Philadelphia artist illustrates stories of his neighborhood in solo exhibit

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Monday, January 2, 2023
Philadelphia artist illustrates stories of his neighborhood
King Saladeen paints in shades of the triumphs and troubles of his childhood in West Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "Art was my first passion," said King Saladeen. "But me having really no direction, or seeing a bunch of different, you know, African American artists growing up, I got led to basketball."

Saladeen, originally from West Philadelphia, almost pursued the sport as a career.

"But when I was in 10th-grade, me and my mom was in a car accident," he said. "And that literally gave me the time and the space to really think about, like, what I would do without sports."

Saladeen had his humble beginnings selling t-shirts and making jean jackets for friends in his neighborhood. Then, his professional art career took him around the country to places like Los Angeles and Miami. But his new exhibit, "No Middle Cla$$," is his first in the city where he grew up.

"I thought that it'd be good to come back to Philadelphia and tell my story of me growing up in Philadelphia... in Philadelphia," he said.

Saladeen's colorful strokes embellish the colors of otherwise muted city streets and cool-toned skyscrapers. His passion for basketball and bicycling also contributes to a whimsical feeling of childhood wonder. However, that is juxtaposed with visual references to cigarettes, drugs, crime, physical conflict, and other stains on innocence.

The smiling face depicted in most pictures is meant to represent Saladeen, someone who grew out of his humble beginnings in Philadelphia and wanted to return to give something back.

"I just want to give somebody a relatable person to pretty much look up and be like, okay, he's doing this. He's from West Philly," he said. "He didn't have a silver spoon, but he made it happen."

No Middle Cla$$ is on display seven days per week at Corridor Contemporary,1315 Frankford Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, until January 28, 2023. Admission is free. To learn more, visit King Saladeen's website.

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