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TRUE, formerly known as David John Riggins (b.1968, Los Angeles, CA.) is an American artist of German-Russian, African-American, and Blackfoot descent who lives and works in New York City. He moved to New York in 1991 to study art and child psychology at Sarah Lawrence College, and then transferred to The Art School of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art (BFA, 1996). He began using the word “TRUE” in place of his birth name in the mid-1990s. His work incorporates elements of illustration, character design, computer animation, and graphic design.
He began his professional art career in the late '80s as a set painter for Roger Corman Studios in Venice Beach, CA, but he first gained international notoriety for a series of non-permissional site-specific “guerrilla” installations on the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, and in NYC’s subway system (1993–1994), which were done under the pseudonym “str8up” (pronounced “straight up”). The impetus for these projects was the belief that the “Art World” was unnecessarily circumscribed and elitist, and that greater meaning could be infused into a work by taking a populist approach.
While TRUE has generally eschewed the gallery and museum system, his work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), in Brooklyn, NY, Restoration Plaza in Brooklyn, NY, and the Centro Cultural de Belém, in Lisbon, Portugal, as part of the Experimentadesign Bienal de Lisboa. He has taught or spoken about art, new media, and design at institutions such as The Cooper Union, The New School University, Parsons School of Design, The Pratt Institute, Rhode Island School of Design, and Sarah Lawrence College.
He has been interviewed and/or had his work featured in All Things Considered (National Public Radio), Arc Design Magazine (Brasil), AREA – a Phaidon design book that named him as one of 100 of the world’s “most innovative emerging graphic designers”, BBC-TV (UK), Crain’s New York Business, Eye Magazine, GalleryBeat (TV), How Magazine, I.D. Magazine – who named him as one of the “I.D. Forty” (40 of the world’s “leading design innovators”), Los Angeles Times, M.A.P. Magazine (Australia), Manhattan File Magazine, Men’s Club Magazine (Japan), Metropolis Magazine – who named him as a “rising star of the new millennium”, New York Magazine, New York Daily News, New York Times, Pix Magazine, Sagmeister: Made You Look, Surface Magazine, Time Out New York, Village Voice, and others. A CD-ROM game for which he did illustration, animation, and UI design won the top award, the “Palm D’Or,” at the MILIA Interactive Conference in Cannes, France.
He has lived in Stuyvesant Heights, Brooklyn, since 1999, where he has received numerous public art commissions, and co-organizes a free annual children’s film festival called The KIDflix Film Fest of Bed-Stuy.