Feel the Hype

Artist Joe Hayes on critiquing consumerism culture

Words By Erika Clugston
Photos By Soheil Moradian

We live in a daily whirlwind of tweets, trends and hashtags that are hard to resist and harder to escape. We might wonder if we are ‘on trend’ as we struggle to find a balance between individuality and mass-produced identity. 

Amidst the dizzying chaos of social media and consumerism, society needs artists to critique and deconstruct contemporary culture. Artist Joe Hayes, aka ‘Joe by Joe’ gives us his truth with his latest body of work, HYPE.

On opening night, we step into the small gallery space filled with large canvases of bright orange, deep blue, pressed flowers, and chalk lines loosely scrawled across the surfaces, to learn more about HYPE. Joe has transformed the PremArts Gallery with his work. It feels like a studio, with canvases and plastic wrap tacked to the wall, paint brushes and other supplies scattered in jars around the room. The space speaks to Joe’s artistic process and he talks about it as an open studio, rather than a formal gallery. His paintings are boldly abstract, with strong colours, organic line work, and recognisable brand symbols like Nike and Rolex. We talk about his process, paintings, and performance and the ways in which he is critiquing consumerism culture. Read on to find out what all the hype is about.

What is ‘hype’?
Hype, in my opinion, is the ability to manipulate the opinions of the masses towards any particular subject; it can be both negative and positive. I feel the positive aspect is that it gives people with true talent the platform to speak to the world and convey the message that is at the core of any great art piece.

I’m addressing consumer culture and the idea that so few people dictate the thought processes of so many. I don’t think that’s fair for the majority. Everyone now is looking for validation from someone who is going to validate you to a bunch of other people. You can get lost in chasing that validation and not believing in yourself. I’m just sure of myself and I’m sure of my message, so I don’t get caught in the hype. But I also address the positive sides of hype and how it can actually help some people that need to be heard. People that have a positive message are able to be heard because of hype, so it’s not a bad thing.

The artist is as important as ever – we are the truth tellers.

How does your series address hype?
I took the approach of using colours and words to give the feeling of a commercial product. So the orange is a Nike orange, and using these colour patterns gives the works a commercial ‘hype’ feeling. Then I allow myself the freedom to just express myself on the coloured canvas.

I named the show HYPE because I want there to be hype around it. I want it to feel hyped. That’s the only way to embody what it is. It’s just this hyped up thing, from a hyped up artist from the Bronx, happening in Berlin. So it’s like a whole piece, the paintings are part of the whole performance, which is me creating this hype. Manufactured hype.

In a world saturated with consumerism, what is the role of an artist?
The artist is as important as ever – we are the truth tellers. Our job is to cut through the bullshit and speak absolute truth, or at least the truth as we see it.

How is hype manifesting differently today than in the past? Is the need to be cool or trendy something new?
The need to be ‘cool’ is definitely different now. Growing up, cool wasn’t a thing you aspired to be. Our life and experiences growing up in the Bronx and following our dreams made us cool. I don’t consider myself to be cool, I’m just Joe.

Why is it important to talk about this culture of hype?
It’s important to address the hype epidemic because I see so many young talented creatives chasing fame and hype but not taking the time to actually just work on their craft, which should be the priority, always. The cream always rises to the top.

What brought you to Berlin?
Fate, I suppose? The opportunity just kind of came across my desk and I just said if I’m going to come I need time to create a body of work to show. So it’s been a growing process for me, I’m really happy.

How has your series been influenced by Berlin and its own hype culture?
Berlin has inspired this body of work in so many ways. The energy of the city has been something that has changed me and allowed me to grow as a man and an artist.

What now? Do you have any projects in the works?
I will go back to NYC and begin work on my next project which will be a collaborative piece with an artist I really connect with. He works in a totally different medium so it will push me and I’m looking forward to it. We will debut it in Berlin next summer, so I’ll be back. Danke!

Find out more about Joe’s work on the PremArts Gallery website. Joe promises to come back to Berlin soon and we can’t wait for his next project.