At a young 41, Harif Guzman has done a hell of a lot. For simplicity, he could be categorized as a contemporary artist. Al- though, that doesn’t even begin to cover the breakdown. Born in Venezuela, Guzman’s been living in New York for the better part of his 41 years despite stints in other spots like Puerto Rico and Miami Beach. By and large you’ll hear him call NY home, his canvas and a slew of other pet names that really seem to clearly solidify his love affair with the city that never sleeps. And where he barely slept for a while, as he admittedly couch surfed his way through that all too familiar initial battle with Manhattan—you know, that breaking in period that only the strong (or those whose friends have springs) survive.
Probably first introduced to imagery and the strength of a powerful message by his father who was a printer and typesetter, Guzman also worked at his father’s print shop. It is said that his disdain for “iconographical conformity” was born in those walls. Today his work is anything but conforming.
Post-print shop he’s said to have gone “street- smart skate punk.” He even made skateboard films. One in particular, “Compost,” featured voice over by Guzman’s dear friend and skate- board legend, Harold Hunter, who passed away a decade ago of a heart attack.
How did things turn from printing press to print- ed in the press? It seems it began during a period of time when Guzman was homeless. He began tagging his name on the streets of New York and became recognized for his work. Now, let’s not jump to any conclusions and call him a street art- ist. He really doesn’t like to be labeled as one spe- cific type of creator as it’s detrimentally inhibit- ing, it seems. “Molds are for gelatin, and minds only work when they’re open like parachutes,” he’s said; and this is a fitting sentiment given the broad body of work he’s created between art, mu- sic, film and fashion to date, which is recognized across the United States and Internationally.
Known for his alter ego “Haculla,” Guzman’s cre- ated character has become an iconic figure NYC art. Largely executed in collage form, his work is vibrant, provocative and dark in nature; and often with a focus on women. Now, while we won’t call him a street artist in avoidance of pi- geonholing, you can see his work on those streets. Take his commissioned works at Electric Room at the Dream Hotel as an example.
Eventually, Haculla’s larger-than-life persona became something people wanted a part of in a more personal way, so apparel was an obvious next step. Not to mention the vast array of Guz- man’s designer friends or buddies in fashion, al- though he does a great just of staying out of “the scene” personally, made it a no-brainer.
He was also always into fashion and a self-pro- claimed vintage collector, so why not? Step one down the runway for him was by way of a col- laboration with Diesel where he did an art show at the 55DSL boutique. Today he has two lines of his own: the Haculla line and the Delan- ci line—both inspired by New York and both in- spired by his work.
The Delanci line is more of a grassroots company out of New York that’s focused on the street com- munity. Particularly Delancey Street, which is one of Guzman’s favorite streets in the entire world for the way that it remains true to New York City street style. That same authenticity is what he’s trying to convey through the clothes. He even has a skate team for the line. That’s Delanci; Haculla is different. While many de- signers try to pigeonhole individuals into a sin- gular category, expecting everyone to want to wear their clothes, Guzman has put much focus on creating pieces to cater to varying likes.
Eponymous in name, Haculla was created as a designer street wear collection. The pieces are designed by Tykoon Brand Holding’s owner and creative director Jon Koon, but draw their in- spiration from the almost-17 years of iconic art that Guzman has been creating since the ear- ly-2000’s. Haculla’s first collection, for in- stance, takes inspiration from Guzman’s “Dark Ages” characters, a series that acted as an exam- ination of the old masters in classical art, and within this series Guzman juxtaposes his sig- nature street art characters with iconic styles often depicted in old master paintings. Other old master references may include things like his painting of William Shakespeare doing copious amounts of cocaine.
The collection is meant to continue to grow with the aim being for it to incorporate new materi- als and the like, while still remaining some- thing that Guzman would wear. Guzman’s per- sonal style is not so involved, let’s say. Mostly made up of black and white pieces, he’s vocal about wanting to make Haculla for everyone by keeping it affordable. He also really meant to make a great line that’s coming out of New York in a time where he felt few were hitting that mark.
And he’s clearly doing a bang up job. To date Guzman has artistically collaborated with companies such as Ralph Lauren, Volcom and Burton – contributing his unique illustrations to the brands. His own lines can be found for sale at such mega-watt retailers as Lane Craw- ford, Bloomingdales, Ron Herman, Saks, and Harvey Nichols, to name a few, as well as online through a myriad sights.