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Associative State: Elijah Anderson's artistic wordplay

Elijah Anderson's art uses word association to give new meaning to the familiar.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. May 17, 2016
  • Arts + Entertainment
  • Visual Art
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Elijah Anderson takes no shame in using the word “childlike” to describing his art. It’s not that his work is lacking in substance — it’s childlike in the best sense of the word.

With its playful wit and quick line-drawing style, it’s easy to see what he means.

Most of his work is inspired by word associations. He’ll hear a familiar phrase or idiom and immediately think of an image to accompany it, and more importantly, give it new meaning — often incorporating sarcasm and humor.

He flips through a sketchbook, pointing to a recent favorite, as an example. The ink drawing depicts a traditional coffin. Above it, handwritten, is a simple phrase.

“From this angle, things are really looking up!”

This Friday, he’ll display a collection of works in his first solo exhibition, “Concealed Associations,” at Solid, as a part of the urban streetwear shop’s new series of gallery shows highlighting complementary art.

We caught up with Anderson to talk skateboarding, graffiti and dark humor.

"I GREW UP in Sarasota, and I always loved skateboarding and that whole art culture that went along with it — graffiti and street art. There wasn’t a lot of it here, but I was always fascinated by it, and it had a big influence on me.”


"I WAS ALWAYS interested in drawing, but I didn’t take it that seriously at first. I made a few sticker street-art pieces when I was younger, and I got more into graffiti. I loved the mystery behind it and the folk-art aspect. When I was getting into it, things were shifting. It was less taboo — graffiti artists were being shown in galleries and becoming rich and famous.”

“I STARTED CREATING more art in my free time, and I realized I was getting good at it. For me, it was a way to step back from the stresses of school and life, and I found it was a great way to get the ideas in my head out and onto paper.”


"MOST OF MY subject matter isn’t serious. It’s lighthearted, even if it’s dark humor. I try to connect words and phrases with other unrelated images to give something familiar a new meaning.”


“THIS IS THE first time I’ve had a solo show with a cohesive body of work. It’s stuff I’ve done over the past few years, but it’s interesting to have an overarching theme.”


"I EXPERIMENT WITH a lot of styles — pastels, wash, spray paint, acrylic — but this particular one evolved out of quick line drawings I would do in between bigger projects. I’ve always done that, and eventually, I decided to make a collection of those to show.”


"I HAVE A mental rolodex of images and phrases. I keep a list of my favorites, and when I hear something, I’ll scroll through my mind to find the right fit.”


"I WOULDN'T CALL them doodles, but they’re definitely quick and simple. Ink is good, because I can quickly get an idea down. And there’s something to be said for the work being simplistic. It’s crude and quick, and I really like the minimalism. If I could draw like a kid for the rest of my life, I would.”


"THE WORK IS FUN. I hope people take away a different way of thinking about otherwise familiar things.”


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