Harif Guzman has a dark alter ego. His name is Haculla, and he’s been seen all over New York, stealing Kate Moss’ Topshop money and feeling up Elvira in Central Park—all in collage form. Haculla, one of Guzman’s many street art characters, came into being mostly because people couldn’t pronounce Harif’s name, so they called him “Ha,” which the Bram Stoker-obsessed artist later merged with “Dracula.”
Influenced by 20s Dada, 60s pop, 90s street art, and today’s overstimulating media culture, Guzman’s work reflects the chaos of New York. It’s a city, he says, that “kills artists.” His raw collages are almost conversations with pop culture. Haculla, like New York, is always brash. He gives the finger to Coco Chanel and plasters the words trashed hot sex over supermodels’ bodies. Violent and honest, his collages are a way for Guzman to stave off the calamity of the city he says will “turn you into a razor blade.”
His unorthodox path to the world of fine art—from blue collar worker to skate punk to street artist—mirrors the notions of transformation and exploration embedded in his work. For a few years Guzman was homeless, inspiring him to do graffiti, writing his name on the streets that were his home.
Guzman’s SoHo studio-apartment-showroom is covered with his paintings and collages, complete with a swing made from a skateboard hanging in the middle of the room. He tells me he doesn’t want to be thought of as a “street artist.” Looking around, I realize that he isn’t, because he no longer has to make the street feel like home. He’s instead transformed his home into a piece of street art, a pastiched fortress against the chaos of Manhattan.