Recap: Street Artists Unite! at Dorian Grey Gallery

Posted on: July 2nd, 2012 at 11:29 am by

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In my 8th grade political science class, I remember a humorous introductory lesson about the different types of government. A comic strip defined each political system by the way in which two people use a car. Socialism was defined by a car thief saying “it’s not your car, it is our car.”

After lengthy conversations with Occupy Protesters, and long debates with my Tea-Party grandfather, I realize that “socialism” can’t be simplified to this. However, in the arts—be it music, fine arts, or film—socialism seems to be the self-governing principle that has come to reign.

DJs who sample music to create their own, artists who appropriate the images of other artists or photographers, and the widespread use of internet file-sharing highlight the cooperative methods of current artists.

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This trend is often criticized as producing less creative new work since much of it is not in fact new. A perfect example of appropriation gone wrong is the Devandalizer, an artist who simply steals paste-ups and stickers which graffiti artists have created and dispersed, arranges them on a canvas, and sells them as works of art. The Devandalizer just had a show at Orchard Windows Gallery. If I wanted to see a bunch of Obey stickers I’ve seen a dozen times simply arranged on a canvas and sold for an obscene amount of money as a new “creative work of art,” I would have gone.

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This is not (fortunately) about that show at all, however. This is about Dorian Grey Gallery’s newest exhibit “Street Artists Unite,” an exhibit that uses this artsy socialism to create some visually-potent and inarguably creative work.

“Street Artists Unite” at Dorian Grey Gallery does appropriate work. This show consists of photographs taken by Hank O’Neal, which have then been bombed by graffiti artists such as Army of One, Cope2, and Fumero. Not only is the exhibit collaborative by nature, being that there are numerous artists involved, it stretches an extra step. The photos themselves are oftentimes of street art that already exists, such as 5 Pointz in Queens or some of Basquiat’s work. Army of One uses Diane Arbus’ portrait Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park and even Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace makes an appearance in a multi-media collage produced by Army of One. Thus Basquiat, Diane Arbus, and even Leo Tolstoy are (unknowingly and posthumously) contributors to the show.

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Many of the works feature the original photograph pre-vandalization next to the label, which allows the viewer to look at what the photo looked like and what has been contributed by the graffiti artist.

Painting a photo in place of actual walls and buildings gives the artists a little more creative liberty as well. For example, in a photo of 5 Pointz, graffiti artist AV ONE bombed the blue sky behind the Queensboro Bridge. This flee from reality provides a new canvas for the graffiti artist, still not a plain white one, but a new unconventional place for them paint.

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Street Artists Unite will be on display at Dorian Grey Gallery until August 5, located on 9th street between 1st Avenue and Avenue A.  For a crash course on proper art collaboration, a reminder of what the cover of War and Peace looks like (it’s okay, I read the Sparknotes, too), and a chance to see what some of New York’s best and brightest street artists are up to, Street Artists Unite is a must-see.

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