Trailblazers, is a group exhibition of works by National and International Contemporary Artists. The contributing artists in this exhibition, though in various stages of their artistic practice, have produced a convincing exhibition of over 90 works.
The transition from street art to gallery is not often easy, but the talented artists in this exhibition have made the shift from their respective beginnings in new urban, underground, outsider and street art, appear seamless.
Sydney based artist, Andy Uprock, is well known for his ‘cuprocking’, large street installations, created by placing plastic cups in wire mesh fencing to reveal various patterns and text. Transforming fencing, a dull public utility and the disposable, plastic cups, into art. Uprock’s work is intrinsically linked to the urban environment, the artists, hasn’t modified his practice to suit a gallery space, he instead has transplanted his work, successfully bringing the street to the gallery.
A highlight of this exhibition is discovering a series of six works produced by Melbourne based artist Jesse Hogan. At first these striking images, of people wearing different coloured plastic bags on their heads, seems absurd and humorous. Shopping bags are objects of utility, but can also acts as a signifier of consumption, and in these images Hogan has created the ultimate consumer.
At this point it is important to mention that often those who talk and write about art often lump artists together to define a movement or try to find a common thread and use terms to easily categorise or explain different forms of art practice.
Ben Frost’s large acrylic and enamel works are described as ‘Pop’ or ‘Neo pop’ master pieces. It is undeniable that Frost uses the same visual language, as these ‘art movements’, that is, the images of mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture that are taken out of context and combined with other objects or images, to recreate and alter popular narratives of contemporary society and consumption.
It seems to be possibly a slight contradiction of the artists intent, to categories his works as simply ‘Pop’ or ‘Neo Pop’. Since, Frost’s visually rich works not only alter popular narratives but also parody the numerous images and more importantly constructs, that we as unwitting visual consumers are bombarded with everyday.
The works by Kid Zoom and Numskull included in Trailblazers, are strong examples of the parallels between Culture jamming, Street and Pop art and their respective use of the language of advertising. Kid Zoom’s work, You Win, a spray painted image of a skull over the top of a stolen bus poster advertising coca cola, doesn’t stop a using the language of advertising, Kid Zoom actually uses advertising posters, ‘the enemies resources’, as the base of his work. Where as, Numskull’s paintings on canvas, combine the use of phrases, words, characters and childhood idols to create false advertising.
The thread that ties the works together in this exhibition, is the clearly demonstrated ability of the artists, to use conceptual and artistic skill to convey, the observations and criticisms of contemporary culture with humour.
Like all other art forms street art has begun to evolve and is not merely contained to the street, street artists are now receiving recognition as contemporary artists. Street art is, the art of rebellion, becoming fashionable can be a double edge sword. It’s hard to imagine that anti-establishment ideas that these works contain will be totally unaffected by a shift to galleries and the influences of the art market.
Kelsey Brookes, Copyright, Ben Frost, Matt Furie, Jesse Hogan, Hush, Ian Johnson, Anthony Lister, Buff Monster, Numskull,1337, Alex Pardee,Shannon Dmote Peel, Cleon Peterson, Mark Whalen Kill Pixie, Plusminus, Pure Evil, J.Shea, Regan HaHa Tamanui, Andy Uprock, Trent Whitehead, Kid Zoom
Boutwell Draper Gallery 82 – 84 George Street Redfern 19 November – 13 December 2008