The short story
Born and bred in South Brooklyn, the streets served as Adam’s canvas long before he was putting the streets on canvas. Drawing inspiration from his own graffiti career and his deep Brooklyn roots, his paintings often depict the area he grew up in as the wave of gentrification covers the finer details of the neighborhood he remembers and loves. Suerte is the founder of Urban Folk Art© Studios (an artist collective and gallery) and co founder and co owner of Brooklyn Tattoo®. He continues to paint, illustrate, printmaker, make comics, and make art on many levels in many mediums.
The long story
Adam Suerte was born and bred in South Brooklyn in the 60’s and 70’s. Raised by a liberal single mother, Adam went to P.S.29 for primary school, where years later, his mother would end up as a teacher. His early exposure to art began at the Art Students League of NY, when he was just 12 (this was below the acceptable age due to the nudeness of the models, but he was “snuk in” by one of his moms friends and longtime ASL teacher Tom Fogarty). It was around the age 13 he started writing Grafitti. His first run in with the law was on Bergen street in Cobble Hill where he grew up, tagging up the clean tile, on his way to a Saturday morning model session at the ASL. He was hiding the spraycan in his newsprint pad portfolio.
High School school found him at the Public yet competitive High School of Music and Art on 135th street in Harlem, A year later it was reformed behind Lincoln Center as the Laguardia High School of Music and the Arts (in conjunction with the “Fame school” Preforming Arts high school). It is here his early grafitti started to flourish, as well as his interest in Comics (superhero to underground ), Psychadelic poster art of the 60’s, and his first taste of art history. His nightly escapades of running around train tunnels, and writing on handball courts filled him with adrenaline. Twice during High school he had the honor of working with Keith Haring on a couple of the countless projects Keith worked on with kids from the city. A marker drawing a glowing baby on a spiral notebook remains one of Adam’s prized possessions. Working with Keith also made his mother’s concern for his illegal exploits a little more bearable .
College landed Adam in Providence at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied Illustration. Grafitti fell to the wayside, and the history of Illustration, more art history including the art of ancient Mexico, the Dutch Masters and Impressionism became new interests, that coupled with his continuing work in comics, and psychadelic art, started to shape the style that has grown to be his today. By junior year, he was doing freelance designs for a local skateboard company, and silkscreen printing came into his repertoire of interests. By senior year, Adam had gathered a group of friends whom together formed an artist collective he named “Urban Folk Art©”. They had planned to all move together down to Brooklyn, and support each other collectively through the means of a silkscreen studio, where their services to local bands, artists, and small businesses and not for profits, would fund their guerrilla art projects, their self published comic books, tshirt line, and their art openings. They found a huge loft in Bushwick in 1991, before the onslaught of artists that was eventually to come. They were at this location for a few years, then moved to Williamsburg, where the loft space quickly got expensive, and the silkscreen operation was running its course.
In 1999, Suerte, the main operator of the printing aspect of the shop, began to fold it, to move on to other unknown artistic territory. It was then he was offered an apprenticeship by a tattooer who was about to leave the shop that he had learned at, to start one of his own, All Souls Tattooing, located South of Harlem. Jeff Ortega, and Myke Maldonado became Adam’s “masters”, and at age 29, he set off on a year of cleaning toilets, answering the telephone, and learning a skill that has since become one of the most important influences of his work to date, and has provided him with the financial security to continue his painting, drawing, comic book art, personal and group art openings, his current tshirt line, and fine art silkcreening. It was here learning under 2 Dominicans, and 2 Puerto Ricans, he was given the name “Suerte”, where it was figured the clients were less likely to trust a Gringo with their tattoo work. After finishing his apprenticeship, he worked at All Souls for a year, then the partnership that created the shop dissolved, and Jeff moved All Souls to Brooklyn, where he worked there as well as in a shop in Greenwich village, and also in the Bronx in the back of a Barber shop.
By early 2001, Jeff was leaving the states to go work in England, Adam and the only other tattooer from the old shop, Willie Paredes were faced with a decision. They could close down the shop with Jeff, and go work for other people, or buy it from him, and continue their careers working or themselves. They bought the shop, and renamed it “Studio Dep” (deep). They continued to work there til 2005. By then they had renamed it “Brooklyn Tattoo®”, and moved it over to Atlantic Avenue. They outgrew that space in just 2 years, and settled a few blocks over on Smith Street .
Two years after moving to Smith street, Adam founded Urban Folk Art© Gallery directly next to the Tattoo studio, and the current physical manifestation of Urban Folk Art© Studios was reborn. The gallery exhibits various genres of work from contemporary painting, drawing, illustration, printmaking and photography, legendary graffiti artists to comic art. The gallery exhibits a range of undiscovered, emerging, and established artists. Urban Folk Art Studio’s’s belief is that cross marketing of each other and the gallery as a mutually supportive resource is a valuable way for emerging artists to gain a wider audience for it’s members, the group, and the artists the gallery supports.
Ever since he moved back to Brooklyn from college, his paintings and artwork have represented his love and pride for where he grew up. South Brooklyn has changed a lot, and continues to change. All the time, adam has been continuing with his Paintings, comics, printmaking, public art projects and illustration work. He currently resides in South Brooklyn raising his kids in the neighborhood he was born in.