This biographical article is written like a résumé. (January 2019)
Gaia (born 1988 in New York City) is an American street artist who has received significant museum showings and critical recognition. Based in Baltimore, he has created large-scale murals worldwide to engage the community where he works in a dialogue by using historical and sociological references to these neighborhoods.
Early life and education
Born as Andrew Pisacane in 1988 in New York City and raised in the Upper East Side neighborhood. His artist name is derived from the Greek designation for "earth goddess," and early in his career he used animal imagery to underscore his interest in bringing nature to urban landscapes. In 2007, while still in high school in New York, Gaia started wheat-pasting prints of his linoleum blocks in Bushwick, Williamsburg and Chelsea. His images included children, whose features gave them an other-worldly quality. His animals included a horse and boar, both endowed with human hands and torsos. He participated in several successful shows in Bushwick at Ad Hoc Art.
After graduating from high school in June 2007, Gaia moved to Baltimore and studied for four years at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), where he broadened his iconography. For example, he included images of his grandfather, or a rooster holding the head of St. John the Baptist. He graduated in 2011 from MICA.
|You can watch a video of Gaia creating one of his art works in Baltimore here.|
Gaia also developed an interest in the evolution of urban neighborhoods. He began incorporating portraits of influential, and sometimes controversial urban developers: people such as Nelson Rockefeller, Robert Moses, Henry Flagler, James Rouse, Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe. These men built highways, skyscrapers and housing projects and collectively and irrevocably, they altered our perception of public space. For this reason, Gaia layered them into his urban murals.
According to the artist himself, much of his early work was inspired by a sense of looming environmental calamity. In 2011, he stated that, "I wanted to express this strange unlocatable feeling of fear about the end of the world - my generation’s zeitgeist of global warming."
In the summer, Gaia created an edition of a raven titled Forevermore and donated it to
the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, which had lost its funding.
The Poe House is located in an area which includes subsidized housing.
When a 50 foot-poster of Gaia’s image was wheat-pasted in the neighborhood, it became a photo-op location for local residents. The image was also hung at Case[werks] Showroom & Gallery, for its own fundraising event.
In September 2011, Gaia was commissioned to create a mural for Wynwood Doors for Art Basel/Miami. He chose to do a portrait
of Henry Flagler, a railroad magnate who established the historically black neighborhood Overtown in central Miami.
Gaia curated Open Walls Baltimore (OWB) which was generously backed by the PNC Community Foundation and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, attended the March 6 launch party for the OWB project at The Windup Space.
Gaia created the first two murals for Open Walls Baltimore at the corner of Charles and North Avenue. Maya Hayuk created the third mural, and other artists who participated were Swoon, Chris Stain, MOMO, Freddy Sam, Jaz, Jetsonoarma, Overunder, Vhils, Nanook, Mata Ruda, Specter, Interesni Kaski, Ever, Doodles, John Ahearn and Sten & Lex. In addition, discussion events included Monica Campana of Living Walls and Jane Golden of Philadelphia Mural Arts.
These internationally renowned artists created public murals in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District as a quick pick-me-up for a transitional neighborhood that houses both young artists who attend the nearby Maryland Institute College of Art, and economically challenged long term residents. The mural project will be akin to one in Miami’s Wynwood district, going beyond the typical haphazard spray paint or wheatpaste to create an art destination.
In September Gaia was invited to create a large installation at the Baltimore Museum of Art Contemporary Wing which reopened on November 17 after having been closed for several years for a major renovation. The project explored a recurring Gaia theme focusing on the residents of a neighborhood located near the BMA known as Remington. Eleven portraits of Remington residents float on a huge linoleum block print of rowhouses on one wall. On the opposite wall is another linoleum block print of rowhouses on which Gaia created a Gauguin-inspired portrait of a woman holding a mango. Kristen Hileman, the museum's curator of contemporary art, said the museum sought to commission an installation by Gaia not only because of his artistic skills, but because of the social and political messages in his work and his mission to connect people in urban landscapes.
South African street artist Freddy Sam hosted Gaia, Know Hope and Jaz in January to create murals in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Gaia was also invited to participate in mural festivals in Montreal, Bushwick, Richmond, Rochester, Sheboygan and Vladivostok. Rice Gallery at Rice University, Houston, Texas which specializes in site-specific installations presented a solo exhibition titled Marshland for Gaia from September 26 through December 8 and commissioned a documentary film.
|You can watch a 7 minute documentary on Gaia's exhibition at the Rice University Art Gallery here.|
In February Gaia participated in the 2014 Pow Wow Hawaii mural festival in Honolulu. This was Pow Wow's fourth year and Gaia was invited to create a mural and a painting whose images referenced Hawaii's pre-colonial culture. Andrew Hosne of Thinkspace was enlisted by event director Jasper Wong to curate an exhibit for the participants'paintings at the Honolulu Museum of Art School, titled Pow! Wow! Exploring the New Contemporary Art Movement.
After returning from Hawaii, Gaia immediately went to work on curating the second Open Walls Baltimore festival in the Station North Arts District where he created his own mural on the side of a Korean rice cake factory on N Charles Street. There was some controversy with regard to the community reception and the under representation of female artists.
Once Open Wall Baltimore 2 was underway, Gaia left for Perth, Australia to participate in a street art mural event called Public organized by the not for profit Form.
After returning from Australia Gaia will be heading to Greenville, SC where he has been commissioned to create a mural for an event called Year of Altruism coinciding with the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht usually seen as the beginning of the Holocaust. The proposed design, with references to textile mills and a landscape with lilies, is meant to recognize the generosity of the altruistic people involved in the textile industry.
He was commissioned to create a mural installation at the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA focusing on the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown in response to how blacks are perceived in the media following the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson.
The W Hotel DC commissioned Gaia to create murals inside their new restaurant Pinea.
999Contemporary mounted a solo exhibition for the artist in Rome where he also created a mural for a public project in the Tormarancia neighborhood.
Gaia was invited to speak on the Evolution of Street Art on a panel at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
The artist will be curating and painting murals at the 2015 O+ Festival in Kington, NY on October 9–11.
After the O+ Festival, Gaia will have an installation at York College of Pennsylvania Galleries titled Perspectives on Peace. The artist interviewed four local residents to create a video of each which will be shown in the center of the octagonal gallery with enlarged portraits of each painted on the perimeter walls. He will also participate in a panel discussion on October 14 with the curators prior to a reception.
Major commissions have sought out the talents of Gaia over the last year and a half. 999Contemporary secured a major mural commission for Gaia to execute at the Hotel Capannelle in Rome. The three murals titled "Mobility" cover the entire four story exterior of the hotel and depict a theme which couldn't possibly be more topical now than in Italy.
After a successful mural project at the W DC Hotel's Pinea Restaurant, the designers were trying to hire Gaia for another W project, but it took years to come together since Starwood was bought out by Marriott and the entire design team left. There was a W Hotel being built in Bellevue WA and Gaia signed the contract and began the work for a three story triptych soaring up a staircase from the hotel entrance making it the first impression a guest would see. After 18 days of working on the a scaffold, the murals were completed one week before the hotel's official June 15, 2017 grand opening.
Gaia headed overseas again for the next project which was also monumental. The Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia in Bogotà was celebrating the 50th anniversary of publication of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's prize winning novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. Gaia collaborated on the mammoth five story interior triptych in the central hall with Guache.
Gaia's next international flight was back to Italy this time for the stART- Welcome to Pisa project. This was another 18 days of work on a scaffold. The mural covers the exterior wall of the Saint Gobain glass factory and depicts and reflects upon the history of labor in Italy (and the world) and the frightening effects of automation.
In this period, Gaia was also part of a group of international contemporary street artists who were commissioned to pain New Delhi's streets in India. Gaia's paintings focused on Global Warming, and in particular the impact of low cost automobiles as well as container ships on the environment.
Between these grueling mural projects of epic proportions, a new hotel the Sagamore Pendry in Gaia's hometown (on those rare occasions when he's not traveling to some far-flung exotic destination) of Baltimore commissioned the muralist to create a painting on canvas for their posh lobby lounge. The 10' x 12' canvas titled "The Hardest Needle to Thread" that Gaia delivered now hangs in Kevin Plank's $60 million brainchild and depicts a piece of Baltimore history with the image of Francis Scott Key and the hands of two women (one white and the other black) sewing the flag which flew over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.
In 2008, The New York Times announced that "among the names you’ll see again and again these days is Gaia...he’s an artist-of-the-moment, and prints of his that were for sale at a recent exhibition at Ad Hoc Art in Bushwick sold out."
The Baltimore Sun declared him a "critically acclaimed emerging artist with gallery shows in Chicago, New York and Washington and street art from Madrid to Seoul." The Baltimore Sun also noted that "Gaia never loses his playfulness or spontaneity," and hailed his "evolution into pieces that connect deeply to a defined city area. Even the transcendental figures take on new meaning."
Grist Magazine hailed Gaia’s arrival "into the inner sanctum of the art world. Galleries from Washington, D.C., to Chicago, San Francisco, and L.A. have exhibited his work. In September, he spent several weeks in Miami, contributing a mural to Wynwood Walls."
Urbanite Magazine noted that Gaia's art can be found in cities from San Francisco to Seoul, Korea. He has had numerous gallery shows exhibiting both his street art and his studio work. His prolific pace and sophisticated execution have earned him a spot in a recent anthology titled Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art. His success is such that he is now straddling the line between street artist and gallery art star."
Our Urban Times predicted that Gaia "will no doubt be part of the art establishment of tomorrow."
Kristen Hileman, curator of contemporary art at the Baltimore Museum of Art, said "This is an artist who wasn’t just tagging things and doing a quick hit in an urban site," Hileman says. "This is a person engaged with the health of the city as an ecosystem and wanting to see the abandoned buildings of Baltimore used for a better purpose than they were." She says that Gaia has the self-awareness to know that part of his role as an artist is to, like Gauguin, live in a culture that really isn't his own.
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