Pablo Power’s multi-media art looks at an urban wilderness of unseen and forgotten worlds to soften fears of the unknown.
In 1988, I began spending summers with my father in Miami, until I moved there to attend high school a few years later. I was in the throes of a youthful obsession with the mysterious apparition of graffiti writing, and landing there brought it into focus. Miami was in the midst of a heyday of writing, so it didn’t take long for me to garner an understanding of who the mystery people were, eventually even becoming one, myself.
In that era, the urban center of Miami was a boundless urban wilderness, with most of the city’s population living in the suburbs. Following the graffiti subculture led me to labyrinthine railroad tracks and alleyways, crumbling neighborhoods, depopulated trailer parks, and homeless’ shanty towns. These were playgrounds of the writers, where we could be left alone to create freely, with less concern for law enforcement or property owners catching up to us. But there were other denizens of the dark to contend with in those areas: a population that also seeks anonymity in the margins of society, but as a place to be freely consumed by mental illness, addiction, and criminal activity. Through encounters with those inhabitants, I was able to forge a connection between divergent worlds and found the importance of looking beyond what’s familiar and approachable.
The first body of artwork that I was passionate about came out of those years of writing and painting murals in public, to introduce something colorful, crafted, and considerate into locations that had otherwise been forgotten, overlooked, or avoided. As I explored my own artistic vision through murals and public installations, I pushed these interactions deeper into Miami’s urban wilderness, long before there was a single gallery and barely a few artists in Wynwood. This led directly into photographing and documenting communities of people who inhabit those marginal areas, as an exploration of how disparate communities can coexist and relate to one another. Eventually, I sought to focus more concisely on the places and people who inspired those early revelations, through multimedia documentary. In my current work, I layer my own photo and video images over painting and representations of text, to depict stories of unknown worlds that surround us. My work forms a bridge across divergent communities; its process raises awareness of unseen and forgotten worlds, softening our collective fear of the unknown.
Image: “Crack Another Forty/ A Birthday On Christie” 2013. A mixed media work capturing a moment of early morning celebration with The Inkheads
Pablo Power was born in a log cabin in rural Maryland, but spent his formative years in the seamy, creative crucible of Miami. That early inspiration propelled him to New York City, to study at Parsons School of Design and School of Visual Arts.
With little more than a camera, Power embeds himself in marginalized communities across America, living in streets and motels with his subject matter as he documents their time together. In the studio, the photographs are layered with drawn and painted elements, which allude to the texts and textures that have been at the core of his work from the beginning. Power lives in Brooklyn and works in a combination of media to conflate community.