The Concept of
“Jean Michel Basquiat, Donde, Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Norman Rockwell, Michelangelo, Bob Ross…ha-ha. Man, I mean I have been inspired across the board from the Renaissance to the graffiti movement in the early eighties.”
by Afrika Brown for whitehot magazine, New York
When Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988 Anthony Brown, aka Concep, was an eight-year-old boy watching Yo! MTV Raps in New Orleans. Now twenty-six, this disciple of Basquiat and Hip Hop culture resides in Brooklyn, ground zero for the evolution of this southern born and raised artist, fashion designer, and dancer.
Recently I had the opportunity to catch up with Concep at Shanti, an event held in Manhattan that fused live art and House music. He was the featured artist and created an untitled work. Under the beam of strobe lights showcasing his latest work, I was able to ask him a series of questions in the hopes to discover the formula of his past, present, and future.
AB: Who is Concep?
Concep: I’m a kid from New Orleans, son of Sonji Murray and Anthony Brown Sr. The Anthony side lends ambition, the need to succeed, and to give back to all those who may have influenced or created me. Concep is an artist, dancer, and poet. Together they mingle and exchange thought and ideas, creating paintings of great conflict and consternation.
AB: What art schools did you attend?
Concep: I attended Ringling, a school in Sarasota, FL as an illustration major and only African American male freshman. Then I moved to Brooklyn to attend classes at Pratt Institute and received a BFA in Film Animation.
AB: What prompted you to pursue a career as an artist?
Concep: I’ve always had a passion to create that, which has not been created yet. Art was and still is my way of saying things I can’t put into words.
AB: How has your background (i.e. growing up down south) influenced your style?
Concep: Down Bottom has given me an extra push to live and thrive in the big city. Everyday up top is an adventure, a challenge. Down Bottom taught me how to survive in an environment totally set up against you as a young black man. With this knowledge, I have a since of freedom and an urgency to make it happen for all those I left behind in the hood/burbs.
AB: Has living in Brooklyn influenced your style?
Concep: Brooklyn has fed me with inspiration through an evolving landscape of hoods, skaters, writers, Rastas, grass roots, dancers, artists, and hipsters.
AB: What influence has Hip Hop had on your style?
Concep: I was making posters of Hip Hop artists and sewing my own clothes in grade school to push up my love for Hip Hop. It is my culture; therefore it’s expressed in everything I do. I’m Hip Hop when I brush my teeth.
AB: How has pop culture influenced your style?
Concep: Pop culture has its place in my artwork in that I just want everything to be larger than life. [It’s] the selling of my fantasies.
AB: What artists and movements inspire you when creating art?
Concep: Jean Michel Basquiat, Donde, Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Norman Rockwell, Michelangelo, Bob Ross…ha-ha. Man, I mean I have been inspired across the board from the Renaissance to the graffiti movement in the early eighties.
AB: Tell me your feelings about Basquiat. What influence has he had on you?
Concep: Basquiat was the key holder to this entrance of free expressive graffiti based art. His take on a canvas is like Jay-Z saying, “I don’t write.” He sums up the rapper that does not write lyrics down. The art he created was not written, it was off the top of the dome and valued for its crude but realistic aesthetic.AB: If you could choose financial success or critical acclaim what would you choose?
AB: The equation of A2 + B2=C2 appears frequently in your work. What does this mean to you?
Concep: The past, present, and future.
AB: Give me a quote that personifies Concep.
Concep: “The one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing” - James Brown.
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Afrika Brown is a published poet and freelance writer in New York City.
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