Frequenting parties at Stoudemire’s West Village penthouse, Anavim met art collectors and celebrities — new clients. Before long he had stopped his graphic design work to focus solely on mixed-media art.
The dozens of paintings on Anavim’s apartment walls convey the Jojo worldview. Blond women blow pink chewing gum into gleaming juicy bubbles. A rainbow-colored astronaut floats above the Paramount Pictures logo. Coca-Cola bottles, Marlboro cigarette packages and Marilyn Monroe are recurring images.
His coffee table has been transformed into a Jojo original, spray-painted with an American flag design. All of this, he says, is inspired by his childhood — down to the Life Savers his grandmother used to pull out of her purse.
“Jojo’s art is the style of street art without the thorny content and political questions that street art addresses,” Carlo McCormick, a New York art critic, said in a phone interview. “It is benign. It’s hard to get theoretical or conceptual about a pretty girl on a cigarette package putting on makeup. It is not super complicated, so what’s not to like? It’s pure pop: candy-coated, pure sugar stuff.”
Katelijne De Backer, the former art director for the Aqua art show in Miami, which has featured Anavim’s work, agreed.
“Jojo is one of the artists who shows, ‘Why does it have to be incredibly difficult?’” De Backer said. “Why can’t it just be, ‘Wow this is smart, playful and clever’ and therefore, maybe it appeals to a wider audience?”
Anavim lives five blocks south of the Garden in a second-floor walk-up with two bedrooms and a bachelor pad vibe. The refrigerator contains 34 Bud Lights, bottled lime juice and condiments — and nothing else. A dark-stained wood cabinet nearby holds perfectly aligned bottles of vodka, whiskey and tequila.
He has some Matzo and an unopened box of Cheerios. Milk, though, is not available.
People frequently stream through the apartment: friends, relatives, clients, his two assistants. Twice a year he hosts a Shabbat dinner — a Friday night Jewish holiday celebrating a day of rest — with 30 people, including restaurateurs, models and the Instagram-famous. At the most recent Shabbat gathering, Anavim only knew half the people on his guest list.
“For Shabbat, it is not about business,” he said. “It is about getting people together and sharing a meal and being around people you like and meeting new people who have good souls.”
Anavim said that if someone asked about buying one of his paintings during a Shabbat dinner, he would invite them to come back another day. But be forewarned: To purchase a painting, Anavim has to get along with you.
“There are certain people that I don’t like and it doesn’t matter how much money they have or what they do — I just find them off-putting, and I don’t want them in my orbit,” Anavim said, seated in his living room as service staff covered folding tables for the most recent Shabbat dinner party.
“I am not afraid to approach people,” he added. “If they don’t like me — which doesn’t happen often — but if it does happen, that’s fine also. It rolls off my shoulders.”
In this club on this night at Madison Square Garden, though, Anavim appeared to like everyone in the luxe Suite Sixteen. While ordinary Knicks fans elsewhere in the arena ate $10.50 mini pizzas, the suite’s guests dined on lobster tails.
A brief fourth-quarter surge by the Knicks fell short. The hot chefs and D.J.s of the moment who mingled in Suite Sixteen draped their arms around women clutching Valentino and Gucci bags and exited. Anavim said goodbye to his host and put on a black peacoat. Untroubled by the Knicks’ loss, the N.B.A.’s fast-rising artist du jour kept it moving.