An artist on the move, Harif Guzman was born in Venezuela in 1975 and subsequently launched into a life of perpetual motion. First taken by his father to Colombia, then Puerto Rico, then New York City, then Fort Lauderdale, and then up and down the California coast by himself. Guzman grew up skating, learning from a young age how to use this art form to his advantage. He transformed it into a sense of aesthetics, community and identity.
Guzman does the same as an artist. He began making art in the 1990s honing his skills traveling between the skating scenes of San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Guzman transformed movement into an art form. He returned to New York in 2000, this time to stay, but he always remembered the restlessness of his life in his art.
His work inhabits and extends the collage and assemblage tradition of Kurt Schwitters. The use of found objects early on in his career draws parallels to Robert Rauschenberg and Jean-Michel Basquiat. From photographs and paintings of eroticized female subjects, to bold mixed-media collages featuring LED lights, to highly politicized sculptural works, to whimsical murals on the streets of New York, Guzman’s art blends a Pop and street aesthetic with an affinity for humorous subversion.
The artist’s practice of transforming humble materials into powerful works runs parallel to his life’s transformation—from an immigrant to a homeless skater and graffiti writer, to a world-renowned contemporary artist working across multiple disciplines including design, video, curation, and publishing. Guzman’s recent exhibition at the MMOMA explored the arc of his development as an artist heavily influenced by his life experiences and shows the trajectory of Haculla from street to canvas and back to street again in the form of an international streetwear brand.
Guzman is an artist of extremes. Bringing together skate culture with fine art, found objects with new ideas and the optimism of an emerging artist with the knowledge of a mature one.