Drawing Dream Comes True
by Thomas MacMillan | Dec 13, 2013 2:08 pm
Posted to: Arts & Culture, Visual Arts, The Hill
For decades, Nigerian-born artist Gregory “Krikko” Obbott has captured great American metropolises in pencil, creating hand-drawn cityscapes that could fill entire rooms. Now those finely detailed drawings fill an entire museum of their own—in the great metropolis of New Haven’s Hill neighborhood.
Krikko, plans a Tuesday grand-opening reception of his museum of pencil art, in a carriage house on West Street that he spent eight years and $450,000 restoring.
Krikko’s medium is the humble pencil. His subject: sprawling modern metropolises.
Most famously, Krikko 18 years ago drew a 20-by-15-foot aerial view of New York City, as seen from the bottom of Manhattan. Krikko has built a career on selling poster and postcard reproductions of that image, along with views he’s drawn of other cities.
With the opening of his museum, Krikko will finally have a place to display his oversized originals, drawings of New York, Chicago, Boston, New Haven, and Lagos, Nigeria.
Krikko said his museum will also be a center for education, with programs for kids. He is already hatching plans to expand next door. He said he has his eye on a dilapidated garage next to the museum. He hopes to turn that building into an animation studio.
Krikko’s museum-creating odyssey began in 2005, when the city sold him a run-down carriage house for $5,000. The building was a shell of its former self; the sky was visible through the ribs of the roof.
Krikko said he ended up putting in about $450,000 to fix the place up. Some of that was his own money; the rest he borrowed from the bank.
Initially Krikko had planned to rehab the building as a studio and living space. When he later decided to convert it into a museum, he needed to meet a new list of zoning requirements, which delayed the project.
Krikko said everything is now in place, including handrails on the stairs and a small parking lot across the street. He offered a tour this week of the renovated building.
On Thursday morning, a large scaffolding occupied he museum’s lofty central chamber, for hanging Krikko’s huge drawings for the opening.
Among the works on display will be Krikko’s latest creation, which takes as its subject not just one city but all the major American cities.
The drawing shows major architectural landmarks of various cities across the country, from San Francisco to New Haven.
The cities are connected by a spaghetti of elevated freeways, where trucks speed by branded with words like “Greed,” “Freedom,” “Racism” and “Equality.”
Krikko said he chose words representing “things that happen in the fabric of society.” Trucks also include names, like Michael Jackson, Silicon Valley, and Krikko.
Krikko stepped over to a window and pointed out the house and garage next door, both abandoned and in disrepair. “We’re getting that from the city,” he said. “That’s going to be my new residence.”
Krikko said he plans to turn the garage into an animation studio, to bring his static drawings to life. “We’ve got to start to make them move.” He said he envisions animations that allow the viewer to look into every truck that drives down a street in one of his drawings.
The animation studio would be a way to get neighborhood kids involved, to “get kids off the street,” he said.
Krikko said he doesn’t have training in animation. His background is in architecture, he studied in Louisiana after moving there from Nigeria in 1974. “I’ve always been fascinated by buildings.”
Upstairs on a second floor balcony, a 1991 drawing of Lagos shows evidence of Krikko’s architectural training. He mixed fact and fiction in the drawing, which features existing Lagos buildings standing above blocks of buildings that Krikko drew out of his imagination.
“Look at that one! It looks like a shark,” Krikko said pointing at one of his fictional buildings. He pointed out others: “slices of orange,” “spaghetti legs,” “a woman’s shoe.”
After living in Louisiana, Krikko moved to New Haven in 1990 so that he could be close to New York, for research and marketing of his big Manhattan drawing. His work on that drawing paid off in the still-strong sale of reproductions.
“That’s the main one that we do,” he said. “People can’t get enough of it.”
In the third-floor balcony, Krikko showed off a large Canon printer, with which he can print out his own posters of his drawings.
From a pile of drawings, Krikko pulled out some of his oldest drawings—a female nude and portraits of Jimi Hendrix and the bass player from Rare Earth—all drawn in the ‘70s.
Various American cities, rendered in pencil and cut into squares, were stacked up nearby, waiting to be reassembled on the walls of Krikko’s museum.
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posted by: Semi Semi-Dikoko on December 14, 2013 12:53pm
Congratulations Krikko. Well done, this city… this community is proud of you!
I’ve always admired the large drawings by Krikko in the New Haven Train Station. Glad to know that he’s gaining more success. Look forward to visiting his gallery!