Tyler Sean brings ‘pretty things’ to Aspen Art Gallery

Artist Tyler Sean at the Aspen Art Gallery.
Courtesy photo


What: Tyler Sean, “Collection of ‘Pretty’ Things”

Where: Aspen Art Gallery

When: Meet the artist Friday, June 29, 5 p.m.; artist talk 6 p.m.

More info:

Some of the biggest names in contemporary art descended on Aspen this week — Carrie Mae Weems and Hank Willis Thomas at Ideas Fest, Cheryl Donegan opening an exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum, Shepard Fairey unveiling his downtown mural and opening his 212 Gallery show — but there’s also a kid here you probably haven’t heard of yet named Tyler Sean.

The south Florida-based artist, 23, has his first solo gallery exhibition up at the Aspen Art Gallery. He’ll give an artist talk this evening at 6 p.m.

Titled “A Collection of ‘Pretty’ Things,” the show is made up of photo-realistic paintings he’s created through a painstaking spray-paint and stencil process.

“People think it’s computer-generated, but I’m laying it down layer by layer and stencil by stencil, spraying it,” Sean explained Thursday afternoon at the gallery. “It allows me to achieve an extremely detailed aesthetic in a medium that you don’t think of as detail-oriented.”

Sean considered drawing and painting hobbies until relatively recently, when he said using art as therapy saved his life.

Since high school, he said, he’d enjoyed drawing hyper-realistic portraits for fun. But as he went through a deep struggle to manage his obsessive-compulsive disorder, he found making art — throwing himself into his intricate spray-painting and layering process — offered him rare relief.

“Art was one of the only things I could do that was a positive,” he said. “It was the only time I could breathe. And it wasn’t so much about what I was expressing through my art. It’s just the act of creating that was therapeutic. That’s how it started.”

His creative breakthrough was perfecting his unique layered stencil and spray-painting process, with which he began making pieces on canvas and wood panels that riffed on celebrities and pop culture figures.

Little more than a year after Sean committed himself to this work, and began calling himself an artist, he found himself with a booth at the Spectrum Miami art fair where he won the 2017 Best Rising Artist Prize.

The show at the Aspen Art Gallery includes works incorporating images of icons like Ben Franklin and Audrey Hepburn along with celebrities like Kate Moss and Gigi Hadid. But Sean indicates he’s starting to outgrow this standard post-Warhol Pop Art fare. Some of the newest pieces in the show include spray-paint drawings of a skull made of crumpled paper and of a balloon dog, and another of bomber jackets surrounded by spray-painted text.

“I’m not interested in just becoming another Pop artist doing the same stuff,” he said. “Five years from now this will feel like a stepping stone to build up my aesthetic.”


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