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Art and the Duality of Internet Fame with Ian Woods

Art and the Duality of Internet Fame with Ian Woods

It’s difficult to pin down — or staple down — Ian Woods, a young artist originally from Chicago. I started following the artist also known as Poserrboy a few years ago because his wildly loud portraits of musicians and other pop culture figures just jumped off the screen while scrolling Instagram. They were unlike anything I had seen before and reminded me of an acid trip, as they sometimes appeared to be shape-shifting when they were most certainly not.

Woods was, and is, prolific. Very early on in my followship of Ian Woods, it wasn’t hard to tell that he was creating art at a feverish pace, sometimes posting three, four, five new pieces every day, all possessing the unique ability to make one do what is unheard of on Instagram today: make you stop and look for a while.

Ian’s art took things we were used to seeing all of the time and morphed them into something completely different, like a caricature from another dimension. And he didn’t limit himself to one medium, shifting from paint to crayons to staples to digital and a host of other methods. He would develop a new style, create 20-something pieces of art in that style, and respond to criticisms of the new style not with more comments but with completely new styles. Woods is always one step ahead of the trolls, flexing his off-the-wall artistry every time people try to predict what he’ll do next.

Around the time Virgil Abloh was flipping the fashion world on its head with his new quoted labeling “system” applied to most projects he was working on at the time, Woods issued his statement on the trend by using plain text to offer commentary on art, sometimes even testing the audience’s tolerance (or knowledge) with labels that were clearly incorrect, like plastering Picasso’s name on top of Salvador Dali’s 1931 “The Persistence of Memory” painting and selling it as a T-shirt. Some commenters were furious, while others found joy in both the art itself and the futile reprimanding of the comment section art “historians.”

Regardless, Woods used the positive and negative engagement to fuel interest in his new works and latest style change, where he takes digital images into the physical world but morphs them on the way, like in a movie when someone who uses a futuristic transporter or time travel device doesn’t show up to their destination in exactly the same form they left in. The artist’s bizarro world takes on rappers like Kid Cudi, beloved characters like Spongebob, and cultural reference points like Off-White Jordans all spark conversation at the very least, and tend to sell out quickly when prints are made available.

The reclusive young artist reveals very little about his personal life, preferring to express himself primarily through his art, speaking on current events with his paint brush, scissors, crayons, and other tools rather than his voice. Woods’ Instagram Story is a peek behind the curtain, a viewpoint into his psyche and what makes him tick. While a story with a hundred tiny dots worth of installments is typically daunting, I find myself watching the whole thing to get an idea for what inspired his new pieces, be it screenshots of songs he’s listening to, screengrabs of old video games, or memes.

I started buying prints from Poserrboy early, as a lot of the people he focused his art on connected with me. First, I copped a striking Cobain print. More recently, a whimsical drawing he did of Mac Miller, exactly how I’d like to remember the beloved rapper.

Then, I jumped on a 1-of-1 Andre 3000 piece that took one of the photos from Andre’s GQ feature and made it into one of the more unique pieces I’ve seen in quite some time. Using staples, Woods framed Three Stacks in a way that made him look like he was stapled to the canvas, a human turned into art for mass consumption.

Thankfully, I was able to connect with Ian over the phone recently and we had a conversation about his art, becoming a dad, and the comment section. If you’re not familiar with Poserrboy, get hip and cop a few pieces before they’re like $25k in a year or two.

DUKE LONDON: So, tell me a little about you. I’ve been following your art for a while but don’t know a tremendous amount about you, the person.
IAN WOODS: I was born near Chicago and moved down to Texas when I was about 5-years-old. I grew up in a town called Keller. I’ve been making art all my whole life. It started in kindergarten at a very young age. When I got a little bit older, I got into sports so I stopped making art from about age 5 to highschool pretty much. I would draw here and there but didn’t get serious about it until freshman year of highschool. I’ve been taking it pretty seriously since then.

You live in Florida now?
I moved to Florida. Me and my son’s mom didn’t work out. I’m down here for two things: getting my life together and continuing my art. I’m moving back to Texas by probably the end of the year. I’m hoping.

What brought you back to art after that long break you took?
My art teacher my freshman year of highschool. He saw a lot of potential in what i was doing and I never had anyone interested in my drawing and stuff like that. My sophomore year, he told me to be part of an AP class, an advanced art class. It was really inspiring and I just took it seriously after that.

Who is Poserrboy?
[laughs] I’m a real quiet person. I observe people, I’m an observer. I’m just really quiet unless you talk to me. But my artwork is super loud and makes a lot of noise.

Your art is pretty divisive and polarizing where a lot of people love it and a lot of people comment “this is not art.” How does this feedback affect your vision, if at all? Maybe it doesn’t.
It does. It depends on how much hate I’m getting. I get depressed over it a little bit. After a day or two, it’s just more motivating than anything. I just keep going and keep pushing. In some type of way, I’ve gotten a lot attention off of a work of mine that went viral. I put Picasso’s name over a Dali painting and that blew up and people were saying “that’s not art.” I’m a quiet person but I guess my art makes a lot of controversy and a lot of noise.

Whether you’re getting love or hate, your art is getting people talking.
Yeah. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. I feel like people lost sight of that. They just want stuff to look cool. I don’t know. I just like more of the meaning behind the work now that I’m older.

Some of your art is obviously just commentary on other art, like when you put contrasting text on something else. A lot of other pieces are very intricate and very you. Do you think you switching up styles so often is a way to stay ahead of people criticizing you?
Yeah. I think as an artist, you’re supposed to have more than one medium that you do. It’s cool to mainly be a painter but I also want to get into sculpting, I want to get into all types of stuff to test myself. I feel like that’s really important. One thing leads to another.

I thought it was really interesting when you recently started using staples in your art.
Some of those things happen on accident, which is really cool. [laughs]

What do you mean?
I just go to Walmart and any craft store and look at stuff like, “Oh, that might be cool.” And it’ll sit in my room for about a week and I’ll try it out to see if it works.

When you posted the Andre 3000 piece, I instantly fell in love with it. Had to cop when the original went up for sale.
I like the idea of the 1-of-1 because it’s one of a kind. Sometimes, I feel like a print doesn’t get the same feel. You have a print of it but the physical copy of it feels more important to have.

What about mixing physical things like staples with photography drew your eye to it?
I get a lot inspiration from one of my friends. I got into that type of stuff because of my friend, he does similar work but I wanted to put my twist on it in a way. It’s good to get inspiration but it’s bad to completely copy. Adding staples and pastels, I liked the feel of it. It’s hard to explain.

The series where you have the artist’s album art in the middle and you paint around it. Is that your interpretation of the vibe that artist or project puts off?
It’s the feel i get from the album and the color scheme of the album. It’s pretty simple.

What other artists, whether old, contemporary, modern, have you been a fan of? Do you look at their work for inspiration?
Mostly Picasso because he dips his feet into different mediums. Same with Basquiat and Warhol. Those are my 3 main people.

Your work reminds me a lot of Warhol in the sense that you really put your own spin on things in pop culture and make people see things they’re used to seeing in a totally different way.
[laughs] Yeah I get that a lot.

Is that a goal of yours? To shift people’s perception of things they’re used to seeing?
Yeah, definitely. I feel like that’s important as an artist to shed light on things that are the norm and flip them completely. I feel like that’s really important.

What about Warhol’s work stuck out to you?
Mainly, his flips of famous people like Marilyn Monroe. It’s a picture and he just flips it and makes it his own. The Campbell Soups and the Brillo Boxes that he’s done are also my favorite.

You have a new series where you cut a photo in half and haphazardly draw the rest of it in. It’s awesome. I can’t even put words to it, I’m happy I get to ask you about it. What is that and how much do u feel you have to draw to “finish” it?
[laughs] Honestly, it’s whatever I feel like at the moment [when it comes to] what should be there and what shouldn’t. Drawing the half picture, I got the inspiration from Basquiat because he would draw in the opposite way of his writing. He would draw like a little kid draws and I think that’s really cool. I try to do the same thing but it’s just going to build up because I’m going to get more detailed with it. I’m just going to keep building off of that. That’ll lead to another thing and that will lead to another thing.

Do you work one style at a time or do you work on a lot of different things at once?
I just mainly work on the style that I’m on at the moment but if I have a random idea pop up of another style or portrait then I’ll do that.

I feel like your art hasn’t been really commercially focused. You do sell stuff but that hasn’t been the main intent. You’ve really been trying to flex how many different styles you can do. How do you balance creativity with the commercial side?
Oh man, that’s a good question. On the commercial side, I know the people that follow me and what they like, so I try to go towards that but at the same time I still want to make it mine and make sure I still like it. I guess I can balance it pretty well.

Did having a kid change how you looked at your art as far as creating a business and something that could last out of it?
Yeah, definitely. Having him has made me get even more serious about it. Not all about money but making sure I’m getting a decent income on it so I can support him and me and have something for him to look forward to and have him be proud of me. It’s a lot.

Poserrboy and Lil Poserrboy

You’re trying to create a lasting impression. Where do you see it going next? Right now you’re selling prints, and you’ve teased T-shirts.
I kind of teased doing merch. I’m that type of artist that doesn’t know if my art would look good on shirts but recently, the stuff I’m doing now, I can definitely see on T-shirts and doing collabs with other people. I think in the future, I’m just going to work up bigger pieces of paper and canvas to get myself inside of galleries. I’ll also be selling more 1-of-1 pieces.

How has it been going? Have you been seeing a lot of growth with your art? It’s one thing to be able to tell if social media is growing but are more and more people becoming dedicated fans that buy stuff?
Yeah for sure. I see the same people buying the same amount of art or more. It’s definitely growing. It’s just the process I guess, I can’t get too down about it. It’s definitely growing. Different people tagging me and stuff like that. It’s getting better for sure.

Have you done any gallery showings yet?
No, I haven’t. I’m nervous about that kind of stuff. [laughs] I want to do it soon though for sure.

What makes you nervous about it?
Just the reactions and stuff. If I were to show in galleries, I would test people’s thoughts and I don’t know if they would like that. I‘m a really closed and reserved person so that makes me nervous the most.

How does your art help you overcome that? How is art an outlet for you?
Because I’m a quiet person, it’s the only way I can communicate my thoughts. I suck at talking and explaining myself. My art easily explains what I’m thinking and what type of person I am.

Have you heard feedback from your old art teacher about what you’re doing now? What do people in your close circle think of your art?
My parents are super critical but they support what I’m doing. My art teacher actually left my sophomore year, he got sick and returned the next year. It was unfortunate. My close circle and friends really support what I’m doing. When I’m down about stuff, they’ll get me out of it and I’ll continue to do what I’m doing and keep pushing.

Can I ask how old you are?
I’m 24.

When you say your parents are critical of it, do they not understand it or are they critical about you doing this as a career?
A little bit of both. They want me to have a back-up plan. The stuff that I make, they’re super critical of it because most of the time they don’t understand it, but once I explain it they get it.

What inspires you?
I go on Tumblr a lot. The stories I post give me inspiration, hopefully it gives other people inspiration. TV Shows, movies I watch, music I listen to. A lot of stuff inspires me, just stuff that I see on a daily basis.

What have you been watching recently?
I’ve been watching a lot of sports shows but recently movie-wise I’ve been watching Django a lot. I watch a lot of Youtube, interviews, George Condo, Picasso painting to get my creative juices flowing. That’s where I go when I’m feeling down or like I have nothing else left.

When you’re making art does that let you clear out all the white noise in the background and zone out?
It definitely makes me more excited to create. If I’m doing the same thing over and over again, it’s fun for a while but I just want to try something else to challenge myself.

What are some challenges in the art world that you want to tackle in the next few years? What goals do you have?
I’m definitely getting into an art gallery. I want to make a Poserrboy gallery space. Some toys maybe. I’ve been following people on Instagram who make toys. That’s inspired me to get into that physical part of it. Merch, just like we were talking about, just like expanding my brand and getting more serious about it.

In honor of The Hundreds releasing the first ever Adam Bomb Collection, Ian Woods gave us his take on Adam. Might staple it to myself forever.


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