Rapha Meets: Ahol Sniffs Glue
Discussing art accessibility, sobriety and the bike as a force for good with street artist Ahol Sniffs Glue ahead of his limited edition jersey design with Rapha Miami.
15 August 2023
Cuban American street artist David Anasagasti, better known as Ahol Sniffs Glue, has joined forces once again with Rapha Miami to lend his signature graffiti graphics to a special edition double jersey collection. Nowadays followed devoutly within both the local street art and cycling scenes, Anasagasti devotes his time to making a difference, but his purpose wasn’t always so clear.
Growing up in Miami, with his parents divorcing early on, Anasagasti and his brother mostly raised themselves from a young age. Without a lot of resources around them, he soon found ways to entertain himself. Strongly grounded in the punk rock scene, he learnt early on the DIY-nature of things, how to find hope in anything and get yourself to where you need to be. He says, “graffiti is really a self-motivating type of thing.”
From what first began as a form of entertainment and escapism, Anasagasti soon realised graffiti’s role in his life ran a little deeper. “I lost my mum early on, and my dad a few years ago, the street art scene has always given me something to lean on. It got me through the worst of times, but it also got me into a lot of trouble.”
“When nobody is telling you what to do, you find your own perks, you make your own games. You’re burning the fire under yourself.”
Street art can act as a secret code to a city, holding meaning and messages for those able to decipher and understand it, telling stories of its surroundings. For those outside it, graffiti becomes an eyesore, a form of vandalism. Within the art world particularly it is shunned, deemed an ‘unsophisticated’ art form not to be considered amongst its more prestigious counterparts.
A large part of street art is the balancing act between artistic expression and remaining on the right side of the law. In Anasagasti’s case, his rise to recognition hasn’t yet curbed his passion for creativity.
Geographies of Trash is one of Anasagasti’s most prominent and ongoing projects. During lockdown, he began biking around the city and painting pieces of trash and then uploading them to social media, encouraging people to pick them up and get their very own, one-of-a-kind Ahol piece. The city-wide phenomenon has his followers hanging on for the next notification and sees painted washing machines disappear off the streets in minutes.
Creating collectors items out of pieces of trash, he’s also encouraging more people to take up cycling, rewarding any collection by bike with a freshly minted NFT, as part of ongoing collaborations with Florida International University. “By people showing up and being active, finding the trash and taking it home, we’re gamifying the process and making a difference”, says Anasagasti.
“We’re making regular people collectors of art, allowing them to sell them and pay their rent with trash. It’s a crazy movement.”
“The currency I receive from these rides is that I get to feel good and I get to make people happy, and take trash off the streets. We’re keeping the art conversation going, and the environmental side where we’re taking trash off the streets. We’re democratising art collecting.”
In turn, this set the wheels in motion for personal developments too. In the process of this project, and his first collaboration with Rapha, he entered a new stage of his relationship with cycling which offered a wake up call to change the harmful habits he found himself in.
“Getting on the bike helped me start cutting the bad shit out, bit by bit. I lost like 50lbs.” He reflects, “I didn’t want to be this drunk, fat dude pushing a new jersey with this dope company. The bike unlocked a whole new thing for me I never thought it would.” There are other perks to this lifestyle he soon discovered, “When you're dressed as a cyclist you can get away with a lot more.”
So began his determined journey to sobriety and a new chapter for creativity and connection, but it did not come without its struggle.
“When I stopped the drugs, I stuttered for months. The anxiety was crippling. I was like ‘am I going to stop making art because of this?’ I pushed through it, there was so much crazier stuff going on in the world, and that helped me get through it.”
Soon, he was able to find an equilibrium. “I’m more meticulous now. Before, I would cram a whole wall into one day. Now I’m taking my time, riding my bike, using balance. The bike is important, but I don’t want to replace my addiction to that.”
Janelly Prieto, Rapha Miami’s General Manager, recalls meeting Anasagasti at the Clubhouse during Art Basel, an international art fair. She remembers, “Being able to get one of his murals in a store in Miami is a huge deal, it drew a whole bunch of people. I remember he had this super heavy, steel frame bike but he rode that more than any of the staff in the Clubhouse.”
Anasagasti also now works alongside the city, which Prieto notes the significance of. “It’s a kind of activism, through his notoriety and credibility from his street art he’s able to push things forward, like securing proclamation for a bike day.”
Working to destigmatize and democratise graffiti, Anasagasti is legitimising the art form as a force for good, opening it up to everyone. “Continuing to bring up every demographic of fans is really important to me,” he says. Whereas prices and demand tend to rise with popularity, and access is reserved for the few, he has ensured his art is always for the masses.
“The bike itself doesn't discriminate, it's people that do.”
Art, like cycling, can have its elitist and exclusive tendencies, but as with both, there are people out there who constantly challenge the status quo, posing the questions of what a cyclist ‘looks like’, and who gets to decide what art is collectible.
“When you have a reach and access to the fine art world whilst still being able to walk around the hood, you have to know it’s a privilege that you’ve acquired and understand you can do things with that. No matter how far up you are on your high horse, you’re still just a civilian. You gotta pay your taxes like everyone else. Empowering people has become a calling, and my art has enabled me to do that, I think that’s pretty dope.”
Taking his self-proclaimed “choppy, sharp, line work” and working closely with Rapha’s designers, Anasagasti has produced two limited edition jerseys which are now available exclusively in Clubhouses. The first jersey channels Miami’s energy, and is inspired by the pastel colour palette of the city’s famous art deco infrastructure. The second features a ‘nation-wide’ design that speaks to a wider celebration of cycling. Stop into your local Rapha Clubhouse to get yours today.