Growing up in East New York with a Puerto Rican Mother and Black father, Rob “TMO” Plater definitely has a New York state of mind. Rob is one of three kids and was inspired by the street art and graffiti he saw all around him growing up. We spent some time with him in his humble queens apartment.
Examining Plater’s work on the street we noticed the extensive use of characters wearing masks or having a second face. The characters to him are the images of ourselves that we conjure up. Everyone thinks of themselves as something whether it be strong, weak, smart, stupid what have you. In reality we are not what we think and this disconnect is ever-present in his imagery. Most of his images have a human face representing the mortal and realistic side of us and than the mask side of us illustrating what we think or hope we are. He told us that to him every story needs a protagonist and these characters represent the need to be something other than yourself.
The two sides of us often stem from our ideas as kids. Growing up we think we need to be a fireman or police man and label ourselves as something, “I am this.” Plater’s imagery struggles with that emotion by showing the kid’s face but also what the kid is trying to be. The symbolism is an expression of his emotion. In many ways the drawings are Rob figuring out himself through expression. He is playing with his own labels and instincts.
We are so impressed by how humble Rob was especially after asking him what he would consider himself. We typically try and define artists these days as street artists or graffiti artists. Rob has both a classical background, getting his art degree from the NY Academy of Art, and an education from the “street” including taking themes from comic books and illustration. We get a sense from him that he doesn’t wish to sit in any one box. After a lengthy discussion we finally get Rob to label himself. He says, “Really I am just an image maker. Plain as that.”
Rob is a master at eliciting emotion. Below is his Rambo piece about a boy coming back from war broken and torn. You can feel the pain in the wrinkles in the boy’s face that just wants his childhood back. This piece is the beginning of a series of Puerto Rican inspired works for his solo show at Freshthetic in Brooklyn.
Rob was also part of the EBC Highschool Mural Project in Bushwick Brooklyn where over 30 artists painted murals inside the walls of a local school. This was an incredible project that seems to have touched Rob immensely. He told us that he wants to create a children’s book made out of a set of murals he will paint around different schools in the city. It is a tremendous idea and we wish Rob Luck. For more on the EBC mural project check out the article from Bushwick Daily here.
We want to thank Rob for taking the time to speak with us. For more on him check out his Facebook here or follow him on Instagram @tmoplater. He currently has prints for sale so get at him if you dig the work. A couple more of his works below as well as our video interview.