Artist: Justin BuaTitle: The Beat Of Urban Art (Book)Rating: 4 1/2 StarsReviewed by: Sidik Fofana
Justin Bua is getting closer and closer to being immortal. The Beat of Urban Art (Harper Collins), assembles all of the New York bred artist’s captivating artwork reflecting the inner city Hip-Hop experience into a colorful, well-crafted book. The release has been overdue; his most faithful fans have been coveting his full catalogue in a tangible but inexpensive form for years. Now that Justin has collected his most celebrated pieces like “Piano Man I” and “The DJ” in a binded work, accompanied by his own writings on growing up in The Big Apple and being influenced by Hip-Hop, his following is becoming more and more convinced that he is indeed the truth.
Bua gets respect in the hood. In case it was not common knowledge, Bua’s was the magical paintbrush behind the NBA Street covers for Playstation. It is not atypical to find a Bua painting adorning an apartment wall, even though the wall may have plaster chipping. The price of every item presented on vendor tables throughout 125th St in Harlem can be talked down except for a Justin Bua print. There’s not a vendor out there who will budge, and for all intents and purposes the price of any Justin Bua piece stays fixed.
The Beat of Urban Art blooms with colorful depictions of New York City neighborhoods. Bua writes about the various characters around his block that have been responsible for the diversity of his art. In addition to painting portraits of the people in his neighborhood, Bua describes his experiences growing up in Manhattan in a Single Room Occupancy building. Accompanying his description is a vivid sketch of an asymmetrically symmetric rendition of the building, which is shaped like a funny cappuccino machine with side entrances carved out of Adidas shelltoes.
Bua also makes very insightful notes on Hip-Hop’s influence on his artistic development and the genre’s progression towards international acceptance. He writes, “Hip-Hop, the most powerful cultural movement of our time, birthed a concept of oneness that touched a city, then a nation, and then the world.”
In a very vibrant portrayal of the beautiful chaos that is New York, The Beat of Urban Art combines all the elements and influences that give the Hip-Hop melting pot its savory blend. Bua includes the dice players, the street musicians, the subway wanderers, the ball players, and narrates their story with telling slices of life. Bua has a knack for trapping nostalgia into a brushstroke, and he is demonstrating once again that his work is so true-to-life that it does indeed have a pulse.