Scrawled across train cars passing through the bowels of the city and massive signs punctuating the skyline along the highway, ATOMIK is a name that's as notable to the eyes as to the ears -- one of Miami's native graffiti artists and a man whose living lore is as big and bold as his brilliant letters. At 32 years old, he's not only gotten up in Dade, but all across the United States, in Central and South America, around several countries of Europe, and on the great floating continent of Australia.
In nearly two decades of writing, ATOMIK has not only grown into an integral facet of Miami graffiti culture, but has become an artist who exemplifies the evolution of a Magic City style of painting. And now, his style of spraying is getting its own show in the artist's debut solo exhibition at the Terminal Gallery in Wynwood, simply titled, "ATOMIK."
His lines are hard, yet the curves and bends to his letters are fluid and flowing. His colors are explosive, with fades and textures that are all at once surreally sublime and utterly familiar in their tropical tastes. For nigh on 18 years, ATOMIK has been one of the most prolific and prodigious members of the Miami graffiti fraternity. His name is well-respected from the local to the global stage, with writers of nearly every ilk who know his work appreciating the talent his pieces showcase.
For the last couple of months, though, ATOMIK's tag has been on something of a hiatus, with one of his primary characters, the smirking orange, taking the spotlight. The graf head's upcoming show will feature 24 different versions of the citrus visage, a content decision that came directly from the reactions of previous viewers of ATOMIK's studio work.
"It's pretty dope to make the transition from the streets into the gallery," he said. "I see a good response...Once I started throwing the oranges on canvases, people just started to connect with it. I don't know if it's the eyes or the smile, but it connects with people and the response is incredible."
And there are oranges aplenty. The walls of ATOMIK's newly rented studio in Wynwood is bedecked in vibrant tangerine hues, with stack upon stack of smiling canvases lining the intimate space. But the show won't be limited to the world of Vitamin C personified.
"I've got some other pieces to work on after the canvases, some pieces that are more installations," ATOMIK began before describing some of what he intends to do with the plethora of spent spray cans he's accrued over the course of this project.
He also said, "I'm actually going to have a part of the show where I have collaborations with other artists, I'm stoked about that."
But for a man who's been running and gunning as a part of the underground for the better part of 20 years, a subculture figure with a cult following and a penchant for getting up by any means necessary in the penits, alleys, and rooftops of Miami-Dade, that transition doesn't come without some degree of ambivalence.
"I want to go back into the streets and paint in the streets more, but I've kind of toned it down a bit because the more I get into the public eye and start meeting people in high places, the more I realize, like, 'Fuck -- I bombed this guy's building,' you know? I've gotta stay chill," ATOMIK explained.
"I don't want to sell out -" he continued, "I want to keep the integrity behind it, so it's kind of a love/hate relationship with the studio/gallery scene and selling my pieces. It's kind of weird but it's very rewarding. After putting in so much work and going through a bunch of shit, getting into fights and getting locked up, not having my freedom -- to be able to reap the benefits of that is awesome. And it's just starting."
And yet, in spite of the young artist's incredible reputation and the bright prospects that seem to be laid out before him, he manages to stay down to earth. Responding to a comment regarding his role as an essential example of Miami-style graffiti, he's remarkably humble.
"It's funny hearing [you] say that, because I don't necessarily look at myself as an old school writer or somebody that's a staple in the Miami scene," he noted, "but that's just looking from my perspective. When I saw graf in Miami in the 80's, there were so many people writing, a lot of people doing really hardcore bombing and piecing and just the whole 9. So, it's weird to hear you say that, but at the same time I've heard people say that before and it's really cool, I just really appreciate the kind words."
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ATOMIK is a rare breed -- a Miami born artist with an auspicious talent that he's honed in order to represent his city (both here and around the world), rather than ditching Metro-Dade entirely like the droves of bright young minds that flee the tropics ever year for cooler climes and greener pastures in New York and Los Angeles. While he recognizes that as an artist, you have to move around in order to get out there and be seen, ATOMIK is of the Miami grain and sees his city's artistic landscape on the come-up.
"The city's in a growing phase," ATOMIK said. "It's now starting to embrace the arts more, at least in Wynwood, and I think that the rest of the surrounding cities and towns are starting to catch wind of that and starting to welcome murals and public art and things like that."
ATOMIK's first solo show, "ATOMIK," opens at 7 p.m. on Saturday, May 18, at the Terminal Gallery in Wynwood (125 NW 25 St, Miami). To RSVP, visit atomikmiami.com.