I met Marianne Nems back in June at the East Village’s Dorian Grey Gallery, where she introduced me to the impassioned work of French graffiti artist, Ugly Kid Gumo. For the next three days, Marianne will be at the Fountain Art Fair, 2505 North Miami Ave. @ 25th St. exhibiting work by Ugly Kid Gumo and others. Among the images that she shared, I’m particularly intrigued by the artwork of Benoit Debbane, the Lebanese painter whose work first surfaced on the walls of Beirut in the 1990’s. Another highlight are new works by Angel Ortiz aka LA2, who recently graced New York City’s East Village with a huge mural.
Opening tonight from 6-9 at the Dorian Grey Gallery at 437 East 9th Street in NYC is the first solo exhibit of Ugly-Kid GUMO, a remarkable French graffiti artist. When I stopped by last night, I was awed by the range of work on exhibit – from collages crafted from found objects to text-infused murals — and the passion that it all exudes. Although the installation was still in progress, I had the chance to speak briefly to Ugly-Kid GUMO.
I love what you are doing. There is an elegant rawness to your work that I find both seductive and provocative. It seems that you want your viewers to think! Definitely. That is my main goal. I want people to look at my work, reflect on their actions and carefully consider their judgments. People need to think about the power they have to impact our children, the next generation. They must assess their role and some need to question their indifference.
Your work abounds with elements of graffiti. Yes, graffiti is my life.
When did you first get into graffiti? Back in ’97-’98, when I was in high school. I lived just outside of Paris and there was lots of graffiti in my neighborhood. I loved its energy and doing graffiti offered me a way to express myself – to affirm my individuality. The entire hip-hop culture inspired me.
Any favorite graffiti artists? Many…the Parisian graffiti crew Grim Team, Sharp, Crash and Seen are among my favorites.
Where are you based these days? I travel between Paris and NYC. When I’m in Paris, I tend to work in the streets. In NYC, I work from my studio. For the past two years, I’ve spent most of my time creating art in my NYC studio – many with plaster chips from Parisian walls! And so I’ve brought my streets here into my studio!
Have you any formal art education? Yes. I studied and graduated from ESAA (Ecole Superieure des Arts Appliques) in Duperré, Paris. After a brief careet in fashion design, I decided to devote my energies to creating artwork. I’ve also worked with children in various settings, using art as a tool to inspire their creativity and growth.
What do you see yourself doing in ten years? Painting and pursuing a career in fine arts.
Curated by Marianne Nems, “This is OZ, Nothing Makes Sense” continues through July 24. At tonight’s opening there will be a live performance “Mask” by guest artist, Bizard.