Fear would not be his master. This was the decision the graffiti artist known as ABOVE made when he bought his one-way ticket to Paris at the age of nineteen. He would rise above whatever fears he faced to establish a successful art career. Rise above, huh? That was kind of catchy. Running with this theme, ABOVE developed his signature arrows in many different mural art installations which point upward to signify this power of mentality. Over the years, his nothing-to-lose nature has led ABOVE to carve out a reputation as one of the recognizable mural artists across the globe. The art lovers of today can both appreciate older instillations and new works by ABOVE as he continues to develop his unique style worldwide.
ABOVE's Street Art Origins
A spray can and skateboard were his best friends as a kiddo. In a world that was just beginning to understand street art (mid-90s), ABOVE was just beginning to understand his future. His parents had planted within him a love for the unconventional, the abstract, the beautiful, and the unpredictable. This was the perfect seed for the sprouting of a street art lover and learner. Within the graffiti art he created, ABOVE found the ability to place a randomness within structure, a “do-it-yourself way of expressing.” In short, the artist couldn’t be bogged down by social norms and conventions. College was out of the question then, so what was plan B?
Apparently, it was that ticket to France mentioned earlier. Did he have family there? No. Did he have friends there? No. Did he know where he’d stay? No. Did he know what he’d do at all? No. But that was the point. ABOVE was determined to so bombard his brain with fear and worry that he would soon be invulnerable to any sort of angst and be more open to creative flow. Thus, the wandering artist wandered his way through Europe, creating new works by ABOVE, a name that would soon become famous.
Developing a Street Art Style
Self-discovery was an essential part of ABOVE’s career. When his plane touched down in the famed city of Paris, he had a plan which involved block-lettering and his rise above message. However, as ABOVE began to understand his career a bit more, he knew a shift was needed.
“In 2001 I decided to stop painting the traditional letter style graffiti of A-B-O-V-E, and instead create a universally recognized icon that represented the optimistic and powerful message to ‘RISE ABOVE.’”
The artist began to transition into an abstract style, one which would express the creativity and energy that was bottled up inside of him while also spreading his messages to the hearts of those who would see ABOVE art. His mural art is filled with geometric patterns highlighted by bright colors, movement of shapes, and a command of perspective and composition. Recently, he has begun experimenting with the interaction of light and shadow with the murals, as in his piece “Timing Is Everything.” ABOVE credits the development of his style to his exposure to different cultures, peoples, and environments which would all become a living part of himself and his work.
ABOVE's Art Exposure and Influence
Seventeen years, one hundred cities, sixty plus countries and he’d never even been to Paris before he bought that ticket. ABOVE is a living proof of the fruits of a fearless nature. He considered his life nomadic, an assimilation of cultures until his more recent settlement into the city of Berlin. This love of new interactions and surroundings is what created the inspiration for new works by ABOVE which featured interactive elements. His USA tour in 2004 consisted of hanging arrow mobiles from telephone wires, many of which featured word play, in an interactive attempt to spread his message. In 2007 he shifted from these mobiles to his mural art which he began crafting in Central and South America. Since then, his career has taken off, gaining worldwide exposure as he places his iconic murals in key cities. His street art portfolio is only growing with many new cities and countries becoming the home of new works by ABOVE.
One cannot learn about ABOVE without learning about his message. His mural art installations have tackled many social issues to spread awareness. Homelessness was addressed in “Giving to the Poor” while a mural on the Berlin Wall targeted the oppression it personified. A mural in Spain spoke on unemployment and economic decline, another in Miami attacked the perceived unhappiness that riches bring. In fact, I cannot name a mural which does not have a hard-hitting point.
In this sense, ABOVE exemplifies what a true artist should be: a messenger. ABOVE uses his platform for change and I dare say it is his aggressive tackling of hard social, political, and economic issues that has given the artist his fame. ABOVE’s most recent spin on his personal message has been to use his real name: Tavar Zawacki. While having adopted and implementing the moniker of ABOVE for so many years, the artist soon began to realize it was simply a mask he hid behind, and firmly decided at the beginning of 2017 to be true to himself as he was true to his art.
Tavar (ABOVE) Zawacki’s’ Current Projects
Tavar Zawacki has not found time to lay back and take in the air after his decision to drop the title of ABOVE. The Miami U.S. tennis open was the site of one of his most recent works: an dynamic geometric mural mimicking a tennis ball in motion. (See ABOVE Photo Gallery)
While in Miami, Zawacki also stopped by the Wynwood Parking Garage for another iconic mural featuring the upward-facing arrows he has become so famous for. (See ABOVE Photo Gallery)
However, the most exciting project in recent history is Zawacki’s “Metamorphosis #5”, part of an ongoing series and his largest mural to date. (See ABOVE Photo Gallery) Located in Buffalo, New York, the mural again incorporates the upward arrows in twenty-seven different colors. Amidst the excitement of these mural art installations, Zawacki continues his commitment to traditional art. His “Shapeshifting” gallery opening occurred in the fall of 2018 in the Wunderkammern Gallery of Milan, Italy. (See ABOVE Photo Gallery) It is clear Tawacki is not slowing down and the art world cannot wait to see new works by ABOVE in the future.