Typoe Builds on His Work in "Die Form" at Primary

Typoe stands with a sculpture featured in his solo exhibition, "Die Form."
Typoe stands with a sculpture featured in his solo exhibition, "Die Form." Photo by Pedro Wazzan
It's one week till artist Typoe's first-ever solo show at Primary. Wooden crates that once held new, never-before-seen sculptures stand in corners of the gallery space. A thin layer of fresh sawdust covers the floor.

The artist, whose real name is Michael Gran, is co-owner and cofounder of Primary with his friends and business partners Books Bischof and Cristina Gonzalez. Although he represents one-third of the Little River gallery, "Die Form," opening Saturday, is his first solo exhibition at the space.

There's no particular explanation other than timing.

For the past five years, Gran has focused on creating large-scale pieces all over the world. He has also painted plenty of stunning outdoor — and indoor — murals. His 2016 sculpture series, "Forms From Life," even traveled to places like Argentina and, more recently, the Arkansas-based Crystal Bridges Museum.

After a much-needed reset, Gran began a journey to get back to basics and create smaller-scale pieces for a gallery show. "Die Form" is the evolution of his "Forms From Life" sculptures, featuring ten new pieces — each with the same building-block aesthetic.

The artist explains how he was inspired by German educator Friedrich Froebel, who invented the concept of kindergarten in the early 1800s. Froebel believed in the power of early education in children and its positive effects on their development. Poetically, Gran's block sculptures speak to both children and adults — to one set, they encourage creativity, to the other, they remind them that life can be both fragile and still playful.

"Die Form" is meant to be an expression of "the evolution of learning, building the world around us and how we think about life and death," Gran adds.

The sculptures in the gallery show feature some of the familiar shapes one has come to associate with the Miami artist. There's a raven, a skull, and a gravestone. Additionally, Gran has incorporated new shapes, like a blood drop and a flower. He explains that he intends to add new building blocks of life with each progression of his block pieces.

"Every time I do these pieces, more and more [blocks] will keep getting added, and eventually it will be like this hieroglyphics language that I'm sort of creating over time," he explains, extending his arms to either side of his body as if envisioning a room full of Typoe building blocks.

He smiles and looks at his partners, Bischof and Gonzalez, seated across from him.

The three creatives and art lovers founded Primary with the intent of showcasing works and artists they love.

"At the end of the day, we showed it because we were in love with it," Bischof says as his partners nod in unison.

The three have been working together in the local arts community for nearly two decades. They met in the early aughts and over the years they've become a family. One can understand what the other is thinking by dint of a simple glance or a subtle movement of the lips.

Arms crossed, Bischof silently gazes around the gallery space, pausing for a moment on every new piece hung in its place.

"He understands the space differently than anybody else would," Bischof says of Gran's show. "Typoe was a part of every step [of the gallery's design and creation]. There's just a different type of spirit that I think he's going to bring to the property [with 'Die Form']."

Reflecting on assembling Gran's first solo show with Primary, Bischof adds, "The public works felt so amazing, but there was a different body of work being made in the studio versus what people were experiencing with the public pieces and murals. So how do you then bring that energy indoors?"

"I play more outside, and I'm trying now to come back inside," Gran puts in, grinning like a kid.

"The continuation of 'Forms From Life' into 'Die Form' just shows that there are infinite combinations and infinite possibilities and that, in a nutshell, is who Typoe is and how he approaches life," Bischof explains.

"I think with everything in life — with age and experience — comes this sense of really getting to know yourself and knowing the why," Gonzalez adds. "In these works, you can see the why, the intention behind the pieces, and you can see [Gran's] progression [as an artist] and it's really beautiful. The work really shows that."

"Die Form." 6:52 to 10 p.m. Saturday, October 16 through Monday, November 15, at Primary, 7410 NW Miami Ct., Miami; Admission is free.
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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.