Hionas Gallery is pleased to present New York, New York: Big City of Dreams, an exhibition of new paintings and drawings from Mr. Kaves, the famed painter, graffitist, tattoo artist, musician, hip-hop mogul, producer, actor and community activist from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. This is Mr. Kaves’ first solo exhibition in New York City.
New York, New York: Big City of Dreams will include four new large-scale acrylic paintings and ten mixed-media drawings from one of the city’s most celebrated, prolific and diverse artists, in this or any other era. Throughout his career, Kaves has played the role of storyteller – via music, film, design and art – and with these new works he once again conveys a storied, sometimes bittersweet tale of New York City life. The exhibition’s namesake portrays a weeping angel in the foreground of an abstruse, graffitied streetscape. In his other paintings, Kaves finds inspiration in some of New York’s most iconic figures, beginning with Notorious, a portrait of the late Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls; Baby It’s Cold Outside, a skewed cityscape of the Chrysler Building, viewed from street level; and That’s Life, a collage portrait of Frank Sinatra.
Accompanying the new paintings are ten new drawings on paper. Using ink, pencil and charcoal, Kaves refers to these works as a “return to basics” and a “tribute to growing up in Brooklyn.” Done in the free-style spirit of his earlier graffiti work, the drawings feature much of the imagery that has made his art so recognizable over the years: lampposts, fire escapes, street scenes – all what Kaves calls “the Brooklyn textures” that help make New York the big city of dreams.
“This exhibition is such a joy to put on,” says gallery co-owner Peter Hionas. “Mr. Kaves is a New York institution. His graffiti art, his music, his designs and paintings and everything else he has produced have really helped shape the recent history and culture of this city, so it’s a pleasure and an honor to be having his first solo NYC show in our space.”
About the Artist: Michael McLeer (b.1969), aka Mr. Kaves, began practicing art at the age of 10, wandering through New York City’s subway tunnels with cans of spray paint in hand. These early forays into graffiti art were documented in Henry Chalfant and James Prigoff’s seminal book on the topic, Spraycan Art (1987). In the early 1990s Kaves became a founding member of the hip-hop group Lordz of Brooklyn. In tandem with the group’s – now known as The Lordz – most recent album, “The Brooklyn Way” (2006), Kaves co-created and produced a television reality series of the same name about the group and his growing up in Bay Ridge, which premiered to rave reviews in 2008. The Lordz’s music has been featured on such programs as Late Night with Conan O’Brien (performance), The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Day New York, CSI: New York, and MTV’s The Real World: Brooklyn, among others.
Mr. Kaves’ graffiti art has been published in numerous books, including Spraycan Art, Burning New York, Mascots and Mugs: The Characters and Cartoons of Subway Graffiti, and Piecebook: The Secret Drawings of Graffiti Writers, and many others. He has designed logos and graphic materials for brands such as Adidas, Nike, Rockstar Games, Atari, WWE, PONY, MTV, and the Vans Warped Tour; and artists such as The Beastie Boys and Everlast. More recently, Kaves’ paintings were commissioned for The Real World: Brooklyn loft, and his work is included in the permanent collections of the Gunter Sachs Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig, Germany, The Blackstone Hotel in Chicago, IL, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, OH.
Mr. Kaves owns and operates Brooklyn Made Tattoo, an art, apparel and tattoo shop in Bay Ridge. He lives and works in Brooklyn.