The Artist’s Early Life
Jef Aerosol was born John Francois Perroy in Nantes, France January 15, 1957. As a child in Nantes he was a romantic dreamer. The 1960s”particularly in the later years, which encompassed most of his childhood”was a phenomenal decade of upheaval in the art, music, political and social worlds. The art, music and politics of the decade contributed significantly to his artistic style. There also occurred in the 1960s a pronounced generation gap, which may be why the romantic, daydreaming future artist developed a fantasy life to enable him to float away from the adults in his life.
The decade of the ’60s brought the British Invasion in music and the visual impact of Twiggy, swinging London, psychedelic lamps, chairs and posters. Jef Aerosol absorbed all this into his soul as he spent a month in London every summer vacationing. It was here that his artistic and musical stylistics were formed. He has not wavered from these original influences.
The Artist’s Career
He spray-painted his first stencil in Tours, France in 1982. This was a self-portrait that he produced from an enlarged photo taken at a photo booth. A year later, Jef Aerosol took advantage of his years in London and began teaching English at a college in Tours while continuing to create street art in that city.
It comes as no surprise that his first stencil was of a human face. He was always fascinated by portraiture. People as a whole fascinate the artist as individuals and in crowds. He is enthralled with the mysteries of people he observes”what is their history? Are they good people or bad people? What made them the way they are as he perceives them now? He is particularly riveted by the eyes. He notes that “a death is a body whose gaze is turned off.” It also interested him greatly that on Greek statues, there are no pupils, but the expression remains. He painted faces of famous people such as Elvis Presley, Gandhi, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Basquiat and Bob Dylan as well anonymous people on walls for years before turning to silhouettes.
Jef Aerosol’s silhouette period was influenced by the black and white characters of his fellow street artist Blek le Rat. Before this, his street paintings of people were done in the psychedelic colors popular in the 1960s and ’70s. His works also show influences of the two great graphic artists: the American Milton Glaser, and the Polish Roman Cieslewicz.
Jef Aerosol is known to capture truth in his portraits like the best photographers. He is entirely self-taught as an artist. His art is in many private collections as well as on walls of buildings all over the world. He originally looked into “copy art” in the late ’70s, producing mixed media and distortions of photos, drawing on all the properties a photocopier can give to original art. He moved on to stencils inspired by ’70s and ’80s punk and underground rock bands.
Characters are central to Aerosol’s art. The characters may be cultural icons or totally anonymous, but all are pictured with genuine emotion enhanced with textural effects, color juxtapositions and provocative words. Like the photographer, he captures a moment of truth in his work. His signature trademark is a red arrow.
Between 1982 and 2002, Jef Aerosol settled down to family life, bought a house, and continued making music, teaching, writing books and painting. His published books include Vite Fait, Bien Fait (“Done Quickly, Done Well”), published in 1986. This was the first book ever published on the subject of street art. Jef Aerosol is also a musician, and has played in several bands including Windcatchers, Open Road and Distant Shores. One interesting note on his music is that he is an avid collector of 33rpm vinyl records and has over 10,000 in his collection. He organized a group show “Dites 33” paying tribute to the covers of those grand old albums. The show traveled between Belgium and France from 2005 to 2009.
The Artist’s Works
There is a new mural on a building in La Louviere, Belgium, depicting a huge, expressive face of Jimi Hendrix. The mural is in black and white and includes the words of Jimi, “When the Power of Love Overcomes The Love of Power, The World Will Know Peace.” His words epitomize the sensibilities and philosophy of the 1960s, of which Hendrix was so much a part. The Hendrix mural is a prime example of the artist’s artistic truth. The portrait is in no way idealized”it is raw and powerful. This masterpiece can be viewed here.
The Sitting Kid
Along with the red arrow, Jef Aerosol’s image The Sitting Kid is his trademark and signature. The artist has done many renditions of the iconic Kid. The one on Hollywood Boulevard along the Walk of Fame clearly exhibits why this illustration of a sitting child is the artist’s best-known work.
The design depicts a boy seeming to be about 10 years old, sitting down and hugging his knees”a typical pose for a boy lost in thoughts all his own. It may bring back personal memories of the artist as a young, romantic dreamer. It, too, is in black and white, and is positioned on a rather nondescript wall along the seedy Hollywood Street.
The universality of the work sets it apart from just another illustration of a young boy. The fact that the work is executed on an ordinary building on an ordinary street somewhat worse for wear brings out the character of the child’s soulfulness far more than if it were placed in a more extraordinary setting. The work can be viewed at www.YouTube.com/jef aerosol – The Sitting Kid in Hollywood.
Jef Aerosol is something of a Renaissance Man, considering his mastery of literature, music and art. His greatest gift to the art world, whether gallery or street, is his uncanny ability to get at the truth of his subject and convey that truth to his audience.