mk moderns


Joseph Ari Aloi AKA JK5

Mountain Kingdom is honored to announce its first blanket in the MK Moderns collection. These limited editions of 300 blankets are created in collaboration with artists, designers and brands from around the world. First up is NYC legend JK5 who in the last two years alone has published his first book with Rizzoli, designed the graphics for Comme des Garçon's Autumn Winter 2015 collection and had his own exclusive pop-up shop in New York's Dover Street Market.

Though the blankets are made in the traditional Heritage quality, each collaborator is encouraged to view the blanket as a blank canvas. These are blankets to hang on your wall, not cover your bed.

Twin Sunset Tribe Eternal


How did you come to be the first American designer to create art for a Mountain Kingdom heritage quality blanket?


Well, I go way back with Daniel Jackson (who designed the Mountain Kingdom Logo), and the Surface To Air collective. I met Daniel when he was in the Lower East Side of NYC in 2003, around the time I had my Alife show, and S2A was a wildly inspiring, prominent art and design force. Daniel, Gordon Hull and I became good friends. Then you and Daniel opened BBlessing in 2006. I did a t-shirt that was part of the first artist series project. that led to being in 2 different shows, when BBlessing had their epic, legendary opening events and parties. That’s when we met, and I got to know you through many visits to BBlessing and being an artist part of that amazing family. I loved that store so much... was always so inspired by the store design language, all the products, and how nicely curated it always was. I wore those t-shirts and whatever else I could afford with pride by association. The softness of those tees, and the vision fueling BBlessing was just that... a blessing! Haha.

 Sean Shuter & Daniel Jackson at BBlessing - 2008

 Sean Shuter & Daniel Jackson at BBlessing - 2008


What inspired the Twin Sunset Tribe Eternal design?


I’ve been exploring the deconstruction of letterforms, and specifically the original star wars logo, in anticipation of the force awakens, episode 7. This design was a celebration of how iconic and timeless it is, and all its meant to my life and work since 1977. I was playing with defining the forms using the negative space around each distinct letter, and rearranging those, like a new vocabulary that would re-assimilate and transform it enough to be subliminal, yet remain recognizable in subtle ways. I felt the blanket was a perfect vehicle for this new work. The pattern felt so right for an African heritage motif and cultural context, yet it takes it to an otherworldly future place of abstraction. 


How many times have you personally watched the Star Wars films?


Hahaha! Hundreds of times. I saw it 10 times in the theater with my friends in the summer of 1977, and now with my 7 and 4-year old kids, countless times again... all 7 of them. 


What was it like working with the legendary Rei Kawakubo and Commes des Garçons?


It was a gift, an amazing experience to work with Comme des Garçons. Rei Kawakubo saw my Rizzoli book, and the rest is history. i had to stay quiet and wait for 5 months to see what and how she would translate my work, but when the models came down the runway in Paris, and I was watching it live with a Rhode Island School of Design class I was lecturing that day, I was overcome with emotion and excitement. Rei was so inspired by the work, that it became the conceptual, aesthetic, and symbolic woven thread of the Homme Plus, Autumn/Winter 2015/16 collection. It was an extraordinary platform for me that I will forever be so grateful for. 

Comme des Garçons

Comme des Garçons


Tell us about your pop-up shop at Dover Street Market?


My Dover Street Market NY pop up installation on the 4th floor event space in September, 2015 was launched with a live, customizing event, and stayed up as a retail space for the month. I designed the space with help from some brilliant friends and my wife Adrienne, an interior designer. I customized 150 Comme des Garçons sneakers, perfume boxes and bottles, and their wallets for the store. I had wood panel, laser etched pieces, my books, and a 10-piece jewelry collection for sale. My friend Asher Hoffman made the jewelry. The DSM team were wonderful to work with. It was inspiring to be woven into the fabric of that family of designers. Adrian Joffe was at the helm, and we were an enthusiastic duo getting it all realized. It was an experimental template for what a future store of mine would look and feel like. 

Dover Street Market

Dover Street Market


You published your first career retrospective through legendary art house publisher Rizzoli in 2014. Any plans for future book projects?


I have plans to publish again when the time is right, but there’s nothing concrete quite yet, other than a towering stack of post rizzoli sketchbooks, and a lot of new work and projects in various forms to document and consider for the next book. 

Joseph Ari Aloi AKA JK5 Published by Rizzoli

Joseph Ari Aloi AKA JK5 Published by Rizzoli


Any other upcoming projects or collaborations you can share?

At the moment, I’m launching a kids/baby collection with out of Hermosa Beach, California, and starting a collection with the men’s shoe brand


We’ve spoken about translating your work into other mediums. Obviously the blanket is a part of that – and a new beginning. If you had to choose just one other form you could see your work transformed/translated into, what would that be?


Hmmmm, so many forms, but let’s say, large scale and bronze. A series of objects that give three dimensions to the architecture and flow of my drawings. I’m also working on new, large scale paintings...


You’ve recently taken on new management, Iconoclast. How does it feel to be on the same artist roster as legends like Futura, Haze and Rostarr?


I love the tribe of artists at Iconoclast. I’ve known Futura and Rostarr since 1999, so its a very inspiring and special full circle. It feels right, a family of creators with distinct sensibilities and contributions working together, elevating, supporting, cross pollinating, and keeping each other on fire. 






You’re the father of two small children, you tattoo full time at Three Kings in Brooklyn, and you’re a prolific fine artist and collaborator. Where do you find the time to do everything you do?


I’m not tattooing much, as things have shifted and expanded a lot after 21 years in a shop... I just always make the time. Any free moment is an opportunity to create somehow. 


How hard is it to get a JK5 tattoo these days? I want one next time I'm in town! Do you miss tattooing or are you happier translating your vision into other forms? In what medium do you normally capture ideas ?


It’s not necessarily hard to get tattooed by me these days, it’s just that I’m busy with other opportunities, collaborations, projects, and nurturing all facets of my own brand, and personal work for future shows and manifestations. I’m very selective with the tattoo work I’ll do at this point, and it’s glorious to have things shifting as they are - new income sources, where my time and energy is going. I’m honestly pretty distant from tattooing after 21 years, but the demand is always there and overwhelming, so I’m grateful for all those that have trusted, supported me, and continue to want what I do. 


I believe you are much more a notebook/pen and paper type person as opposed to someone who uses the digital form. In fact you don't strike me as a digital being at all. Is that wrong? Do you use computers in your creative process? If not, why not? What draws you more traditional, physical means of production?


I started tattooing in 1994, and have been a manual, physical, human handed draftsman since I was in Kindergarten. I just love to write and draw. I never had real interest in learning Photoshop or Illustrator, much to the dismay of many of my designer friends. Technology frazzles me, and in the core of my being, I’m not tech savvy at all. My process has been a steadily prolific system for a long time, and paintings, products, whatever the form that work evolves into, it’s born and gets developed on paper... I’m spending my time editing, and developing excavated and nurtured content into new things, and have 2 sketchbooks burning at once where always newer things are gestating. I’m really enjoying having a studio where I have space to make larger, experimental pieces. It’s a whole spectrum, and I’m just doing my best to keep the lightning coming out of my fingers, like Yoda, not the Emperor!

// Interviewed by Sean Shuter