Miguel Paredes Talks Alleys and Galleries, His Wynwood Studio, and Art Basel

In the '80s, Miguel Paredes came of age as a New York City tagger, and he has used his graffiti background as the launching pad for a successful career in the world of high art. Though clearly grounded in the concepts of street art, Paredes is a versatile stylist with the ability to paint both brick walls and canvas. The new Miguel Paredes Fine Art Studio in Wynwood is now showcasing a selection of collected works, as well as some recent pieces -- a few sculptures and a 3-D experiment -- that hint at the graff guy's future path.

New Times: First, could you just give me a general statement about the work in the gallery?

Miguel Paredes: My work is very colorful, I do everything from oil paintings to anime to sculptures to drawing. I'm known for being a pop artist and a lot of my things are very urban. I use a lot of architecture in my artwork, a lot of urban scenes. I use a lot of graffiti scenes, everything is very colorful and childlike.

And the gallery is a mix of collected works and things that haven't been shown yet?

Yeah. My last showing here was during Art Basel. A couple were shown in New York in a gallery, and a few others were shown in Korea, but I was able to bring, probably like six or seven new pieces for this one opening and some new sculptures.

And you have a 3-D piece.

The piece is called Tagger. A couple of years ago I started a new series called "Los Niños," where I put my children in all these situations, whether they have to do with religious scenes or graffiti scenes. I have a painting called Bonnie and Clyde, and it's my daughter and our son up in our home in Ashville. I've taken some of the paintings of "Los Niños" and turned them into sculptures, the ones that I think are very powerful. The first one I did was Miss Universe, which was my daughter on a tricycle. And then I did In the Name of America which is the boy with the Molotov cocktail, and now I did Tagger. And Tagger is probably the most powerful one because if you look at the painting of the half Buddha with children, you'll see the kid who's leaning over the Buddha's head. But you can't really see his face, you can only see his back and the back of his head, because he's leaning over with the spray can, ready to spray him in the face. So the sculpture is coming out of the wall, and it's leaning over the canvas, and it's painting the canvas.

There's an interesting dynamic when you're coming from a graffiti background. You have a tag and now you want to be known just by the art.

If you're looking at an Andy Warhol and you see the Campbell soup cans, you're not thinking about chicken soup. You're thinking Andy Warhol. So I think it's important for every artist to be able to be distinguished in that matter, and I think that it's part of developing your style and becoming established. It's like Ronnie Cutone, when Ronnie would do Woody Woodpecker. And we actually talked about this matter, he said to me, "You know, when I was doing Woody Woodpecker, or Mighty Mouse, it took me years for me to establish myself, and for people to look at the cartoons and not think Hanna-Barbera or whoever the company was that created the cartoon, but they would say 'Oh, that's a Ronnie Cutone." So, that's where I'm heading.

You worked with Warhol's protégé Ronnie Cutone, but I was wondering where the anime comes from. There are a lot of similarities to Takashi Murakami.

Well, it's not Murakami. I grew up -- and no offense to Murakami -- but I've always been a powerful artist. If you look at my work from the beginning, I've always used a really bright palette. I grew up reading comic books, since I was five years old. My comic book collection is like the comic book store. I grew up very animated. I come from the era of Ultraman, I grew up watching every episode of Ultraman. So [from that] to Godzilla, to the animated Japanese manga, that's been my era.

Eventually you moved down to Miami. What drew you to the city, and why did you move down here from New York?

My parents used to bring me down here on vacation. We had a timeshare, we would go to North Miami, to the Newport Hotel. I got into trouble in New York, a lot of trouble. [Laughs] You know, my friends were doing drugs and New York City was really out of control in the mid-'80s. So my parents gave me money and I came and I rented a studio in Miami Beach. I rented a studio behind 1235, which was a nightclub, and it was a slow pace and I was going really fast in New York. I was 18 going on 40. It was really bad. There was a lot of stress, and the graffiti was out of control, and the crime, and being in Miami Beach where I knew nobody, and it was a beautiful beach, and it was quiet, and I could paint and I could make it my home. And I grew with it.

I wanted to ask you lastly about your plans are for Art Basel.

After my show I'm going to Korea for a week, then I'm going to LA in September for another opening, and then I have another opening in Boston in November, and then after that, you know, I travel with my full canvas, so I paint wherever I go. You know, I set up, I take a staple gun, and I hate to say this, but I staple my canvas to the hotel room wall, so I probably have to pay. [Laughs] And then I paint. I paint in my hotel room. I will be exhibiting new work and I'm considering doing a brief afterparty like I did last year on Lincoln Road, because that was just a lot of fun. And my gallery in Wynwood will be open. I'm thinking about doing some new work and new sculptures and I'm gonna get ready to rock and roll.

-- Jordan Sargent

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Miami New Times staff