Kendrick Daye is lounging in his Midtown studio, surrounded by work: The carpet is covered in bright drips of paint and scraps of paper left over from the collages and paintings he creates under the name GreatEclectic. His computer screen glows with an inbox full of messages about his graphic design work and Art Nouveau magazine, the slick urban art and culture publication he started in 2007. The neckline of his shirt has been chopped open and exposes a sprawling chest tattoo that spells "Crazy" in an ornate script. He runs his ring-covered fingers over a wispy moustache, past the beauty-mark piercing under his bottom lip. "I'm more into style than fashion," he says. "I don't really care about fashion. Honestly, there's a pile of clothes in my closet and I just pick whatever I see first."
Daye's sense of style informs everything he does. The Basquiat-and-Warhol-cribbed spirit that runs throughout his celebrity-themed solo show, Want to See a Sad Boy Smile? Pay Him, opening April 14, is just as visible in the pages of Art Nouveau. When he blogs something like "Kanye West Has Every Right To Be An Asshole" for the magazine, those subjects usually show up in his visual work. From painting to publishing to music to graphic design, Daye sees little use in drawing distinctions. "Art is everything. It's the way you dress, what music you listen to, where you live, what you eat. Your entire life is art — that's your biggest masterpiece, you know?"
That principle is certainly visible in Daye's apartment, where the couch has been hastily reupholstered with bright red fabric, one wall painted day-glo green, and every available surface covered in some sort of project. Everything around him bears his mark. "It's usually extremely loud in here," he says, explaining that he listens to long mixes — a group of songs about money for example — as way of entering into the mood he needs to create.
Once he's there, though, Daye says his work doesn't take long, "The process is quick no matter what I'm doing — if it's design, if it's making pieces for show — it's always a quick process. I just get it done and get it out of the way," he says.
That immediacy and play between mediums have come to define Daye's work as a promoter. Not long after moving from Miami to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College in 2005, Daye started putting on events and parties that brought together musical performances, fashion shows, live painting and art exhibits, such as 2010's Super Pop! and FUNKshion. Through the events and the magazine, Daye's found himself around more than a few local artists he admires — musician and painter Corinne Stevie Francilus, interdisciplinary photographer Nikita Gale, self-styled art star and painter Fahamu Pecou among them — but has neither embraced, nor been embraced by, the local gallery scene.
Daye says that finding a gallery in 2009 for his two-person show with Francilus, Extraordinary Machine, was a frustrating process. "No one was trying to show our work anywhere," he recalls. Since then, he's resolved to produce his exhibitions without any outside help. "It's better to do everything on your own," he says. "I hate having someone over my shoulder telling me what to do."
Operating with such a strong DIY ethic has its challenges, though. "If the venue doesn't have sound, you have to get sound. The venues, none of them have lights, so you have to get lights," he says. "I never enjoy any event, but I refuse to let someone else do it. I have to do everything because I feel like it won't get done."
Daye says the added expense and effort is worth knowing that he hasn't compromised his vision. "When people think of art, they think of the snooty museum type of art, but urban art and street art came out of the fact that [those artists] weren't included in the museum and what contemporary art is supposed be," he says.
That iconoclastic vision alludes to Daye's childhood memories of his parents. His father was a talented portrait artist. "He was really good at drawing. There were portraits all over my grandmother's house of random people, of cartoon characters, all types of stuff," he says. But Daye mostly credits his creativity to his mother, an event planner who knew how to bring people together on a slim budget without sacrificing the style necessary for orchestrating a wedding or making the centerpiece for a dining table. "I consider her more of an artist than my father," says Daye. "He had that technical skill but she was more creative. What she can pull off with nothing — to me, that's what being creative is."