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Timothy Curtis: Things To Remember

Kunle F. Martins, formerly known as Earsnot, observing a Timothy Curtis painting

Kunle F. Martins, formerly known as Earsnot, observing a Timothy Curtis painting

That’s the thing about artists and street culture in New York City, it’s one big community. June 20, 2019, the opening reception of Timothy Curtis’ first solo show in America, was a testament to that. Albertz Benda, in Chelsea, hosted Curtis’ solo show “Things To Remember,” which opened to an enormous crowd.

Timothy Curtis is a self-taught artist that was born in Philadelphia, and now lives and works out of Brooklyn. According to Albertz Benda, “Since establishing a focused studio practice in 2015, Curtis realized his first solo exhibition in November 2017 at Kaikai Kiki’s Hidari Zingaro gallery in Tokyo, Japan, curated by Takashi Murakami.”

The two hour opening reception saw a crowd of Curtis’ friends, family, and fans walk through the gallery rooms and admire the deeply personal works the artist had created. The walls were covered in variations of the artist’s signature emotive faces. Some of these oil paintings are big enough to cover the wall from the floor to the ceiling. Another recurring motif throughout the show is the bicycle. The gallery affirms that “Curtis associates the bicycle with basic freedoms, and with the memory of deceased friends who were less fortunate in their individual crusades to surmount environmental limitations.” Ahead of the opening, Curtis even shares a story on his Instagram account about his friend Bernie, aka VESZ, who sadly passed away, and shares the installation that is dedicated to him and his memory. (Click the image to read caption)

Image from Timothy Curtis’ instagram. The caption reads:  1999 I dropped out of ninth grade and became a bike messenger in Philadelphia at the age of 15. I almost immediately met my friend Bernie aka VESZ. Vesz was about 22 or so at the time and we clicked over graffiti and messengering. We would ride home together after work to West Philly several times a week and he always bought me breakfast every Friday morning at Olga’s. Everyone loved Vesz. He was so kind and so loving and I don’t think I ever heard him say anything bad about another human in my life. Sadly Vesz passed away around 2005-6 and was never forgotten. He wrote me a letter shortly before passing while I was incarcerated saying that I am a star and that I am loved and I will become something. (I still have this letter)... Fast forward to 2017 and I get a call from my friend Dan saying Vesz bike just was brought into the shop and that Ryan aka Bonanza protected it all these years. (Rip Bonanaza ❤️) For my first solo exhibition I called upon a few more friends ( Phil D, Adam and Simon @transportcycles) to get Vesz bike turned into a monument of his life and his story. This will be on view at my first solo exhibition and we took the bike apart and built it around the pole to take on the life of one of my bike drawings and it faces west symbolizing our direction. This is a piece made with love and many miles and many hands and hearts. Come see Bernie (Vesz) tonight as we celebrate him. ❤️

Image from Timothy Curtis’ instagram. The caption reads: 1999 I dropped out of ninth grade and became a bike messenger in Philadelphia at the age of 15. I almost immediately met my friend Bernie aka VESZ. Vesz was about 22 or so at the time and we clicked over graffiti and messengering. We would ride home together after work to West Philly several times a week and he always bought me breakfast every Friday morning at Olga’s. Everyone loved Vesz. He was so kind and so loving and I don’t think I ever heard him say anything bad about another human in my life. Sadly Vesz passed away around 2005-6 and was never forgotten. He wrote me a letter shortly before passing while I was incarcerated saying that I am a star and that I am loved and I will become something. (I still have this letter)... Fast forward to 2017 and I get a call from my friend Dan saying Vesz bike just was brought into the shop and that Ryan aka Bonanza protected it all these years. (Rip Bonanaza ❤️) For my first solo exhibition I called upon a few more friends ( Phil D, Adam and Simon @transportcycles) to get Vesz bike turned into a monument of his life and his story. This will be on view at my first solo exhibition and we took the bike apart and built it around the pole to take on the life of one of my bike drawings and it faces west symbolizing our direction. This is a piece made with love and many miles and many hands and hearts. Come see Bernie (Vesz) tonight as we celebrate him. ❤️

Curtis’ figures can often be found entangled with each other, emphasizing the fluidity of his drawings. Along with large canvases, a wall was dedicated to his framed drawings of these faces and bicycles as well. I congratulated Timothy Curtis on such a well received show, and expressed how much I enjoyed the work. Curtis created all brand new pieces for this show. “Yeah, all of this has been made in the last one month,” he mentioned. “We leave everything to the last minute,” he continued with a laugh. That’s how artists work though, right? With so many upcoming projects, I can’t blame him. His work can also be seen in the much awaited Beyond The Streets exhibition that opens to the public on June 21, 2019.

Beyond The Streets also features some of Curtis’ close friends that attended the opening of his solo show. One of them was Steve “ESPO” Powers. Powers, who is also from Philadelphia, created On The Go magazine along with Ari Saal Forman. Powers became nationally known for his graffiti, but moved on to studio art and creating stunning murals in cities across the globe. Metuchen, NJ, where my parents live, happens to be one of those cities; and Powers’ “Stay In Touch” mural is one of the first things you can notice when you get off at the Metuchen train station.

Another attendee was Kunle F. Martins, whose work can also be seen at Beyond The Streets. Martins, who I had the pleasure of meeting previously at the opening of his show “Portraits: Lookin Like A Snack,” was known as Earsnot for the last two decades. Martins is a New York graffiti legend, who is the founding member of the IRAK crew. He can be seen discussing graffiti in some of the opening shots of Doug Pray’s documentary Infamy (here).

Artists, friends, admirers, and family were all in attendance to support Timothy Curtis, who is a well-loved part of a community that truly appreciates his talent. In an Instagram post, Steve ESPO Powers explains, “The After School is a group of artists that started working in the 90’s to give graffiti a fresh start in the art world and to get art out of the white box and back on the street. Ruby Neri and Alicia McCarthy were up in the streets and the galleries in SF. Barry McGee, Todd James and Stephen Powers collaborated on the 1999 exhibition Street Market that had an immediate and lasting impact on a generation of artists.” He adds, “The After School continues on with Timothy Curtis and Bert Krak and goes back to where it all began, Somewhere after detention and late for dinner.”
And this is just the start for Timothy Curtis.

You can scroll through images of some of Timothy Curtis’ new work, taken at the opening reception, below.