During the creation of this series of work, there was a dominant force of black males in popular culture. It was a moment in time, where the black man had larger than life status and could fit within the frame of pop art. From Jay-Z transcending music to be a global mogul, to Kanye pushing the hip hop genre into new territory, to the United States on the verge of re-electing the first black president...this was a moment when the black man was dominating on all levels. Large scale pieces, vibrant colors, and a unique medium would make them standout just as they do within the media we consume.
The Black Man as Pop
All of the subjects in this collection represent the success that comes from giving yourself the freedom to experiment with your talents to express your vision. The heights than can be achieved when you are able to freely express your vision unlimited. I sought to honor the influence that these subjects have had on the world by experimenting with my own talent to express my vision. With each experimentation I take a step in their footsteps, growing closer to successfully expressing my vision.
A NEW MEDIUM: PUSHPINS
I often get asked how I thought to use pushpins as a medium. It was really a serendipitous day when it all came about. It actually all started with Froot Loops. ha. I originally sat in my apartment looking for materials that had vibrant colors and could produce a pixelated appearance. Luckily I ditched Toucan Sam and found a mixed color pack of pushpins in the closet.
At that moment I had to understand what my options were terms of color, cost and availability. That's when the search began for all the colors that I would need…in bulk. I quickly realized that "orange" was the holy grail. After a wild scavenger hunt in Staples, Office Deport, and Googling for hours I stumbled upon the oasis of pushpins, JAM PAPER.
I found a creative challenge with the use of pushpins. There was a limited color palette of 13 colors, math was necessary to understand scale of each piece, and the pins have to be precisely placed to appear digital yet remain very much hand created.
THE INDIVIDUAL ARTWORK
JAY Z "THE TACKOVER"
"I'm in the hall already, on the wall already
I'm a work of art, I'm a Warhol already
On another level, on another plane already" ~ Jay-Z
Coincidentally underneath this piece is a failed portrait of my parents. After being frustrated, I painted over it in all black and left it in my canvas junkyard. When I needed a black canvas for this 'experiment', the discarded canvas was sitting there waiting for me.
JIMI HENDRIX "ELECTRIC FEEL"
I chose Jimi Hendrix as the next icon in the collection because during his time he was bit of an outlier within the black community. He looked like "us" but sounded like "them". He was revolutionizing an art form while polarizing himself from what was deemed "black music". He had the courage to see his vision through.
His hair is a repeating pattern of oscillating colors to give off an electric feel.
KANYE WEST "TACKS ON TACKS"
The versatility that Kanye demonstrates as an artist from the music, album covers, concert experiences, to fashion is what these pushpins represent for me. Hip hop can be very one dimensional at times, but Kanye has consistently forced the Hip Hop generation to think creatively and independently. This creates a condition of raised expectations and a pursuit of excellence when expressing your vision.
Beneath this piece lies a botched print of Michael Jackson. It seems fitting that the artist that pushed boundaries on so many levels and serves as one of Kanye's inspirations is behind his portrait.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA "WET PAINT"
With this piece I felt it was appropriate to stick with the most realistic color palette because "color" is so important to what makes this icon special. It required a unique combination of gold, silver, brown, white, clear and bronze that have the shimmer and brilliance that marks the caliber of a United States president.
Obama's presidency has coated the minds of young black America. Young defined by a generation that has been primed with the reality that a black man can be president. Once there is a first there becomes space for a second. The audacity it takes for a black child to say "I'm going to be president" can now be met with hope. Hope never dies because it remains the sign of changing possibility. This is my tribute to maintaining possibilities.
"IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS"
Although I'd like most of the interpretation to come from the viewer's perspective, I would like it known that the man in the middle is a black man, not just any black man but Benjamin Banneker. Most people are familiar with the other Benjamin, but as I got to know this Benjamin the piece became even more important. Knowledge is the most important currency and Banneker's mission was to prove value of the black mind. With this piece I hope to encourage everyone to abandon some of the importance of the other Benjamin and trade in for the currency of thought and history that black people represent. Only when we chase intellectual excellence and creative freedom will money begin to chase you, creating something more powerful.
This was the largest piece I had done to date. It was a painstakingly long piece to create with over 23,000 pushpins placed to resemble a hundred dollar bill. It was ambitious but I really believe in the premise so it was a labor of love. Moving this piece around my apt was a task within itself. Where do you hide an unfinished 9 ft canvas of work in a NY apt? Also where do you work on it... well we had to get creative the entire time. From rearranging the living room over the course of weekends, blocking the closet for two weeks and laying it across the bed whenever I got the chance.
Video Diary: in my own words
On February 23rd, 2012 these pieces were put on display for the world to see at the FrontRunner Gallery in Tribeca, New York City.