At the young age of 17, Skyler Grey has built an impressive following in the art world. The Los Angeles-based painter already counts Snoop Dogg and the Game as patrons of his work, which fuses an irreverent pop sensibility with touches of public art and graffiti. It's a style the hard-working wunderkind is bringing to Miami's Wynwood Arts District for his largest project to date, a mural specially commissioned by Avant Gallery.
"I never know what I'll paint until I see that wall. I like to touch it and listen to it and have it speak to me," Grey said several days before he began work on his Wynwood mural. "But one thing I'll tell you is that it'll be colorful, lively, and people will come from all over the world to take a picture with it."
Wynwood evolved from a low-rent haven for art galleries to a fully gentrified neighborhood filled with upscale restaurants and hip bars. Increasing numbers of seasonal visitors flock to its streets, snapping pictures in front of their favorite murals and populating Instagram feeds and Snapchat stories with the neighborhood's landscape. It's the type of viral exposure artists crave.
And it's the type of attention Grey is looking to court. His pieces use a variety of paints, including acrylic, house, and spray paints. Drawn to the intersection of pop-culture iconography and high-end fashion brands, Grey created his Wynwood mural to include images of the classic cartoon characters Popeye and Olive Oyl posing as the interlocking C's of the Chanel logo. It's an eye-catching arrangement that'll resonate with the neighborhood's influx of snap-conscious day-trippers.
"A friend of mine owns a building in Wynwood which also houses his photography studio," says Dmitry Prut, founder of Miami’s Avant Gallery, where Grey’s works are on display. "He called me to play matchmaker for the mural, and now we have Skyler kicking off the project."
This mural was specially commissioned for Grey, but the artist was working under less-than-ideal conditions not that long ago.
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"My definition of street art is something that's not entirely legal, that uses wheat paste in the streets on walls that are not approved. I no longer do that," Grey says. "With my gallery and project commitments, I don't have time to do something that could land me in jail. There are too many people that will pay me to paint their walls all over the world."
Though graffiti and other forms of street art evolved as counterestablishment forms of expression, they're now fully embraced by gallery owners, collectors, and dealers. It's a win-win. The artists can paint without fear of imprisonment, the dealers make money, and spectators get to admire and take photos of work that resonates with them.
Skyler Grey's mural is on view at 255 NW 25th St., Miami.