SCOPE Art Show 2018 at Art Basel Miami

Dec 1st — Dec 8, 2018

SCOPE Art Show, Miami Beach, FL

Exhibition Information

“Configuration” is set to open at SCOPE International Art Fair on December 4th, 2018 featuring a collection of works by Philadelphia-based contemporary artists Serena Saunders, Ivben Taqiy, and Gabe Tiberino. Curated by Badir R. McCleary

Serena Saunders is a Visual Artist from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her work as a painter has a fresh, color-strong perspective that speaks to our imagination while the subjects ask for our awareness. Her often large-scale, graphically bold, and poetically composed paintings offer the viewer layers of narrative. The painter works with a color palette that gives her intricate prints a world of their own. She then uses these environments on canvas as a backdrop to her portraits and their stories. You will often find a matter of injustice or undying hope fighting its way through the line of work to prevail at the surface.

At the age of 7 years old, Ivben Taqiy fell in love with art. Twenty-plus years later, he’s doing what he loves. Although Philadelphia based, he has created murals, portraits, and other forms of visual art for many well-known celebrities and corporations. Taqiy has worked with Foot Locker, Fox25 News, Jimmy Johns, Lauryn Hill, and Swizz Beats to name a few. With a resume that stretches from North to South and East to West; Taqiy still manages to make time to serve and teach the youth in the Philadelphia communities. Art has been his pathway to building relationships and life, he encourages artists to continue to move forward so that they don’t miss out on all that life has to offer them and their talent.

Gabe Tiberino is a visual artist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Born into artistic practice, he is a scion of one of Philadelphia’s best-known art families. Tiberino was probably the youngest person (eighteen) to be the lead artist on a Philadelphia Mural Arts Program project. In 2005 he received his certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, winning the Best Figurative Painter Award in the Student Exhibition. Since 1998, he has been a part of the Mural Arts Program working as a lead muralist and assisting several renowned, international artists. His murals can be seen throughout Philadelphia.


Relational Chemistry

Relational Chemistry

ArtAboveReality is pleased to present “Relational Chemistry: An Introspective of Urban Experience”, a group survey highlighting nineteen contemporary artists in the city of Philadelphia. Focusing on their grassroots origins, “Relational History: A Introspective of Urban Experience” speaks to the artists using their practice to realize and then share their identities, an entrance, for the viewer, into the artist’s inner selves. 

Oct 16th — 20th, 2018

Ivben Studios, Philadelphia, PA

Curators Statement

With urbanism being diverse and lively, advancing in technology, and shifting capital investment, It is shaped by power and wealth, as well as imagination and labor layered with intertwined cultural and social histories. The work manifests itself in facets of painting, sculpture, and interactive installations, centering on the interpretation of culture, society, identity, and the complex but meaningful conversations relating to contemporary issues of urbanism and human chemistry. While the members of this show come from diverse backgrounds, it is this chemistry that ties their experiences and practices together.

Artists In The Exhibition:
Aubrie Costello, Holly Colaguori, Bariq Cobbs, Nema Etebar, Claes Gabriel, Kenneth Jackson, Caryn Kunkle, Nile Livingston, June Lopez, Alloyius McIlwaine, IvbenTaqiy, Taji Ra’oof Nahl, Dejeonge Reese, Serena Saunders, Richard Tenaglia, Ellen Tiberino, Gabe Tiberino, Raphael Tiberino, and Derrick Woodyard.

The exhibit will be on view to the public from October 16th through 20th. Press release and show imagery available upon request. Please contact for more information. “Relational Chemistry: An Introspective of Urban Experience” is located at 3239 Amber Street., Philadelphia, PA 19134. Stay updated with ArtAboveReality on Instagram (@ArtAboveReality)  via the hashtags #ArtAboveReality, #RelationalChemistry. Also, visit us at All images are subject to copyright. Gallery approval must be granted prior to reproduction.


Aqua Art Miami 2017 at Art Basel Miami

Aqua Art Miami 2017 at Art Basel Miami

Gallery 38, an ongoing project by ArtAboveReality and Bancs Media, opened its doors in March of 2015 with the hopes of starting an artistic renaissance in the West Adams neighborhood. One year later, the mission continues. Named in a LA Weekly article as “The Center of the burgeoning West Adams Art Scene”, Gallery 38 has done over 15 solo exhibitions and art fairs and has been able to continue the tradition of presenting emerging and established artists while focusing on developing the community around them.

Dec 1 — Dec 9, 2017

Aqua Art Miami, Miami, FL

Exhibition Information

Artists In The Exhibition:
Reisig and Taylor, Moncho 1929, Sharon Barnes, Sam Pace, and Patrick Henry Johnson.

Gallery 38 will present a group show featuring our roster of artists with successful solo gallery shows this year. Each artist represents different backgrounds (Race, Religion, etc.) as well as use different mediums (Photography, Sculpture, Paint, etc.) to exude their experiences and realities. The show digs deeper into the intricacies of the human being and his/her place in society. With each artist having works that exhibit identity, self-awareness and urban poetry, this show hopes to continue the conversation that in our differences we are extravagantly similar, and those similarities when merged together create something better than an individualistic society, they create a melting pot of forward thinking ideas.

While the members of this show come from diverse backgrounds, there are similarities that tie the works together. The work centers on interpretation of culture, society, identity and the complex connections that hold all of these constructs together. The work manifests itself in facets of paint, sculpture and interactive installations, all designed to use space, color and texture to invite meaningful conversations relating to contemporary issues.

Interacting with surface abstractly, creating new reality along the way almost seamlessly without thought allows these artists to display an artistic courage that will allow the viewer to take a deeper look into each artist’s journey from past to present.


Black Bodies, Feminism, and Representation

Black Bodies, Feminism, and Representation. Is the use of the body in art the most effective way to examine social inequities and help to progress the surrounding conversation? 

The body being one of if not the most sacred pieces of humanity, is also often one of the most scrutinized, abused, and controlled entities of our society. It has been used to judge, influence, and portray humanity, creating a classification system to which certain validations are required for participation. The body, and its representations, have also been used to spark debate, incite protest and warrant further study into its meaning to science, politics, and art. The body has been used to make political statements against censorship and control as well as promote beauty in the human form. This duality sometimes gives way to endless debates about the body’s representation in society.

Artists have long been truth-tellers of society through the masterpieces that they create, sometimes the messages are hidden beneath the surface and other times so direct that it has been known to resonate immediately with its viewer. A great artist or artwork is one whose message continues throughout time as a capsule of the current moment. Like the body, this capsule contains stories of the past and allows for future examination and debate. 

I will examine three artists and their works that I believe help demonstrate a societal outlook on the body. Barbara Kruger, David Hammons, and Robert Mapplethorpe all prominent in their fields of study with interesting works that deal directly with the human body. Critical, Controversial, and Timely, these artists demonstrated the use of the body as a medium, as a representation of judgment, and to fight against laws that set to determine who was in control of its essence. The question I have is whether or not the use of the body in art is the most effective way to examine social inequities and help progress the surrounding conversation?

Specifically, three prominent works by these artists come to mind when I think of the representation of the body in art. David Hammons’ America the Beautiful, 1968, Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989 and Robert Mapplethorpe’s The Black Book (1986), three works that will live forever because of the connections to the representation of the body in different forms in their current moment of time.

Historically, through slavery, Jim Crow laws of the American South, and the Civil War, black bodies have been an instrument in the development of America. In 1968, when the civil rights movement drew to a close, these same bodies were still seen as inferior and a target to American society by government, media, and corporate community. Inspired by the body movements of Yves Klein’s Anthropometries and using his body as the tool for creation, Hammons created this piece by covering himself, torso, limbs, and face in oil and margarine, then pressing himself against the paper in almost a reenactment of black bodies being slammed on police cars. Showing the smashed impressions of his physical form, Hammons is able to evoke the impact and change on the body structure as it hits the surface revealing only certain features in the form of a manual x-ray or a thumbprint. 

Hammons used this method of production in an assembly line fashion hinting at the continuous strain on the body as in fieldwork for slaves. Adding the American Flag as a key part of this piece goes to symbolize these horrors wrapped up or covered up within the American constitution. Creating lithographs of these prints I believe hinted at the countless bodies being used in the horror with the reproductive process being used as a metaphor of American production. 

In using critical race theory through this work Hammons identifies himself with the examination of society through race, law-making, and the elite class. Hammons challenges the notion of the rejection of  “color-blindness” with himself as the tool insisting that the viewer recognize that his own body was the sacrifice for the creation of this work. Hammons demands society to engage with this work through the eyes of privilege and discrimination which continue the overarching hand of supremacy in America. Using this work as almost a parable for the black experience in America, Hammons attempts to preserve the history of black pain in the period by documenting its effects on the mind, body, and character of its marginalized citizens. 

Hammons’s use of this patriotic symbol juxtaposed with the black body (or representation thereof) went to emphasize the racial tensions in the United States during this period. Titling the series, Black First, American Second, the artist demonstrates the discrimination that Black Americans felt from their white counterparts on issues of justice and equality. The body pressed fully against the paper also gives the viewer the feeling of a fallen war hero laid in his casket at a funeral, I believe making a sympathetic gesture of black people’s’ contribution to the country. With the Vietnam War still being at its height, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr and the start of the Black Power Movement, America the Beautiful, 1968, and its production process acts as a dedication and sacrifice of the black body.

America the Beautiful, 1968 is a stark reminder of the Dred Scott decision of 1857 that spoke to the validity of citizenship of black people in the United States. By applying the flag as a reference Hammons brings into play the inconsistency of the American government in providing liberties to its black citizens. Using Derrick Bell’s research on critical race theory as a premise, I believe Hammons used art to communicate issues of the community that previously fell on deaf ears. By imploring these thoughts in his work, he (Hammons) invites the viewer to examine the interpretations of American history and how it’s consistently played out unfavorably in the American justice system. 

I would consider this piece as a component of ethnic studies for its content and contention to the Eurocentric perspective. Ethnic studies were conceived in the civil rights era when Hammons started these works and sought to change the way the stories and representations of African Americans are viewed. Hammons, I believe, felt the best way to accomplish this reformation was to show the body and its features as an accelerated instrument of explanation.

Body Politics, referring to practices of which society tries to regulate control of the body, has been the cause of national debate in many issues and the Black First, American Second, series speaks directly to that theory. Hammons takes ownership of his body to deliver a message that challenges governmental procedures. He uses his body to source knowledge production and extracts a conversation about how black males are viewed by the current society which allowed him to stage an artistic protest instead of a physical one.

Barbara Kruger, uses her work Untitled (Your body is a battleground), 1989 as a catalyst to the debate of women’s rights in the ’80s and was produced to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington. There was a rising number of demonstrations and protests in the ’80s because of new anti-abortion laws that were going directly against the verdict of the Roe V. Wade Supreme Court Decision of 1973. Kruger’s work aligns the protests with the theory of Body Politics and control over the human body. 

This work with its large canvas and bold imagery almost yell at the viewer to take charge of their body. It presents the face of a woman divided into two with the negative split evenly down the middle almost presenting (again as referenced in Hammons’s work) an x-ray of the face. The duality seems to represent the people on both sides of the issue of the debates about women’s rights and who gets to decide.

The bold words of “Your Body Is A Battleground” speaks to how the war has changed from “As seen on TV” to within the female body. With the bold red and white Barbara invites the viewer to stop immediately and heed the words almost reminiscent of the war posters of the late 1940s and ’50s, when they placed bold directives such as “Join The Army!” with a strong figure to entice other potential citizens who were still undecided. By using art in the style of tabloid marketing and advertising, Kruger was able to address media politics in a voice that was familiar and effective. 

In this work, the body is used as a metaphor and a representation of a movement against the law. Kruger addresses the female population with action, encouraging them to seek knowledge and awareness of the current situation that affects them all. This call to action addresses a mental as well as a physical protest enabling the change in habit of women in society as it pertains to how they view their bodies and the rights and responsibilities in making choices. Like Hammons, the work subtly calls for a mental overhaul of the social norm with the body being the catalyst for the widespread debate.

Within the body politics structure, female bodies are seen to be vulnerable and not able to be “warrior-like” which Kruger challenges in this artwork. Adding what is seen to be a beautiful woman appropriated from a magazine, she also points to the view of women as objects in society and hinting at feminist views of the male gaze. These gender politics have determined who should be vulnerable and who commands respect. The male gaze in society has been seen as a patriarchal control over the body of a woman and Kruger uses the beauty of the female face to get the male viewer’s attention to the ultimate message. The female face in this work is seen as strong, confident, and direct, much different than what the societal norms are for women who were to be seen as docile and submitting to their male counterparts. Kruger uses the knowledge of “Second Wave” body politics to encourage women to fight against the politics that governed their bodies. By stimulating the consciousness of women and enacting a “no fear” visual element, it helped to break the long silence of women as it regards their bodies. 

Kruger presents a two-part view through this work inciting action from women during the period. Using strong images (strong confident female) alongside very direct and bold text with tons of emotion, Kruger hoped to provoke a new conversation about gender politics. According to feminist theory, the male and female bodies differ in the sense that women are more “natural” than men, more corporeal, and therefore seen a difference from their minds. In the sense of the corporeal, Kruger and Hammons relate within society as the black body and the female body has been underappreciated for their contributions to the growth of humanity and portrayed as “soulless” and in turn use their art as a way of combatting this perceived difference among the colonizing class. 

The male gaze and the presentation of the black body are also prevalent in the work of Robert Mapplethorpe which brings together the concepts of racial and gender politics of the body from the perspective of the white male in society. This gaze cites the “patriarchal power” of Mapplethorpe allowing him to assume his male role as the “looker” while the black male is relegated as the items to be perused at leisure. The Black Book, a collection of “idealized and homoerotic” nude photographs of naked black gay men, was looked upon as a very touchy project by Mapplethorpe. Embarrassed and outraged by its contents, many artists, theorists, and writers chose to put pen to paper to debate the relevance of this topic and how it affected black men and the artistic integrity of the works. Mapplethorpe’s representations of the black men in this book set the male gaze on its eye, with Mapplethorpe being a gay man himself, also in charge of the very device used to scrutinize (the camera), he was able to portray an alternate reality of the black body to the viewer, his reality.

Historian Kobena Mercer places this gaze in the proper perspective as he infers that the photos are a “cultural artifact in the ways that white people “look” at black people and how in this way of

looking, black male sexuality is perceived as something different, excessive, Other.” In the period when these photos were taken the gay male body was being attacked and criticized, he chose to use others as a cause for examination, ultimately separating his identity from that of the subjects. Mapplethorpe’s expose of The Black Book allowed the critics a duality of opinions about the work. On the one hand, the work completely stereotyped the black male body as a sexualized image, used only for desire or work, and on the other documented the gracefulness, power, and strength on display. Taking a queue from earlier sculptures such as Michelangelo’s marbled David, Mapplethorpe tries to push forward a conversation of maleness and blackness using the consistency of the nude through art that has gone to objectify and sometimes enhance the sexuality of a subject in history. Mapplethorpe prominently puts on display to the viewer through his “vision” that the greatest reward of the black male is his sexual prowess. Images such as Man in a Polyester Suit, which features prominently the penis of a black man and basically nothing else, are the only identifier of it being male or black in the photo leading the viewer to immediately look at its subject as an object. This places the black male body as an attraction giving the viewer an erotic source of pleasure without the permission of the model but with the permission of the photographer. A quote from art critic Holland Cotter describes this succinctly as “No face, no name, no person, just an anatomical fragment that translates into race = sex.”

This “ownership” of the body (or digital representation thereof) is reminiscent of the early days of the slave trade when black bodies were placed on display in public and news memos for sale. The Black Book has been said to reveal more about the pleasure-seeking of Mapplethorpe than it does to accentuate the abstract beauty of the “anonymous black men whose beautiful bodies we see depicted.” 

Mapplethorpe uses this book of works also as a question of gender politics of the Western art world by substituting the nude of the white female for the braun of the black male body. With Mapplethorpe being a gay man, he looked to question a male’s role in society as dominant or overarching and replacing that with a more harmonious visual, helps to soften the public’s view on black masculinity but at the expense of being critically judged due to the nature of its content. Using the philosophy of otherness, Mapplethorpe exhibits his subjects as different from their “political philosophy” and in their “non-conformity” to social norms where the black body is seen as the antitheses of American society. 

But how these work change the way bodies were viewed in society? I believe the consistency of action and boldness in the presentation and the messages are what tie these works together. Mapplethorpe’s works and the distorted or misrepresented meaning prompted artist Glenn Ligon to create and contention or retraction titled Notes on the Margin of The Black Book, 1991-93, which sought to “sort out the effect these images of black masculinity had on him as well as on others”. Barbara Kruger leads a revolution of text-based works that inspire street clothing brands and more and her message and design style has been the calling card to many works of protest. Hammons continues his message of black empowerment using common items to push the conversation and understanding of the black experience in America. They also touch on the key topics mentioned through this text referring to gender, race, and the theory of Otherness. These bodies, female, black, and gay were seen as abhorrent as racism itself, and through these works and practices of art, these artists were able to present new meaning, representations, and control over the body’s identity. 

The importance of these works lies in their place and time in history and the context in which they were created. Rooting themselves in protest, activist, and resistance style practices, these works sought to change the perception of the black, female, and gay bodies and by using the body as the main component of the political study, these works helped to inspire their peers and all affected by their respective struggles. Hammons aspired to show the strain, strength, and resilience of the black body and its relation to the ongoing civil rights struggles in 1968, Barbara Kruger aimed to take back ownership of the female body and oppose laws set in place to control choice at the Women’s March in 1989 and Mapplethorpe’s work caused an uproar on both sides leading to a demonstration in which his photos were displayed on the building in protest. These body politics helped to dismantle the oppressive laws and impact of the ruling class on those bodies they deemed “inferior” by expelling the essence contained within.

The body remains a hot topic in art with some of these same topics at the forefront. From Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0, 1974 to Dana Schutz’s Open Casket, 2016, the use and presentation of the body and its status in society is constantly being challenged. These challenges are always a catalyst for global change and improvement without the physical war and loss that usually comes with it. The body is the most consistent thing across humanity and I believe it is the easiest topic to engage humanity and allow them to look into themselves for the correct answer. These artists are a prime example of protesting, activating, and demonstrating while still attempting to educate their audience on issues and their practice will continue to influence artists to follow in their footsteps. These conversations through art justify the practice as a contributing factor to the development and its importance as a voice for the sometimes voiceless.


From the Vapour of Gasoline at White Cube, Mason’s Yard

From the Vapour of Gasoline at White Cube, Mason’s Yard

When I stumbled upon the title of this exhibition I immediately thought about the state of the country. In the United States, you could say that the current tone for the average citizen would be filled with worry, unexpected events, and the questioning of what it really means to be an American. “From the Vapour of Gasoline” at White Cube’s Mason’s Yard space, a group show featuring a caucus of artists works speak directly to humanity with a sinister yet clever disposition, immediately challenges that identity with images that conjure thoughts of a time where injustice reared its ugly face leading most citizens to question their place in a society that is supposed to protect their liberties and freedoms, or so that was the initial story.

The title of the exhibit borrows its name from “Peruvian Maid”, 1985 artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose trademark scribble can be seen prominently in the work, almost suggesting the evidence of smoke without seeing the fire that usually succeeds. Presenting images of “Americana” like the Dollar Bill and The U.S. Flag and pairing them with text and visuals that simulate violence and poverty, almost create a relationship that speaks far beyond the original origin of these images and it’s intended meaning.

“RIOT”, by Christopher Wool, the first work that you directly encounter upon entering the gallery, along with Cady Noland’s “Flag” immediately triggers a feeling of recent events involving the destruction of major cities because of what was promised by the symbol of “Freedom”. It seems that the values of what the flag really means are continuously challenged by citizens who feel that America should hold true to its promises and follow through on the promises made. 

But with recent events like the protest of the Flag by Colin Kaepernick and countless other NFL players and the killing of unarmed black men, it seems almost fitting that Robert Gober’s “Drain” assists the viewer in questioning whether those morals stand true or are they just another failed promise of the American Dream. It’s so fitting in the sense that if you weren’t already familiar with the work of Gober, you would think the gallery’s plumber somehow fell asleep at the wheel. 

Adding to this are the visuals of double transparency of a dollar bill staring directly at David Hammons’ work Untitled (body print), 1975, depicting a black man with his head held high, draped in the same symbol of a country sworn to uphold the ideals of its citizens. 

As you make your way down the steps into the lower part of the gallery you’re greeted with one of Richard Prince’s famous “Joke” artworks that provided a light-hearted laugh as you enter the second space that houses the rest of the exhibition. The laugh was short-lived as I made my right turn into the photos by Larry Clark which goes on to represent the ills of society.  Images of prostitution, gunshot wounds, drug, and spousal abuse, space is especially fitting, hidden almost out of sight, speaking to how these societal issues go unnoticed and untreated.

It seems that this show chooses to exacerbate self-image and play along with the ideologies of what seems to be the ephemeral meaning of these symbols. What is American society? Do we all fit? Do we each have an individual voice or are we susceptible to mass media and distorted images that shape what we believe to be a reality? Does the American Flag still stand for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness or has all of that been sold out for the growth of the corporate machine? I wonder if that was in the thoughts of Barbara Kruger when she created her Untitled (Cast of Characters), 2016, featuring bold white text on black canvas elucidating a mixture of personalities that could easily pass for a representation of the art world. 

As an American citizen viewing the show in another country, I don’t know if I should feel embarrassed or enlightened by the content of the show. Having an outside-looking-in approach definitely allows me to think about the works in the proper context without the chatter of vulgarity spewed by other countrymen whose feelings seem to be hurt at the sentiments displayed, which seems almost to be another snapshot of where we are today. 

In the press release for the show, a key sentence stuck out to me. “These artists sought by different means to reacquaint their audience with the uncomfortable truths beyond the American Dream.” This made me chuckle because if you pose this question to Americans, most will act like they don’t know what you mean. “America is the greatest country in the world!” you may hear a few say, I tend to agree, but I’m also not oblivious to the fact that we have work to do. Maybe having this exhibit on the lawn of the White House would be a good place to start? Hmmm, let me think about that and get back to you.

Written by Badir McCleary

Exhibit: From the Vapour of Gasoline

White Cube Mason’s Yard

25-26 Mason’s Yard, SW1Y 6BU


Street Artist “MiMo” claims to be the creative force behind the ALEC Monopoly art machine

Street Artist “MiMo” claims to be the creative force behind the ALEC Monopoly art machine

Do you believe in ghosts? I’m talking about the folks in our culture who “collaborate” in creating some of the largest art and entertainment brands known in the world today. On the heels of the Meek Mill and Drake ghostwriting feud, I was introduced to another quarrel, this time in the contemporary art world, between well-known street artist ALEC Monopoly and lesser-known (to me at least) illustrator Mike Mozart.

While interviewing both parties and hearing convincing arguments from both sides, I noticed a couple of keywords that seemed to come up very often and wanted to distinguish the difference between them. These words are “Collaborate” and “Work For Hire”. Collaborate, is defined as “working jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something” and Work for Hire is explained as “work created on behalf of a client where all parties agree in writing to the Work For Hire designation”. Keep these two words in mind as you read this story.

ALEC Monopoly has created one of the most globally recognizable art brands today. By incorporating his personality with the face of “Mr. Monopoly”, a character created by Dan Fox and made famous by the “Parker Brothers” brand, ALEC has managed to tackle current events and convey messages through paint that has collectors salivating about owning a piece of his work. As a “Celebrity Artist”, ALEC polarizes his fans with his persona of opulent living, countless high-profile clients, and his signature top hat and facemask concealing his identity.

Mike Mozart, An illustrator for over 30 years, specializes in creating some of the most recognizable kid characters for many corporations. Has been published in over 100 kids’ books and was also one of the first live YouTube broadcasters from “Occupy Wall Street” rallies in New York City. Mike gained prominence through his Jeepers Media brand and his channel titled “TheToyChannel”, but not too many folks (at least those I have spoken with) have ever heard of the artist “MiMo” which is Mike’s moniker as a graffiti/street artist.

I felt this would be a great opportunity for Alec and me, I like the kid. I help out lots of people”, Mozart explains. To hear Mike’s story is to hear a tale of deception by an artist and friend he looked to help and support. “I felt this would be a great opportunity for Alec and me, I like the kid. I help out lots of people”, Mozart explains. But, to hear ALEC’s side of the story, it was all business. “Mike Mozart was never a “mentor” or “collaborator” as he claims, but merely a Freelance Illustrator who created works for hire and was compensated for these services,” says Avery Andon (ALEC Monopoly’s manager).

“It is important to note that Alec Monopoly began incorporating the Monopoly Man character into his work in 2008. By the time he met Mike Mozart several years later, he had already held a sold-out solo exhibition in NYC, been arrested for doing illegal graffiti, and placed his iconic “ALEC” logo and Monopoly Man characters on walls around the world,” adds Andon. 

Mozart remembers the day he met ALEC at a video production studio in Beverly Hills. He had no idea that ALEC would be there, and at that time, had never heard of the then-emerging street artist. He went on to share some of his drawings with ALEC and says he (ALEC) was very enamored with him. “He was very excited to meet me, he even bought some art/drawing supplies from me,” Mozart adds, acknowledging that ALEC was working on art during this visit. This encounter led to what is believed to be a working relationship and friendship of almost 4 years between the two artists in which Mozart states he even inspired the naming of ALEC’s dog, “Bruisa”, indicating how close the two became like friends.

What gets tricky is whether further business between the artists was understood by both parties as a “collaboration” or “work for hire”. “Mike clearly presented himself as a professional Illustrator during our entire relationship with him and we were paying him under that pretense,” Andon adds.

Mozart has revealed that he has worked on hundreds of projects in “collaboration” with ALEC Monopoly, varying in theme and that some of the original drawings given to ALEC in that first meeting helped brand and skyrocket his artist persona. He says, the “Monopoly Man on a Cross”, one of ALEC’s most notable pieces (pictured below), was among that earlier bunch of drawings given to ALEC. He also sent us a link to a folder containing hundreds of drawings and ideas that were the inspiration for tons of other ALEC Monopoly pieces.

However, ALEC Monopoly’s manager, Avery Andon contends that “Mike has never painted or touched a single one of Alec’s original canvas paintings, nor were his sketches EVER sold as originals to clients. Mike clearly presented himself as a professional Illustrator during our entire relationship with him and we were paying him under that pretense.”

That’s where it seems to get pretty ugly. Mozart informed us that for the first two years of the “collaboration” with ALEC, he was NOT paid for his services, nor did he ever sign any agreements of Work-for-Hire, and was never considered a “Team Member” of the Monopoly camp.  Monopoly’s camp says that Mozart was paid for his illustration services and “any claim that he believed he was a “collaborator” or partner in the Alec Monopoly project is also completely false.” Both parties claim to have proof that supports their argument.

“I never said anything bad or negative pertaining to ALEC or tracing or projecting,” adds Mozart. The Monopoly camp thinks this is Mozart’s attempt at gaining fame and notoriety with his “Smear Campaign” on ALEC Monopoly as they claim they have made multiple attempts to resolve the issue amicably. Instead, they say he started by sending “aggressive and hateful emails” about Alec to galleries they’re associated with and that he “never once vocalized his discontent or requested additional credit or compensation from us throughout the entire period of time that he was working for us”.

Mozart slams this as being untrue noting that he has never said anything to discredit ALEC Monopoly as an artist or brand. “I never said anything bad or negative pertaining to ALEC Monopoly,” adds Mozart. “I have ONLY ever mentioned that we have “collaborated”. Mozart recently attended the “Forever 21” launch event that ALEC was the featured artist of and is in “collaboration” with for a new line of Monopoly themed clothing, and even posed for a picture with his now nemesis wearing what seems to be a “collaboration” of “MiMo” and ALEC Monopoly.

After that photo, almost every one of Mozart’s posts mentions that he “collaborated” with Monopoly and hints that he is the man behind the creative direction of the artist’s brand.

“Dating back to Michelangelo, Rembrandt and Rubens to Andy Warhol’s famed “Factory” and most recently top-selling artists like Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst, artists have enlisted the help of creative professionals and staff members to help keep up with demand and scalability,” Andon says.

ALEC’s camp has never denied any involvement with Mike Mozart but also argues that it was a “good marketing plan” that helped ALEC Monopoly become a household name, not one single image. “Collectors are buying into Alec’s persona, mystique, and star power. His unique style and personality, and pension for flair have propelled him into the international spotlight,” states Andon. He also reminds readers that “the content in question is the appropriation of characters that neither Mike Mozart nor Alec Monopoly created” stating that public usage of the characters is fair game. They believe that Mike’s campaign will hold no relevance to the collectability or growth of ALEC as an artist.

Mozart believes that once the truth comes out fans will ultimately understand that it was he, not ALEC, that was the “creative force” behind much of the artwork. “I don’t want money, I’m not going to sue. I have a substantial amount of time invested and I have earned that recognition!” BM.


Gallery 38

Gallery 38: Los Angeles

Gallery 38 an ongoing project by ArtAboveReality and Bancs Media, opened its doors in March of 2015 embarking on the West Adams community with a goal of resurrecting the neighborhood’s past history of visual culture and adding to the renaissance of art booming in the Los Angeles area. With time and painting, our vision with the help of our artists and the community we’ve been able to transform and breathe artistic creation back into a sector of the city needing resurgence. Named in a LA Weekly article as “The Center of the burgeoning West Adams Art Scene”, Gallery 38 has done over 20 solo exhibitions, 2 global art fairs, and have invited other emerging artists to join in by offering the gallery as a part-time studio and event space, thus creating a community of creativity.

With a community-based approach, Gallery 38 has been able to continue the tradition of presenting emerging and established artists while focusing on developing the community around them. Within the two years, the community has seen an eclectic interest in the aesthetics of the neighborhood showcasing a wide range of visual art from murals to academic exhibitions and panels in the community. The unique artists that light up the gallery and neighborhood, differ in concentration, composition, and social status, but are brought together by their unifying element of mixing mediums and thought-provoking imagery. Gallery 38 will continue to be a pioneer in bringing appreciation, education, and artistic freedom while displaying jaw-dropping exhibits and impermanent installations throughout the global arts community.

Address: 5376 W. Adams Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016.

Curatorial Projects

Google Open Gallery

Google Open Gallery

We were so excited to be one of the first users of the Google Open Gallery platform that looked to feature creatives and institutions alike in a digital setting, to further the education of arts in the public and museums. We created our first exhibition, which featured up-and-coming and established artists focused on storytelling from inside their studios or around their local neighborhood walls.

Alloyius McIlwaine for the ArtAboveReality Collection on Google Open Gallery.
James Dupree for the ArtAboveReality Collection on Google Open Gallery.
Stolen Dreams in the Promised Zone by James Dupree for the ArtAboveReality Collection on Google Open Gallery.
La Ciudad de Color de for the ArtAboveReality Collection on Google Open Gallery.