Artist Profile: Emilio Florentine
Jersey City, Hudson County
For as long as he can remember, Emilio Florentine (b. 1987) has been avidly making art. At age four, the New Jersey native began copying comic book characters. “Garfield was my favorite,” he reminisces. Encouraged by his parents, he enrolled in just about every art class that was available to him, eventually earning a Master of Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
Inspired by the graffiti bombs that surfaced along New Jersey’s Route 18, Emilio first made his mark in the public sphere when he was about 16. He found himself particularly lured to abandoned warehouses. And as member of the MD crew, an old school Newark graffiti crew, he painted the background for pieces by such writers as Pawn, 4sakn, Mad Hatter, and Lesk.
But these days the artist is largely identified with his distinctly alluring murals featuring images of flowers that have been enhancing the streets of Jersey City and beyond for the past decade. The concept behind these artworks—a synthesis of impressionistic, surrealistic, and street art styles and techniques—was first envisioned back in 2012, as Hurricane Sandy hit our shores.
As he sat in his home in New Jersey, Emilio began thinking, “What would a flower look like as it is tossed through this storm? What would happen to it?” And in contemplating the plight of these flowers, Emilio began a body of work—both outdoors and in his studio—which he describes as “a visual study of beauty within chaos…a significant moment when beauty is visible amidst the shambles.” Trauma and tragedy, suggests the artist, can lead to growth and renewal.
Working in his Jersey City studio, Emilio has been focusing on honing and refining his signature style. He spends approximately 20 hours on each canvas, and is intent on bringing the essence of the street into the studio. “I work with spray paint and markers on large canvases. And I paint against the wall, always standing up,” he explains. Featuring luscious colors commingled with stark black, along with golden chains, these recent works dazzle.
While Emilio loves the time he spends working solo in his studio and “fine-tuning” his skills, he is looking forward to painting several new public murals in the months ahead. He is delighted when opportunities come his way to “give a community something to own…something to love.”
With influences ranging from the famed French Impressionist painter Claude Monet to the acclaimed American graffiti artist Futura 2000, Emilio brings the studio into the street and the street into the studio with works that are at once elegant and intoxicating.
Emilio Florentine is a featured artist in On and Off the Streets: Urban Art New Jersey.