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Wearing Kimono, Warrior Painter Returns to Downtown New York

Figurative painter Chaz guest have fans in high places. Collectors of his work include the Obamas – who exhibited his portrait of Thurgood Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice, in the White House – and Oprah Winfrey.

Angelina Jolie, a friend who also owns his work, was eager to share her thoughts on Guest. “His work conveys such an emotional depth,” she said in an email. “It’s masculine and soulful, and even more inspiring for being completely self-taught.”

But the artist, who lives in Los Angeles, has not had a solo show in New York for over 25 years, a record broken by his current exhibition. Gallery Vito Schnabel“Memories of Warriors”, watch through March 19.

Returning to downtown Manhattan – as a young man living in SoHo, not too far from Schnabel’s gallery and teaching himself to draw – was a major milestone for the individual.

“It feels like this is a place where I can take a deep breath and start my life at 60,” Guest sat in the gallery surrounded by works, seeing them hang together for the first time. . A Japanese who has traveled extensively in that country, he wears the same kimono as usual – he also paints in one.

The eight works, mainly fight scenes and animated portraits by heavily painted areas, are based on palettes of black, grey, and dirty orange, colors that Guest devised and mixed on their own, often avoiding the help of physical. They depict Buffalo Soldiers, the all-black U.S. Army regiments that served on the Western frontier after the Civil War, and people with nicknames from the Native tribes they frequently fought against. Guest says that two underdogs pitted against each other is a painful irony for him.

For some established television fans, part of the show’s bitterness may have been the model for characters in the works as the Emmy-nominated actor, much mourned. . Michael K. Williamsbest known for playing Omar on “The Wire” who sat for the Guest in late August and died about two weeks later from a drug overdose.

Guest interest in Buffalo Soldiers also led him to create a graphic novel about a superhero called Buffalo Warrior; Meridian Pictures has purchased the rights to the character and a movie is in development.

The seeds of the series were planted eight years ago, when one of his two sons was 10 years old and was frustrated by a store that didn’t have his favorite action figures. Guest recalls, “He asked me, ‘Why didn’t dad make a superhero? “

The guest added, “I now have a mission not only for young African-American men but for all Americans to truly understand one race of people, African-Americans.” Despite enslavement, Jim Crow laws, and the vast scope of American history, Blacks “not only survived but did well,” he said.

Big statements from the heart come naturally to Guests. “I am a very intense person,” he said.

As one Los Angeles painter, Henry Taylor, put it, “He did his best.” Taylor recently painted a portrait of a guest wearing glasses, and he adds that Guest’s early illustration work gave him an important base in sketching. “When you do that, you get delicious food,” says Taylor.

The popularity of Guest’s works, which range in gallery prices from $50,000 to $120,000, reflect several trends in the contemporary art scene. Beth Rudin DeWoody, an avid collector who created Bunker Art Space in West Palm Beach, Fla., to exhibit some of her work, owns four of Guest’s works.

“Things are returning to figurative art after everyone is doing abstract work,” says DeWoody. “You can see a lot of great storytelling right now, especially from African-American and African-American artists.”

Ksenya Gurshtein, curator of modern and contemporary art at Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State Universitysays the museum board is considering approving the gift of a Guest painting, which she thinks will enrich the organization.

“There is a great demand right now for figurative work that tells distorted stories,” she said.

In Gurshtein’s view, the bare emotional character of the works – a far cry from the cool conceptual flow of some contemporary artworks – is a plus. She said: “He was undeterred when he tried to bring about these great emotions.

Franklin Sirmans, director of Pérez Art Museum Miami, agreed. “His heroism and romanticism to expressionism is something a lot of us in the art world would like to shun,” said Sirmans, who has known Guest for more than a decade.

He added that with his star-studded collector base, Guest “didn’t need the art world to tell him he was a celebrity.”

Born in Niagara Falls, NY, and raised there until his family moved to Philadelphia when he was 10 years old, Guest was a college gymnast, at Southern Connecticut State University.

“I really don’t know how to get my life back after exercise,” he said. “But I knew it would be in art. And I imagined myself becoming a fashion designer. ” Guest tried the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York but said he “didn’t have what it took.”

A chance meeting with fashion illustrator Antonio Lopez led him to try his hand at that field, eventually moving to Paris and illustrating the cover of Joyce magazine. He had a meeting with designer Christian Lacroix, who admired his covers. “We just connected,” said the guest. “He thought I had some talent, but he suggested I start painting.”

By 1988, Guest was back in New York and heeded Lacroix’s advice, shopping at Pearl Paint for materials like many aspiring artists before him. Making illustrations to earn money as needed is the Guest’s preferred way to survive.

“I had a job in my life, for a day, as a troubadour,” he recalls, admitting that he didn’t know exactly what that job entailed at first. “They fired me. They asked me to clear the table and I said, “No.”

In the mid-’90s, Guest sold his work and exhibited it, but he moved to Los Angeles after the birth of his first son. The relationships he developed over the years eventually led him to meet Williams, who visited the set and viewed Guest works depicting the Buffalo Warrior character.

The guest recalls, “He said, ‘Oh my god, can I somehow be in this movie?’ And so I said, ‘Well, maybe I can draw you and see where it all falls.’

When Williams returned to seat the Guest, the session had its moments of difficulty. “He started using the N word,” says Guest. “And I said, ‘Michael, you can’t use this word in my studio. You can look around and see how much I love our ancestors. That is an insult to me. ‘”

It brought Williams to tears and he issued an apology. The two bonded, then had a video call with Williams’ elderly mother. Guests were amazed at the “innocent, pain, beauty” on Williams’ face, which he tries to show especially in his close-up portrait of “Michael K. Soldier” (2021).

Williams’ loss added a layer of grief to Guest’s writings, and gave the show’s title a double meaning. The guest said he had no idea that Williams struggled with addiction: “I was shocked to hear that. That’s another reason the name of this exhibition is ‘Memories of the Warriors’, because he had a war with drugs.”

Memories of Warriors

Through March 19, Vito Schnabel Gallery, 43 Clarkson Street, Manhattan; 646-386-2246; vitoschnabel.com.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/arts/design/chaz-guest-paintings-michael-k-williams.html Wearing Kimono, Warrior Painter Returns to Downtown New York

Fry Electronics Team

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