LA-Based Canlove, a Graffiti Recycling Program, Comes to Miami

We're way past having to defend the whole "graffiti is art" discussion. But the dozens, if not hundreds, of empty spray paint cans strewn next to even the most spectacular graffiti walls is still a major buzzkill. Luckily, a couple of South Florida boys now living in L.A. are presenting an alternative for dump-and-run sprayers.

DJ Neff and Paul Ramirez met when both worked at advertising giant Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Coconut Grove. They eventually hooked up in California and founded Canlove as a graffiti spray paint can recycling program. It's already getting plenty of traction in L.A. and starting to take root in New York City. And Miami is next up for some Canlove love. After all, the idea was born in Neff's mind as he prowled Magic City streets as a fledgling graf artist. We caught up with these new-age artcycling pioneers and talked about the program, future plans, and what they'll be doing at this year's Art Basel Miami Beach.

Art born of recycled spray paint cans.
Art born of recycled spray paint cans.
Courtesy of Paul Ramirez

New Times: Tell us about Canlove, why you created it, where you hope it goes?

DJ Neff: The idea for Canlove was actually conceived in South Florida

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where I grew up painting graffiti. In college I started exploring the

idea of creating a new type of canvas - and I had all these empty paint

cans lying around, so I decided to cut them open and use the metal for

the project. As soon as I cut open my first can it became my fetish. I

cut thousands and every can was just as exciting as the first. I fell in

love all over again with spray paint. Over time, I realized this idea

could be something bigger than simply an art piece, and Canlove, simply

put, became an artcycling program that produces works of art through the

collection and processing of used spray cans.

For too long, these spray cans have been living in ditches and under

bridges - rusting in silence inside mounds of garbage. We want to give

them new life. We're working hard and we hope to continue increasing our

ability to process and collect cans so that we can collaborate and

create larger projects that would allow a more mainstream audience to

enjoy the spray can.

Paul Ramirez: Ever since I met Senor Neff he's been trying to get me --and others -- to cut cans with him. I don't think either of us knew where

this was headed back then. Over the years I've helped and watched

Canlove grow. I know we're only getting started and I'll know we've made

it when we can create artwork around the world using the cans from

local graffiti artists.

Canlove will be coming to this year's Art Basel Miami Beach.
Canlove will be coming to this year's Art Basel Miami Beach.
Courtesy of Paul Ramirez

Even today, graf artists have to battle through certain stereotypes. Is

part of the whole Canlove concept a reaction against the urban blight

perception sometimes associated with these artists?

DJ: Sure there are stereotypes associated with graffiti, but in recent

years, graffiti and its artists have become increasingly respected in

pop-culture and the art world. The market has exploded with all kinds of

products to get up with and spray paint production is at an all time

high. Today, millions of people are doing graffiti and we simply just

want their cans when they're done. And if others are inspired to make their used

can art, that's great too. Our message is simple: love what you do.

Canlove is a conscious choice about how to treat spray cans when they're


PR: Canlove is an awareness of something more than it is a reaction to

something. These cans still have so much more color and life to give

after they've been tossed. If making art from used spray cans helps to

breakdown stereotypes -- that's great. If we can turn making art out of

cans into a worldwide upcylcing program -- that's a dream come true.

We know you're from Miami. We know you started Canlove. What don't' we

know about why you left Miami for L.A.?

DJ: A big part of Canlove being in LA is the world famous Venice Beach.

The Venice Art Walls that are regulated here are first class and can

collection is a smooth process thanks to I.C.U. -- a local organization

that is doing its part to help graffiti at its roots. Working with them has helped us build a foundation for the process and

Canlove has been able to establish a routine collection schedule that

keeps us busy and full of empty cans. Our goal is to help create similar

collection centers all around the world, giving artists a place to

paint and leave their cans in love.

How would you rate the graffiti scene/work in Miami?

DJ: Coming up in a great crew DME in Miami, I know firsthand that the

artists doing their thing in the 305 are second to none. In fact, Miami

has been the spot to be if you are a graf artist, tons of great spots

are coming up and the art on the walls is amazing. As far as styles,

Miami has it all, probably a reflection of its diverse population,  and

writers are really pushing bright colors and tight outlines.

PR: The Surface Merchants are doing some really interesting work.  Friends With You as always is pushing hard to create fun art

experiences. Never a shortage of big things coming from Miami, and

looking forward to seeing it at this year's Basel.

Expect to see these in Miami in the near future.
Expect to see these in Miami in the near future.
Courtesy of Paul Ramirez

Do you think the artists would welcome Canlove receptacles throughout heavily graffiti strewn parts of town?

DJ: Receptacles are great, but we really want to create public programs

that would help clean up these areas too. We can try to spread the word

and hope that artists make the choice not to throw their cans on the

ground, or in a ditch, or wherever -- but we know that its hard to change

behavior. Instead, we could give artists that get arrested a chance to

do community service through Canlove, monitoring receptacles and

collecting and processing cans.

PR: So far in our experience artists have welcomed the receptacles. We

know how much graffiti artists love getting up on trash bins. I also

believe that most artists would rather have their empty cans become a

piece of art than a piece of trash. We could really use some help though

- in the whole collection/processing area. It requires tons of

coordination, planning, and dedication. We're asking artists, the

community, and the industry if they canlove.

What has to happen for Canlove to add Miami to its ever growing reach?

DJ: Canlove is looking for artists and volunteers that have the same

affinity for spray paint and have ideas that they want to collaborate

on. Just like our partnership with ICU in Venice, we are looking for

people that are regulating legal walls and that can routinely collect

cans. Any artists working with spray paint that would like to partner

with Canlove to connect on bigger projects should get in contact with


We're also building a solid relationship with MTN NA - which is

major for us -- and this year we're working with them and to have a

special Canlove collection of work at Art Basel -- the plan is to take

the 1000s of cans that will be emptied by world class artists -- and

returning next year with a piece made from all of cans we collected. I

think the more awareness we get, the more love we'll get. We're planning

to work on more and more projects and collaborations with others. We

want to grow in size and scale in hopes that we leave no can behind.

For more info on Canlove contact Chalk Gallery, 12513 Venice Blvd., Venice. (424) 228-2289, or visit

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