Justin Bouah: White Artist Obsessed with Black Culture

  In the United States, there is a white artist who is keen on black culture. His attractive paintings vividly present the life of the black world and their outlook on life and world.
  A DJ spinning a record while tilting his head to listen to the music coming from his headphones, an actor breakdance among the onlookers, and Louis Armstrong (American jazz musician) looking up at the night sky and playing the trumpet against the background of the Brooklyn Bridge. ), Kobe Bryant jumping for a dunk… Under the brush of Justin Bua (53), the characters’ faces, hands and feet are exaggerated and deformed, making it look as if they were close-up with an ultra-wide-angle lens Photos taken from a distance. His unique perspective on painting makes people deeply attracted.
  Bua started out as a commercial artist, primarily designing skateboards and CD covers, as well as designing video game characters such as “NBA (National Basketball League) Street” and “NFL (American Football League) Street.” In 2012, Bua won the Best Image Award for his critically acclaimed documentary with NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Replicas of Bua’s masterpiece “DJ” were also very popular, with more than 13 million copies sold; his ingenious designs of clothing and shoes quickly sold out. Today, in addition to the title of artist, he is also an excellent entrepreneur and writer, and even former US President Bill Clinton, Hollywood superstars Robert De Niro and Christina Ricci, as well as some politicians, are his loyal fans.
  Bua was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York, and was raised by a white mother, a graphic designer, whose father evaporated just two days after he was born on the grounds of “going out to buy milk.” Bua knew nothing about his father, except that his ancestors were Puerto Rican immigrants.
  The area where Bua’s home is located is known as the Bachelor’s Quarter. Most of them are studio apartments where low-income people live. As soon as they walk out the door, drug dealers, prostitutes and hooligans are everywhere. One day, 7-year-old Bua was walking alone on the street, and was suddenly threatened by a white man: “Bring out the money!” The penniless Bua took out two candies from his pocket and handed them to the man. His face panicked and said, “I only have this.” At this time, the man found a policeman nearby and left in a hurry. I saw two police officers casually walking beside Bua, and one policeman said, “Children, New York is messy, so get used to it.” Bua was shocked at the time: the police didn’t even save the child, and said, “Get used to it.” Enough”! “I thought the police would come to help, but they didn’t,” he recalls. “My mother was busy with work and didn’t have time to take care of me, so I had to protect myself. This was the first time I felt the cruelty of reality. New York is full of crime and crime. The chaotic social environment makes people feel like they are in an ‘urban jungle’.”

Bua’s “DJ”

  Living in such a harsh environment, Bua and the friends around him have experienced all kinds of thrills and excitement. While her mother was working, Bua, who had no siblings, often watched TV at home alone. As he made more and more friends, Bua often went out to play with them. At the age of 13, he gradually broadened his horizons and experienced various “stimulations” that affected his future career.
  The Upper West Side of Manhattan is a melting pot of many cultures and races. Almost all of Bua’s friends were black. Graffiti art can be found everywhere in subway stations, public walls and parks, and hip-hop and rap music can be heard at any time. Black youth parkour past building after building while listening to music, and even get free access to world-renowned art museums such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum at any time. “It’s crazy to play hide-and-seek in front of Rembrandt and Hokusai at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, isn’t it?” Buah said with a smile, “Everything is thrilling…”
  Buah was really hooked then Break dancing, machine dancing, and hip hop dance, so much so that when it comes to racial issues, Bua’s stance is completely black, which also makes him a minority among whites, often ridiculed and misunderstood: “A white man in this What the hell is a place for?” Still, Bua believed he had some black ancestry until he was tested for DNA.

Model of Bua’s work

  In the summer when Bua was 15 years old, in order to get rid of the harsh environment of the “urban jungle” and change a new way of life, her mother rented a short-term house in Long Beach, a seaside town an hour away from home. One day, Bua took his black friend Ali to the beach to play. When they were walking on the road, a car suddenly stopped in front of them. Two young men in the car yelled at him, “Why did you take black people to play?” Bua asked back. Said: “This is my friend, what’s wrong with taking friends to play?” The man in the car turned to Ali and scolded arrogantly: “Black people are not allowed to come here!” “Get out now!” Bua felt that they could not Li Yu, quickly took Ali away. About an hour later, the man in the car brought about 20 people to the beach, and they were looking for Ali with iron bars and hammers in their hands. Seeing this, Bua and Ali panicked and ran desperately. It took more than 10 minutes to get rid of those people, but the feeling of running for their lives felt like they had endured long hours. The gang didn’t catch the two children, but angrily drove the bulldozer and damaged the windows and walls of Bua’s mother’s rented house… At that time, Long Beach was mainly a white and blue-collar area, Bua recalled: “I was alone. I almost got killed for bringing my black friends. It was like the ‘
  lynching ‘ of black people in the South in the 1950s! How much hatred is there between races?” On the Upper West Side, Bua rarely encountered racism, but since leaving the Upper West Side, he has been amazed at how dangerous it is for black people to live in this country. “Let’s get out of here quickly, do you still want to continue this nightmare?” Bua still clearly remembers what Ali said at that time, full of fear.

  When Bua was 16, gentrification on the Upper West Side accelerated, and working-class people moved out of Manhattan. Because of rising rents, my mother moved the family to Flatbush, Brooklyn, which is almost entirely black. Due to the high crime rate, Bua’s friends refused to visit his house on the grounds that it was “too dangerous”. It’s only 15 minutes from the subway station to the house, but Bua usually walks fast so as not to get mugged or get into trouble.
  It was the early morning of the second day when a nearby friend came to Bua’s house, and the mother’s screams resounded throughout the house. Bua and friends, who were sleeping upstairs, jumped up, picked up the baseball bat in the room, and ran downstairs to where her mother was. A young black man with a crowbar snatched his mother’s 22-gauge gun and escaped through the window, while her mother cried and chased. The anti-theft device in the house made a loud siren, and the police who came to hear that the “murderer was armed” did not dare to enter the house, and “waited for the rabbit” outside, and the black man took the opportunity to escape. “It’s crazy, it’s like watching a movie. But that’s the reality I’m facing.”
  In the five or six years since then, Bua’s home has been robbed six times. Bua was stabbed to the head with a gun by the robber and stabbed with a blade. How to prevent robbery and how not to be stabbed or attacked by knives is a constant headache for him. “That’s the ‘survival way’ to get through every day safely. The black friends around are also facing the same situation, and you can often hear the sound of gunfire nearby,” he said.

Bua listening in front of “The Trumpeter”

Bua’s “1981”

  Bua’s paintings have a wide range of prototypes, ranging from Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, President Obama, rap legend Tupac, LL Cool Jay (rapper) and other celebrities, to unknown DJs, dancers, Guitarist, pianist, etc. “What I paint is my ‘heroes’. Whether it’s celebrities or ordinary people, they’re people who move me and have a huge positive impact on me.”
  Of course, Bua paints the most in everyday life An ordinary and real person. “It is their unique personalities that enrich our community and culture. Instead of painting their appearance and appearance, I try to capture their hearts, emotions and spirits and present them in paintings. For example, a man playing in a basement The man playing the disc, there is no audience around him, but he is very focused and devoted, which has nothing to do with fame and fortune; the free spirit shown by the dancers is also the same, full of unparalleled joy and satisfaction from being released from repression .” Bua had great respect for these civilian heroes who lived tenaciously in the “urban jungle”.
  Bua never peeks into the world and culture of black people from the perspective of white people, but based on his living environment and growth experience, he fully understands the suffering and plight of black people, and focuses on the strong and enterprising nature that all human beings have in common. , optimism and other spirits, convey energetic positive energy to people through painting. Although he has experienced the pain of finding a “way to survive”, Bua has never had the idea of ​​”getting out of here”, which makes his works always grounded and shocking. Talking about his dreams and goals, he hopes to create more distinctive works, and currently he is focusing his energy on character modeling projects in popular works.

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