pop restaurants and stores where the family runs their business out front and lives in the back. It’s rare to find that here, but it’s very traditional.
F. Greg and Fumika have always been the mom and dad of the group, always having people over for dinner and letting people crash overnight.
Q. So why the name Project SF?
M. It’s short for Super Friends, from the cartoon “Super Friends,” which was based on DC Comics’ Justice League of America. It was Superman, Batman, and the rest.
F. Everyone has their own endeavors. They’re superheroes with their own individual powers, but then they come together for things.Project SF’s Thomas Young
Studio is located at 469 West Broadway, South Boston. South Boston Open Studios is Nov. 3-4, noon-6 p.m. Liza Weisstuch can be reached at liza.weisstuch@
gmail.com. Follow her on Twitter @livingtheproof.