Tylonn J. Sawyer is an American figurative artist who lives and works in Detroit, Michigan.
His art has been included in solo and group exhibitions nationally & internationally and can be found in private and public collections. As an extension of his studio practice, Tylonn has been commissioned to paint murals for clients including Quicken Loans, Red Bull and the Whole Foods corporation.
Tylonn earned an MFA in painting from the New York Academy of Art and a BFA from Eastern Michigan University, and received the Peter T. Rippon Travel Award, for study at the Royal Academy of Art, London England.
In my current series of oil paintings and drawings, I primarily depict multi-figured compositions of individuals using masks to shield their identity. I present a fixed view of these figurative groups in static confrontational poses facing the viewer reminiscent of class portrait photography. Each composition changes in service to the subject matter of the individual work. When painting, most of my figures are dressed alike, exclusively in black & white, to contribute to my broader investigation of collective identity. I first create numerous thumbnail sketches until I decide on a composition that interest me. I photograph myself and other models wearing black & white, hiding our faces with the cut out masks of mostly African American cultural icons. The idea of the cross-race effect interest me; so, to create a stronger similarity amongst the subjects in each image, I use Photoshop to clone the models to make composite photographs. I then paint/draw from the photos, making intuitive edits or embellishments to the final composition as the images develop. My work can be viewed as contemplations on collective African American identity, as well as, the relationship of law enforcement to people of color in the United States. Is there a monolithic concept of blackness and if so, what Is it? What does it mean to be black? Through the rejection of individual identity and adoption of others, using masks, I am constantly examining why someone would do this? Is this kind of masquerade another form of Idol worship and will adopting another person’s persona bring me closer to this answer?
GRINDApril 6th – May 19th, 2017
Curated by Inner State Gallery