Street art has become as synonymous with Miami as Cuban coffee, Tony Montana, and pastel shirts. During the high season, young muralists flood into the city to adorn facades in the hopes that they'll be spotted by gallerists and collectors. Yet, as the water’s warm, one French street artist has made his first pilgrimage to tag South Florida’s edifices under the summer sun. At first glance, Fred le Chevalier creations seem to fit perfectly among the Deco architecture.
Born in, Angoulême France, le Chevalier’s work incorporates elements of Art Nouveau, Deco, and Surrealism to create a sensibility uniquely his own. New Times caught the artist while he was in residence at Soho Beach House, injecting the member’s only club with his creativity.
“The first thing I do when I get to a new city is look for the center to start putting up work there,” le Chevalier says, “but Miami doesn’t really have that.”
Bereft of a traditional city center, le Chevalier took to driving around Miami’s more art-centered neighborhoods, with the help of a gallery assistant. Together they managed to glue a couple dozen of his wallpaper-like work on various buildings.
The black and white graphic illustrations seem to float aimlessly in space. With their arms usually outstretched, and warm expressions on their faces, the figures seem to indicate a sense of longing or needing that’s constantly effaced. They’re both heartwarming and sad, leaving viewers powerless to assuage their wanting. Coupled with the figures, le Chevalier writes a short phrase the encapsulates the message of the work. Blending illustrations and verse, the artist thinks of himself as part street artist, part poet.
But don’t be fooled by their cuteness, le Chevalier’s work is packed with a message. In one of his new pieces, he tackles the recent atrocities at Charlie Hebdo with the verse “Encore plus qu'hier nous irons planter des arbres,” which roughly translates into “Nothing will stop us from planting trees tomorrow."
For the artist, the trip to Miami is his U.S. debut. “I was so excited to meet the city’s art community, and swim in the beach's warm water for the first time,” le Chevalier says.
His work comes to South Florida courtesy of Lexïng Zhang, the founder and curator of Art Lexing. The Chinese gallerist holds court at the Iron Side art’s district located in Miami’s Upper Eastside.
“I rented an apartment in the Marais (Paris) in Summer 2010, and saw Fred’s work for the 1st time,” says Zhang. “I instantly fell in love with Fred's bobble-head caricatures.”
If the summer heat proves too strong for the trek out to Wynwood you can check out le Chevalier’s collection at Art Lexing (7520 NE Fourth Ct., Miami) through July 8.
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