Update: 12:42 p.m.
After three years of painting anthropomorphic murals in Massachusetts, selling playful acrylic paintings in California and exhibiting work in Rome, Yis “Noségo” Goodwin is back in his hometown with some brand new artwork to show.
The Philly-bred contemporary artist has a new collection of murals, sculptures and paintings under the elliptical title, “Died a Few Times to Live This Once.” The themes? Just the light stuff of rebellion and resilience.
Opening at Queen Village gallery Paradigm on Dec. 14, the solo exhibit incorporates Noségo’s signature style — a blend of geometric jigsawing, magical realism and comic book storytelling — as well as some nods to the surrealist and Dadaist traditions from a century back. Think Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí mixed with equal parts Wes Anderson and Joe Murray. Add a dash of Lisa Frank’s neon animal menagerie and a hint of Xul Solar’s shape-shifting landscapes, too.
But the CAPA and UArts grad, whose murals can be found all over Philly, including on Federal Donuts’ headquarters, shies away from comparisons.
“I allowed myself to paint what I really feel,” Noségo told Billy Penn. “Surrealism has a limitlessness to it with regard to subject matter and also allows me to communicate in a way that doesn’t have any expectations or rules. [It] allows me to live outside this world…to be free.”
On race and rebellion
Noségo, 33, traces his artistic acumen to the early influence of his parents and his sister — a family of “creatives,” he said. And much of inspiration behind his new work comes from childhood memories where the artist’s imagination roamed untethered.
That inner-kid muse is evident in the polychromatic work, which can feel both boundless and cartoony, like vibrant pages ripped from a psychedelic fairytale.
But the work’s central theme of rebellion is one that is pivotal to Noségo’s experience as a Black artist. “Simply existing as a Black man in America and one who’s technical job requires you to express yourself creatively through emotions is rebellious in and of itself,” he said.
There’s also a fitting nod to early 20th century surrealists, who rebelled against labels and aesthetic rationalism. And then there’s the animals. Work both past and present is replete with imagery of foxes, frogs, tigers and bears — creatures with personalities the artist also sees in humans.
For the viewer, Noségo explained, animals can also sidestep implications about gender, race and ethnicity.
“Their symbolism can be conveyed to everyone equally and not exclude any one person’s experience,” he added. “It’s more about self-awareness and self-realization, embracing the larger picture – it’s meant to be freeing.”
Since 2015, Noségo has been working around the country on commissions for smaller pieces, as well as traveling to create murals and attend mural festivals. On returning home, Paradigm Gallery + Studio was a no-brainer for his first Philly solo show in three years.
“They’re like family,” Noségo said. “It’s natural.”
“They” refers to gallery co-founders Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston. Noségo was the first artist to exhibit when the duo opened in 2010, and they’ve remained part of the artist’s support system over the years.
The new collection opens on South Fourth Street in Queen Village on Friday, Dec. 14, with a reception from 5:30 to 10 p.m., and will remain up through Feb. 9. The exhibit’s regular visiting hours will be 12 to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, or by appointment. Entry is free.
You can email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to receive Noségo’s digital collector preview list for this exhibition — and also a chance to purchase any of the artwork.