Marvin Touré | PRESENTS

Marvin Touré is an up and coming visual artist out of New York City by way of Atlanta, Gerogia. He talks about how he got his start in art, the different cultural influences that both America and the Ivory Coast have had on him and his work, and what he wants to accomplish. He also gives a unique perspective on hip-hop and comic books in relation to art and gives some advice to other artists looking to pursue their dreams.

Marvin Toure


Initially I went to undergrad for architecture, then I switched my major to new media arts…I don’t know, getting a start in art is kind of like a strange question for me, because I’ve been thinking recently about when I made the decision…I think it’s one thing where I, it’s one thing where I feel like you’re either born an artist or not. It’s one thing to get to a point of realizing. That’s what I think had happened for me. It’s either you’re born one or not…the time when I realized it was 2012. I think it’s late, but I was funneled to do other things more practical, like a lot of people are…


I don’t know…the titles in terms of what kind of artist I am, I think as of late I’ve kind of just dropped them and I feel like I’m just gonna let the art historians figure that out for me. At this point I’m more so concerned with the things that interest me. Like cartoons, comic book imagery, toys, mind games that I played as a kid. All of these things are where I feel my interests lie. In terms of the medium that they come out of, it’s more so what I feel the need to discuss at the time is really where the kind of material decisions come from. I have to speak to my process, so my process telsl me what it wants to be, how it wants to realize itself on this plane, rather than in my head…


I think that they’re like the foundation…when I think of the places where I’m from, all of my sensibilities come from there. My interest in pattern making and repetitive forms and stuff like that, definitely come from West Africa. Like my interests in masks and all that, comes from that. I would also say that a lot of my other kinds of interests in terms of body movement kind of come from Georgia, but can also come from the Ivory Coast too. Like the idea of dancing or music, coming out of Atlanta hearing a lot of stuff on the radio…growing up in the crunk, snap era of the South, that Crank Dat era, the tall tees, and the fitteds and all of that, and the grills, and even before that Cash Money taking over for the ’99. That’s a real kind of influence in terms of looking at the body. Looking at how a body can affect a space. I wasn’t allowed to listen to rap music, so I would hide to watch 106 & Park or anything on BET, or BET Uncut. It’s like how bodies move in space and how other people react to that. So which is why a lot of times I like looking at the human form in my work and manipulating that…stuff that I was into growing up in Georgia that kind of influence the emotions of the viewer, to influence the way in which they interact with the space that they’re looking at the work, they influence the way that they are engaging with the ideas that I’m talking about. All of my sensibilities kind of come from where I grew up and my culture…

Marvin Toure Art


Everything. It’s dope. It’s a genre that when I was younger I knew the words to I think “Mona Lisa” by Slick Rick when I was like a toddler, and then when I got old enough to really understand what those words mean, I was cut off from hip-hop…I think the way in which an MC approaches the craft of putting together words to formulate a sentence, to formulate a bar, to formulate a whole album, is really interesting to me in terms of a creative process. Which is why I listen to a lot of interviews by hip-hop artists, which is why I’d rather listen to an album rather than going to an opening and seeing a solo show…I feel like as many times as I hear people talk about famous artists that they love, and artists in general that they love, I can always ask them did that show make you feel like the first time you heard Reasonable Doubt or did that show make you feel like the first time you heard College Dropout. No it didn’t, so what are we talking about. It’s like it didn’t, so what are we talking about.

So that’s my bar in terms of the work that I create. I strive to put that much of myself, that much of my own personal energy, my creative energy into the work like they do. I feel like they have so much passion for the work that they create. And in terms of creatives they don’t get as much credit, I feel like as like famous fashion designers or artists in an intellectual sense…when I feel like they’re just as viable creatives, if not more than the artists that we’re kind of forced to learn anyway in our discipline. So I look to them a lot and I look to that genre just for that energy. That goal to want to strive to be better than your past self…


…the idea of superheros and finding kinship in those characters…when you think of what the black body represents in this Western context, in the collective consciousness of America…fulfilling this kind of place of quasi-human versus superhuman. It’s almost as if in the canon of history, scientists who have detailed the black body have been so fascinated by us and what we can do and our abilities…walk into a room, or walk in an elevator, or walk down the street and somebody clutches their purse. Or how like a police officer can shoot you for selling loosies outside of a convenience store. The inherent fear that you’re strength as a black male is equal to a white male armed, like what does that do to the psyche of somebody growing up. The idea that you always have to mediate your own masculinity…me having to still curate the way in which I interact with other people because they’re uncomfortable…because they feel I have something that others don’t that can harm somebody…

…that’s what I have this kinship in looking at these comic book characters because they’re constantly dealing with this. You have the Hulk who’s always trying to calm himself down. Trying to battle with this thing that he has this inner kind of demon that if he gets too mad he’s gonna turn into this huge hulking monster, which is what people think that black people are gonna do anyway…this is what people think of us, so that’s why I feel like I like comics so much…I didn’t fully understand how to articulate at the time because I was growing up but I think there was definitely a relationship to how I felt in the context of my environment, especially growing up in the South, and how these characters were dealing with it in their every day lives…in terms of comics I’m reading, there’s this comic called Distric X…most of these characters weren’t written by black writers, which is also an interesting take on it. Like how are these white writers writing for these characters who are dealing with prejudice, and dealing with this kind of feeling of being powerful but then being dangerous at the same time…


It’s New York. It’s not easy being an artist here, you gotta kind of make it work for yourself and I still haven’t figured out that equation…if you really care about your work you have to find a way for it to continue to live, you have to find a way to continue to feed it. You can’t allow it to die, because a lot of people allow it to die. They allow that creative juice, that creative energy to just dissipate…my experience in New York has been a constant exercise in being able to adapt myself, not my work specifically, not what comes out but the process of making, to feed it’s growth…there’s so many different stimuli that come at you everyday…tomorrow the city is different. There’s so much stuff that happens that you have to constantly readjust for. You have to make work in a constantly changing environment…It’s not easy, but if you can do it and continue to make work, I think it’s a testament to how much you’re devoting to your practice…and how much care you have in the work that you make.

Marvin Toure Art


…just flames man…I just want to make the best work that I can and continue to explore these ideas that I have creatively…I don’t want to be too presumptuous and think that work can save the world but I do really enjoy when I have a show and somebody comes up to me and tells me how much my work means to them. That’s something I carry with me all the time…it’s nice to know that something that you created about your own experience or about the way you see the world can impact somebody’s life for the better…I want to continue to make really great work and I want to show it to people. I want my work to be seen by as many eyes as possible…


I mean of course. You gotta be fearless, you can’t be scared and do this…if you wanna make art professionally there’s going to be a lot of people who don’t like what you do…even if I took canvases and put the letter M on it, and it’s not political, not anything where it would rub somebody the wrong way, a lot of people won’t like it. A lot of people would tell you to do something different…you’re going to get different kinds of people telling you to do different kinds of things. You’re gonna get that more in school, and when you’re out you may at times feel like nobody cares about the work you’re making. So to get through all of that, you have to be fearless. You have to have faith in your work, in yourself, and your creative vision. You have to be able to trust your voice and also to not be scared of rejection because it’s going to come. There’s going to be a lot of people who don’t like. They’re not gonna like the work at all. They’re gonna say why are you even making work, why are you even an artist. They’re gonna look at your work like it’s trash. But you have to continue to make work because it’s not about them…even if it is like 50 people, 100 people, it’s still not about them. It’s about you and this creative journey that you’re on. So you gotta be fearless to make work, otherwise why make it? If you’re gonna be scared just go do something else…I think that also being fearless is not necessarily you never acknowledging the difficulties…it’s really being 100% honest with yourself…


…I’ve been traveling recently so I’m kind of digesting everything that I’ve seen. I went to the Ivory Coast for the first time, and I went to Paris, it was just like a lot…so I’m digesting all of these kinds of different things that I’ve seen and these whispers of this project are coming to mind and I’m excited, I’m working on new pieces right now…

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.

Damaged City Festival 2019 | Photos | LIVING LIFE FEARLESS

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