Born and raised in the Lower East Side, Angel Ortiz (also known as LA2), like so many other kids would write on his desks and chairs in school. When his mother put him in the NYC Boys Club, which he loved because of the access to a swimming pool. His friends at the Boys Club were already tagging up in the streets, buses and sanitation trucks when asked him to join them in using the streets as their canvas. After that, Ortiz was tagging non-stop. He became the King of the buses and sanitation trucks. His tags were everywhere, At the age of 14, Ortiz met Keith Haring, an artist from Reading ,PA. Haring was attending The School of Visual Arts and had a studio in the Lower East Side (The Rat Studio). Of all the tags he saw around the city, the "The LA2 tag" stood out to him. He asked around to see if anyone knew whose tag it was and looked for Angel for months before they were finally introduced at Junior High School 22. Here, Haring and other graffiti artists were creating a mural. He asked if anyone knew LA2, to which SOE, Angel's friend responded and said, "I can get him for you." He went to Angel 's house, told him there is a guy with funny shorts and glasses asking for him. When he skeptically went over to the school, Haring could not believe Angel was a kid! They got along right away and loved learning from each other. Ortiz showed Haring some markers tricks- Keith did not know too much about markers, but he was the King with the brushes. It was as if they had always known each other.
Their first collaboration was that first day on a taxi hood in The Rat Studio. LA2 added his tags and crew names and asked Keith if he could add squiggly lines to add energy. Two weeks later, Haring called Ortiz and told him he had sold the piece and he wanted to collaborate with him. Tony Shafrazi gave him his first show with their collaborations in the Fluorescent Room. Keith Haring then asked his mother's permission to take Angel traveling. He wrote a letter to his teacher and at the age of 15 he was exhibiting in Europe. Through Haring, Ortiz met art icons like Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Richard Hambleton. They exhibited for almost seven years, but continued collaborating till Keith's passing in 1991.
Angel Ortiz lives in NYC and is still creating and exhibiting world wide. LA2 HAS done work for various museums and programs, such as the Children's Museum of Arts, the Children's Museum of East End, Apple Village Arts and the Renaissance Charter School.
He believes meeting Keith Haring was a blessing for both. Humbled to this day that it was his tag that caught Keith's eye.
Once an inspiration to a generation of would-be Riot Grrls, the Vancouver-based painter Jean Smith is now carrying a torch for every artist who dreamt of quitting their day job and making a difference through their work.
Since 2016, Smith has been creating a series of enigmatic portraits that are selling like hotcakes on her Facebook page. So far she has sold more than 1,500 canvas works that get snapped up within minutes.
The haunting portraits of women with angular faces, expressive dark eyes and plump red lips—differentiated by their accessories—are selling fast thanks to their US$100 price point.
The artist—half of the seminal 1980s punk rock duo Mecca Normal and precursor to the underground feminist movement known as Riot Grrrls—was inspired by the tradition of bands like the DIY style, anti-establishment Fugazi, who performed $5 gigs to increase accessibility. Her success has allowed Smith—who is also a novelist—to quit her day job at a Vancouver garden centre and work full time as an artist.
Smith has now raised more than $150,000 for her pet project, the Free Artist Residency for Progressive Social Change. She plans to purchase a suitable property for the residency, which will house her as well as visiting international artists. With Vancouver real-estate prices some of the highest in North America, edging out the city’s creative class, Smith is looking beyond the metropolitan area, although she says she is “open to sponsorship, partnership, collaboration and philanthropy” in order to secure a more centrally located property.
Inspired by photographs, Smith’s paintings (larger works are available at US$650) bear a certain resemblance to the artist. Divided into themes that include Pioneer of Aviation (one work offers a bemused fusion of Smith and Amelia Earhart) Skier,Nurse, Hat and No Hat, the works play with both female stereotypes and aspirations—such as the Affirmative series of mainly black women astronauts—in a way that is fittingly performative.
“There is an intention for emotions and injustices surrounding these images to be visible and understood,” says Smith.
Philip Guston ('ust' pronounced like "rust"), born Phillip Goldstein (June 27, 1913 – June 7, 1980), was a Canadian American painter, printmaker, muralist and draughtsman. Early in his five decade career, muralist David Siquieros described him as one of "the most promising painters in either the US or Mexico," in reference to his antifascist fresco The Struggle Against Terror, which "includes the hooded figures that became a lifelong symbol of bigotry for the artist." "Guston worked in a number of artistic modes, from Renaissance-inspired figuration to formally accomplished abstraction," and is now regarded one of the "most important, powerful, and influential American painters of the last 100 years." He also frequently depicted racism, antisemitism, fascism and American identity, as well as, especially in his later most cartoonish and mocking work, the banality of evil. In 2013, Guston's painting To Fellini set an auction record at Christie's when it sold for $25.8 million.
Judith Gale’s artistic drive is inspired by nature, particularly marine life. Her fascination with the complex intricacies and the plethora of shapes and colors found in living things generate her paintings. By enlarging these unique elements of nature on canvas, she aspires to capture peoples’ awareness and appreciation of these spectacular wonders. She hopes her artwork helps to draw the tranquility of the ocean to the world above.
Judith has been actively working with the Molluscan Science Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Maryland focused on the study of mollusks and the preservation of coral reefs. She has been involved in distributing educational material to school aged children all over the world. She hopes that by introducing seashells to children, they will grow to love and value our oceans and help protect them.
This work with seashells shaped her art and influenced the themes of her paintings and photography. A portion of her proceeds are donated to this foundation. Judith Gale grew up in Maryland and is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
Working in a range of disciplines, Valerie Meotti strives to give her art immediacy and understandability.
She explained, "Painting and creating visual art has been my passion for most of my life. My motives are not to send a message but to be felt. What one takes from my imagery is yours alone. I have a difficult time explaining why I create but I can tell you how. I have never felt I was a catalyst trying to reveal a profound message.
I am not a singular artist in that I can not settle on one technique of expression. I enjoy having the versatility and knowledge to explore and experiment. Watercolors are my base of operations, the one thing I rely on most. My unique digital transfer technique utilizes my graphic capability but lets me develop it freely like a painting, using both my major influences. With this I cross over into collage components developing most of my mixed media works. Oil painting, I am new to but I love the color and luminescence that can be achieved. I will continue my learning. Ceramics are mainly for the quirky characters I developed called Pistachio People and I still illustrate the little guys. I believe they can be in a successful mass market someday. Someday I will achieve the independence to sustain my art. Just looking for some glimpse of encouragement."
According to the New York Times, Swiss painter and printmaker Félix Vallotton was an intriguing, talented but slippery artist. You often don’t quite know what to expect next in terms of style or subject, even within the same year.
Vallotton, who wrote criticism for a newspaper in Lausanne, Switzerland (where he was born in 1865), gave Rousseau an early laudatory review.
Although Vallotton ignored most of modernism, he influenced such surrealists as Dalí and Magritte, and also the Neue Sachlichkeit (new realism) painters of Weimar Germany.
In addition to painting, Vallotton created a series of groundbreaking woodblock prints in the 1890s, which made him famous, provided entry into the Parisian avant-garde and made his place in modernist art history. Their daring black and white compositions depict some of the pleasures, but more often skewer the hypocrisies and inequities of Parisian life. Vallotton did not see life as full of happy endings.
He made his first woodblock prints in 1891, inspired by the innovations of Japanese artists, eliminating their rich colors while exploiting their practice of cutting with rather than against the grain. It facilitated the curving shapes and lines basic to his formal wit.
Within a year Vallotton had a thriving, if not highly remunerative career. His terse exercises in dark and light appeared in periodicals, illustrated books and portfolios in Paris, then London and as far as Chicago. They were nearly instantly understood as radical, and by the mid-90s Vallotton was a regular illustrator for Le Cri de Paris, a left-wing magazine and the like-minded journal La Revue Blanche, which also covered culture (and was founded by Alexandre and Thadée Natanson). The woodblocks have the compression and legibility of cartoons and news photos, the formal daring of abstract art and the literary punch of modern short stories.
Adam Neate's art career started in the early 2000s painting as a graffiti artist. He went on to a term he calls free art, where he would paint on found pieces of cardboard and leave them around the streets of London for people to find and take home. Over the years he left thousands of individually painted works and was one of the early pioneers of the movement that is now called Street Art. In 2006 he was given the opportunity to show his paintings in a more traditional gallery setting at Elms Lesters, showing alongside established names like Futura and Phil Frost. Since then he has been featured in prominent solo and group exhibitions worldwide to great critical acclaim.
Adam Neate (born 1977) is a British painter, conceptual artist and described by The Telegraph in 2008 as "one of the world's best-known street artists". He specialised in painting urban art on recycled cardboard, and has left thousands of works in the street for anyone to collect. He is a contributor from the movement in transferring street art into galleries. Neate's street art has garnered global interest, having been documented on CNN reports and European television. Major collectors and celebrities are fighting for his original works and international critics have lauded the artist's work. Since 2011 Neate has been mastering his own language of 'Dimensional Painting'. Elms Lesters publish a range of Adam Neate's Dimensional Editions and Multiples
Street artist, muralist, night owl, ex-vandal, skateboarder, writer- those are just a few words to describe well-known Richmond artist Mickael Broth. The 32-year-old literally made his mark in Richmond painting large scale art forms all over this town, from inside and outside of Mellow Mushroom, to 15 bike ramps for this year’s Dominion Riverrock, to a Richmond Kickers mural, even gracing RVA Magazine’s 10th anniversary cover with his colorful, trippy artwork.
Mickael Broth, also known as The Night Owl, is a Richmond, Virginia-based artist, muralist, sculptor, and writer. Mickael moved to Richmond in 2001 with the intention of painting as much graffiti as possible. His involvement in vandalism was halted abruptly with his arrest in 2004 and subsequent ten-month jail term for his crimes. Since that time, he has gone on to pursue an active (and legal) career in the arts. He was awarded a Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Professional Fellowship in 2008 for his studio work and has shown widely around the United States; from museums and galleries to alternative spaces and abandoned buildings. His work is held in numerous private and corporate collections. He has painted over two hundred public murals throughout Richmond, the United States and Europe since 2012, in addition to helping curate multiple public art festivals. Through his public art work, Mickael has been commissioned by all manner of clients, from small local businesses and nonprofits to municipal governments, museums, and Fortune 500 corporations. He has been an active member of the community, working with youth groups, as well as leading volunteer groups in the creation of collaborative public art projects. Mickael serves on the board of directors for the RVA Street Art Festival and has been instrumental in the curatorial direction of the organization since its formation in 2012. In 2013, he published Gated Community: Graffiti and Incarceration, a memoir detailing his experiences with vandalism and jail. In 2017, he was awarded a commission by the City of Richmond for the creation of an 15’ tall welded aluminum sculpture installed in front of the Hull Street Library in Richmond’s Manchester neighborhood. Mickael’s second published book, Murals of Richmond, which documents Richmond’s public art explosion, was published in November 2018 by Chop Suey Books and quickly sold out of the first printing. Mickael continues to live and work in Richmond, along with his wife and educational activist Brionna Nomi, their son Maverick Rosedale, and their shelter-dog Lil’ Nilla Bean.
Claudio Parentelais an illustrator, painter, photographer, mail artist, cartoonist, collagist, journalist free lancer. He has been active for many years in the international underground scene and has collaborated with many zines,magazines of contemporary art,literary and of comics in Italy and in the world. His work can be categorized as street art but with a variety of mediums. He describes his illustration style as,"anarchic, cool, conceptual, twisted, schizophrenic, obsessive, and chaotic."
"I feel completely absolutely free only when I’m amongst my 'artistic things' and in my studio, with my photos, my papers, my colours, my glue, my scissors, my ropes, tapes, plastics, all my 1000 things I found around in the city. It’s been difficult to arrive here where I’m now but it’s a wonderful continuous magical journey, every moment and every day," he says.
What advice would you give to other artists? To be and to continue to be, and try to be themselves. It’s so important, and then to have fun to have fun to have fun.
In recent years, some of the most active dealers and collectors in the outsider-art field have been looking beyond Europe and North America in search of interesting discoveries from other parts of the world, including East Asia and Southeast Asia.
Among the more interesting finds to recently emerge have been the hard-to-classify drawings and paintings of the prolific Japanese autodidact Issei Nishimura, which pose something of a challenge for art sellers and buyers alike who want or need category labels to help them grasp what’s going on in his work. For Nishimura’s art is all punch and potency; its genre label might be something as unique as “expressionistic/psychological/automatist/psychedelic-baroque.”
Now, with Painting the Japanese Blues: Introducing Issei Nishimura, Cavin-Morris Gallery is presenting a first-ever US solo exhibition of this artist’s works (on view through February 15) at its Chelsea venue. Although the gallery showed a handful of his paintings at the Outsider Art Fair in New York a few weeks ago, and at last year’s fair as well, this presentation offers a broader survey of Nishimura’s inventive techniques and a concentrated sampling of the intense creative energy — and often bizarre imagery — that characterize his oeuvre.
Yutaka Miyawaki, the Kyoto-based dealer who represents Nishimura in Japan, and with whom Cavin-Morris has collaborated in mounting its current show, told me during his visit to the recent Outsider Art Fair in New York: “Perhaps it’s not even worth referring to Nishimura as an outsider, because what he produces is not what people who are familiar with that kind of art expect to see. I regard him as a contemporary artist — period. However, he is self-taught and he does live in isolation, on the margins of society, and his work reflects an unusual, deeply personal vision. These characteristics are all associated with art brut or outsider art.” (An illustrated Galerie Miyawaki catalog of Nishimura’s work from 2014 can be found here.)
Nishimura was born in 1978 in Aichi Prefecture, in south-central Japan. Today, he lives with his parents in their family home in the hills on the edge of Nagoya, a commercial-industrial city that is Aichi’s capital. There, Nishimura keeps a modest studio space that spills out into a garden, in which he has painted the rocks of a stone path and even some sides of the house.
As a youngster, Issei enjoyed making drawings; later he became interested in American blues music and began playing the electric guitar. He remains enchanted by the mythical legend of the Black American bluesman, Robert Johnson (1911-1938), who supposedly sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for his musical talent.
As a young man, Nishimura moved to Tokyo to study music, but he did not easily adjust to big-city life, and socializing was difficult, too. Ultimately, he withdrew from society, returned to the family home, and devoted himself to his art-making, which had begun to occupy a central place in his life. He still enjoys and plays music, but he almost never ventures out or receives visitors.
Last summer, however, during a research trip to Japan, I was invited by the artist and his family to visit them at their home. That day, his parents told me, their son was both nervous and excited to receive a visitor who was interested in his work. As Nishimura began to feel at ease, he explained that he often begins a new composition spontaneously, without a lot of preliminary planning, and that his subjects may be inspired by his interests — music, his cat or other animals, plant forms, or a sudden thought or visual impression.
Various rooms of the Nishimuras’ house were stocked with Issei’s stored artworks, including many picture-filled sketchbooks and boxes full of small, postcard-size ink drawings. From one box, the artist pulled out a remarkable suite of portraits of his uncles, aunts, and other relatives. “Are these accurate likenesses?” I asked his parents. “Yes!” the artist’s mother responded enthusiastically, adding, “They’re both caricatures and recognizable portraits at the same time.”
By contrast, many of the images to be found in the artist’s Cavin-Morris survey feature exaggeratedly distorted faces or bodies; these are the kinds of pictures that tend to fill his sketchbooks. In the drawing “Moonrise” (2018, ink on paperboard), Nishimura stretches out a woman’s neck like gooey taffy, topping it with a noseless, girlish head that resembles a balloon tethered to a long string. This peculiar nude’s breasts seem to dangle from her body like misplaced ornaments, and each of her hands resembles some kind of leafy growth.
In other drawings in ink on paper or paperboard, Nishimura obscures faces or body parts in thickets of dense, wiry lines, or he depicts mysterious, toothy creatures that appear to emerge from a common body or share a common tail. (Japanese viewers may recognize their inspiration in monsters from Godzilla stories.)
Nishimura’s paintings can be completely unpredictable from one to the next. In the current exhibition, bold palettes and abstract shapes that sometimes camouflage or unexpectedly transform themselves into more recognizable forms turn up in such images as “Untitled” (2013, acrylic and crayon on fabric, mounted on plywood), in which what appears to be a yellow fish with an open mouth makes its way horizontally across the composition, only to blend into what may be read as a human figure in profile, even as the artist throws in the outline of a front-facing body.
In “My Mother’s Permed Hair” (2013, acrylic on fabric, mounted on plywood), a voluminous, yellow-pink coif surrounds a distorted, abstracted face that would have made the Surrealists proud. In fact, Miyawaki told me, Nishimura made this painting one day right after his mother returned from a beauty parlor, where, for the first time in many years, she had had her hair permed, a change in appearance that shocked her son.
“Fear of Eye” (2013, acrylic on canvas), the largest painting on view, is also the exhibition’s most complex image. By e-mail, Miyawaki sent me several photos documenting this work’s evolution over time; through several different stages, the artist frequently — and often rather thoroughly — overpainted his composition until arriving at a final, bold image, in which a big, broad face with what appear to be four eyes stares out more eerily than menacingly at a viewer. Later, commenting on this picture, Nishimura explained to Miyawaki that he had been bullied as a child and that, even today, he feels a traumatic reaction when people look at him.
When I met the artist last year, he told me that he works feverishly on his drawings, sometimes filling several sketchbooks in a single day, and that he tends to work intensively for varying periods of time, with in-between lulls, during which he rests, enjoys his music, and develops new visual ideas.
But he can be impulsive, too, seizing his pens or paints to immediately capture something he has observed or an image gestating in his imagination, from lounging cats to mushrooms, lyrically abstracted females forms, and enigmatic, fractured faces.
In Japan today, difficult-to-categorize artworks like Nishimura’s can — and perhaps should — be appreciated in the wider context of expressionist and abstract art forms, of which Japanese modernists, from members of the postwar Gutai group to the multidisciplinary artist Tarō Okamoto (1911-1996), certainly have put forth their own distinctive offerings.
For now, Nishimura’s US debut opens the door a bit wider to contemporary developments in the field of so-called self-taught art in Asia, shaking up expectations about the character and appearance of the work of such remarkable autodidacts.