Last night, Jonathan Levine Gallery in Chelsea, NYC opened a group show entitled Détournement : Signs of the Times. The show includes works from some big names including Ron English, Shepard Fairey, Jamie Reid, Steve Powers, and Aiko Nakagawa. “Détournement” refers to the practice of altering the face of public signage to change their respective meanings. From curator Carlo McCormick (editor of PAPER magazine):
Employed brilliantly by the Situationists, whose great philosopher Guy Debord laid out the socio-aesthetic framework for this practice, détournements twist the terms of mimicry in ironic parody using the a semblance of the easily recognizable to dissemble and redirect the literal meaning of signs so as to construe a more honest picture of their deceptive intentions.
A natural response to the lies and coercions we are fed on a daily basis, the détournement has been the reactive impulse of all those who question reality, from the Punks who adopted it in the 1970s through Culture Jammers, Adbusters, contemporary street artists and the winding legacy of protest movements from WTO to Occupy.
Marion Bolognesi makes emotive watercolor portraiture that seems to appear out of the nothingness of their stark, white backgrounds. She often uses drips and large blots to echo the transient feelings that make us human. This technique also adds a nice aesthetic to the artist’s work, which has spawned a few biters and copy artists. Bolognesi demonstrates a lot of economy- the artist’s ability to do a lot with a little is commendable. With such fundamental subject matter, it’s probably best to keep things simple anyway. It’s not always easy to capture the deeper elements of life with grace, but she pulls it off. The artist, who also does illustration and design work, lives in NYC.
Alejandro Cardenas, based in NYC, creates watercolor and guache works in which stark, flat figurative elements blend seamlessly with abstract flourishes and branches of washed out color. Set amidst a deep black background, this work stands out well. Too often, water based media is used as a generator of quaint atmosphere; whimsical drawings that take up very little space on paper or canvas. Cardenas’ work, conversely, is bold and fully composed where others may have defaulted into paltry understatement.
Brooklyn artist Leon Reid IV (in collaboration with Poster Boy) is the man behind the “Hot Off the Press” Showpaper distribution box (pictured above), a functional newspaper box that melts into the pavement outside Printed Matter in NYC. Reid, who creates humorous, public installations that have been placed in cities all over the world, is apparently trying to put a giant spider on the Brooklyn Bridge now? Whether he’s manipulating elements already in existence (like the George Washington statue in Union Square Park) or introducing new material onto the street, Reid always brings sharp social commentary with a strong visual punch. While you wait for the spider, check out some of Reid’s past projects after the jump.
Curtis Santiago (Talwst) has created a series of wall-mounted relief masks out of altered Bossons heads. He has conspicuously attached shutter shades, Ray Bans, and gold fronts to the familiar, idiosyncratic mass-produced sculptures. A modern take on 15th century Italian Death Masks, the works are Santiago’s farewell to certain aspects of “Swag Rap Culture” and other possibly misguided, recent advents of Popular Culture. Industrialization and watered down culture with Renaissance undertones? Pretty interesting. Talwst will be exhibiting his Swagged Out Bossons Heads at Fuse Gallery in NYC from August 15th through September 12th.
A new batch of character-driven, graphic paintings from Teddy Troops progenitor Flying Fortress was recently on display at Brooklyn’s Mighty Tanaka Gallery. As always, lots of clean lines froms FF’s steady claw. This show is closed, but the gallery is now holding a promising group exhibition entitled “Generations”.
Jeremiah Maddock is a hard guy to pin down. Many have spoken of him as some sort of ghost- a shadowy figure that passes through bars and cafes with a suitcase full of muted drawings, and an unknown past. This legend surrounding the artist, who lives -most of the time- in New York City, creating richly patterned mixed media works populated with ghoulish creatures and tramps, is likely a product of his obvious lack of desire for external validation. It’s clear that Maddock, who has no personal website, maintains a very pure process; he is interested more in the act of creating -and the motivations behind such an act- than any finished product.
I caught up with Jeremiah in-between his extensive travels throughout the interior of the country. Read the interview after the jump, which includes the artist’s thoughts on steez-biting Mayans, art fairs with Josh Keyes in high school, and collaborating with the dead.
Ted Mcgrath is an artist and musician currently living in Brooklyn, NY. His scribbly illustrations have appeared in a myriad of publications including The New York Times, New York Magazine, Bloomberg Business Week, NYLON, The Village Voice, and Bust.