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Eazy E = MC² and Other Hilarious Mashup Portraits

What do Sade and Drake have in common? The artist Justin Hager draws it out.
December 4, 2015, 2:10pm
All images courtesy the artist and Slow Culture Gallery

80s TV stars meet 90s rappers in the sketches that have made Justin Hager infamous. Hager's mashups of words and illustrations are unexpected, sometimes vulgar, but always thought provoking. For the artist's first LA solo exhibition, Earth People, he presents a collection of 30 new genre-bending works at Slow Culture. This new collection still has all of the rap characters but with more colorful compositions.

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A self-taught artist living and working in New York, Hager's illustrations and paintings draw inspiration from childhood, blending the concept of nostalgia with images from pop-culture. The intricacies in the works of Earth People address a commentary on how contemporary culture shapes our nostalgia.

Hager tells The Creators Project, “The paintings in this show are situational paintings of things I wish would happen in real life, but don’t. The play on words is still there, but it’s not written on the painting, or as obvious as it was in my past work. The punch line is there but you can either figure it out for yourself or make your own narrative for the paintings.”

To get a better sense of his work, a piece featured on his website titled Tecate Diggs Original, Hager illustrates Taye Diggs face popping out of the Mexican beer can. Pubic Enemy where the artist displays an older Public Enemy ansemble with Flavor Flav in the lead naked with a clock covering his privates. The pieces and thoughts are wacky and imaginative. In the newer works created for Earth People, the compostions seem more serious and include more color but they still manage to be clever and irreverent.

"Since I started making the play on words drawings and paintings I also started exploring which words look best together and what letters I like to write. It has been a learning process for me,” says Hager. “I’m always thinking of new ideas or directions to take my artwork. I have a continuous list of ideas that keeps growing everyday and I get a lot of ideas in my sleep. I just have to write them down as soon as I wake up or they’ll go away.”

As his work takes on more complexity, Hager says, “I think it has been a natural progression. When I first started I was making bic pen drawings on printer paper because I didn’t know how to paint. I've been learning new techniques and using new materials to try to make the scenes I have in my head translate on a canvas. The paintings in the show at Slow Culture show are finally starting to look exactly like I imagine them.” Trying to create a world that doesn’t exist, and delve further into it as much as he can.

“The paintings are pretty much an extension of my personality. I always reference items of nostalgia and all the stuff I’m fascinated with, and weave them together by means of words and paint. I’m just trying to keep them as raw, real and honest as I can.”

To learn more about the artist click here.

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