Greenpoint Gazette

The Sky’s the Limit for Artist Joseph Grazi

BY Kylie Jane Wakefield

From the moment Joseph Grazi first picked up a crayon, he knew he wanted to be an artist. “I do art because I have to,” he said. “It’s probably the need for attention. I need to succeed in art because I’m already making art. It’s just something that comes out of me.”

Grazi is a Williamsburg-based conceptual and mixed media artist who shows at galleries all over the city, inside bars, and most recently, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he was part of “Facets of Figuration,” a project that featured figurative art from about 20 different individuals. There, his rendered, seven-foot-wide T-Rex skeleton, made with ink pencil and paint, was shown. “It was pretty cool to walk into [the Met] and see my piece next to a 3,000-year-old sarcophagus and things like that. It was pretty intense. Most of the people who have shown on those walls have been deceased for a long time. It was humbling but at the same time, I take what I do very seriously.”

Sometimes Grazi’s work gets so serious he loses control. As his alter ego, Parker Wolf, he led wide-scale performance art exhibitions in Central Park and Union Square. His subjects dressed in black and white fabrics and put goggles on their faces. “It was about fashion consumerism, and how everyone works so hard to look different and be seen,” he said. “When you work hard to be seen, you mold into the crowd. No matter what you do, you become the advertisement for the brand you’re wearing.”

Parker Wolf became popular enough that Grazi had to kill him off and go back to his former, original self. “I got jealous of his success, so I destroyed him and became Joseph Grazi again. It’s a religious thing, but I could become him again tomorrow. If I spin around quickly in circles it could happen again. My transformations are very cinematic.”

Joseph Grazi

Grazi’s raw solo show, “Aggressive Nature,” is currently up at Lower East Side venue Gallerybar. Works in the show depict weapons and aggressive animals. His T-Rex piece was created for this, but instead made it to the Met.

Last year, Grazi installed a ball pit at Norwood Club, a private art house in Chelsea, for a conceptual piece. The title of the work, “Fountain of Youth,” encouraged viewers to have some fun and feel like kids again. “We had people coming in their 50’s and 60’s and young adults my age and everyone becomes a part of the same thing. It brought out the mischievous kid in people, even in my parents.”

Even though conceptual art has gotten a bad rap, Grazi insists it is still important. “Whatever concept I have I do that medium,” he said. “The sky is the limit for what you want to create… It puts a lot of crappy art out there but it’s still art nonetheless. It adds to the conversation to what art can be and what it should be.”

Installations, like the ball pit, are intriguing to Grazi because they are interactive. “I try to envelop the crowd in what I am doing. There’s some artwork you can walk into. With a painting on the wall, you don’t necessarily need a viewer. With an installation, [there is] something interactive, so it’s a little more exciting to me. There’s crowd participation. It makes them part of the artwork. They are the artwork in the end.”

For his day job, the artist plays bass in a rock band called Click Clack Boom. A month ago, they opened for Stone Temple Pilots and Bush. Grazi said, “For the most part, art is really where my head is at. Who cares about their day job, right?”

It’s clear that Grazi has impressed both the art and music worlds. Natalie Trainor, an art curator, consultant, and artist manager, has worked with him on four shows since August 2010, and a fifth is currently in development. “[Grazi’s] work presents the perfect level of shock value, although it may make some audiences uncomfortable, but that’s okay,” she said. “Since I’ve known Joseph, his work is maturing well: his execution, more precise and his ideas, more outrageous—qualities I value and respect in a contemporary artist.”

Like any human being, especially one living in New York City, Grazi has the innate desire to be recognized for his work. “A little kid cries because he wants his parents to pay attention to him. We’re all little kids in the end, artists especially. We’re little kids just desperate for people’s attention. If we make good work because of it, I guess the ends justify the means.”

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