In Portland, Madsteez (Mark Paul Deren) and It’s A Living (Ricardo González) recently joined forces for the kickoff exhibition at INDUSTRY One’s new commission-free gallery. INDUSTRY, the creative consultancy agency co-founded by Oved Valadez that offers artists an inclusive platform to share worldly perspectives, is hosting Sentimientos—feelings, in Spanish—a show meant to evoke just that. To introduce the new gallery, Madsteez wore a monochrome white fit with his inviting surfer hair while Mexican artist González walked the exhibition floors with shades on and clean-cut Black streetwear.
The two visual artists balance each other not only stylistically but through their looming approach to a blank canvas full of opportunity.
Forty-two-year-old Madsteez has become known for his gargantuan graffiti murals of influential and historical figures such as Kobe and Gigi Bryant, Martin Luther King Jr., Nipsey Hussle, George Floyd and more. He is capable of immortalizing generational voices and icons through his explosively vibrant, violet visualizations. The versatile artist digitized his own line of Weenimal NFT characters and practices in other genres, including sculpting and hand-painting. His landscape portraits have decorated skyscrapers in New York, neighborhoods in San Diego, apartments in Taiwan, schools in Compton and now the collaborative exhibition in Oregon.
“I just feel so many emotions for the people around me and I’m able to channel almost this weird sixth sense,” Madsteez catches up with me over zoom, beaming from New York. “I don’t know where I get this energy from that I just can’t fully explain.”
The visual innovator birthed his artist moniker Madsteez from Method Man, who said in a Wu-Tang song that DJ Premier sampled in a Gang Starr song called, “You Know My Steez.” Steez is an urban synonym for style, and Madsteez wants observers to be aware of the mural paper trail he leaves around the globe and—most importantly—feel something or better yet, be inspired.
“My color palette is almost a direct relation to the sunsets and sunrises of Bali I experienced in 2000 when I was nineteen,” he tells me. “I know a lot of artists who kind of struggle to find their voices but from my early work, it was not much different than it is now.”
Meanwhile, It’s A Living has accumulated a cult following online just like Madsteez for his use of bold and brash colored fonts. However, he honed in on a signature fluorescent graphic style of typography that he layers on top of each other for large-scale portraits on building and other structures. González makes his artist’s mark known by leaving positive affirmations: “Here with love” or “Better Times” scattered around Los Angeles.
“For INDUSTRY One, Ricardo and I made it our studio, so everything was fair game,” Madsteez elaborates on the temporary duo’s art-making process. “There were no rules, no preconceived ideas and that is how we like to work by feeding off each other.”
Exploring INDUSTRY One’s Sentimientos exhibition
There are multiple canvases hung on the walls done in sherbet and sunset hues, black-and-white gritty graffiti, cascading fonts, a standing spray-painted resin tarp and a multi-hued pastel painted bike. The gallery is an experimental space for each of these artist’s minds to come together and play. A colorful homage to the inner-child that exists in all of us and this is activated through the mixed media of the exhibition that elicits innocence and stimulates memory.
“Surfing has taken me to places around the world that most people don’t normally go to or don’t aspire to go to,” Madsteez explains. “So I’ve seen cultures where, you know, they’re uninhibited by Western culture and that gives me a different perspective. It definitely translates to my art just as far as composition and seeing their local art. I’m a sponge in these countries.”
Madsteez found early purpose in the solo nomadic lifestyle growing up but now resides in California and has a family. Meanwhile, It’s A Living embodies the philosophical belief that you must live and breathe through art if you are to be invested for life. As different as they are, the artists’ collaborative brainchild Sentimientos is an experiential materialization of the liberating philosophy behind why people create art and why it should always feel fun.
Sentimientos is on view at INDUSTRY One through July 31.