There's a brilliant duality in the large pop art paintings of GG (Gabriel Gimenez). On the surface he might seem obsessed with bright, solid colors and cartoon imagery featuring a squiggly mouthed character with black asymmetrical circles for eyes, who he calls Fado. But notice the margins and you'll see quickly brushed on words like "muerte" (death in Spanish).
"I see myself as a very positive person," Gimenez explains. "All these bright colors, that's what they resemble, and they may not be very happy pieces. They may have some dark meanings, but the colors help you enjoy it."
After turning on a laptop that plays a mix of Latin pop, soulful trip hop, and other bright amalgams of cultural yet catchy tunes, the 22-year-old leans back in his paint-splattered office chair. His black converse high-tops and cargo shorts are sprinkled with droplets of paint. Though he wears a casual, blue, button-down shirt, a white T-shirt underneath will most likely serve as the rest of his work attire in his tiny studio located in the penthouse of an old, classic downtown Miami office building. Some of his collectors probably have walk-in closets larger than this workspace, in more expensive real estate.
Directly across from GG, leaning against a wall, stands one of his new pieces on a canvas approximately four-by-three-foot in dimensions. An image of his Fado character dressed in the unmistakable garb of Waldo, of the Where's Waldo? books, fills the canvas. But cute factor ends there, as he holds a smoking gun in his left hand. A cartoon bubble over Fado's head declares: "I found Waldo!" In the background tiny, crude images of rectangles, triangles and circles that seem to represent people are scattered about. Some have harsh Xs painted over them. GG says the image came to him after hearing reports of violence in his native country of Venezuela from childhood friends. But it can just as easily offer a commentary on the up-tick of recent mass shootings in American culture.
This piece, which only needs a few finishing touches until completion, will be among the 25 or so works featured in an upcoming solo show at LMNT. The new gallery space in Miami's Wynwood District will host GG's first large-scale no reserve auction and exhibit. Hosted by the owners of the NAC Gallery in Fort Lauderdale, this is a bold move for such a young artist only a few years out of the Art Institute. "I really believe the work is that good that the public is setting the price on it," said Vincent Harrison, director of the NAC Gallery. "It's a gamble, but if your work's good, you'll get a good price."
When asked about high profile exposure at Art Basel last year and a group showing with other Miami artists at the Brera Museum in Milan, GG smiles almost giddily. "It's fun," he says. "Right after high school I had a vision of where I wanted to go, and I've been able to see that my work ethic is good. I'm focused. I know what I want. I just haven't looked back and anywhere else but forward, and that's where that's taken me."
Harrison says there's nothing surprising about GG being so young and interesting to the art world, as he feels the art speaks for itself. However, what he did find unusual about GG is his dedication to his dream of making a proper living as an artist. "There's not many guys that young that have the drive and ambition," Harrison says, "and there's just a lot of talented people who don't have the balls, and that's what you have to do, even though you don't know where you're next meal is coming from. You just have to go balls out and just paint and that's it."
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However, GG remains humble. He talks about a love for art documentaries and an openness to criticism from other artists and former teachers. Key to GG's aesthetic is his how in tune he is with humankind. He's donated art for benefits that generated funding to many groups that help children with special needs. He has a giant paddleboard leaning in one corner of his studio that he plans to paint for an auction benefiting Broward County Schools. "I think it's cool to see people's reaction and how they appreciate what you're doing for them," he says.
GG says he finds enrichment in interacting with anybody and everybody. "There's this guy with a little cart selling sno-cones by the Home Depot on Eighth Street. I bumped into him once and said, 'Dude, let me paint your cart. That's a cool cart you have.' This guy was so appreciative of me painting his cart, he gave me a free cone," he says with a laugh. "Having that connection with people that may not be able to go to a gallery, who may not be able to see art at these galleries or these events, they still have a lot to offer. They ground you so much, and you learn from what they're going through."
Paintings by GG (Gabriel Gimenez): No-Reserve Auction, LMNT, 59 NW 36th St., Miami. Saturday, September 1, reception 7 p.m., auction 8:30 p.m.