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The first time I met Skot Foreman was during a Purvis Young exhibit at Gallery Bar in 2008. I was pulled in Purvis’ world of struggle and redemption. I spoke with Skot briefly that evening and left thinking how Purvis Young had a real champion in Skot Foreman; he was someone that would fight to ensure the legacy of this artist (who was in failing health) would be properly maintained and not exploited. But as I got to know Skot I came to the conclusion that it was not just Purvis that made him zealous. Skot Foreman is passionate about three things: his two dogs Cassie and Reva and art. Another thing I learned after getting to know him over the past two years is that Skot is a rebel.
Unlike the famed General Sherman, Skot made his march in reverse conquering one city at a time. He opened Skot Foreman Fine Art in 1994 using various locations within the greater Miami area. In 2001, he moved to Atlanta opening up a space in Castleberry Hill, the city’s gallery district. Skot moved to Manhattan in 2004 and opened a gallery first on the upper eastside. Currently, he is settled in Tribeca. “I always had a connection to New York,” he states. He admits that his journey to “the hub of the international art market” was one filled with baby steps. Originally wanting to migrate to New York after 9/11, Skot re-thought the notion and moved three years later. “I have always been one to swim upstream,” he states. Skot called his initial move to the upper eastside “strategic,” and feels that living downtown is more indicative to his personality. “It’s more creative and laid back…more on the DL,” he says, “There is a new discovery around every corner.”
One of those discoveries happened to be situated underneath Skot’s Tribeca home and would eventually lead to an innovative union between Skot Foreman Fine Art and fashion brand Grown and Sewn. Skot was introduced to Grown and Sewn’s founder and head designer Rob Magness through Rob’s wife Sara, an award- winning interior designer. Over a glass of wine they discussed the space that would become Grown and Sewn’s home, 184 Duane Street. Both had the desire to use the space for their creative endeavors and Sara suggested collaborating. “Rob and I looked at each other and you could see the light going off in one another’s head,” he says. Skot believes the synergy between he and Rob created magic. “The word that keeps coming back to me is authentic because so many people that do walk in the space seem to respond to the fact that we’ve combined art and craft, which is truly a human thing but I think it’s probably been lost through the later half of the twentieth century and we wanted to rediscover that.”
Skot Foreman Fine Art amasses contemporary art of the 20th and 21st centuries and features the works of prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Purvis Young, Keith Haring, M.C. Escher and many others. “I try not to show artists that are the flavor of the day,” he asserts, “I try to show artists that have stood the test of time. It starts with a chord that artist may have struck with me so it’s hard to remove any personal bias because if I don’t believe in it, if I don’t have conviction, then how can I share it with a friend or turn a collector on if I’m not passionately behind the work.” Skot believes his penchant for pop art stems from his surroundings growing up in Florida and recalls being cognizant of signs, billboards and other media. He also has a deep appreciation for artists that can take a sheet of paper and illustrate. “I’m a little bit old fashioned in that regard,” he shares, “I like [artists] who have got some chops, knows how to draw, came up through the ranks and paid their dues.”
Skot understands that artists are the visionaries of their times, no matter what genre one may choose t, which brings me full circle to how Skot and I met: a showing of Purvis Young’s work. Skot loves to “turn people on” to his work. He describes Purvis’ art as shamanistic; indeed there is an other-worldly aesthetic to his pieces. Skot and Purvis (who died in April) shared a friendship that spanned over 20 years. One of Skot’s favorite stories about Purvis Young involves another shaman of sorts, the late rapper Tupac Shakur. “I sent Tupac a portfolio of Purvis’ work to look at. I wasn’t there; it was through a third party. Tupac opens it up, starts looking at it, eyes start bugging, closes the portfolio up and says, this shit is fucking dope,” he recalls as we both begin to laugh. It is no surprise to me that kismet made Skot Foreman one of the preeminent collectors of Purvis Young’s work. Besides both men being Floridians, Purvis’ work projects a naked genuineness that obviously comes from within. It is that same frank verisimilitude that resonates from Skot’s demeanor and is the reason why they were kindred entities.
When it comes to the art that has been reflected during first decade of this millennium, Skot discloses that he has not been a fan of the new conceptual, instillation media that is meaningless but relies on the story behind it or the process of creation to hold its validity. He is not concerned with the back-story of a work of art, and would like to see a renaissance of the fundamentals of drawing and painting develop. “Everything is so media or marketing driven, and I think that’s probably why one day there is going to be a return back towards things that are authentic and accessible. Things that are real. People can see through all the smoke and mirrors.”
Photos courtesy of Skot Foreman
“What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. “ – Andy Warhol
Andy Warhol (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was a New York icon widely regarded as “the Pope of pop art.” His mastery of fusing commercialism and expression not only made him a trailblazer in the art world, but also an oracle of American culture. He was as American as apple pie, baseball or Coca-Cola. The stamp he created during his lifetime is still present in the art world today. He is among an elite class of artists whose work has sold for $100 million. The son of immigrants, it is no doubt that he was a true American original with a keen ability to amalgamate myriad forms of people and media to present us with the best and worst of our society.
The fashion industry as a whole could be summed up in this quote. It is an entity that thrives on desire. People desire to have a closet full of dresses, slacks, and shoes and dressers filled with different brands of T-shirts, jeans and intimate apparel, but it is not a requirement necessitates our survival (at least for most of us). Clothing is used to help define who we are just as much as the art hanging on our walls communicates aspects of our personality. If Warhol was “Pope of pop art,” then khakis and jeans are one half to the All-American uniform. Everyone owns at least one pair.
For all of the innovation and creativity seen on the runways of New York City, Milan or Paris, fashion is an industry that is slow to embrace change, Grown and Sewn is label that is on the forefront of changing attitudes in fashion. Their “Kax” combines a khaki and jean into a unique, durable and stylish product. They are also an eco-friendly company that produces their clothing in the U.S. Like Andy Warhol, they are American originals that have the potential to become a bellwether for American fashion as Warhol was for art.
The holidays are more than just a time to indulge in sales and fattening foods, it is also a time for gathering with friends and family and creating lasting memories. Grown and Sewn and Skot Foreman Fine Art have collaborated once again to showcase the pinnacle of vicissitude. Grown and Sewn’s December 17 holiday party opened an exhibit of works by Andy Warhol and other prominent artists at their Tribeca showroom, located on 184 Duane Street. Rob Magness and Skot Foreman are continuing the thread of celebrating American innovation and creation that was started with the Purvis Young exhibit a year ago.
Collaboration played a major role in Andy Warhol’s creative process and manufacturing. In some respects, collaboration is the American way. After all, what is American culture but the partnering of several different ethnicities working to produce an imprint that is distinct. Grown and Sewn’s and Skot Foreman Fine Art’s collaborations have altered the way people view art and fashion. In this sense, they are the new millennium Factory.
Photos and Slideshow: F.A.M.E NYC Editor
“Born in the USA,” would definitely be the phrase used to describe An American Art and Craft Collective, held at Grown and Sewn, located at 184 Duane Street in Tribeca. Inside this store is a perfect weaving of art and fashion.
Bruce Springsteen’s classic song brought attention to the disenfranchised in America in the 1980s – those dealing with the repercussions of the Vietnam War, joblessness and a struggling economy. In the wake of the Great Recession, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and issues with our environment, there is no greater time to have a merged exhibition like An American Art and Craft Collective, especially since we are on the verge of a new decade.
An American Art and Craft Collective brings together the works of urban visual griot Purvis Young and the Grown and Sewn collection. Grown and Sewn Dry Goods Collection is an innovative approach to casual fashion. The collection’s signature product is the “Kax” and takes the best elements from the khaki and jean.
The Kax is 100% cotton and is washed, baked and finished. Every aspect of Grown and Sewn is American made down from the cotton used in the clothing to the rivets sewn on the Kaxs. All the manufacturing of this product is made in the USA, with almost every region of the country contributing to bring Grown and Sewn to the masses. This clothing line makes a powerful statement toward fixing what ails our society by offering a product that is environmentally friendly and provides jobs to Americans.
The work of Purvis Young is provided by Skot Foreman Fine Art. Purvis is a self-taught artist out of Overtown, Miami, Florida. In his work he reuses squiggly lines and eyes to display the underbelly of American society, individuals caught in the system of poverty, incarceration and street life. His pieces are full of rage, passion and reality that shine a spotlight on topics that most people would rather not focus on.
Purvis used the debris of Overtown, old cribs and pieces of wood, to create a body of work that tells a specific story, a somber story, that is nonetheless part of the American experience. What is more disturbing to me is the thought that without artists like Purvis Young, this story would not be heard.
Although I have viewed Purvis’ work before, seeing it in this setting was like witnessing it for the first time. Purvis’s work is layered in such a way that upon each viewing a new facet is discovered. The store’s décor also added a special element to his work. There are huge bales of cotton cleverly placed through out the store; the tables are hand crafted with antique figurines and an old sewing table. These raw components help to accentuate the coarse quality of Purvis’ work.
An American Art and Craft Collective will be on display until January 15, 2010 and is a marriage about what is best about American culture at a time when America needs it most. After braving the blistering wind to get to Tribeca, I was electrified by what I saw and warmed with a renewed sense of hope.
Photos of Purvis Young’s artwork courtesy of Skot Forman Fine Art and Purvis Young.com