New this month at Mize Gallery is Ego Death, an exhibition of paintings by Jabari Reed, a 21-year-old native of St. Petersburg whose star is rapidly rising.
Reed’s Harmful Algae Bloom was created for November’s SHINE Mural Festival. Painted onto the southwestern wall of the new Grand Central Brewhouse, the striking combination of bright yellows and reds depicts a ghostly cartoon figure, with skeletal teeth and X’s for eyes, trudging angrily – Godzilla-like – through murky water and trailed by nasty-looking clusters.
SHINE 2020 came with a save-the-oceans theme. “They gave us different environmental topics to pick from; I wanted to do either red tide or plastic pollution,” Reed explains. “They gave me the red tide, so immediately I went to thinking about how I was going to interpret this without losing my style as an artist, and bringing my characters with me. Basically bringing my identity to this project.”
When he was asked to specifically interpret and paint the phrase “Harmful Algae Blooms,” Reed’s mind went to a song he loved by Tyler, the Creator called “Where This Flower Blooms.”
And when inspiration, talent and a clear objective come together, the results can be breathtaking.
Reed’s work is a dynamic blend of graffiti-style street art, skillful illustration, Black society and culture and 1930s-era cartoon characters. It’s 21st century pop art with a message. His “graffiti name,” his artistic alter ego, is iBOMS – Illegal Beauty on My Street.
Reed, a Gibbs High graduate, is drawn to dark subjects. Although his work can be whimsical, or inspiring, a lot of the paintings in his online gallery show his cast of identity-free characters doing – or at least reacting to – dark deeds.
The titles range from Rotten Psyche and South Side Reaper to OL Garbage Guts and Sea of Negativity.
“Those things impact me in a different way,” he says. “I like to talk about those dark things, because a lot of times we kind of submerge that part of reality, and we always want to do the nice bubbly stuff with the pop art.
“I know I’m in the style where you don’t want to think a lot when you look at the pieces, they’re supposed to be ‘cool, that’s dope, put it on the wall.’ I can’t help but put in the dark messages – not even so much dark, but intimate – and it makes you go back and see yourself, and it’s really uncomfortable sometimes to speak about certain stuff.”
He’s currently working on several contributions for the Project G.O.A.T. (Global Offensive Against Trafficking) charity auction on Feb. 6, and will have another solo show in the spring.
Ego Death will be on the walls at Mize Gallery through Jan. 31.
The theme here, Reed says, is “understanding that as a human, you’re not as important as it seems. When you step outside of your normal way of life, your normal society way of life and you go out into the world you realize just how small you are. And it is really like an ego check. It kills your ego sometimes, and you’re sitting there like ‘I’m not as important as I thought I was’ and ‘the things that I worry about aren’t as important as I thought.’ That’s part of it.”
The other part? “How things have affected me in the past year. Things that have humbled me.”