Innocent (The Great Messiah, 2015) displays some of his teenage work in this book of sketches and word art.
Torn from the pages of his teen notebooks (sometimes with the binder holes still visible along the margins), these images provide a glimpse into the passions and fixations of the visual artist. The centrality of written language is especially evident: words appear in nearly every piece, and about half of the works contain no images other than words. One reads: “Unable to move. / Incapable de bouger. / Incapaz de moverse.” Another simply, “Lee Harvey Oswald / John Wilkes Booth,” with check marks next to each name. The African-American experience is central to the work. “Word black lingers everytime I accomplish something,” says one. Another: “Descendant of Cotton Pickers.” A black and red drawing of a grotesque, stylized face features the caption “Origin of Negros.” Innocent’s own artistic ambitions are also a recurring subject. One page contains a dialogue exchange between Innocent and someone named Nick, in which the former predicts, “I know I’m going to be a famous artist and I think I’m going to die young.” Simple drawings of figures and objects in red or black pencil, sometimes shaded in with a childish dash of color, typify the more figurative offerings. In terms of pure visual power, this is not the most striking collection of art one could find. Even so, Innocent has a poet’s gift for precision, and the way he literally writes his words (with some letters rendered backward, or phrases crossed out and reworded) highlight the text and the thought process behind it in captivating ways. The book certainly captures the angst-ridden teen aesthetic, with references to algebra, muscle groupings, fluoride, and various philosophers suggesting an artist doodling his way through his high school classes, snatching interesting ideas and images from the air. The use of lists and Scrabble-like word junctions furthers Innocent’s playful deconstruction of language. One might not give these works a second glance if they were found crumpled beneath a desk, but collected here these dashed-off musings take on a potent and thought-provoking quality.
An intriguing collection of layered, frolicsome drawings.