I first saw Lawrence “Naturel” Atoigue’s artwork on the Gram. It popped out of the iPhone screen and made its place among the scroll of my ADHD timeline. Shapes—they’re what make up Naturel’s art. Shape after geometric shape that somehow coalesce into an image, often of a rapper or an athlete. Sure, he delves into other subjects, but the faces of my icons—2Pac, Biggie, Nas, Jay Z—are the ones that stand out. Regardless of the subject, many of his pieces are completely original takes on instantly recognizable people: Spike Lee double-fisting a Do the Right Thing pizza box and an Oscar; Grace Jones holding a mike along with a yoga pose; a Naomi Campbell–esque goddess in flight, dripping in gold chains. Other works present pop culture classics old and new, served with an interdisciplinary helping of cubist, surrealist, graphic and multimedia techniques: a 3-D study of legendary Playboy covers with abstracted versions of Pamela and Kate; color-blocked, Picasso-ized renderings of Marilyn, Beyoncé and Jay; a Basquiat-inspired series on 2Pac. His interpretations, all executed with his signature vector-art style, are ones I’ve never seen before. There’s a sharpness to them, like the angles themselves. ¶ Almost always, when someone creates or reinvents a cocktail, others attempt to do the same. Naturel, who parlayed early design roles for brands such as Rocawear and Nike into 100,000 Instagram followers and a collectors list that now includes Rihanna and LeBron James, is no exception. Eventually the clones appeared. People started imitating his style and doing their own renditions of his mosaics, but none had the character of the originals. Something about the way Naturel transforms shapes into life is so simple and so brilliant. There can be only one creator of Naturel’s style, and it’s him.
This story appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Playboy. Subscribe