To view artists ICY and SOT’s work is to engage in a political dialogue. Hailing from Tabriz, Iran, the brothers have used both their homeland and countries the world over as canvases for self-expression for over a decade. The message? Social, environmental, and political issues that include works on climate change, immigration, refugees, pollution, and capitalism, to name a few.
In our artist journey series with Vans UltraRange, we challenged four artists to push their physical and creative boundaries by exploring art in a nature setting, all while tracking their journeys from the city to the great outdoors.
For the third and final installment in the series, we tapped ICY and SOT. With their studio located in Brooklyn, New York, they looked to the beaches of Far Rockaway, New York, for inspiration.
“This is someplace that we always go and get inspired. It kind of feels like you’re not in a city, like skipping the city for us.”
ICY & SOT
In 2006, ICY and SOT began stenciling in their native Iran and, from there, expanded their works both in mediums and geographically. Stenciling eventually led to painting murals, producing videos, and creating installations in the United States, Germany, and China, among other countries. Their work, regardless of medium and location, always delves into the human condition.
“It all started for us from skateboarding, our career in skateboarding. We used to make small stickers or small stencils, and put them around the city,” ICY recounts. Despite the resistance their art met, it never silenced their belief in freedom of speech. “They painted [over] our work; that didn’t really stop us. It encouraged us to do more and more,” ICY adds.
“We grew up in skateboarding culture when we were teenagers”
Watch the film:
ICY and SOT’s humble studio is located in a warehouse-like building amidst an industrial part of Brooklyn, New York’s Bushwick neighborhood. “We’ve changed so many styles. We used to paint murals, do stencils, but now we do completely different works, using different methods, like objects,” ICY shares.
“We always try to say something with our pieces, the message, people can connect easily, and it’s just part of the goal.”
Perhaps the only way to remain sane when living in New York City is to escape it from time to time, a sentiment ICY and SOT share, and one that fuels their creativity. For locals and visitors alike, the beaches in Far Rockaway, Queens, provides just that. The two describe the getaway as a peaceful place where they get to relax their minds. “Living in New York City, it’s like there’s always so much going on, the energy in the city is just too much, and you’re always either working or going to different events,” says ICY. “You’re not thinking about work when you’re in nature.”
“It was really interesting for us to do it [this project], bring the whole story, make it here, take it to the beach, and then document the whole story.”
For this project, the subjects of refugees and immigration was central to ICY and SOT’s work. Rather than painting or drawing, they decided to work with fences to create an installation that is a commentary on the refugee crisis. In it, a person running away from the fence is depicted, and the location of the beach has to do with an element common in many refugees’ stories: water. “Most of the refugees in Europe, they travel with water. If they make it to the other country, they end up in a camp… fences,” SOT says.
“The horizon and the sky are part of the piece because the piece is see through,” ICY adds.
“The fact that you just have an idea and make it happen and finish it. That’s the best feeling.”
Watch the video and peep the photos here to get a closer look at ICY and SOT’s beach installation in New York City. And in case you missed the other installments in our artist journey series with Vans UltraRange, check out our features with LA-based painter Maxwell McMaster and Miami-based muralist Marlon Pruz.
- Executive Producer: Highsnobiety and Vans
- Creative Strategist: Susanne Biermeir and Alexa Di Benedetto
- Project Manager: Amy Tran and Jack Schulze
- Interactive Developer: Katerina Vaseva
- Production Company: Greenpoint Pictures
- Director: Nina Meredith
- Director of Photography: Soren Nielsen
- Producer and Photographer: Phil Staiman
- Editorial: WAX
- Editor: Alvaro del Val
- Assistant Editor: Matt Elias
- Color Grade: Nice Shoes
- Colorist: Phil Choe
- Final Audio: Heard City
- Mixer: Jodi Levine
- Writer: Sachin Bhola