Under Armour Teams Up With Darbotz So We Can Unleash Our Wild Side
If you’ve ever taken a walk around Jakarta – and I mean really take a walk around Jakarta – you might find visually stunning black-and-white graffiti with a particular wave motif or an awesomely monstrous anthropomorphised Kraken-like squid called Cimi-Kong. Or if you’ve recently visited the awesome Monster Playground in Jakarta’s snazzy new BXc Mall 2, you might come across the works of the Indonesian graffiti artist known as Darbotz.
The artist based in Jakarta, who turns 43 this year, has exhibited his works in numerous showcases worldwide, including Art Moments Jakarta in 2019, Artstage Singapore in 2017, the National Museum of Indonesia in 2016 and Monster Inside Us at MIFA, Australia back in 2013. He has also collaborated with leading brands including Nike, Google chrome, DC Shoes Indonesia, and more.
His latest collaboration is with sportswear brand Under Armour to launch a capsule collection based on the UA Iso-Chill, a unique fabric tech built with ribbon-shaped nylon fibres that lay flat against your skin – minimizing sweat build-up and dispersing heat as it comes. Iso-Chill is a godsend for those in tropical urban jungles, under the hot sun, and in spaces in which heat is trapped by densely packed concrete buildings. Darbotz has a distinctive style that reflects the dynamic of urban society concrete jungle which aligns with the campaign name “INTO THE WILD”. It’s a stylish capsule, containing Iso-Chill running tops that feature design motifs taken from Darbotz’s unique style.
As a fan of the capsule and the artist himself, I had to speak to him about the collaboration, and perhaps dig deeper into the artist who might arguably be the underground king of Jakarta’s streets.
AM: Can I just say I’ve seen your work around Jakarta, I love the aesthetic of Cumi-Kong and I’m a fan, but I never had the chance to appreciate the artist. Can you tell us more about how you got into graffiti art?
Darbotz: From a young age, my passion for drawing led me to draw on everything, I would doodle on my walls and even on the school tables. It was during my high school years that I ventured into using spray paint for the first time, and that’s how I got my nickname, darbotz. I would write my name all over the town. In university, I delved into the world of graffiti culture, discovering that it predominantly revolved around writing your name. However, I didn’t want to be just about that. That’s why I created a character after many attempts of experimentation.
Your art is obviously informed by your perception of Jakarta. You’re responding to the urban spaces of Jakarta. Do you see the city as your canvas?
Darbotz: The city will always be my canvas, even up till today. Although my current works focus predominantly on digital art and painting on canvases, I will always go back to the surface that I love the most, walls.
Graffiti art can sometimes be seen as disruptive by the government or police. Did you face accusations of vandalism early in your career? What do you say to those who think graffiti art is vandalism rather than legit art?
Answer: It can be argued that at its core, graffiti is a form of vandalism, a sentiment that has persisted over time. Drawing a parallel to music, particularly rap, various sub-genres like jazz rap, pop rap, and gangsta rap have emerged, yet the foundational element still remains as rap. Similarly, with graffiti, the foundational essence is often rooted in vandalism. However, it is up to the artist on how the direction that they’d like to take their art.
Your style is so distinct. Not many graffiti artists work only with black and white. How did you develop this style? What led to that creative decision?
Darbotz: My choice to use black and white for my graffiti stems from a desire to be different and to stand out in Jakarta, a city already saturated with various colors from billboards, posters, and more. The decision to leverage only black and white is a deliberate attempt to neutralize the surrounding kaleidoscope and ensure my work would distinctly catch the eye of the public.
A lot of graffiti art is tied to hip-hop. Does music feed your creative soul? Does it affect your art?
Darbotz: Certainly, my initial exposure to graffiti culture occurred in the 90s when internet access was limited, and information was dug from books and VHS tapes. Music significantly influences my art, with a notable impact coming from the powerful lyrics of that era, often centered around struggles and hustles, which helped to shape my artistic expression.
Tell us more about this collab with Under Armour. How did it come about? What’s your relationship with the brand like, both as an artist, and to you personally?
Dabotz: In terms of branding, Under Armour resonates with my work due to its simplicity and alignment with the “black and white” aesthetic (logo). While I’m not into running, there are moments when I “run” during my painting sessions.
When coming up with these designs, what was your process? How did you come up with something that remained true to your art and your style, while providing something that fit the Under Armour brand as well?
Darbotz: The brief called for a collection for the running line, but with a focus on a lifestyle run rather than a sporty one. I noticed parallels between my artwork and the concept of urban running. My character reflects on navigating city life, addressing its challenges, chaos, and obstacles. Every day is a venture into the urban jungle, a journey to conquer the wild. Hence, when we run or start our day, we go INTO THE WILD.
What’s next for you after this collab?
Darbotz: I’ll be holding a solo exhibition next year. I do hope that there’ll be more opportunities for global collaborations like the Under Armour X Darbotz INTO THE WILD Iso-Chill collection.