It’s been three years since Philadelphia last saw new work from local artist Yis Goodwin. But after three years on the road, hitting locales from California to Rome, the artist better known as Noségo is back in town to put his trademark surrealist style on display with a new exhibit this week.
Raised near 21st and Bainbridge, Goodwin, 33, has made a name for himself over the last decade with psychedelic, anthropomorphic paintings and sculptures, as well as massive murals that dot not only his hometown, but also cities throughout the country. Baroque and dreamlike, his work often combines elements of graffiti and street art with fine art techniques to create layered, vibrant characters and scenes — as if Salvador Dalí made a sentient sandwich from your early childhood memories.
“I want each piece to be emotionally moving in some way,” Goodwin, a High School for the Creative and Performing Arts and University of the Arts grad, says of his work. “Everyone is different, so I have to go by my own intuition.”
That style, Goodwin says, is rooted in his childhood toy box. Inside, GI Joe figurines would overlap with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and amalgamate inside Goodwin’s mind into toys that never existed. The experience “forced my imagination to work differently,” Goodwin says, and ultimately led to the ethereal landscape-infused animals that dominate his work.
His latest will be on display with “Died a Few Times to Live This Once,” a new exhibition of paintings, sculptures, and other works launching Friday at Queen Village’s Paradigm Gallery + Studio. It’s Goodwin’s most personal project to date, thanks to its themes of self-acceptance, embracing one’s failures, and celebrating flaws — all lessons the artist has learned throughout his career.
“With each show, I try to be more vulnerable,” Goodwin said. “You ask yourself, ‘What are you hiding for? Who are you hiding from?’ There is no purpose — just put it all out there.”
Accomplishing that goal has been easier than usual this time around, thanks to Goodwin’s history with Paradigm owners Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston. The show is actually his fifth with the gallery; he was the gallery’s first exhibiting artist when Paradigm opened in 2010. Heading back to the gallery this week “feels like being home” and “seeing family,” rather than mounting one of his most personal shows.
This time around, Goodwin says his work has matured significantly while still maintaining the aesthetic fans have come to expect from him. However, rather than honing in on what fans want to see, Goodwin says he is focusing on “creating whatever I think my greatest art is” and working for himself — a luxury he can now afford after his recent artistic successes.
“I’m unlearning a lot of the things I learned. A lot of motivations that got me to where I was aren’t motivations anymore,” he says. “Once you make it to a certain level, it isn’t so much about feeding off the fear of not being able to pay the bills and stuff like that. You have to realign.”
Now, Goodwin hopes to inspire viewers with the work in his exhibition in whatever way he can — a goal that ties back to his own personal mantra of “Inspire and be inspired.”
“You always want your work to empower others because that is what great art does,” he says. “It’s all about being the greatest you.”