Sunday, December 23, 2007

Streetwise, on canvas

Okay, let's start with a delectable image of Michelangelo's David holding a Kalishnikov. At 86" x 56" you can't miss it. At $13,000 it's sold. As spraypaint on canvas, there are a few more in the edition. Indubitably, it's the work of the originator (and maestro) of the stencil brigade ("Every time I think I've painted something slightly original, I find out that Blek Le Rat has done it as well. Only twenty years earlier." Banksy, 2005). Well-hung between two other full-lengths, it grabs, and retains, the eye. Insightful and inciting.
Also arresting is the work of D*Face. Provocateur ("Talk minus action equals zero"), Brit, and master skewerer, he modifies/improves upon a dollar bill: "Washed Up" instead of the name of the familiar founding father, a skull substituted for the portrait's face, said face festooned with taloned antlers. Warhol's Marilyn also get the treatment. True to his moniker, the lady has one eye gouged out and sports winged horns growing out of her temples. This image is available (sorry, sold) in four color combinations. My fave transubstantiation was "Cli Che". No explanation necessary.
Strange is what comes up for Blu. This Bolognese usually paints entire walls -- exterior walls. Here he's represented by small drawings, cartoonish pen and inks meticulously drawn and fully realized. Oh, and scary as hell. They're shown in their own room, and if you've ever been hospitalized due to mental instability, bring a friend. "Page 2" (no formal titles) depicts a man at his toilette, his reflected face is comprised of entwined tentacles. Another shows a guy's head neatly sliced open, other heads emerge and emerge, like mutant Russian dolls. Ow. And so it goes, quietly and disturbedly.
Space Invader uses tiles, not paint. A double portrait of Sid Vicious is made up of 588 Rubik's Cubes. For real. The pixilation is incredible. This artist usually installs his "invader" mosaics in the cityscape, hidden in plain sight (psst: there's one just to the right of the Andrea Rosen Gallery, look down).

It's always odd to see street art in a white wall gallery. In a way, the work feels denuded. So it's refreshing to glimpse Blek's signature rodent scampering close to the floor (one's to the left of the David canvas), Microbo's patterned stencils on the wall, and Blu's wash of grayish brushstrokes covering his space. Call it contextual.

Graffiti has come a long way since Lascaux.

"The Streets of Europe" at Jonathan LeVine
529 W. 20 st.
through Dec. 29