ROGER GASTMAN is originally from Bethesda, Maryland, right across the border from Washington, DC. He grew up a punk rock, hardcore kid and in middle school he was introduced to graffiti. By fifteen, he was traveling across the country, painting and trading photos of graffiti. At sixteen, he started a business distributing graffiti supplies out of his home. His first paid graffiti job was painting the interior of the Las Vegas hotel & casino, New York, New York. His hard work spiraled into a career working with iconic brands like Coca-Cola, Volkswagen, and Sanrio combining his ability to connect graffiti art and commercial branding in a way never done before.
In fall 1997, he published a graffiti magazine called While You Were Sleeping. Completely unaware and uneducated on the magazine business, Roger started humbly printing 3,000 copies of a 24-page magazine and it soon grew a large cult following. In true DIY custom, he ran the magazine out of his house. The content was full of graffiti, serial killers, porn stars, and warped American pop culture. Roger even rented Gary Coleman for promotions and a future story. Roger produced his first short film (distributed by WYWS) in 1998 called Bedtime Stories; a collection of terrible behavior caught on film by him and his graffiti friends - Jackass before Jackass.
While still painting murals for cool brands, Roger connected the brands with other artists around the country for merchandise collaborations (clothing, skateboards, video games, etc). The relationships he cultivated set the pace for his own boutique media business, R. Rock Enterprises and its quintessential networking of the graffiti culture with marketing and branding in the world of advertising. His instincts for unique and creative marketing became his calling card.
In 2000, he curated Free Agents, his first gallery show in D.C., which was covered by major news outlets from the Washington Post to CNN. He also self-published his first book/catalog to accompany the show. WYWS peaked in 2001 distributing 80,000 copies every other month with tons of national advertisers; it was time for Roger to move on. He started working with more artists putting out monographed books, curating gallery shows nationwide, creating artist-run websites, and producing and selling screen prints and books for contemporary artists like DALEK, Jim Houser, and Mike Giant. He's written introductions for over four hundred and fifty books, working with several large publishers in one way or another, whether as a creative director or designing packaging.
Roger moved to Los Angeles in 2004 to start a high-end boutique magazine called Swindle with Shepard Fairey, and though he has never stopped bringing new projects back to D.C., Swindle was interested in inventing culture, not just reporting on it. The magazine started as a quarterly but went bi-monthly and covered art, music, design, social and political issues while featuring its own cutting-edge aesthetic.
In 2005, Roger produced Infamy, a critically acclaimed graffiti documentary directed by Doug Pray (Hype!, Scratch, Art and Copy). He continued consulting with large consumer companies to bring art and graffiti into their brand marketing. His client list expanded rapidly and included brands like Boost Mobile, Toyota Scion, Hurley, and the W Hotel. He was brought on to consult artist Mr. Brainwash's large show, Life is Beautiful in 2008, and this led to a role as Consulting Producer on Banksy's documentary film, Exit Through the Gift Shop, as well as appearing in it – he's the fixer brought in to save Mr. Brainwash's wildly off-the-rails art show. The film was nominated for an Oscar in 2009.
Roger remains true to his own interests while always aiming for authenticity and keeping a high attention to detail. He persists working on books - whether it's self-publishing, writing essays about graffiti for Shepard Fairey's monograph Supply and Demand, or creating special issues for Juxtapoz Magazine (the biggest art magazine in the U.S.). Alongside all of this, his company grew, embracing its multi-disciplinary approach with more brands everyday. The client list includes giants like Sephora, Urban Outfitters, HBO, Motorola, Sprite, Heineken, and Nissan.
With artist/writer Caleb Neelon, Roger co-authored the 2007 Thames & Hudson book Street World (published in five languages) and the enormous 2011 Harper Collins book The History of American Graffiti. He's a respected graffiti historian, keeping it raw and core while very refined. In 2011, he co-curated Los Angeles MoCA's Art in the Streets exhibit with Jeffrey Deitch and Aaron Rose. The groundbreaking show was the first national comprehensive survey of graffiti and street art. The exhibit covered 40,000 sq. ft. of Los Angeles MoCA's Geffen Contemporary location and had a record-setting attendance of over 250,000 people. The show included world-famous artists RISK, Barry McGee, Banksy, Os Gemeos, Shepard Fairey, and Mister Cartoon amongst many others. Graffiti and street art became exposed to a mainstream audience like never before, inspiring and igniting a dialogue between community and wall writers within Los Angeles, and arguably the world.
Despite his years out west, Roger still had things to do in D.C. For over ten years, he and friend/filmmaker Joseph Pattisall chased the elusive graffiti king of their home stomping grounds, COOL "DISCO" DAN. After creating a friendship and shooting with him on and off for several years, another story surfaced. The real story about the capitol in the 1980's; a time sensationalized by the media but neglected the true tale of that community. The Legend of Cool "Disco" Dan documentary film, narrated by Henry Rollins, is a labor of love, a story they put their heart and soul into with a focus on preserving the subcultures of an overlooked part of the nation's capital. The film tells the story of D.C. in the 1980's through the eyes of D.C. graffiti legend, COOL "DISCO" DAN and premiered alongside a complimentary museum exhibit PUMP ME UP: D.C. subculture of the 1980s at the Corcoran Gallery of Art with a 300-page catalog book. The exhibit brought in more than double the size of any audience the Corcoran has had for an art show in the last ten years and the film screened in twelve cities nationwide, including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, and Baltimore.
Understanding the importance of documenting graffiti culture in many mediums, Roger started filming the graffiti “old timers” he met over the years. This project evolved into Wall Writers, a documentary feature film chronicling the true history of graffiti's formative years from1967 - 1972. Narrated by John Waters, the film retraces the work of graffiti pioneers in Philadelphia and New York City that influenced and inspired future graffiti writers. It's an in-depth look at the origin of styles, techniques, and birth of the subculture in America. The project is currently in development to include into a large museum show and catalog/book.
Roger remains a maverick in brand consulting for huge international companies today and works tirelessly to cement art and graffiti into the contemporary landscape through films, books, marketing, museum exhibits, lectures, and events. His largest client to date is Sanrio, the parent company for iconic character Hello Kitty. He's helped bring Hello Kitty from the retail shelf into the world of fine art. In 2010, for Sanrio's 50th anniversary he opened Small Gift, an expansive art installation and pop-up exhibit at Miami Art Basel complete with live tattooing, a product retrospective, exclusive retail store, and games. Subsequently, he published HELLO KITTY, HELLO ART, a beautiful art book featuring a collaboration of Hello Kitty inspired art. An art exhibit accompanied the book release and opened in Los Angeles and New York City to hundreds of devoted fans.
Roger resides in Los Feliz with his two dogs Nicky and Dracula. He has a vast collection of graffiti and punk rock ephemera and artwork by friends like Richard Coleman, Mike Giant, and Banksy. Admittedly, his favorite collectibles are his autographed Topanga (Danielle Fishel) headshot, his Minor Threat Trouble Funk Globe poster and his GILF doll.