Ricky Martin debuted his new boyfriend at the amfAR benefit last weekend in Brazil. Martin walked the red carpet holding hands with artist Jwan Yosef, so it was pretty clear they are more than friends and wanted everyone to know. Martin later posted their photo to Twitter with the caption:
Cute, huh? If you check out his Instagram you can see why Martin likes him, at least on the surface. Lot’s of hot selfies, plus some art too. I wanted to check out the work, so I did a little research. He’s had two solo shows in London and if you ask me, his work is NOT as hot as he is.
Yosef’s conceptual, minimal canvases, twisted and coming off the stretchers look cool, but if you know your art history, you know that the late Steven Parrino got there first, 25 years ago. No, they aren’t exactly the same, but conceptually close enough to be derivative. Parrino has been copied a lot over the years, so it’s really no surprise.
Art critic, Jerry Saltz, wrote in 2007 after Parrino’s death,
“Overestimating Parrino would be as much a disservice to him as underestimating him would. He wasn’t a radically original artist. But he was radically dedicated to his narrow idea of what painting could be. He may have talked about death and nihilism, and he wore a black leather jacket everywhere, but Parrino didn’t want to annihilate painting. He came of age, he said, when
‘the word on painting was ‘Painting Is Dead.’ I saw this as an interesting place for painting … and this death painting thing led to a sex and death painting thing … that became an existence thing.’
All this sounds bad-boy and romantic, but that ‘“existence thing’ at the end is crucial. He vividly demonstrates that no matter what you do to a canvas—slash, gouge, twist, or mutilate it—you can’t actually kill it. Painting lives, and so, for the moment, does Parrino’s work.”
Yosef went to several art school’s including Central St. Martins in London, a very good school, so he’s well-educated and knows his art history, one assumes. He’s been in many group shows and has had two solo shows recently. He’s got other work too which is a bit derivative as well, of one of the most successful living artists in the world, Gerhard Richter. Yosef’s portraits, mostly in black and white, look a bit too much like Richter’s black and white blurred photo-paintings of the 60s to captivate. And he has made some black and white word art which is everywhere as well, I don’t need to give you examples. So…
Making original art is not so easy. As the late critic and filmmaker Emile de Antonio once said,
“Most artists have no ideas. Good artists have one idea. Great artists have more than one idea…“
So, while he’s developing his own style, Jwan’s got a hot, new, rich, famous boyfriend to keep him distracted. Does this sound mean? Maybe, but if you're an exhibiting artist you've got to have tough skin... and maybe a few new ideas of your own.