By Ellen Thistle The Pineapple Contributing Writer
The second you see 20-year-old Jordan Zimmerman, you know he’s a badass: covered in tattoos, gauges in his earlobes, shaggy hair that goes in different directions. He smokes cigarettes with abandon. He drops the f-bomb when talking with strangers. He apologizes for nothing. He doesn’t go to school. He quit his job. Most days you can find him outside, holding a can of spray paint, producing images of disturbing owls or bulbous eyeballs. You’ve probably seen his work. He draws on the walls of bathroom stalls, paints faces on the sides of abandoned buildings, scribbles quirky phrases on postal envelopes or discarded doors— anything he can get his hands on. He makes stickers and applies them in public places with industrial-strength glue. His artwork stretches from Jupiter to Miami, peppered down Clematis St. and Las Olas Blvd., tucked into back alleys and applied on the sidewalk or the back of street signs. He’s not out to make a name for himself, or a statement about society. He’s just always had the compulsion to draw. Sometimes, it happens to be on walls. “It’s better than a blank wall,” he conjectures, “or some advertising bull.” But we’re not talking about the sloppy graffiti you see from the highway. The word “vandalism” is insulting here. This is art. These images, crafted quickly and with discretion, depict a playful, surreal reality that holds the power to transcend. That’s not to say that everyone appreciates Jordan’s form of expression. He’s been caught in the act more times than he can remember. He’s been to jail, paid the fines, the whole nine yards. These days, he tries to stay out of trouble. When caught in the act, “I run,” he laughs.
When not engaged in embellishing public property, this spray paint virtuoso lends his talent to canvas, boards, or panels. He is one of the lucky ones—people want to buy his art. “Things have actually been going well lately,” he admits. “I’ve gotten a lot of commissioned pieces; I’ve gotten invited to a lot of shows. I have a few bands who want me to do their cover art.” Jordan doesn’t paint for the money. He despises gentrification, resents strip malls, and harbors disdain for South Florida’s “vapid culture.” But Jordan is part of a movement that is bigger than he is. Unsanctioned art is cropping up in public places worldwide. Names like Banksy and Shepard Fairey have crept into the collective consciousness and moved street art to the forefront of the ever-burgeoning art world. These artists have transformed what can be done with a can of spray paint on a clean wall. Considered a crime by some, artists are using this medium to convey messages of activism, politics, and social examination.
Jordan doesn’t claim to be doing any of that, although much of his art has a message. Odd quips are often scribbled across his paintings— phrases that charge people to challenge their beliefs, reexamine their actions, abandon their comforts. And it is the unconventional placement of these pieces that makes it so commanding. It is precisely because they aren’t tucked away in museums, batted among critics, that these works of art hold value. Because, if nothing else, Jordan is transforming mundane realities. With a few swift motions of a permanent marker or a can of spray paint, he makes you look twice at the stalls of seedy public restrooms, or the walls at the back of the building where you take your smoke break, or the stop sign at the end of your street. So keep your eyes open. The inspiration of Jordan Zimmerman crops up in unusual places, and it might just change your day.