Art from the Streets
I am not an art reviewer, but on occasion I am called upon to write about art, and in this case street art. My story for The Reader (www.thereader.com) discusses an exhibition from a couple years ago at the Loves Jazz & Arts Center that focused on Art from the Streets. The idea by then LJAC administrative director Michelle Troxclair, who is an artist herself, was to give artists who don’t often get the chance to show in gallery settings an opportunity to present some of their work. I was captivated by most of what I saw. At least one of the four artists featured in the show is a genuine celebrity – mixed martial arts figher Houston Alexander. This blog contains a profile I did on Alexander.
NME Crew Omaha, ©photo by Ginkz
Art from the Streets
©by Leo Adam Biga
Originally published in The Reader (www.thereader.com)
Urban Pop Funk might best describe Art from the Streets at Loves Jazz & Arts Center. Curated by LJAC administrative director Michelle Troxclair, the exhibition highlights the work of four Omaha artists whose subject matter, approach and mediums reflect art trends emanating from the inner city.
Troxclair organized the show to give props to artists of color whose self-taught airbrush-graffiti-graphic art remains off-the-grid. By presenting it in a gallery she’s validating this grassroots “street” art and implicitly slamming elitists who dismiss it.
“There’s a bias in the art world as to what is fine art and what is not, and there are some art forms young people have been putting out there for some time that have just not been validated by the art world,” she said. “These art forms were born in urban communities and I thought our (LJAC’s) position in this community gave us a unique opportunity to put some deserving young people’s art out there.”
To represent this movement, she selected artists with made reps for keeping it real: Graphic artist-digital photographer Jason Fischer, aka, Ginkz; airbrush artists Bruce Briggs and Spot; and graffiti artist/hip hop ambassador Houston Alexander.
Jason Fischer, aka Ginkz
The street-themed opening included sports cars out front inked with the latest graphic design detail work and Alexander on site creating two original graffitos. Together with the stylings of spoken word artists and the featured gents talking about their work, you had a street salon thing going on.
Fischer, whose business is called Surreal Media Lab, makes visceral, cerebral, suave images for magazines, CD covers, web sites. His shots of urban desolation bring an edgy, social critique. “Wasted” is one of several Fischer pics dealing with notions of refuse. He turns a littered gutter grate into a poetic indictment of excess and waste. Cutting through the black and white is a Coke can caught up in the wash, a glaring red symbol for capitalism’s disposable, discarded flotsam and jetsam.
He likes strong contrasts. “Cross the Line” pictures a crumpled yellow crime scene tape. It’s an interesting take on these garish plastic artifacts of violent, often fatal crime scenes. What do they symbolize once an investigation ends? Are they merely debris or markers commemorating tragedy? Or talisman warning of danger?
His “Razor’s Edge” series makes near abstractions of barbed wire. Troxclair told this reviewer the wire’s a security deterrent outside a youth detention center. That information lends the images deeper meaning. Yet no panel-guide text notes the context or artist intent for any exhibit works, an omission that hurts the show.
Briggs displays amazing control, precision and artistry in his expressive airbrush portraits, some mixed with acrylic. His pieces range from lush, glowing, colorful reveries of iconic pop stars (Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, P. Diddy Combs) to intense, moody, interpretive glimpses — in muted black-gray shadings — of Mos Def and Miles Davis. The mesmerizing Davis portrait, “Miles Away,” captures the jazz great in the throes of creative brainstorm, fingering his forehead as if a horn.
Spot’s equally impressive riffs on pop stars are by-turns whimsical (Barack Obama as a hipster in “Ba Roc-a-fella”) and mythic (Scarface’s Tony Montana in “The World is Mine”). His stunning portrait “Tupac” raises the late rapper to Sinatra Cool status in a swirl of joint smoke framing the artist in all his fly machismo splendor. The dense, abstract-like “Blue Pride” reveals another aspect of Spot’s vision.
Alexander’s large canvas graffitos, propped up on concrete blocks, illustrate the viivid style of his box car, bridge, wall tags and murals. Fisher photos document some scrib handiwork. One, “Inner Workings,” depicts a mural on a brick wall whose gaping hole exposes interior piping, adding layers of texture and intrigue.
Aptly, Troxclair incorporates tools of these artists’ trade, including cans of spray paint, along with apparel they’ve adorned.
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- Miss Leola Says Goodbye (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)
- Frederick Brown’s Journey Through Art is a Passage Across Form and a Passing On of Legacy (leoadambiga.wordpress.com)