By the time he was 15, Michael Gran was surrounded by death and destruction, running with gangs and committing robberies to feed a growing crack habit. Finally, his parents took drastic action and sent him up North to boarding school.
"I probably would have ended up dead or in prison like a lot of my friends [otherwise]," says Gran, better known as Typoe, the graffiti handle he adopted before branching out to become one of Miami-Dade's most talented multidisciplinary artists.
Typoe's work is never far from the chaos of his youth. Though he was raised in a stable family -- his father, Bernard, is a doctor, and his mom, Jacki, an artist -- he was always rebellious. By the time he finished middle school, he was already tagging his moniker around Coral Gables and Kendall.
"I became that kid, the one other parents didn't want their children hanging around," says Typoe, who is now 29.
After one too many brushes with the law, his parents shipped him to the Hyde School in Bath, Maine. The school helped, he says, but when he returned to Miami in 2003, he quickly relapsed into a crack-and-heroin binge.
"After four days of nonstop abuse, I was coughing up blood and felt like I was dying. That's when I decided to check myself into detox," he says.
That decision was a turning point. Typoe has been sober ever since, and his career has exploded from Wynwood walls to fine-art galleries.
He first made a name as a member of international graffiti crew TCP, but he always had an eye on pushing boundaries. So he worked his way into Anthony Spinello's gallery by doing odd jobs: painting walls, sweeping floors, hanging art.
Spinello quickly saw Typoe had more to offer than grunt labor. His sculptures featuring human skeletons and mutlicolored explosions earned him a spot in the gallery. In 2010, one of those pieces, Confetti Death, depicting a skull vomiting rainbow bits of shattered spray-paint caps, went viral online after starring at Scope Art Fair.
He hasn't looked back. Primary Projects, which he cofounded, remains one of the Design District's edgiest spaces. Typoe was recently featured in Skull Style: Skulls in Contemporary Art and Design, a book that places his pieces alongside those by Damien Hirst and Alexander McQueen.
Now he has come full circle with his latest project: a series of white drawings about Miami's hedonistic side. "I'm using cocaine to make the drawings," Typoe says. "You can say I've switched my addictions from drugs and chaos to making art."
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