Note: This story was updated on Nov. 25 to correct the year the original Casa Grey painting was created to 2016.
Since releasing a book of poetry called "Words in Grey" in 2015, Chattanooga writer/poet/painter/creative Genesis the Greykid has been on a career arc that has taken him across the country several times. It has allowed him to meet and interact in various degrees with other creatives and art lovers such as Kanye West, Elon Musk, artist/designer/illustrator Audrey Schilt, an illustrator for the fashion designer Halston for many years, and even basketball stars Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O'Neal.
Over the years, he has created art in several genres, including rap, poetry and painting, lately putting words on canvas in a style he calls "PoAnguardia," a word he made up to define the merging of poetry, painting and art that he creates.
He's staged exhibits of his works from coast to coast from Los Angeles to the Hamptons, as well as here in Chattanooga, and those events and meetings always left him feeling he was missing an opportunity to share the incredible energy and magic that always seemed to be in the air. In 2018, he and friend, business partner and attorney Kevin Thomson began talking about ways to share their experiences not only with these artists and creatives, but with other art lovers.
The result is Casa Grey, a project the two will launch Tuesday by offering high-quality prints on canvas of a painting Genesis did in 2016 called "It Will Pass." The 24-inch-by-30-inch prints will go on sale today at noon for $375, and the sale will end at noon on Sunday at casagrey.com.
Original Genesis paintings can cost between $2,000 and $20,000. Thomson said the finite time frame will limit the number of prints that will be sold and that each will be signed and numbered and tracked for years to come, ensuring its provenance even it is sold or transferred to someone else.
"We don't really want to limit the number sold, but the time frame," he said. "The idea is make these pieces to more people. The quality of the prints is amazing."
Future products will include a line of Taft boots painted by Genesis and a line of limited edition coffee tables he has painted and signed in collaboration with O'Neal, who provided many of the quotes used on the tables.
O'Neal said in a text message, "I met Genesis the Greykid through Yusaf (Babar, a hookah lounge owner who also works with O'Neal) — in Georgia. He's gonna be a name to watch in the world of fine art really talented guy. So the coffee table he created that we signed together just made a lot of sense for the auction. And he looks like Bob Marley."
The message included a laughing emoji.
The original "It will Pass" 48-inch-by-60-inch painting is owned by movie director Chike Ozah ("Benji," "South Side," "Abide"), a longtime friend of the artist going back to Genesis' days as a rap artist who also wrote rhymes for other artists. An art collector, Ozah said the painting is the first Genesis painting he has purchased.
"Genesis had posted it on Instagram and it spoke to me," Ozah said. "His words spoke to me. I have to live my life. Everything comes to pass and we all have adversity and hardship. There is always a next day. Also, sometimes we take ourselves too seriously."
Ozah said he has thrilled in watching his friend grow and develop as a person and an artist, and Casa Grey is the next big step. Ozah especially appreciates the collaborative nature of the endeavor.
"I feel like people don't understand that we are all artists," he said of the people involved. "We are all storytellers, just in different mediums. I consider Genesis a genius in his own right and the more he gets out there on the different platforms to get his thoughts out there, the better. I can't wait to see what happens."
It has been through conversations with people such as Ozah and O'Neal that Thomson and Genesis realized there was a world out there that was not being shared with others.
"It started through a love for beauty, an appreciation for the power in memory, and love, all fueled in a little frustration," Genesis said with a chuckle.
"We work around a lot of talented people all the time. Many are friends, some are creatives we've never met, but in either case, there's always a tremendous amount of 'otherness' a 'texture' almost in the air. In these environments we never really take pictures — no one wants to be that guy. So these magical, creative moments, these 'memories full of texture' would always vanish after the one-off was completed — be it an album, an exhibition, a building, clothes, didn't matter. There was so much lost in the making of the product, Kev and I felt like those 'moments' should live on their own, as works of art."
The idea is to create a platform or a way that something tangible might come out of some of these seemingly random meetings.
"We are trying to find a way to let people work together or collaborate with each other, bringing their own unique talents to whatever the project is," he said.
Genesis said he might work with a musician who writes a song based on a painting he's done, or vice versa, or the two might talk about an idea or concept and then each create their own work. Some collaborations might be one-offs and some might be ongoing.
"This thought first came to us in 2018 we could have launched then, but wanted to take our time to ensure it was done with the utmost attention to detail and not just extra stuff for the sake of more/extra. But rather, treating these fleeting moments that are incredibly important to the sum, with the honor it deserves. We've sat with some of the best in their industry, and also some unknown creative giants that prefer the shadows. Using these moments as the fuel, creating artistic memories that can be collected for the many that may never find themselves in such rooms. Whether that expression comes out as a very, very limited edition signed print, layered furniture, rare authenticated artifacts, or luxury vehicle collaborations."
The latter, he said, is an example of the type of moment or memory that he has had through his meetings with people who travel in the rarified air of the uber wealthy or uber famous that most don't get to experience. Casa Grey he envisions as a way to perhaps bridge that gap through art and collaboration.
For now, Casa Grey is just Thomson and Genesis with O'Neal contributing coffee tables, but the plan is to grow going forward.
"We are a small team right now," Genesis said, "but will be looking to hire 10-20 people in 2021 that are creatives, artists or looking to work in the luxury goods market and open to travel. Eventually, we'd love to have 100 of some of the most interesting artists in the world signed up with Casa Grey, helping to spread these beautifully captured memories to the world."
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.