By Katie WebbArts & Entertainment Editor
Lil Wayne’s signature raspy voice commands attention, but his rap game is not what’s calling people to see him at the FORM gallery. The portrait series #Dopeart by Henry Fuller, a.k.a. King H., redefines the rapper and other celebrity mugs in this high-contrast pop art collection.
“I did a portrait of J.R. Smith from the Knicks, I tagged him on Instagram and he actually reposted my picture and hashtagged it ‘Dopeart,’ so from there I went with the dope art theme,” said Fuller.
High-profile names are the subjects of Fuller’s oil paintings and charcoal drawings. Rappers dominate his portfolio, subjects who are like caricatures of themselves already but take on another level of cartoonish, heightened reality through Fuller’s interpretations.
Wiz Khalifa’s I-don’t-give-a-damn expression evokes the industry struggle from the bottom to the top. Rick Ross’s intricate tattoos are inked on like war paint, detailed and shaded meticulously. Fuller recreates it all on point, bringing the artists to life.
Fuller sat in front of the charcoal pieces for several hours at a time, doing them in one sitting. The ink, some parts more abstract than others, he felt added a layer of emotional reality to the subjects.
“I’m actually looking to get involved in tattooing myself,” said Fuller. He’s designed tattoos for his friends in the past and has a few himself. His attention to detail in replicating the celebrity ink affirms that he’d make a skilled tattoo artist.
Though his charcoal drawings are already impressive, it’s his oil paintings that are featured in the gallery. Fuller described his process for creating the paintings from available images of celebrities.
“I don’t like to copy directly, so I usually take an image from online and I alter it myself in Photoshop. I either give a certain effect or change the colors or something to make it my own original subject, and then I repaint that,” said Fuller.
Tyler, the Creator, among others, is painted in a street art style reminiscent of modern graphic designer Shepard Fairey – the OBEY and Barack Obama “Hope” posters illustrator.
The paintings by Fuller are primarily one color, gray for his Tyler, the Creator portrait. Fuller forgoes blending the colors as they progress from dark to light. Instead, he leaves a drastic contrast between shades. The effect? – sick.
If any of the rappers Fuller executed in this style were looking to start a skating label, they would not have to look any further for a merchandise designer.
In fact, Fuller is also an adept graphic designer, as well as a videographer and photographer.
“I would love to get involved in any aspect [of the art world] with advertisement or graphics, I’m sure once the right person sees my portraits… I actually design mix tape covers for a lot of local artists, rappers and singers in the area. I do music videos, I shoot and edit them myself,” said Fuller.
This jack-of-all-trades has worked most notably with Jim Jones, a member of the hip hop group The Diplomats a.k.a. Dipset. Jones is a cousin of Fullers.
Keeping business in the family, Fuller also collaborates with his brother, A-Lex the Great. He is the media producer for his brother’s rap career.
However, his most recent family project, a stunning portrait of his mother sitting in a garden of vibrant, oversaturated flowers, reveals the most heart of all his work.
Fuller worked tirelessly on the piece for three weeks before the show and hung it with the paint still drying, on a wall by itself in the gallery. Seemingly disjointed from the rest of the work and the #Dopeart theme, the sentimental garden scene is a fine exception. It represents the artist’s family-oriented nature.
The artist’s goal is simple: King H. wants to be known. But unlike his insane replications of celebrity facades, he won’t be mimicking their oftentimes shoddy paths to fame.
“I just want to get noticed in any positive way. I’m not even really concerned with the money or commissions,” said Fuller. “I’m just hoping this show will allow a lot more people who don’t know my name to really know who I am.”
Fuller is an artist, and a highly respectable one. #Dopeart is in the FORM gallery, Calkins Hall, opening reception at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14.