Rising Star Hebru Brantley is Back in the Gallery

Hebru Brantley is one of Chicago's rising stars. Brantley’s pop-infused contemporary art is inspired by Japanese anime and the bold aesthetics of street art pioneers Jean-Michel Basquiat, KAWS and Keith Haring. His latest show, Hebru Brantley: Eat Crap King, explores the relationship between the two major contemporary art archetypes of Basquiat and Andy Warhol. His second solo show at Vertical Gallery opens February 4, showcasing a style of work he has not shown in some time. Brantley shared a few thoughts with CGN on his new show.

CGN: Tell us a little about Hebru Brantley: Eat Crap King, your second solo show at Vertical Gallery.

Hebru Brantley: Eat Crap King explores the relationship between two major contemporary art archetypes Jean Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol. Placing these two artistic celebrities in the same two-dimensional frame fosters inquiries of power, race and the true nature of the celebrity relationship. The work considers the chasm between the two in their artistic careers. Warhol becomes a representative of the traditional institutionalized art world status, while Basquiat remained more rebellious and navigated the art world through non-conforming means previous to his death. Additionally, Eat Crap King exposes similarities between Brantley and Basquiat’s identities and modes of operation throughout the art world. Brantley’s non-traditional relationship between street art and the art world mirrors his muse.

Eat Crap King subversively probes the art world’s lineage by using familiar, iconic Pop-Art imagery and contemporary art archetypes. The series inspects hierarchy and status, while also reflecting on my own identity and the merging of the traditional and non-conforming within my career.

CGN: Give us some insight into the key image from the show, featuring a young, bare chested, African American man (Basquiat) in boxing gloves, next to a white haired, older man in a turtleneck (Warhol), also wearing boxing gloves.   

HB: It comes from the campaign that they did for their collaborative show back in the 80s, again with Basquiat representing the young, hungry, unestablished – and more primitive notion – of the art world, and Warhol representing the established traditionally accepted art world. The two worlds are always at odds, depending on who you're talking to. 

CGN: Your career has been moving at a breakneck pace the past 5 years or so. What does this show mean to you? 

HB: It's a chance to continue to show work as part of an exhibit and to get it out to the public. This show in particular is me switching gears a bit and going back to an older style that I haven't exhibited in quite some time. 

CGN: Where do you usually view Chicago in relation to your work? Do you try to share a certain personal story about your city with viewers? 

HB: I am from Chicago so there is naturally a bit of my personal life in it. It's where the work is created and where I'm from. 

CGN: In addition to your art work, you also have built the Hebru Brand - what are the latest developments on that front?

We're working on different projects, expanding the merchandising arm and working more in the digital space. Just trying to grow it organically. 


Hebru Brantley: Eat Crap King is on view at Vertical Gallery, 1016 N. Western Ave., from February 4-25, 2017.

An opening reception with the artist takes place Saturday, February 4, 6-10pm.