Curated by Austin artist Sloke, "Texas Heat" offers a primary- and secondary-colored look at the possibilities and limitations of gallery work that’s strictly inspired by street graffiti. The key word here is "strictly," as I’m not talking about the work of artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat or Keith Haring or even the recently deceased Dash Snow.
On view at the Crewest gallery in downtown Los Angeles through the end of July, "Texas Heat" features a murderers’ row of Lone Star artists, all of whom have achieved mastery of the spray can, which is no small feat – have you ever actually gotten one of those suckers out and tried to draw a straight line? – but this doesn’t always translate to success on the canvas.
Stylized letters and jazzercised portraits might look great on the side of a building or the back of a Chevy, but some of the offerings here come off as flat and lifeless. So you’ve taken your name and placed it slightly off center on a canvas? Crazy. And what’s that, you’ve mixed in a dead rapper? That shit is wild, yo.
At least half of what gives life to graffiti is its drunken, testosterone-laden, law-scoffing, midnight feel. Slap the exact same imagery on a canvas, and you lose almost all of that. These aren’t new thoughts – not even close – but I’m just saying…
Thankfully, some of the artists in "Texas Heat" have taken the graff feel and shoved it forward. There’s Soner, whose The Blues splits his tag into five panels, one for each letter, with the N raised higher than the O and the E, which in turn are higher than the S and the R. The letters are dynamic but not fragmented so much as to be illegible. There’s nothing revolutionary going on here, but it’s nicely done.
Ditto with Subway, which has the same letters on a toy subway car.
Lawgic’s Graffolution probably features the best use of figurative imagery. This four-panel work starts with an ape throwing feces on the wall and progresses through Lascaux and pre-Columbian America before settling in the fourth panel on a contemporary graff piece. It’s a fun take on the classic illustration of the evolutionary timeline.
Also interesting are Krutch’s digital prints of street art, which are awash in color and deftly cropped. Yep, we’re talking about well-executed photos in a gallery that depict exciting things happening on the street. Imagine that.
If you happen to be in Los Angeles before the end of month, good for you, because you’ve escaped the wrath of the heat-blowing demon for a while. What, did you think I was going to recommend you check out the show? Okay, you might consider doing that too.