Outsider Art in the Gallery

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Street artist receives first solo show, with a little help from a friend and fan


  • Beau's work for his upcoming show, "Re-popping Pop," which opens Dec. 11.

  • Street artist Beau, whose solo show "Re-popping Pop" opens in the Carini Lang showroom on Dec. 11. Photo Credit: Hugh Burkhardt

If You Go

The BEAU Show: Re-Popping Pop

What: An exhibition of paintings by street artist BEAU.

When: Dec. 11-18

Gallery hours 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Where: Carini Lang, 335 Greenwich St.

Contact: 646-613-0497

It started with a face.

In the fall of 2011, as the Occupy Wall Street movement swelled, Joseph Carini, a maker of high-end, hand-made carpets through his Tribeca-based company Carini Lang, started photographing street art around Manhattan. He related to the illicit work’s inherent rebellion during a time when he was frustrated with over-development and corporate greed.

That’s when he encountered Beau, a street artist whose linear paintings and drawings of a man’s face captured his attention.

“I liked it because I didn’t know what it was,” said Carini. “The face often looks anxious, and I just related to it.”

After contacting Beau, Carini went to work on a series of custom carpets incorporating the work of graffiti writers and street artists, many of whom Beau helped find, and the pair co-curated a show of the work this past spring.

Now, Carini is returning the favor, curating Beau’s first solo gallery show in Manhattan, “Re-popping Pop,” which opens Dec. 11 at Carini Lang’s Tribeca space.

“It educates me on how to make a living as an artist,” Beau said of the collaboration as he sat on a sofa, across from Carini, in the company’s showroom.

At first the pairing appears, if not quite odd, then slightly incongruous. Carini, a 53-year-old Manhattan native, designs luxury goods hand-made in Nepal over several months, which can sell for five figures. The expansive Carini Lang showroom on Greenwich Street, located in a former bank building constructed in 1928, with its track lighting, high ceilings, thick rectangular columns and marble floors, offers a fitting atmosphere for his sumptuous decorative carpets.

Beau, a 30-year-old Flushing, Queens resident, assuredly calls himself “still a struggling artist.” He only just lives off his work, he said, and supplements the money he makes from selling his art with commissioned work, including public murals and signs for corporate offices. He’s staying away from street art for the moment for fear of another arrest or run-in with the Vandal Squad (officially the New York Police Department’s Citywide Vandals Taskforce), though he hopes that with a little financial security he can return to the work that caught Carini’s eye in 2011.

“I’m not done on the streets,” he said. “I still genuinely love graffiti and street art and I never intend on quitting, but I need to also be level-headed as an artist and a businessman for my future, so that when I’m 50 I’m not starved.”

Beau, whose full name is Beau Bradbury, did some work under the tag name Rose before deciding to use his legal name, a choice he now recognizes might not have been the wisest. Born in Connecticut, he grew up in Washington, Hawaii and Florida (his father was a Navy diver and trained SEALs in Florida) and moved to New York in 2008. Graffiti writing offered a way into the city’s competitive and saturated art scene.

“I always had the intention to be gallery-bound,” he said. “This is a lifestyle that I live, so there is no separation for me. This is how I make my living. I used graffiti, street art as my lever to get into everybody’s psychology when I first moved here, purposely.”

As a child, he had a penchant for drawing, but little interest in academics. He dropped out of high school and has no formal training as an artist; when he needed an income he started selling paintings. His first sold for about $30 in 2002.

Dressed in all black, with thick-rimmed glasses, high socks and jeans rolled above his ankles, Beau has a restless energy that bleeds into his speech; sometimes he cut himself off mid-sentence, as if in a rush to get to the next thought. He’s lightly tattooed on his arms, and even inked a few of the designs himself, using binder clips to keep his skin taut. His days blend together as he readies for the show, he said, which seems entirely plausible even without a deadline.

“He doesn’t sleep,” Carini said. “He’s working all the time.”

Carini acts as both a gallery director and curator of the show, but also like a mentor or coach. Though Beau is also an abstract painter, Carini advised him to create accessible work for the show that can sell easily; the approximately 30 pieces lean pop, as “digested through the eyes of a street artist,” Carini said.

The relationship appears effortless and lived in, with Carini scrolling through photos of Beau’s pieces and punctuating conversation with subtle critique.

“You left it really raw,” Carini said about a painting with the word POP in block letters and filled in with smudges of red paint. “I like that. Don’t finish it.”

Some paintings are certainly Warholian; cartoonish Marilyn Monroe images are unabashedly referential. Some incorporate Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, corporate logos or Jeff Koons sculptures. Smaller pieces, like a black and white animated aerosol can on a hot pink background, are priced around $400, while the larger, more elaborate work they hope will go for upwards of $5,000. Carini will recoup the costs of the show but isn’t looking to profit from any sales.

Carini wants Beau to have confidence in his work and trust his instincts, and said self-consciousness creeps into his process, too, as it did with the graffiti carpets, which is perhaps an innate challenge for those with both artistic visions and commercial interests.

For Beau, bringing his work inside, while always his goal, will also, he hopes, draw deep-pocketed patrons and allow him to return to working on the streets.

“Would you do it if you made a lot of money?” Carini asked.

Beau didn’t hesitate.

“I can’t wait to do big abstract beautiful pieces on the nicest wall just to see what kind of reaction,” Beau said, stopping mid-sentence and changing direction. “Screw the reaction. For my own personal benefit, for how it makes me feel doing it.”

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