“I think painting kind of chose me,” Honor Titus tells me from his home in Los Angeles.
A musician turned artist, Titus, 31, grew up in New York City, surrounded by sound. His father, Andres “Dres” Titus, was one half of the seminal rap group Black Sheep. His own musical career began as the front man of the cheeky Brooklyn punk-rock band Cerebral Ballzy. (A rib on their label’s Web site notes the musicians took influence from “Black Flag, Dead Boys, Bad Brains, and Thrasher magazine—as well as pizza and beer.”)
But music wasn’t the endgame, and after a stint working as a studio assistant for the artist Raymond Pettibon, Titus, in 2016, left New York for Los Angeles. “I’ve lived in such a precarious manner and by the seat of my pants, you know, touring in a punk band, traveling,” he says. “When I moved to Los Angeles, I was in such a state of disarray that I was ready to become a mechanic’s apprentice … but I still wanted to create work.”
In Los Angeles, Titus fell in with a crowd of respected artists, spending his days with the painter Henry Taylor, who became a mentor and champion, and the British artist Danny Fox. Titus, who has not attended art school, is often described as “self-taught.” But the artist disagrees. “For me to say ‘self-taught’ is honestly a fib because I’ve been very fortunate to have had older individuals throughout my life take me under their wing,” he says. In his mind, art is art—no matter the medium. “I’ve always been around writers. I’ve always been around musicians. I’ve been fortunate in that capacity and that energy.”
Titus’s talent was recognized immediately. A mesh of welcome contradictions, his work—which uses bright jewel colors to depict simple and whimsical everyday moments—has been described as both “timeless” and “fresh,” “nostalgic” and “romantic,” impressing critics and the social set in equal measure. Titus sold every painting in his first solo show, “For Heaven’s Sake,” at the Timothy Taylor gallery, in New York, before it even opened, earlier this year.
Now Titus is en route to London for an equally anticipated exhibition at the Frieze art fair. “Given the intense market interest in Black figurative painting at the moment, it felt refreshing to have our little exhibition in New York have such a warm and glowing response, seemingly for the right reasons,” he says. “No one’s doing what I’m doing. No one’s creating in the way that I’m creating. No one’s putting forth what I’m putting forth. And for the solo show in New York to do as well as it did so quickly only affirms that. And that felt good.”
Honor Titus’s latest show, with the Timothy Taylor gallery, is on at Frieze from October 13 to 17
Bridget Arsenault is the London Editor for Air Mail