My name is Josh Grotto. I am an artist, designer and style writer from Chicago.
When did you first get involved with art?
As far back as I can remember, I have always loved to draw. When I was about 5 years old, I became obsessed with breakdancing. This eventually lead me to write graffiti because the people who did one seemed to do the other. I had an older brother who had to take me everywhere with him since my mom was a single working mother at that time. He and his friends were into hip-hop, and graffiti was a part of that. So I started young, first practicing on paper and then when I was about 10 years old, I did my first tags on the street.
Do you think if you never got involved with graffiti nearly 30 years ago you wouldn’t be in the position you’re in today
Definitely not. Graffiti was the foundation of my art and design practice. I was unconfident and had a low self-image as a kid, and graffiti gave me something that I was good at. You need those successes in life. For many years I did not even think about writing as art, but now I realize it always was for me. Additionally, when you grow up doing graffiti, you are constantly drawing, and to be any good, you have to learn about color, composition, and most of all, typography. Eventually, because I developed a reputation as a decent writer, I was given the opportunity to work on visuals for an independent Chicago hip-hop label called Galapagos4. My work for this label was well-received, which helped me land my first design jobs at corporate companies, and eventually, these successes equipped me with the confidence to start showing my own studio art in galleries.
A lot of your work is collaged pieces. What do you like so much about creating collages?
It is a natural way for me to work, and what I mean by that, is that at its core, I draw and paint by piecing together shapes and images. I like the idea of visually sampling. Starting with images that already exist in the world but flipping them to create something entirely new and personal– like Be-bop or Hip-Hop music. I think its a very contemporary way to work. I like the hunt for materials. I like the immediacy of it all.
What influenced your ‘Woman With A Broken Nose’ series?
A lot of my work is influenced by my experience of growing up in Chicago and then living here as an adult. Additionally, I’m really interested in the history of the art that’s been made in our city. That title comes from a line in a Nelson Algren book called Chicago: City on the Make:
“Yet once you’ve come to be part of this particular patch, you’ll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies. But never a lovely so real.” Chicago is a hard town. It is broken but it is beautiful. That is how I see the characters in my work.
A few weeks back you debuted your new works for your Bull In A China Shop exhibit. Talk about the inspiration behind this exhibit.
The title of the show is something my mother used to say to me- “You’re like a bull in a China shop!” I was always a big kid, and I would come into our nice clean apartment, and I would mess things up with impressive speed. Interestingly, that’s still what happens in my workspace. After a productive night in my studio, it looks like a bomb hit it. I have to approach my work with reckless abandon, or else I start thinking too much and I second-guess myself.
After being involved in creative mediums, what keeps you inspired to keep creating at higher and higher levels?
Art is therapeutic for me, so I can’t live without it, and I always want to continue to improve. I am pretty hard on myself, so I have to really work to please myself. However, I do find inspiration through working hard. I’ve also been lucky to amass a group of talented friends over the years who inspire me with their work to keep at it.
When it’s all said and done how would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as someone whose art honestly reflects who they are — I want people to feel that I’m being genuine when I create my work. I also would like to be remembered as a hard worker, and as a loving husband, brother, son, uncle and friend.