Jayson Musson is Internet-famous (at least in the art world) for his haughty comic persona, Hennessy Youngman. In Musson’s Art Thoughtz YouTube series, Hennessy critiques and mocks the crimes of the art world utilizing the language and sartorial splendor of hip-hop. Musson began Art Thoughtz as a Philly art student — he got his B.F.A. from UArts in 2002 and his M.F.A. in painting from Penn in 2011 — and while in town, he showed off his swaggering smarts and sense of humor in shows at Space 1026 and ICA, as well as in the hip-hop group Plastic Little. Though he’s since moved to Brooklyn, Musson returns with “A True Fiend’s Weight,” opening this week at Fleisher/Ollman, a collection of tapestry-like deconstructions of Coogi sweaters — those splashy knits popularized by Bill Cosby and repopularized by the Notorious B.I.G.
City Paper: Have you had the idea for a mouthy art-hop character and a Pollock-esque sweater display forever, or is your art more impulsive?
Jayson Musson: I’d say I work in a more impulsive manner. Whatever trajectory I have been on has definitely not been premeditated in the least bit. The Hennessy project was a response to being in graduate school and learning the lingua franca of the institution, and the fabric works are an expression of an idea about painting — but I wouldn’t have been able to express that idea without seeing how parts of painting’s history unfolded.
CP: A lot of your most famous work is based in writing. How does that link into the abstraction of “A True Fiend’s Weight”?
JM: I’m not sure that my writing has much to do with my abstract works directly; rather, it’s my love of play and humor that links my writing to my non-text-based artwork.
CP: “A True Fiend’s Weight” comes from Jay Z’s classic “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” Why did that lyric stick with you?
JM: In the context of my exhibition, “A true fiend’s weight” functions as a declaration of commitment to the age-old pursuit of “being an artist” and acknowledging that it is a path with little reward and numerous obstacles. Yet there is a happiness unmatched in making work and engaging in the questions that define one’s being.
CP: How are you digging the Brooklyn art scene as opposed to Philly’s? It’s a bold playground.
JM: Man, I’m such a fucking hermit in NYC. It sounds hard to believe, but I don’t really make it to openings that much. I spend a majority of my time cooped up in my studio or my apartment working.
Through Jan. 26, opening reception Thu., Dec. 13, 6-8 p.m., Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, 1616 Walnut St., Suite 100, 215-545-7562, fleisher-ollmangallery.com.