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From here to “Artenity”: American Graffiti in Phnom Penh

By: Expat Advisory Posted: August-03-2011 in
Graffiti U5 Arternity 1
Expat Advisory

From here to “Artenity”:
American Graffiti in Phnom Penh

On Tuesday, 16/08, 6PM, American graffiti artist Jay Torres opens his show “ARTERNITY” at Meta House, featuring a live performance by US singer Lottie Dah. Experience the audio and visual effects as the 80s urban hip-hop culture is brought to life via projections, music, art, and movies. This is the story of Jay Torres, who nowadays lives and works in Phnom Penh.

Even during his teenage years, Jesus B. Torres (a.k.a. Jay Torres /Rated U5) viewed himself as a leader. Raised in Brooklyn, New York, he attended high school within the tough neighborhood known as Bushwick. After years of involvement with graffiti and the U-5 crew, he began to earn money from his artwork by painting clothing and murals throughout New York City and later Caguas, Puerto Rico. In the late 80s, he and fellow artists formed a small art business named U-5 Graphics. Though only operating for a short-lived three years, U-5 Graphics gave them the chance to explore other forums in which to display “street art” legally to produce income.

Tragically losing 2 close friends in graffiti-related incident, Jay began to look past life in the ‘Big Apple.’ Meanwhile, U5 became the prominent art crew in NYC and began spreading out of state with over a hundred members in its ranks. Jim Dwyer, a publicist for New York Newsday Newspaper interviewed members of U5, later releasing his book “Subway Lives” in which he included members of U5 in a seemingly bad light.

In 1990, with his entrepreneur spirit, Jay produced his own graffiti magazine entitled “Fine Print.” The graffiti magazine allowed others to share and showcase their art. Jay Torres had a knack for constructing his art magazine which contained graffiti, humor, interviews, and spoof news reports similar to those seen on comedy news-parodies on television. Between studying at NYC Technical College, and working as a cook within the Empire State Building, Jay decided a dramatic change was called for. Jay enlisted into the US Army in 1992 hoping to further his education, acquire additional skills, and see what else lie beyond the big city.

Rising through the military ranks Jay excelled in a myriad of difficult assignments and posts. He eagerly accepted challenges and looked for all opportunities to do so. Jay volunteered and completed various military training to include Mountaineering and Rappelling School and Airborne School which subsequently led him to an assignment with the 1st Special Forces Group (A) in Washington State.

Discontent with Jim Dwyer’s depiction of his ‘lost’ (U5) friends - Daniel Gomez/Soni & Rubin Fernandez/Slick - Jay decided to publish his own book “U5: The Truth Behind The Lives” - released in 2008 - which created a stir in the now billion dollar hip-hop industry as well as the urban art community. Throughout his tenure in the military, Jay continued to locate remnants of the scattered U5 crew, remarkably holding their first U5 reunion in over 16 years in 2008. Seeing an opportunity to draw upon their vast array of talents, Jay created U5: Enterprises LLC (U5:E), an art & entertainment company. Just 90 days after its formation, U5: Entertainment (one of 5 subsidiaries of the company) went on its first tour (in El Salvador) with former Maroon 5 singer - Jen Bair U5 performing four shows to include the American Embassy, El Salvador. Years later U5: Entertainment artists Lottie Dah U5, U5 Hood Scholars, and DUN U5 continue to perform in military installations, American Embassies, and local clubs throughout the world. U5 exists today as a concept more so than a business in which friendship is the true center of the company which it acts as a forum to other artists wishing to further their careers while being a part of something more rewarding, a member of U5.

Jay continues to operate his business and also to serves his country as a distinguished Soldier/Diplomat working overseas out of American Embassies. For further information on Jay Torres and U5, please take time to visit: for information, blogs, Inky cartoons, freebies, photos, autographed books, Fine Print Magazine, U5:E music, contests, and other current and future projects!

The exhibition ARTENITY opening on TUESDAY, 16/08, 6PM is followed by two hip-hop-cinema nights (on WEDNESDAY, 17/08, 7PM and THURSDAY, 18/08, 7PM), showcasing Khmer and American films.

On Wednesday, 17/08, 7PM two filmmakers explore the HIP HOP ROOTS IN PHNOM PENH AND NEW YORK CITY. In the year 2009 the French Cultural Center and Meta House joined forces for Cambodia’s first hip hop festival, featuring the Klap-Ya-Handz collective, Tiny Toones, DJ Sdey as well as acclaimed foreign break dancers Storm and Sebastian Ramirez. Jan Mueller’s documentary PHNOM PENH HIP HOP 2009 (30 mins, Khmer with English subs) is followed by Charlie Ahearn’s docu-drama WILD STYLE (1983, 82 mins, English). The first hip hop motion picture ever is full of great subway shots, break dancing, freestyle MCing and rare footage of one of the godfathers of hip-hop, Grandmaster Flash, pulling off an awesome scratch-mix set on a pair of ancient turntables.

On THURSDAY, 18/08, 7PM, a selection of Cambodian Hip Hop music videos and short docs (Khmer, with English subs) about local acts such as the TINY TOONES is followed by the American feature film BOMB THE SYSTEM (2002, 91 mins, English) by 23-year-old writer/director Adam Bhala Lough. Blest, a 19-year-old graffiti writer fresh out of high school, is the most wanted writer on the New York Police Department hit list, and at the same time, is attracting attention from the local gallery scene. But things quickly turn ugly when 15-year-old Lune is arrested and brutalized by the police. The crew retaliates by waging an all out "graffiti war" against the city…

ARTERNITY is not something that begins after you're dead. It is going on all the time. We are in it now! See ya all at the Meta House…


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