Todd James / Reas

Money Bags McCoy, 2008

37 x 52cm
Watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper

No contemporary painter matches the youthful insight of Todd James. Also known as REAS, Todd is an internationally recognized artist who began his career as a child in the New York City subway system, and who remains one of graffiti's best-known statesmen to this day.

Todd's large-scale works of gouache and graphite smash the distance between the viewer and what he or she probably goes around trying not to know about the present state of things. Our infantilised Western existence and its fallout are derided by a master of modern-day satire. War is literally "Disney-fied" as Todd adds grinning faces to machines of destruction. Blonde airheads enjoy a comically sensual existence. East African Islamist bandits bask in a pastel paradise.

He is a co-creator of the seminal Street Market exhibition at Deitch Projects in New York, which was selected for the Venice Biennale in 2001. Todd's work has also been shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Tate Museum in Liverpool, the Parco gallery in Tokyo, and was a centrepiece on MOCA gallery's landmark 2012 Art in the Streets exhibition, amongst other venues.

Todd James is not without his moments of sensitivity: his installation The Vandal's Bedroom recreates his own teenage fortress of solitude. He lives and works in his beloved native New York City.