An ongoing series of Q&As with some of L.A.’s most active and eclectic contemporary artists, introducing themselves to you in their own words. This week it’s painter and street art phenom Skyler Grey, who at just 18 is already a sensation from coast to coast and around the world. His multilayered cultural mashups are represented in major collections and the pages of Forbes, and he is poised to take Art Basel by storm.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
SKYLER GREY: I think people around me knew I was an artist before I knew. What I was around 9 years old my dad, Holman, noticed I had a natural talent to draw. Now I can’t see myself doing too many things outside of the artist umbrella.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
My short answer is that it needs to be appreciated in person. Social media and cellphone pics just give an idea but it doesn’t give you the feeling and experience of seeing them first-hand. I hardly ever talk about my art to people that haven’t seen them because art can’t be talked about to the point where the person can envision it.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I would probably be in college wishing I was an artist. Working one of these awful jobs my friends have at 18.
Did you go to art school? Why/why not?
I opted not to go to art school for the time being, though I am looking into this particular summer oil session in Paris. Since I’m already a working artist, being the main reason why people go to art school is to eventually get paid for their talent. What happens is that if you don’t network during school, you come out and have no connections and no name for yourself to get in the right galleries. I hit the pop-art circuit early and got my name out there. I would lose income going to art school right now. Eventually I may go to Harvard Business School, since I run my art business as a brand.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Even though I am looking for a place to buy in Miami and Dubai, I will always call L.A. home. The backdrop of Hollywood lends itself to the vibrant colors of my paintings since the town is full with vibrant people.
When was your first show?
My first solo exhibition was Sept. 9, 2013. Over 800 people showed up to see what this 13-year-old kid was creating. It created the momentum that put me in the space I am today where I’m not only on the Forbes "30 Under 30 List" (2017) but I got to speak at this year’s Forbes summit in Boston about my journey.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My current show is Dec. 4-9 during Art Basel, showing at Art Miami, in Avant Gallery booth AM337 and at Avant’s flagship Miami space. The next one will be at Avant’s New York space, coinciding with its opening in the spring.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
I would love to have a two-man show with Jean-Michel [Basquiat]. I would love his earlier work shown alongside my earlier work to put in context continuation of different movements in different eras.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, what?
Apple Music is my best friend in the studio. I listen to everything from The Rolling Stones to Nipsey Hussle, Kid Cudi to Metallica. The music informs my brushstrokes and tags I have on some pieces.
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