At first blush, brooding, bad boy film icon James Dean and ridiculous '90s-era rapper and reality TV star Flavor Flav may seem to have little in common. But look through the eyes of artist Pete Kirill, and you'll notice that themes of rebellion against authority and pop culture influence run concurrently through the careers of both men.
It's this unique take on celebrity culture that's given Kirill a burgeoning presence in the art world -- both in Miami and beyond. His latest mural, just completed at 82 NE 29th St., is dubbed "Rebel Without a Pause," and depicts Dean with his trademark cigarette and motorcycle -- but sporting Flavor Flav's giant clock and a high-top fade.
After making a whole series of trips back and forth to Cuba for a project, Kirill was inspired by the way political propaganda was reminiscent of classic American pop culture.
"I start getting interested in drawing parallels between different cultures with capitalism and communism. I started to see in some of these images how these dictators look like celebrities, with a friendly smile, designer sunglasses and some kind of pose that reminded me of Hollywood."
So he started merging images of dictators with classic elements from the hip hop of his youth -- fades, gold jewelry, track suits, etc. The result is uniquely allegorical.
"People look at North Korea and they say that's totally different from the U.S. and there are no similarities, but there are. They actually use western culture and media to tailor their propaganda to their people," Kirill adds.
One of the things that put Kirill on the map was an apt premonition. Several years ago, he painted Dennis Rodman as Kim Jong-Un -- long before Rodman actually started making his treks to North Korea. That got the buzz building.
And about six months ago, developer David Lombardi hired Kirill to paint a mural in Wynwood. A non-political mural. So Kirill went in a new direction, resulting in MC Elvis.
"Elvis was influenced by gospel music and in turn Elvis created rock and roll and rock and roll influenced hop hop," Kirill comments.
And then there's James and Flavor Flav, his most recent creation.
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Kirill's dance card is blowing up. He's also about to do a Marilyn Monroe/Missy Elliott mural for Wynwood's soon-to-open Blue Starlite Urban Drive-In, plus a mural on the wall of a new gallery in the area.