Emerging artist Jason Innocent gained notoriety in recent years for his graffiti and stencils in lower Manhattan combined with short phrases or words. His work can be considered within the confines of conceptual art as it combines drawing and text to deconstruct the rules of language from satire. His first pieces explore the effect of typography by altering its traditional uses.
Beyond street art, he does not limit himself to a particular genre as he has investigated graphic design, drawing, and audiovisual productions. However, above all, Innocent reminds us of the power of words by conveying secure messages in his images that denounce contemporary conflicts such as inequalities, racism, power structures, stigmatization, and gender stereotypes. An example of this is his controversial work “American Flag,” in which the artist re-interprets the American flag and questions what it represents for citizens through the words NO RACISM, NO SEXISM, NO ABLEISM, NO FATPHOBIA, NO AGEISM, NO TRANSPHOBIA, NO HOMOPHOBIA, AND NO HATEFULNESS.
Innocent defines itself as a political artist. He believes that today’s society needs more socially committed artists to awakening the anesthetized conscience of citizens and promoting social change. In his own words, “we need more pieces like Picasso’s Guernica that helped draw attention to the Spanish Civil War.” Here are 5 things you need to know about the conceptual artist.
1. His parents are originally from Haiti
Innocent was born and raised with his brothers and his parents from Haiti in Brooklyn Prospect Lefferts Gardens, a neighborhood made up mostly of working-class and immigrant residents.
2. Attended business school
Â He completed his high school education at Murry Bergtraum High School, then briefly studied art and left to attend business school at (CUNY) Medgar Ever College, a public university named after civil rights leader and NCAAP field secretary Medgar Wiley Evers. However, Innocent does not conceive art as an industry since business and art are two different worlds. The artist believes that he is creating new and different rules that challenge the established. He has a performative vision of art; he sees the world as art.
3. He is self-taught
Although he studied arts briefly, Innocent had stated that he learned to be an artist by going to museums, studying other artists, and watching cartoons with his brother when they were young. From an early age, Innocent has been interested in art to interpret reality; he believes that at about age 5, he began drawing the characters he saw on television and in children’s books. Proof of this is his book “39 Drawings”, which collects the drawings he has done since his teenage years.
However, New York City has been his primary source of inspiration. He has grown up admiring the tremendous experimental art galleries, and since then, he has dreamed of being an artist.
Innocent considers himself a self-taught artist since he has no formal training. He has stated that it was not in his plans to wait for an internship to get to exhibit in a gallery because this rarely happens to black artists.
4. He is the youngest African-American artist and the first to have two notable different thematic works.
He received this recognition thanks to his works “Egomaniac Trump” and “39 Drawings”. In 2016, Innocent made a public intervention with Getty Image’s photographer, Alex Wong, with the image of Donald Trump. His face was graffitied with the phrase Egomaniac Trump. The poster was distributed during his election campaign in the streets of different neighborhoods.
Through street art, the artist expresses his political stance and, most importantly, reminds
passers-by of the importance of the democratic vote. This work is also a representation of culture as a social right.
On the other hand, “39 Drawings” was his first important work. It consists of a collection of drawings with phrases that were made throughout his adolescence. These works are characterized by the curved lines’ childlike character, the abstract and simple drawings, the use of primary colors, and spontaneous writing. Innocent explores writing in its graphic expression, and the deconstruction of language as some words can be upside down, joined together in a similar way to a Scrabble, or crossed out.
5. He directed documentaries
His most recent achievements include two audiovisual projects, “Dissection” (2019) and “Masculinity” (2020). In “Dissection,” the artist collected a series of interviews with African- American men, women, and transgender people on various topics that reflect the experience of being black in the United States.
In “Masculinity,” the interviews this time portray the social pressure on manhood that has been called toxic masculinity due to the damage it has caused to both men and women. The short documentary discusses the supposed masculine qualities such as strength, leadership, and coldness imposed and naturalized. Innocent takes a theme that men often ignore, and this documentary piece aims to change that. It is necessary to make it visible to realize that the patriarchal constructions hurt all citizens. In addition to being a visual artist, Innocent is considered an emerging filmmaker representing the complexity of the African American experience in New York from an everyday perspective.
To learn more about Jason Innocent visit: www..JasonInnocent.com