When Matthew Paul Foreman finished his jail sentence for defacing public property in early 2009, he could have quit street art altogether. Instead he found another use for his wall-scrawling skills, taking his spray-painted art indoors and making a name for himself on the local market. Barely a week went by without "Stormin' Foreman" entering one show or printing art for another. He was soon getting serious attention from Eye Level Art and Vaughan Christopher Gallery in Texas.
"When I came out of jail, I had to look at myself and be objective," says the 25-year-old Atlanta native. "I took my street art passion to a new level, where I could still experience the thrill of making art but make it safer, more lucrative, and more fun."
Redux provided a big boost for Foreman when it facilitated a group collaboration with famed graffiti artists Dalek and Chip 7. Here were artists who straddled the street and the fine art world, confirming that Foreman could be commercially viable without fettering his brash, psychedelic style.
"I'm really into portraits," he says, "and using wild colors. They're not too dark. I like stuff to be bright." Foreman brightened up 25 different group shows in 2009, including Kulture Klash, Blume and reBlume at Pantheon, and Eye Level's Portrait Slam and The Debutantes. He also contributed work to multimedia events like Skinful Halloween. Obviously, there is demand to encourage this supply. "My art appeals to almost everyone I meet, all different types of people," he says with genuine surprise. "Anyone I interact with likes it and is interested in buying it. It's a blessing."
Foreman links this with his passion for graffiti, which is constantly in the public eye, reaching passers-by and embellishing their environment whether they like it or not. It certainly gets a strong reaction from those who see it.
Another ingredient of Foreman's success is his versatility. Although he's best known for layered spray-painted images with handcut stencils, the artist also uses collage, digital art, poster art, and hand painting.
After so many events last year culminating in the Upper Deck charity show Golden Opportunity, Foreman was ready for a break. He didn't get one. He was contacted by Daniel McSweeney of Spark Studios, who said he was interested in hosting Foreman as a featured artist. By spring he'd put together two solo shows, EquipoisE at Muddy Waters and the current Stormin' Foreman at Spark.
Although the artist has sold a considerable amount of his work, there are still many familiar images in the Spark show. A wild-eyed Christopher Walken and local heroes John Pundt, Clay Scales, Julio Cotto, and Ankit Sheorain have all been given a Warholesque monocolored tint in Foreman's prints, along with influences like his parents, friends, and Warhol himself (in drag). Images of astronauts and wrestlers give the exhibition a more universal appeal.
With its trippy purple, yellow, and blue colors, mirrored images, and seemingly unconnected portraits, a walk through Spark is more like a visit to a funhouse than a fine art exhibition. But there are also signs that Foreman has serious aspirations, with some framed art and a theme for the show, whether it's intended or not. Recurring pictures of birds by Foreman and Cyr develop a motif of flight and freedom. After participating in more than two dozen group shows, Foreman's earned the right to be respected as a local artist. Who knows, he might set a good example for the next generation as he tries to be good.