Most of us find ourselves on the edge of greatness at some point in our lives. The journey to that summit of greatness can be difficult and to make it through the threshold, in your soul, there must exist an undying love for whatever it is that you do.
It can be whatever you want it to be. Maybe you have a passion for music or an undying need to be in front of a camera, no matter what it is, that voice inside you that says ‘You can do this!’ needs to be satisfied.
If you go on ignoring your true calling, all it will do is eat away at whatever life you have going on. And there are people that can deal with that. Still, there are also people like street artist Kai who found a way to answer that voice calling him to be creative.
We had a discussion over the phone around a month after Art Basel Miami 2018 had just ended. Of course, Kai killed it. Proving and pushing himself further than he ever has, Kai managed to make it down to Miami after tearing and having surgery on his ACL.
For him, this “art thing” is no joke. Kai said,
“You have to put in the time. You have to put in the effort. You have to be willing to push yourself because sometimes there are things that you don’t know you can do…The passion and love will be interpreted by everyone and they will start to give you back that love that you give to them.”
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Kai hit the mainstream after he gained street cred from his “Morons” art campaign. He was inspired to hit up walls with the controversial posters of cigarette boxes boasting a giant ‘moron’ text stamped on the front. The goal was to get his dad to stop smoking the death sticks.
Moving forward, Kai would take the momentum he garnered off of his ‘Moron’ street campaign and focus on a new creative project, one that was more focused on his opinion of society.
“Lost Values” would hit the ground running. The images the LA-based artist Kai created would bring to light the iconic brands we use every day and the lasting effects they’ve had on the culture.
Taking his craft to another level, Kai would then drop his “Now Royalty” collection. The dope collection paid homage to American heroes like Pharrell, Kanye, and Ice Cube by using neoclassical techniques to highlight their noble statuses.
Now, Kai directs most of his creative time to develop an artistic narrative for his “IF” (imaginary friend) character.
The “IF” character looks familiar, doesn’t it? You’ve probably walked by a mural before as they have been painted by Kai on walls all over the globe. Thus far the LA native has gone to work in major cities like Paris, NYC, and London.
In fact, Kai recently pulled up to ATL to do the first mural since he had surgery on his ACL. There he met up with Dolphin wide receiver Danny Amendola and Atlanta musical artist Mr. Hotspot to bring to life a 60-foot mural in midtown Atlanta.
In many ways, each rendition that Kai creates of his “Imaginary Friend” represents an in-depth knowledge of his craft. This goes without saying that the 26-year-old is well learned and is constantly looking for new ways to incorporate old techniques into his contemporary works.
With his understanding of throwback artistic methods such as relief and sculpture work, it’s easy to see that Kai has a deep respect for his artsy discipline. During our discussion, he touched on the importance of combining the old and new school.
Obviously, with social media platforms like Instagram on the rise, it’s easy for artists everywhere to create their own narrative. This means there are millions of people that can access your art every day, but this population of curious timeline scrollers also includes the tech-savvy OGs of the game.
This is why the importance of understanding art history and learning old techniques is of utter importance. Kai stressed to us, during our discussion, why combining both worlds are key components to an artist’s success. He said,
“It’s important that an artist does narrate and curate what people understand and learn about who the artist and what the artist stands for, but old school people really do base all of their understanding in the amount of effort it takes to put into your work.”
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This year I pushed my self to make more sculptures! It was honestly, extremely hard to go from 2D, to reliefs, to fully 3D. Im proud of the new sculptures, but The Struggle has a special place in my heart because it’s a depiction of a battle I face all day everyday day ! THE STRUGGLE Edition of 8 plus 4 AP 24” x 96” x 18” (61cm x 244cm x 46cm) Fiberglass, rope
It’s easy to see that the messages in all of Kai’s artworks come from the heart. The ideas he has conceptualized leave a lasting effect on the lucky ones who have had an opportunity to see his pieces.
Whether it be his version of a broken heart, artistic viewpoint on the constant battle between love and money, or the pressure of time, all of his artworks speak to the human inside of us.
Picking Kai’s brain to see how someone can create pieces that are so relatable we touched on some of our favorite creatives like J. Cole and Jeff Coons. He takes away some important characteristics from these two icons.
Kai reminisced about when he went to a Cole “4 Your Eyez Only” concert where the rapper was draped in an orange jumpsuit and the stage he performed on was smack-dab in the center of the stadium. To Kai, that performance represents giving your craft everything you’ve got and showing people your entire heart.
“It’s thinking about what your heart feels…If you give that artwork a little bit of love, passion, hard work, and your time and effort it turns into something beautiful people want to be a part of…”
Know that Kai is working on his next artistic idea and maybe it’ll be a new mural or a new artwork displayed in an exhibition. Whatever his latest conceptualization of culture may be we also know that it will touch the heart of whoever sees it.
For sure we’ll all be looking to see whatever moves he makes within the art world. Until then he charged creatives on the come up to “believe in yourself.”
“You can never know enough of what you are trying to do because there is someone who’s done it before you and they’ve learned lessons that they can teach you. Never stop learning, Never stop studying, Never stop pushing yourself. Never give up,” said Kai.