When the Street’s the Studio
by Couch Sessions
Last Saturday saw the openings for two art exhibits in DC, Street/Studio at Irvine Contemporary featuring a wide array of artists (full list below) and Not from Concentrate: A Juicy Art Exhibit at the Hounshell real estate office. featuring the work of Chanon Delivuk and Josh Yospyn, hosted by the Pink Line Project. There was a wide range of work using various media in different environments. I made my way to both (they were less than a block away from each other) and got a taste of some interesting sights. Since there was so much in one night, today, we get what’s up with Street/Studio. I’ll be updating about Not from Concentrate in a few days.
Entering the alleyway the work of Shepard Fairey, known for the OBEY giant and Obama posters, can be seen. This time it’s a young child with a rifle in his arm plastered on the wall while German artist EVOL’s cityscape follows it. This is the just the beginning of Street/Studio at Irvine Contemporary. The gallery focuses on modern artists who are either starting out or mid-career. This specific exhibit was a showcase of artists who not only do studio art, but also bring in the street – essentially making the streets ‘the studio’ too. Their street and modern art bring both spaces together. So it was appropriate for the showcase to be inside and outside on the walls themselves- literally an extension of the gallery itself. Luckily, I got in through the perfect entrance- through the back alley of course.
All Street/Studio Artists: Shepard Fairey (LA), Swoon (NY), Gaia (Brooklyn and Baltimore), Imminent Disaster (Brooklyn), Oliver Vernon (Brooklyn), James Marshall/Dalek (NY and NC), EVOL (Berlin) and PISA73 (Berlin)
Opening night, we had DC area artist iona rozeal brown on the turntable (she’s been DJing just as long as she’s been doing art). With fitting music, perfect weather and free beer, it was great going through the art. The artists were all very different, echoing the variety found in street art. From Immenant Disaster’s cut-outs to Gaia’s mix of newsprint and cutouts, it seemed each artist had found their own style. I was able to catch up with a few of the artists that were there that night. First, I met Oliver Vernon. Originally from Albany, NY and now based in Brooklyn, surprisingly Oliver didn’t claim to have roots in street art – but more of the general street culture from his interest in hip-hop and skateboarding early on.
His images are pretty psychedelic. His abstract art challenges what people feel they can see or feel in reality. The nature of his art tests the waters for what we (the viewers) really see, what we want to see, what we do see and how the artist got there. He has studied many art styles, tested them out, but abstract art is really where he stayed with in the end. Starting with a certain spontaneity in his media, Oliver Vernon then looks out for images, vague recognizable somethings– but then turns those on their heads, not to be representational. His imagery is spontaneous and expressive but he adds a little realism to just to play with it. He likes the challenge that opposites bring- difficulty of hard, physical imagery contrasted with winding, twisty lines. So when we follow the lines and bends, it’s more about the journey than anything else. In Dan Eldon’s words, Oliver says, “The Journey is the Destination” – it can be strongly attributed to his artistic process and expression.
Also, standing outside with his work, was Berlin based street artist EVOL. Originally hailing from a town in southwest Germany, in his earlier days just bombed walls with funky characters and drawings. His stenciling is pretty detailed and he puts his spray paint to the test on cardboard. His use of media has a very urban vibe, possibly because of the worn out cardboard he uses or his focus on buildings and balconies. EVOL’s collaborated with other artists and has done some large scale installations in Germany too.
But his main trademark though became his transformation of everyday street electric boxes into miniature high-rise buildings with the use of stencils. On the wall outside, his specific use of stenciling brought a skyline to the building wall. Surprisingly while on the wall, his partial reconstruction of some east Berlin buildings didn’t really look 2D either. All you had to was bend down a little and look up, and it actually felt like you were looking up at the buildings while you were right next to them (the funky tetris-ish blocks was a nice touch too).
PISA73, also from Berlin, after design school, wanted to focus more on his artwork and ‘urban expression’ bringing him to create work about various subjects. Using contrasting images of religion and erotica, his art brings up questions about the duplicity that comes with extremes. Like his “Talk is Cheap” piece (scroll down) is half a handgun and half Jesus, brings up the fact that religion, which is peaceful and personal, can be twisted by certain people- leading to possible violence and discrimination under false pretenses.
Most of his images and ideas, PISA73 says, are every day things that fascinate him. However, he doesn’t take sides. PISA’s art is more an expression of his observations and the truth that he feels people are already a part of. His use of stencils allows the replication of the things he has seen with his own eyes and bringing it out for other people. This can seen clearly in his replication of a riot scene he was at once. The feeling of violence, disruption and the experience of being there is brought back to our level, as we look at it on the wall.
Unfortunately some of the other artists weren’t around for the opening so I wasn’t able talk to them. But, again their art was still part of ‘the experience. Most of the time we separate the studio and art on the street so much, but really at Irvine these two ‘worlds’ came together. Definitely worth a look for yourselves (I didn’t even get to talk about everyone here). The Street/Studio exhibit is open until August 1st so check it out at Irvine Contemporary, 1412 14th St NW DC, open Tuesdays-Saturdays 11am-6pm. AND keep your eyes out for the Not from Concentrate too that I’ll post about soon. More good stuff on the way!