Biscayne World: The Art of Ahol Sniffs Glue
The Museum of Graffiti is proud to present Biscayne World, an exhibition by Miami icon Ahol Sniffs Glue (David Anasagasti), known for his sleepy eyes that he has painted all over the streets of Miami for several decades. The new work is a love letter to Miami and its cast of characters, culled from three years of riding the bus up and down Biscayne Boulevard.
“From rich people to poor people and all the characters in between, Biscayne Boulevard is a petri dish with the perfect cross section of this awesome city. In the same Biscayne that’s typically underappreciated and taken for granted, I saw as a reservoir of untapped shit that served as unlimited inspiration. I listened to the conversations, the coughs, the cries, the many languages of the bus. I breathed in every smell possible, and I took the happiness along with sadness. We were all trying to get somewhere. That’s Biscayne World.” – Ahol Sniffs Glue
A son of Cuban immigrants who met in Miami, David Anasagasti was born and raised in Hialeah, the largest Cuban community in the United States where English is a second language yet success stories are made daily. Drive, hard work, creativity and discipline are part of the Miami Cuban experience that informed the artist growing up. The artist and his older brother were mostly left to their own devices as their single mom worked long hours to provide for the family. Television and drawing served as surrogate parents with the TV shows teaching the boys English while they doodled monsters to help pass the time. With Mr. Wizard’s World, Sesame Street and MTV on repeat, the boys had plenty of inspiration pouring into their young minds.
A pivotal moment occurred in late 1980s when a neighbor dropped off a VHS tape with both a bootleg recording of the Hip Hop film Beat Street and the music video of Punk Rock Girl by the punk band, The Dead Milkmen. The videos sparked an immediate interest in the teenage boys to write on walls like the graffiti artist Ramo in Beat Street and jam to punk rock tunes.
It was during his high school years that David’s skill for art began to take shape. Stickers and punk rock flyers became a natural outlet – totally DIY. David became immersed in the punk rock lifestyle – making clothes, putting up posters, and creating an anti-establishment identity: Asshole. Asshole was shortened into Ahol which eventually became Ahol Sniffs Glue, a lengthy anonymous name made to be different in a city filled with one-word names on walls. It stood out and sounded like a nuisance, it was punk. It worked.
The first image that he put up on walls was a bloody tampon—his band’s, The Panty Raiders, logo. Eventually as he became more steeped in painting on the streets, he gravitated toward characters and line work which he practiced at home, developing his personal style and a world of characters. The tampons led to the eyes and was purely for fun. Without much consideration, his distinct eye image became a preferred mark that he painted wherever he would go around the city. Store gates, track side walls, warehouses, and alleys all received the treatment as stickers and tags went up in bars, bathrooms and on busses. Collaborations with members of the SSK graffiti crew and friends like Gonz and Totals helped elevate his visibility and credibility in the graffiti world. From that time to now, Ahol’s eye has evolved into a famous symbol synonymous with Miami’s counterculture.
I first came across Ahol Sniffs Glue’s iconic sleepy, unimpressed eyes in 2008 on the side of the Margulies Warehouse in Wynwood on a wall of epic proportions. His iconic eyes covered every inch of the 20’ tall wall while the bottom half featured graffiti masterpieces of complex design. The wall, facing the northbound lanes of I-95 lasted for almost a dozen years and exposed Ahol’s eyes to tens of thousands of commuters every day who got a colorful treat along their otherwise mundane trip from point A to point B. The wall symbolized the beginning of Wynwood’s development into America’s best arts district and went on to be one of the most photographed murals in Wynwood to date.
The invention of this eye, its perfect linear pattern and the artist’s obsession with painting it made him a homegrown celebrity. The eye appears to be relatable, approachable, and possibly stoned—just like the artist himself. The eye has its own attitude that’s open to interpretation, allowing it to properly enhance any space from a fancy hotel lobby to a neighborhood trap house.
Ahol Sniffs Glue, the artist, typically adorned in gold teeth and chains, has spent his career breaking and making his own rules. Self-taught, sleeves rolled up, with a blunt in hand, the artist has what can only be referred to as perfect form when controlling a spray can or a marker to make the impeccable circle, arc, or series of parallel lines that put him on the map. Yet, Ahol has an unwavering drive to continue to be better.
Punk rock art and graffiti rarely appear in art galleries and much less in museums. Its homemade, do-it-yourself ethic typically finds itself in the form of street posters promoting music shows at gritty bars or stencils calling for protests. Ahol Sniffs Glue’s tenacity, talent, and hard work allowed his personal genre of art to transcend the streets into galleries and mansions where there is now a constant celebration and discussion of his artistry and craft. The Museum of Graffiti was built to celebrate stories of people like David Anasagasti, one of Miami’s most recognizable public artists whose roots are entirely punk and street and whose pseudonym, AHOL SNIFFS GLUE, yells out anti-conformity. His art is anti-authority, satirical, minimalistic and highly visible for over a decade on the streets. He captures the essence of Miami as he illustrates the underbelly of the city – the tweakers, the homeless, the street people that we might miss but that he clearly sees. The citizens on the fringes of conformity, the ones that barely make it but that add vibrancy and substance to the squareness of regular life. It is within these illustrations, seen in this book and in this exhibition titled, Biscayne World that we get to understand Ahol Sniffs Glue. We get a close up into his work ethic, his illustrations, his desire to share the drawings that make up his Miami. In his work we see an artist taking risks, inventing characters and embracing his own reality. If you look closely you also see a love for people and for humanity – scabs, bullet holes, dirty clothes and all. His choice of subjects and illustration style are outrageous but so is this city and its people.
We welcome you to visit the Museum’s newest exhibition.
Published to coincide with the exhibition, the new limited edition book, Biscayne World: The Art of Ahol Sniffs Glue is available online and in the Museum gift shop for $50, with only 100 copies made.