The MFA commissioned artist-in-residence Rob Stull, a Boston-based illustrator and teacher who has worked for Marvel and DC Comics, to provide a visual response to “Writing the Future: Basquiat and the Hip-Hop Generation.” Stull created portraits in tribute to five artists: four whose work is in the exhibition, and one of Rob “Problak” Gibbs, a Boston-based muralist and fellow artist-in-residence. Here, he provides personal responses to each tribute. With these drawings, says Stull, “I honor their combined impact on art and global culture. I recognize them as architects and pioneers of a movement. I thank them for their contributions to the culture, and for laying down the foundation to inspire future generations.”
Tribute to Jean-Michel Basquiat
The crown and the hair. Symbiotic. Iconic. Jean-Michel Basquiat is easily identified in this piece, despite the obvious absence of facial features. This piece acknowledges Basquiat's birthplace of New York and nods to his inspirational artistic mentors Jean Dubuffet and Andy Warhol. RS
Rob Stull, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 2020. Ink on paper; photograph/giclee reproduction on canvas.
Tribute to Rammellzee
Graffiti artist and emcee extraordinaire. As a young artist, I was captivated by the style and technique of Rammellzee’s early artwork. This piece offers a window into his thought process and creative vision. It's a visual representation of what I believe to be some of his significant influences and inspirations: Japanese anime and manga, samurai culture, Pan-Africanism, and traditional American sci-fi—all fused with the undeniable, unapologetic energy of hip-hop. RS
Rob Stull, Rammellzee, 2020. Ink on paper; photograph/giclee reproduction on canvas.
Tribute to Lady Pink
Ladies of the arts. For me, Lady Pink will always be the kid from the movie that changed my life. Wild Style was produced and directed by Charlie Ahearn in 1983 and featured Lady Pink alongside Lee Quiñones in what many consider to be the world's introduction to hip-hop. In the film, Lady Pink is a strong young woman holding her own among her male counterparts and paves the way for female writers worldwide. In this piece, I’ve combined elements from her past and juxtaposed them with subtle nuances of her more current visions. RS
Rob Stull, Lady Pink, 2020. Ink on paper; photograph/giclee reproduction on canvas.
Tribute to Futura
Futura represents an aspect of hip-hop that is vital to the evolution of the culture. Certain artists have the ability to make an impact and leave their stamp on an era. In doing so, they become respected and recognized for changing the game. This phenomenon inspires future generations, thus allowing for the culture to continue to thrive and grow. Futura's unique approach separated him, and his art, from the masses. I think of this piece as a “visual stew,” incorporating elements from his past and present that are unmistakably Futura. RS
Rob Stull, Futura, 2020. Ink on paper; photograph/giclee reproduction on canvas.
Tribute to Rob "Problak" Gibbs
Artist, teacher, visionary, mentor, and student of the culture. Rob "Problak" Gibbs is hip-hop. Every region across the country has its own unique history regarding the contributions of their hometown heroes and local legends to the landscape of this movement. Representation is everything, and Problak represents Boston to the fullest. RS
Rob Stull, Rob “Problak” Gibbs, 2020. Ink on paper; photograph/giclee reproduction on canvas.