Simple shapes and elemental colors — vibrant, yet subdued — solidify the backdrop in Kareem David Piper’s Miami landscapes. There is nothing fixed about his images. They move on the canvas. They flow.
Apparent in all his pieces is a blue-orange sky. It's an atmosphere that is both volatile and sublime — a fitting description for Miami.
As a student at Miami International University of Art & Design, Piper took photos while riding the Metrorail in downtown Miami. He later interpreted the shots into paintings. His thesis exhibition, "Metaxy and the Magic City," opened earlier this month to a crowd of mostly peers, professors, local artists, and art enthusiasts. It is currently on display at Yo Space until the end of July.
The show explores the idea of transitory nature common to the human condition. His main focus of inspiration is our fluctuating city and the ever-moving Miami-Dade transit. The artist layered stark colors on silhouetted figures. Devoid of individuality, the outlined forms express a sense of isolation while traveling on the electric urban locomotive.
"People get on the train and pull out their phones," explained Piper.
They prefer to avoid human contact with strangers. They are both there and not there; in a state of in-between, or metaxy. As doors open and close, they oscillate in a constant state of rhythmic flux, reverberating the flow of the city. Straight lines delineate the inner compartments of the train, resembling its consistent movement on the rails, and the shades reflect the cool, vibrant style of Miami in these ambient pieces.
New Times attended the opening of the exhibit and spoke briefly with Piper about his latest works.
New Times: What prompted you to take pictures of the Metrorail?
Kareem David Piper: To me, the Metrorail made for the perfect study. I have interaction with it on a daily basis, as it is within walking distance from both my studio and the university. It also is very symbolic of the transience that exists here in Miami. I found it fascinating to witness people in such a confined space, yet so distant from their immediate surroundings — myself included. Once I noticed the behavior and accepted myself as a participant, the observations began.
What makes the idea of transience an important concept to explore in an artistic context? How about in the context of Miami?
As a millennial, I found that my generation was born into a state of transience, more so than those before. With our generation came the beginnings of the technological era. A transition from postmodern ideals to something that holds both the values of post modernism and modernism equally and resides in between. I try to reflect that sensibility in my work as I believe that sensibility is a reflection of contemporary life.
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In relation to Miami, well, any major world city would have representations of existing in a transient state. Miami just looks a little better doing it.
Why do you use bright primary colors for the pieces? Is there a correlation between these elemental colors and the city?
Color has a huge role in effecting mood and reflecting feelings. Since the sole purpose of my work is to reflect feelings I've experienced while in observation of social settings (that is to say people and places), I find color play is an acceptable way to do that. The elemental colors are perhaps, for a painter, the most important ones to understand and manipulate. As far as the correlation between these colors and Miami, it's more of a conceptual one. This place is home and I've grown over the years as an artist by living and working here, Much like the colors I use to render my stylized depictions, I feel it is important to understand them in order to understand my own growth.
Why do you paint clouds? Is there any particular symbolism behind them?
Every kid has looked up at the sky and seen clouds going by and has had thoughts of going somewhere.
"Metaxy and the Magic City"
On view at Yo Space (294 NE 62nd St., Miami) until July 23, by appointment and during regular gallery hours (Fridays and Saturdays, 1 to 5 p.m.). Visit yo-miami.com/yo-space or kareemdavidpiper.com.