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Harif Guzman is a Venezuelan-born contemporary artist based in New York City. He is best known for his works of street art created under the alter ego ‘Haculla’, and his mixed media collages evoking dark, provocative themes regarding women, pop culture and materialism.
Citing New York as not just his home, but his canvas and inspiration, Guzman’s journey from shop worker to internationally respected artist comes to life in his work, transforming modest materials into powerful works of art. Explore the Harif Guzman artwork available through ArtLife.
Born in Venezuela on 23 March 1975, Harif Guzman moved to New York City at the age of five. His earliest experiences of art occurred during his childhood, when he worked in his father’s print shop. Here, he gained an appreciation for mechanical reproduction—the practice of copying images and text multiple times by technological means. Famously linked to pop artists like Andy Warhol, its influence on Guzman is clear, given his incorporation of mass-produced culture, like newspaper clippings and advertisements, into his work.
Guzman moved around the U.S. living in Miami, New Jersey and San Francisco before settling in downtown Manhattan when he was 25. He became homeless not long afterwards, beginning to tag his name on the streets of the borough while couch surfing. Guzman later claimed: “It wasn’t that I felt inspired to become a street artist but that I didn’t have a choice. The street became my canvas by default.”
Guzman’s most notable creation came out of this period—his alter ego ‘Haculla’, who was “born out of heartbreak and struggle”. The character’s design was easily identified by its prominent eyes, symbolising Guzman’s conviction at the time that “all the eyes around me were watching me” while he worked. Haculla went on to become an iconic figure in New York’s street art scene, later giving its name to Guzman’s own streetwear clothing line. Prior to this, Guzman had also launched a solo streetwear label called Delanci which he described as a “love letter to New York skateboarding”, a lifelong passion of his.
Having gained recognition for his street art, Guzman’s work was featured in publications including Vice, Italian Vogue and The New York Times, and he first exhibited in New York in 2006. He went on to showcase his work in numerous galleries worldwide, including shows in London, Paris and Rome. His work was introduced to MoMA’s permanent collection in July 2018.
Guzman has collaborated with top brands such as Ralph Lauren, Diesel and Burtons, while A-listers Tommy Hilfiger and Uma Thurman are just two numerous celebrity owners of his work.
Guzman continues to live and work in New York.
Guzman’s art is primarily made through collage and assemblage, using scavenged scrap materials to create thrilling new work. A good example of his work in this style is The Things That Were Sweet Turned Bitter and From Bitter Will Turn Sweet Again, in which a rope was tied into a noose which surrounds a faux fairground ice cream. However, his style also extends the practices pioneered by American contemporary artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Robert Rauschenberg and Mike Kelley’s early pop art paintings.
In addition to collaging paint and photographs, his pieces also use unique physical materials, like diamond dust in Savage and neon lights in Untitled Skeleton. Though the majority of the works by Guzman available through ArtLife is on canvas, El Toro is particularly unique in that it has been created on a wooden panel instead. In addition, plenty of his art exemplifies “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” culture, often featuring scantily clad women and scenes of erotic encounters, as well as obscenities, and references to the sex industry.
Transformation is the central theme of Guzman’s work, paralleling the shift from his own humble beginnings to his status as a successful artist. The creative’s striking style is best described as a blend of pop art and street art with a subversive tinge.
Harif Guzman’s unique and inspiring approach has enabled him to create some extremely powerful works of art, making him one of the most exciting contemporary artists working today. As such, his original works continue to prove popular with collectors keen to own such vibrant and provocative pieces.
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