Artist Profile: Clarence Rich
Jersey City, Hudson County
Growing up in the 80s and 90s in Jersey City, Clarence Rich (b. 1982) saw graffiti everywhere. “Along with skateboarding and playing basketball, kids around my way were always tagging,” the artist recalls. “Everybody’s older brother, including mine, did graffiti!”
One of Jersey City’s most active urban artists, Clarence credits hip-hop culture—with its freedom and energy—as a principal source of inspiration. “We were rappers before we were writers,” he comments.
Encouraged by his mother to pursue his passion for creative expression, Clarence received a formal art education at DuCret School of the Art in Plainfield, New Jersey. “But it’s also in my blood,” he suggests. “My grandparents worked as animators for Terrytunes and my grandfather was one of the animators for Beavis and Butt-Head.”
Fueled by boundless creative energy, Clarence continually experiments with themes, techniques, and styles. His impressive multifaceted body of both street art and studio art ranges from curious characters to poignant portraits of family members to harmonious rhythmic patterns. And much of his mixed-media artwork synthesizes his varied visual languages.
Clarence Rich’s mural art has surfaced throughout his native city and beyond, imbuing largely vacant public spaces with visual intrigue. He has, also, gained the attention of gallerists. An eclectic range of his artworks has been featured in both solo and in group exhibitions of contemporary art at Jersey City’s artist-run Deep Space Gallery. This past spring Prime Gallery showcased works by both Clarence and Mr Mustart in a duo exhibition that highlighted their experimental techniques as individual artists and as collaborators.
Always pushing and challenging himself, Clarence is intent on honing his skills as a fine artist. “I want to do both,” he says. “I want to earn a living as a studio artist and still paint on the streets. And I find that my street art and studio art inform each other, as I constantly experiment in both spaces, and my artwork continues to evolve. Sometimes I actually feel more comfortable painting with a brush than with a spray can.”
Now that he is a father, Clarence wakes up before 4 a.m. most mornings so that he has time to paint in his studio. “When I work in my studio, I do it in smaller increments in multiple sessions,” he explains. “But when I do a piece on the street, I often complete it in a day.”
Whether fashioned on the street or in the studio, Clarence Rich’s artworks resonate poetically as they blur the lines between street art and fine art.
Clarence Rich is a featured artist in On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey.
Image Caption: Clarence Rich, mr maelstrom vs the world, Aerosol, 2021, 13 ½’ x 20’. Photo courtesy of Sara C. Mozeson