This week we welcome artist Zeehan Wazed. Wazed was born in Benghazi, Libya, in 1991, immigrated to the United States with his family in 1994, and was raised in Jamaica, Queens. Working in painting, sculpture, choreography, and new media, he explores the relationship between physical and psychological reality today.
A gifted student, he was accepted to Stuyvesant high school in Manhattan. With this new chapter in his life came a new commute. Taking the subway to and from school each day, he received a world-class education in the vibrant underground culture of New York. Between station platforms and train cars, Wazed discovered the flourishing subterranean universe of graffiti and street performance.
He began to occupy his daily subway rides by filling countless notebooks with wild-style drawings, developing his aesthetic dexterity against the anarchy of the city’s public transit. By night, he trained himself as a dancer (via YouTube), eventually developing the courage to jump into a cipher (breakdancing battle) in Union Square. Before even graduating high school, Wazed had quickly become a champion dancer, a prolific graffiti artist and a delinquent darling among NYC’s radical underground community.
A Macaulay Honoree, Wazed went on to attend Baruch College where — like artist James Turrell — he earned a degree in perceptual psychology. At Baruch, he continued to paint and perform competitively in dance battles throughout the city, pursuing his fascination with concepts of momentum and relativity both in and outside the classroom. When his graffiti career became a threat to his immigration status, the artist turned to canvas for the first time. As he studied the intricacies of visual processing and cognitive function in his academic life, Wazed developed an art practice which invokes our psychological impulse to seek common ground with anything and everything we perceive through our senses.
Functioning like an inkblot test, Wazed’s work sparks the viewer’s imagination with an image, design, or movement which at first appears random and abstract. Much like finding familiar figures in the shapes of clouds or constellations, within seconds of interacting with his paintings, viewers begin to perceive recognizable forms within the frame. However, unlike the accidental inkblot or casual cloud, the artist’s imagination-inspiring images brim with personal references to their creator. An artistic gesture which aims to relate our experiences to his own, Wazed’s coded approach activates the mind’s natural tendency to seek out patterns and personal connections everywhere we look. In an ever-polarizing world, his multidisciplinary practice demonstrates the power of basic human interaction to break down barriers, bringing us closer to one another, compassion and with any luck, peace.
Reality Show (upcoming) marks Wazed’s second major solo exhibition with ABXY Gallery. His work has been featured in publications such as Vice and Hypebeast. He has performed with internationally esteemed modern dance companies including Martha Graham and in Broadway productions like Illuminate. Supported by South Asian Youth Action (SAYA) as a student, the artist is now actively involved with philanthropy.
Wazed now paints on the 71st floor of 3 World Trade Center where his studio is situated. He literally creates in the clouds, in an awe-inspiring space overlooking the city he grew up in. He aspires to turn the city itself into his own gallery by painting some of the largest murals in New York.
“Life is not linear: nothing’s ever as simple as getting from point A to point B. There are many tangents that lie in between, some of which can appear offsetting. However, in stepping back to adopt a broader perspective, it becomes clear to us that these supposed excursions in our lives were not arbitrary but predestined. This realization becomes apparent to us when the seemingly unrelated facets of our lives artfully converge to shape a large picture. Reflecting upon my past, I witnessed my passion for psychology, freestyle dance, and painting coalesce to make me the artist I am today.”
See more of Zeehan’s work on his website and Instagram page. The exhibition ‘Of The Grid’ opens this Friday in Long Island City which includes his work and other artists featured in Epicenter. Details for attending are here.