Los Angeles-based artist Kai Guetta is turning heads in Wynwood with his solo exhibition, “Now Royalty,” at Lulu Laboratorium.
The walls of the 10,000-square-foot gallery, 173 NW 23rd St., are decked with what the 21-year-old painter describes as his take on “American royalty.” Rap icons such as Notorious B.I.G., Easy E, Jay Z and Beyonce, Kanye West Lil’ Kim, and Drake are presented as nobility in classic attire.
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“It’s the way that Europe sees their royalty. We don’t have that here, but when you look at hip hop artists, you see our society copy them — from the words we say to what we wear,” Guetta said.
Guetta is not only influenced by urban superstars, he also has a profound respect for Renaissance and Dutch/Flemish masters. In order to create the 27 oil-on-canvas pieces in this exhibit of portraits, he trained with experts from Italy and Holland to learn traditional techniques like using thick brushstrokes and the manipulation of lighting.
He says it “had to be done as realistically as possible.” (Think Rembrandt.) It took four years to complete and then two more years to figure out when to schedule the debut.
Despite Guetta’s age, he’s no stranger to the art world. At 14, he plastered LA with the word “Morons” for his first street art campaign dedicated to encouraging his father to quit smoking. Some might assume he was inspired by his uncle Mr. Brainwash, one of the world’s foremost graffiti artists.
“Now Royalty” is on view through April.