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“the stylistic confides of lowbrow art…”

April 12, 2010

What exactly does this mean?

If you went to the Stand Tall exhibit at Old Crow Tattoo & Gallery on Grand Ave. last Friday night, you might have an idea, as that was the essence of their 20-plus artists show.

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Featuring approximately 20 artists – some local, some not – I expected the show to be primarily graffiti aerosol art, but was surprised to find a much wider range of mediums and styles.

Stand Tall references the tall, but narrow, space that each artist had to work with. The two main gallery walls were each divided into 10 equal segments, 3 feet wide by 9 feet tall, providing 20 slim slates to be adorned however each artist saw fit. Some hung traditional canvases (easier for the out of town artists), some painted directly onto the wall, and some created elaborate mixed media installations incorporating, paint, wood, paper, found objects, smaller framed works, and more.

It was almost too much to take in. And while there wasn’t much cohesion between the individual artists’ pieces (everything from classic expressionism to modern graffiti lettering to flat abstract blocks of color to collaged interactive sculpture), the confines of their equally sized individual spaces marching repetitively along the walls did provide a layer of unity.

old crow tattoo & gallery, graffiti art show at old crow

old crow tattoo and gallery, art show at old crow oakland

old crow tattoo & gallery, stand tall art show, graffiti art show at old crow

stand tall art show, old crow gallery oakland

Several of the pieces were collaborative efforts. I was able to speak briefly with one of the artists, Dead Eyes, who had worked on one with his co-creator Safety First. He explained that collaboration is frequent in this genre, as local street artists are a close-knit group who all know each other and interact with each others’ work.

I asked how much of the collage was put together from already existing works. He said only a small percentage, and that about 80 percent was created originally for this show, focused on themes similar to those exhibited in their street art… visible throughout Oakland.

I also spoke briefly with Desi W.O.M.E. whose piece was one of my friend’s favorites. Though created within the span of a single day, and simple in layout – spray painted directly on the wall with no mixed media or multiple pieces – it was complex in its content. Layers of imagery overlap each other… a man’s face, seemingly in agony, an aztec-styled skull, a graffiti-writing mask over the two – all obscuring, revealing, and interacting with parts of each other. I don’t know what it means, but it seems… deep.

I could probably do a whole post on each of these panels, but you should just go check it out for yourself…
Show remains up until May 5th. I believe gallery hours are by appointment only.

PS – you can get tattoos there too. duh.

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