If you have higher expectations for graffiti art than the “FRESH” epidemic, you might want to visit the Michigan Union tonight for a live performance by graffiti artist Gene Pendon. When the rash of amateur scribbles around Ann Arbor just doesn’t cut it, look to an artist who has established his roots in New York-style graffiti.

“Art-I-FAKTS: (her) story 2” is part of a Fighting Obstacles Knowing Ultimate Success (F.O.K.U.S.), Black Arts Council and National Council of Negro Women event, where Pendon will create a live painting in the Union’s Art Lounge to mark Women’s History Month. Accompanied by the sounds of DJ Teddy Ruck-Spin (Disclosure: Ruck-Spin’s alter ego, Ted Cullinane, sometimes writes for the Daily’s arts section), Pendon’s work will lend itself to what he considers a crucial aspect of his creations: music.

Pendon’s live painting began as a way to pay the rent. Each month, a community of artists in Montreal would throw a live painting night, where musicians performed and painters transformed blank canvases into art. Pieces were auctioned off at the end of each night. This not only earned Pendon the extra cash he needed, but also gave him his first look into the world of public art performance.

“When we are doing live installations, the music is part of the room, and the art that is being created is what is being experienced,” Pendon said. “It’s not like a pantomime to the music; the figures are photo-based, but music helps. Music influences the energy of the moment; it stimulates the mind and often triggers creativity.”

In just three hours, Pendon will base his work on inspiring activist and singer Radmilla Cody, a Navajo activist who works on issues of domestic violence, environmentalism and problems unique to Native Americans. Cody, who struggled to find her identity as a biracial woman in the homogenous Navajo community, has created music that serves as a beacon through which others can find strength.

Pendon’s live art collective Heavyweight Production House specializes in just that: bringing these “heavyweight” cultural icons whether they’re writers, painters, musicians, or activists to life.

“It is an opportunity to feature someone and introduce their story,” Pendon said. “I think the idea behind Women’s History Month is to draw awareness to issues and figures and create activism that will engage people.”

He’s created installations alongside artists such as Afrika Bambaataa, Pete Rock and Masters at Work.

Becoming quite the heavyweight himself, Pendon offers cultural insight in the form of hyper-pop, graffiti-based groove art murals that bring meaningful messages to his audience and a style that is truly “fresh.”

Gene Pendon
Tonight at 6 p.m.
At the Michigan Union Art Lounge

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