Cover painting by artist Justin BUA   BREAKIN’ IT DOWN WITH Artist BUA

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GRACE HSIANG
If you commissioned Justin Bua to paint you a picture of mainstream hip hop in 2006, you should not expect to see any sign of admiration or sincerity present in the piece. Instead, expect to see him turn out “a gigantic gold plated diamond rock sitting on the front seat of an Escalade being caressed by 4000 video hos, floating in a swimming pool full of Courvoisier”. It would be entitled “Blingy Chingy Suck My Dick, Bitch” and it would be a mockery inspired by the lack of inspiration Bua finds present in hip hop today. The Diddys, the Ne-yos, and the Beyonces of today are representing a genre that is so watered down, so materialistic, and so mechanically produced that he can barely recognize it as the same genre that he grew up in love with.

The hip hop that Bua remembers  one that was born out of the streets of New York in the 1980s. Hip hop then was too busy breacking in Rock Steady Park, painting graffiti wild style, and emceeing up and down the city to even stop and categorize itself as a genre of music. It was this intangible

yet exciting movement that celebrated diversity and ignored class divisions, a time in which creativity exploded quietly and inspired all over. Those who grew up in this period did not know what it was called or how to define it, yet knew that they had to somehow get involved. Bua’s work is inspired primarily from this period, born out of his own experiences breaking and bombing as a kid growing up in the Upper West Side. As a student at the High School of Music and Performing Arts, Bua’s extracurricular activities included dancing for The New York Express, a breaking crew that was created by choreographer Julie Arenal (“Hair” on Broadway). After high school, Bua attended the well known Art Center of College and Design in Pasadena, where he developed and fine tuned his style.

That style is clearly birthed out of a love for hip hop, as each painting appears to be a tribute to theinfluences of Bua’s life. The fluidity and rich colorful energy that is present in his work gives the viewer a strong sense of movement and rhythm, as if Bua painted his subjects when they were in action right before his eyes. Each painting appears to have a soundtrack and choreography embedded in its brush strokes and colors. He cites “Boogying” as a piece that was a nod to the specific rhythms of popping, due to its structured yet fluid qualities. “My paintings are fluid, rhythmic, gestural, but at the same time have the rhythm of hitting, waving, tutting, floating, gliding, all of the moves of popping translated into line and the expressions of the characters”, Bua explains.

The key icons of New York in the 1980s also make constant appearances in a Bua painting, making it clear to the viewer that it is undoubtedly that hip hop he is referencing. There are the trademark didas kicks on the feet of the dancer freezing in the center of the session in “1981”, an homage to the jazz influences that founded hip hop’s roots in “Trumpet Man’, and the that were mentally insane, Bua was constantly presented with a “lot of literally crazy faces to draw inspiration from”.

And if there was any question of whether or not the public would be receptive to Bua’s work, his resume erases it. Since 1992, Bua hasworked with an impressive list of companies such as Sony, Nike, and Warner Bros, and that list is not getting any shorter. Bua’s work may be inspired from the past, but he is going full speed ahead into the future. Although the potential “Blingy Chingy Suck My Dick, Bitch” will not be in stores anytime soon, expect to see Bua not only creating a new limited edition poster entitled “The Poet” and new original drawings for his website, but also producing a book called “The Beat of Urban Art” due next March. Bua is further collaborating with the producers from the Simpsons, DJ Qbert, and John King of the Dust Brothers to bring his already lively paintings to life. “Urbania” is a TV show that he feels will be “like nothing the world has seen before as far.”

crowded setting of “The Subway” is undeniably characteristic of the city’s most notorious mode of transportation. The nostalgia present in Bua’s work is not only in celebration of happy memories from the streets, but it also recognizes the more eccentric parts of his childhood. Portraits of painter

 
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