Creating mind-bending work in painting, sculpture, choreography, and creative new media, artist ZEEHAN WAZED (b. Benghazi, Libya, 1991) explores the relationship between physical and psychological reality today.
Wazed immigrated to the United States with his family in 1994 and was raised in Jamaica, Queens. A gifted student, he was accepted to Stuyvesant Highschool in Manhattan. With this new chapter in his life came a new commute. Taking the subway to and from school each day, he received a world-class education in the vibrant underground culture of New York. Between station platforms and train cars Wazed discovered the flourishing subterranean universe of graffiti and street performance.
He began to occupy his daily subway rides by filling countless notebooks with wild-style drawings, developing his aesthetic dexterity against the anarchy of the city’s public transit. By night, he trained himself as a dancer (via YouTube), eventually developing the courage to jump into a cipher (breakdancing battle) in Union Square. Before even graduating high school, Wazed had quickly become a champion dancer, a prolific graffiti artist and a delinquent-darling among NYC’s radical underground community.
A Macaulay Honoree, Wazed went on to attended Baruch College where - like artist James Turrell - he earned a degree in Perceptual Psychology. At Baruch, he continued to paint and perform competitively in dance battles throughout the city, pursuing his fascination with concepts of momentum and relativity both in and outside the classroom. But when his graffiti career became a threat to his immigration status, the artist turned to canvas for the first time. As he studied the intricacies of visual processing and cognitive function in his academic life, Wazed developed an art practice which invokes our psychological impulse to seek common ground with anything and everything we perceive through our senses.
Functioning like an inkblot test, Wazed’s work sparks the viewer’s imagination with an image, design, or movement which at first, appears random and abstract. Much like finding familiar figures in the shapes of clouds or constellations, within seconds of interacting with his paintings, viewers begin to perceive recognizable forms within the frame. However, unlike the accidental inkblot or casual cloud, the artist’s imagination-inspiring images brim with personal references to their creator. An artistic gesture which aims to relate our experiences to his own, Wazed’s coded approach activates the mind’s natural tendency to seek out patterns and personal connections everywhere we look. In an ever-polarizing world, his multidisciplinary practice demonstrates the power of basic human interaction to break down barriers, bringing us closer to one another, compassion and with any luck, peace.
Reality Show (upcoming) marks the Wazed’s second major solo exhibition with ABXY Gallery. His work has been featured in publications such as Vice and Hypebeast. He has performed with internationally esteemed modern dance companies including Martha Graham and in Broadway productions like Illuminate. Supported by SAYA as a student, the artist is now actively involved with the philanthropy.