print of Echoes of Harlem by artist Justin BUA


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The Music of Melody

Artist Justin Bua has been creating urban-inspired art with a hip-hop flair for years and says the crossover between music and art has brought him a number of collectors that had previously never been interested in the fine-art market.

“Music often reflects what is happening in society and everyday life—particularly hip-hop, which reflects what’s really going on in the urban streets,” Bua says.  “Not everybody this day-and-age can relate to Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’ or Rembrandt’s ‘The Night Watch.’ So when they see my work, they say, ‘Finally someone is telling my story.’”

Bua says fine-art connoisseurs can appreciate his classical training and references to the masters while the younger audience and people not as interested in art history can look at his pieces and still connect to them emotionally.  “That’s really what art is about,” he says.

“Music has always been a popular genre in art as you can see in works by great masters, such as Frans Hals and Bruegel, continuing through centuries with artist, such as Kandinsky, Chagall and Romare Bearden,” Bua says.  “It is as popular today, if not more so, because we have such a variety of music and such limitless access to so many types of music. Throughout history, music and visual art have been created by all societies and cultures.  Human beings need to create and express their emotions.  These two art forms have continuously served this purpose and are constantly reflected in each other.”


For The Love Of Dance And Music

Depicting the Connection

That sacred connection is one that Los Angeles artist Justin Bua pays homage to in “Trumpet Man,” a piece that depicts a man playing the trumpet before a dark, looming skyline.  “He is a lone figure playing for the love of it, not the money, not the fame,” Bua says in a fast-paced clip.  “That is what I really love about that character. He is in his own thing. He might look drugged, but he is drugged from his music, not from drugs.”

Bua, 37, comes from a family of artist.  His mother was a painter.  “Now, she’s a dabbler,” he says.  And his grandfather was an artist.  But the strongest imprint on his work came from his late-‘70s early-‘80s upbringing on New York City’s Upper West Side, where, he says, a musicality drove the city.

“It moves to it’s own funky beat,” Bua says. “From the construction, to the different languages, to the melting-pot culture.”  And when you look at “1981,” a celebratory painting of breakdancing on the street, or the “DJ,” which features a disc jockey as seduced by his spinning as he is by the sound, you can see that the birth of hip-hop has had a profound affect on his art.

“The underground culture of New York City is what I was influenced by,” Bua says.  “The B-boys and the DJs and the MCs… I was there at the inception of the culture.  And I knew I was in the middle of something special.”

painting of Trumpet Man by artist Justin BUA   Bua was both an observer of and a participant in this culture, studying at the High School of Music and Performing Arts, best know by the television show “Fame,” and breakdancing professionally in both the United States and Europe.

His success in breakdancing, which piqued with his performance in Italy with the late Russian ballet dancer and choreographer, Rudolf Nureyev, not only influenced his as a visual artist, it contributed to his talent as well.  “The geometric rhythm and compositions in my paintings are very similar to the way I used to dance,” he says. “The rhythm of my body transferred into the rhythm of my paint strokes.”

But it was the rhythm of the jazz musicians he listened to with his uncle—whether that was on vinyl or in an underground club—that filled his mind with images that then found their way into his work.  “They are pieces of people who came in and our of my life—whether it was voyeuristic, seeing them through a keyhole in a jazz club, or actually meeting or talking to them.”

  Generation Next

Artist Justin BUA is another industry professional who has had great success appealing to a younger client base. One of his tactics has been maintaining a focus on those people who have collected his poster art over the years. “As they begin their careers and move up in the ranks of their professions, the people who grew up collecting my images simultaneously grow into the next level of art collecting,” BUA says. “Poster collectors become the next serious buyers of originals and limited editions.”

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