A Multilayered Praise of Hip-Hop in the Paintings of Troy Lamarr Chew II

The paintings that make up “The Roof is Burning” continue in this line. During the first months of the curfew, Chew was completing his artist residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito. “[The pandemic] it didn’t feel real then, not like it would later. We were hitting the music all the time, it was creepy,” she says. However, when he left the safe communal environment, the gravity of the situation collapsed, and Chew greatly missed the feeling of being lost on the move with someone else or with an entire crowd. Instead, there was TikTok, a trivial substitute. And many of the gestures popular on TikTok on Chew created by young Black dancers and then it was owned by the white ones.

When he decided to explore certain dances on the canvas, he decided to include them alongside some of the current frenzy. RenegadeCreated by Jalaiah Harmon and wildLegacy movements that have yet to be embraced by the cyberspace mainstream, created by Keara “Keke” Wilson: sweet rolldated to the 1993 piece of the same name by 69 Boys and Milly RockNamed for a song by Terrance “2 Milly” Ferguson in 2011. Chew’s mix also includes Mop, SpongeBob, the Whip, the Humpty, the Hammer Time, the Chicken Noodle Soup, the Robot, the Butterfly, Tom & Jerry, the Snake and the Snake and the Sprinkler, just to name a few.

Chew isn’t concerned that understanding the images takes time and effort. “After graduating from college, I stopped spelling things a lot,” she says. “If you really want to know, you will call him.” He continues, “This is what I realize about fine art or memorable art. That’s just what happened and if you want to know more, go and do it.” In other words, if you know, you know. Chew will continue to find something of his own, too – he plans to explore the local language from other parts of California and eventually other parts of the country. “I always refer to myself as some kind of rapper because I play with words,” he says. “Rappers are like Picasso in their words. I feel like I’m the opposite: I’m Jay-Z with the paintbrush.”

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