Finding the Fortoul Brothers: Evocative Simplicity from Sibling Artists

Fortoul Brothers Art

The Fortoul Brothers, Isaac and Gabriel, are an evolutionary pair. Their signature style produces a distinctive tapestry of beautiful, large-scale imagery laden with evocative symbolism, suggestive messages and secret meanings that allow the viewer to debate and interpret the depth of each piece. Often depicted in bold black and white and accented by one or more vivid colors, their works are influenced by “philosophical meditation on the ultimate meaning of human existence. How to live closer to nature and how to be in touch with the elemental forces of the cosmos,” they shared.

The brothers have always considered plants to be an integral part of their lives, from their nutritional to therapeutic benefits; Fortoul imagery contains flowers, fruits and vegetables interwoven with figures both male and female. These symbols bring balance while paying homage to their mother, a student of horticulture and homeopathic medicine. At a young age they received artistic encouragement from their father, who was in architecture school at the time, and the two developed their problem-solving skills and creative techniques early on. Isaac recalls, “My brother and I were always doing art together, whether it was drawing, painting, coloring or creating crazy outfits.” The two were primed for creative careers, but it would be a long time before their dreams would be realized.

Fortoul Brothers Art
Fortoul Brothers Art

Years later, in the wake of 9/11 and with a new degree from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Isaac felt like he was being given “a sign telling [him] to try something different.” Initial aspirations of designing his own clothing brand led him to L.A. But during a stopover in Phoenix, Isaac felt an overwhelming feeling of belonging, and remembers thinking, “[This] is where I need to be.” He connected with his older brother, Gabriel, who was working as a stockbroker on Wall Street at the time, and told him of his vision. Two weeks later the brothers were reunited, reliving the camaraderie from their formative years, ready to plant the seeds for something new.

Isaac painted while Gabriel managed him, but it didn’t take long for the kin to discover their kinship on the canvas. Despite working with many creative people, the pair “had all of these ideas,” Isaac recalls. “We were already talking about how each piece was going to look, the colors, the mood, the meaning. We realized that it was a collaborative thing and once we went there, everything just took off.”

Over the next few years, Isaac and Gabriel progressed together in a natural harmony, dedicating themselves to their craft and refining their style until it became all their own. “It was always about simplifying,” says Gabriel. Using a flattened perspective, combined with evocative themes and bold pigment, the pair create deceivingly simple works of art, but “there are many, many layers behind each painting and much more meaning—if you want to see it,” notes Isaac. “It was important for our work to be universal and timeless. If you can speak to everyone from all cultures and age groups, that is a magical and powerful thing.” Gabriel added, “It’s also important for us to have a positive message. We choose not to focus on negativity. If everyone did that, we’d be a better planet, a better humanity.”

With murals in L.A., New Jersey, Chicago, Phoenix, Columbia and beyond, the brothers’ international influence and notoriety continues to grow. But for now they remain humble, reminiscing over the days when Isaac’s former professor told him his work would hang in a museum one day. “She planted this little seed inside of me that made me believe,” Isaac smiles. Although it took 20 years for that seed to develop, it has blossomed into a plethora of complex concepts with roots that run deep in the community—and the subconscious.

Fortoul Brothers Art


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