In Gallery Two
Michael Pellew is a Brooklyn based artist who is known for his humorous ruminations on pop culture and celebrity mash-ups. His inspiration comes from speed–metal, Taylor Swift, Chicago Deep House and reality TV stars. Michael’s seemingly simple and succinct drawings use playful line quality and imaginative cultural observations to develop an alternate universe where pop culture is thrown into a blender, giving the viewer random moments that are exuberant, painfully honest, witty and at times, grim. His subject matter is NYC trains and buses, fashion design, “punk funk freaks from the East Village and around the Tri-State area” and pop portraits of favorite singers and performers. Hip fashion retailer Opening Ceremony carries Michael’s greeting cards in Manhattan and Los Angeles and his work is in the corporate collections of Citibank, J. Crew, and PAPER Magazine, who has dubbed him their “favorite artist.”
The show opens with a free reception on Friday, June 1 from 5 to 8 and runs through July 7, 2018.
The interview below was by Matthew Bede Murphy commissioned by the gallery on the occasion of this show. Murphy is an artist, curator, and founder of LAND Gallery and Studio, a unique nonprofit day habilitation program that teaches life skills through the modality of art. Murphy first met Michael Pellew while recruiting artists for Brooklyn’s first art-based day habilitation program. LAND opened its doors in 2005 and continues to be Pellew’s primary creative home.
Matthew Bede Murphy: Michael, good to speak with you today, how long have we known each other?
Michael Pellew: A long time, 15 years – I met you in 2003, you had more hair.
MM: I did have more hair then! In 2005 I invited you to be a member of the LAND gallery. Are you glad you said yes?
MP: Yes indeed because if I ever say I’m leaving you will cry and be sad. We are a family, we must stay a family and never break up.
MM: Please don’t ever leave Michael! What’s your favorite thing to do at LAND?
MP: Big drawings in the morning and books at 12 noon, meet my fans and bang my head. I also like trips to the library to watch MTV classic on the computers…I want my MTV. For my birthday I’m creating a mosh pit and I want a live band at LAND.
MM: Wow, that’s a plan, we will definitely have a party. You’re the biggest metalhead I know but you also love Taylor Swift. I find that very interesting as you treat them equally in your work.
MP: I like to keep it sinister but also I like Taylor, I would like to meet her and ask her about the teardrops on her guitar. I would ask Slayer for dating advice.
MM: Do you love Slayer and Taylor swift equally?
MP: Yes, completely, strictly serious- like they are dating.
MM: You are very disciplined Michael, do you work at home as well?
MP: Yes, I make greeting cards, fashion books and sometimes create cardboard cities made of cereal boxes. I use composition notebooks for ideas and my new Pin Poof book is all about blondes and hairstyles and model looks.
MM: In 2003 I was introduced to your Punk Funk Freaks from the Lower Eastside, a series that would lead to Celebrity Sightings cards. When did you start mixing celebrities up?
MP: Michael Jackson is my best friend and I remember Brook Shields dated in 83 and went to the Grammys in 1993…I like to remember that time and draw that in a card.
MM: Kinda like paying tribute to them?
MP: Yeah, Michael Jackson is my brother and he and Brook Shields hung out in 1981 and I like to have them on a date having wine and talking.
MM: You met Robin Williams when he visited LAND in the fall of 2012. That was an amazing moment, what a sweet man. What did you ask him?
MM: I asked him what was his favorite Goth band was and took a photo with him.
MM: What did he say when you asked him about who his fav goth artists was?
MP: He said Bauhaus.
MM: But you corrected him ….
MP: Yes, Siouxsie and the Banshees is better, so I told him so. Cities in Dust …. she is a goth grandma.
MM: Wow, I know you’re a huge fan of Siouxsie, one of my faves as well. You call yourself many things: The Grandfather of Art, Bump It Teacher; do you have any other nicknames you call yourself?
MP: I’m the Godfather of Art, Matt, get it right and Daddy’s Little Boy, Music Therapist and Master DJ, but no NAPSTER please, I don’t want to be arrested.
MM: No please, no Napster, haha. What events would you DJ?
MP: I want to DJ weddings, bar mitzvahs and headbanging birthdays.
MM: Not only are you a pop culture fan and expert you are a NYC transportation fan, if you could be any subway or a bus what would that be?
MP: A train, Rio No.2977, no graffiti please as far as buses I would be 1977 flexible 531D2-6-1 9,000. It operates on 5103 and goes to Staten Island.
MM: This is you first solo show at a major gallery in the US; what would you like the name of this show be?
MP: #1 Under Control World Tour
MP: That’s a great title! Can I ask you what is inspiring you at the moment?
MP: My new thing is the PIN –OUT hairstyle and teaching the youth to follow their dreams and do better hairstyles.
MM: That’s inspiring stuff Michael, better hair for the future of the USA. If you could be in any band, what would it be and what instrument would you play?
MP: Playing lead guitar in Metallica of course!
MM: What advice would you give an artists starting in the biz?
MP: Don’t be a sell out.