When New York Times reporter Colin Moynihan happened upon an impromptu street sale of an elderly man’s discarded, erotic artwork, Brian Ermanski’s suddenly encountered his ten minutes of fame. But now that Ermanski’s acutely unique way or viewing the world has reached a larger audience, his ten minutes is likely to last much longer. Explaining why he rescued the art that had been put out as trash, he told Moynihan:
"This is rewarding because I'm bringing something back into the world that would have been lost forever," said Brian Ermanski, 23, a Manhattan painter who climbed into the trash bin and found Mr. Victus's work. "I was astonished that his friends would throw this stuff out," said Mr. Ermanski, who explained that he routinely delved into trash bins, motivated mainly by curiosity. He said that he supported himself by buying vintage clothing at thrift stores, then auctioning them on eBay.
To say that Ermanski marches to the beat of his own drummer is to assume that he knows that drummers exist at all. (Which he does, though he prefers the 80’s rock kind.) That’s the kind of brain space where the artist lives. And though some people find his work shocking, the kids in New York City can’t get enough of it. In fact, rumor has it that Ermanski may achieve Universal Hipster status by collaborating with uber-hip clothiers to the stars, Heatherette.
Ermanski’s urban-primitive, naďve aesthetic has been compared with that of Basquiat. His artistic process is about finding the shortest route between experience and representation. If it happened to him yesterday, it’s likely to be painted somewhere today—whether or not someone else would deem it “significant.”
“My art is about what happens in my life when I’m painting,” he says.
In Ermanski’s Painted Room, the words “She is tan” appear in one corner, apparently describing someone he just met.
Near the bathroom: a quick spray-can rendition of a Chanel #5 bottle. “I saw Scarface last night.” “I am the world’s forgotten boy.” “JZ is @ Sway.”
After growing up in Sutton, Massachusetts and enduring prep school, Ermanski moved to New York City “to begin his rebirth,” he says. He painted a single piece in 2001, three more the following year, and then upped his production to about forty a year. At that point, Ermanski made roughly $200 a day by selling his art on the street. He dropped out of NYU and now paints, designs and sells clothes full-time.