If you missed the Dec 14th opening of the Graffuturism LA show at Soze Gallery you are in luck. Soze Gallery has broken down the show into 4 small reopenings the first which passed Jan 19th. The second reopening will take place tomorrow Feb 2nd 7-10Pm and include the 2nd part of the series. Each showing has a all star lineup of talent and this one is no different. Geometrics is the focus of part 2 and there will be a final closing exhibition for the show Feb 16th. Also make sure to get a copy of the sold out Graffuturism LA catalog which the gallery reprinted for these openings. Its a small reprint so make sure to act fast.

 

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Since Graffuturism’s inception as a public blog and private Facebook group in 2010, there have been two major group exhibitions that featured associated artists: “Rudimentary Perfection” in Glasgow and “Futurism 2.0” in London. Both were successful in their curatorial intentions and created a sense of community and motion for the movement. Soze Gallery also has been an early advocate hosting solo exhibitions in 2012 by Jaybo Monk, Moneyless, Remi Rough, Dale Marshall, and a two-man show with Augustine Kofie and Jaybo. Recognizing the significance of the Graffuturists, Soze Gallery also presented the opportunity for him to curate this exhibition, which he chose to simply call “Graffuturism.”

This exhibition has been eagerly anticipated as the first group show to be curated by Poesia, because he is the founder of Graffuturism.com and also a well-respected graffiti artist with a twenty-year history. Ending up in this unique dual position as artist and commentator, it has fallen on him to be the cultural instigator and diplomatic facilitator of the renewed interest, practice and discourse surrounding what he calls “Progressive Graffiti,” which has also previously been called “Abstract Graffiti.” At this juncture in the three-year history of the website, as well as in the thirty-year history of this over-looked aesthetic trajectory within the Graffiti movement, Graffuturism.com has become a hub and Poesia the dedicated and consistent chronicler and theoretician. With the internet as his podium and round table, he has been historicizing and canonizing these artists, young and old, who have been creating art beyond the norms of traditional graffiti, esoteric forms of painting and sculpture that veer outside of the proscribed boundaries into the experimental, the abstract, the poetic, and the hybrid.

Artists that fall under the term Progressive Graffiti are generally innately gifted draftsmen, who aspire to a Master’s Level at their craft. Overall this movement could be classified as a “High Style New Millennial Aesthetic.” The art they produce is derived from a dialogue that ricochets around within a pin-ball matrix delineated by coordinates lying between the historical and the contemporary, including high and low influences, fine art and graffiti practices, scholarly and street pursuits, intellectual and visceral marks. Whether the resulting output is graffiti, painting, murals, design, sculpture or installations, the pictorial elements are mutated and transformed through each artist’s unique vision into a personal vocabulary of cross-pollinated styles. Whereas the Street Art movement of the mid-2000s tended to focus on figurative stencils and wheat-pastes, this group of artists on the whole is more concerned with hands-on, singular creation, whether within an academic or street setting. Unlike Post-Modernism, the resultant overall aesthetic is a seamless personal statement, not a collaged juxtaposition of historic styles.

Because of Poesia’s dual role within the movement, he has been in the unique position to attract this international line up of esteemed contemporary artists, which includes many of the significant forefathers from the seventies and eighties. As a result, by including so many of these original Masters, he has created a chronological continuum within the line up, which defines this historical thread from its earliest days. Therefore this group show, like the website itself, has developed into a “survey” that historicizes and canonizes each artist within the Progressive Graffiti thread, as well as within the larger Graffiti movement. One of the earliest elders to be included is Futura. He is possibly the most influential, if not stylistically, at least as an inspiration to others to find their own path. In the early eighties, after a ten-year career as one of the early seventies writers, he broke away from one of graffiti’s most sacred traditions: the letterform as subject matter. At that point he began to paint in what became known as an “Abstract Graffiti” style. With his groundbreaking subway whole-car “Break,” as well as on the canvasses he was painting at the time, he pushed an atmospheric geometric style to the forefront of his work and began to experiment with a wide array of spray can techniques that had not been seen before.

Around this same time, other early NYC writers, who had also started their careers in the seventies, began to make their own discoveries, taking off in new hybrid directions that were not based on pure graffiti traditions. In 1985, Carlos Mare began to combine abstraction and Wildstyle within the medium of sculpture, which over the past couple of decades has expanded to include other mediums under the term Urban Modernism. Haze also began to cross over into the fine art domain and over the years has created a body of work that might be referred to as Iconographic Minimalism. Doze Green was also a significant member of the early community of writers who crossed over with an experimental style, which in his case included archetypal icons, mystical-poetic typography, figurative motifs and painterly styles. West was also another early intrepid explorer, adopting a gestural expressionist style, applying the muscle memory of train and wall painting to the canvas with his long whole-body marks and splashy, dripping strokes.

This exhibition has also united artists from the second generation who took off from the paths forged by those early pioneers. These artists started to formulate their progressive aesthetics in the late eighties, such as: Boris Tellegen aka Delta, the European three-dimensional geometric letterform pioneer turned pure abstractionist; New Yorker Greg Lamarche aka SpOne, who has been able to establish an abstract typographic collage aesthetic parallel to his foundation as a graffiti writer obsessed with the hand-written letterform; and Part2ism, one of the earliest UK experimentalists in Hyperrealism, as well as the co-founder with Juice126 of the Ikonoklast Movement, which in the early-nineties also came to include abstract colorist Remi Rough.

Also beginning in the late eighties on the West Coast of the US, the Wildstyle-reductionist Joker was one of the first graffiti artists to paint purely geometric abstractions and pushed for its acceptance within the graffiti community by founding the Transcend Collective in 1991 with She1, who was an abstract writer in the UK. Poesia, became a key member of the collective in 1995, exploring a more hybrid, expressionistic approach to Wildstyle, as well as taking it into pure abstraction, which he is currently pushing in new directions, as well as reaching back to the Baroque painters and reinterpreting their masterpieces as graffiti-dissected new millennial re-paintings. Over in Europe, first in Paris then Italy during the same time period, Marco Pho Grassi started out as a wall and train painter but quickly started mixing in abstraction and more painterly expressionist techniques much like Poesia, yet totally unknown to each other. Then in the mid to late nineties, back in the US along the West Coast, other artists with alternative, experimental mind-sets, who were aware of recent developments, were coming out with brilliant, refined hybrid styles, such as Augustine Kofie and El Mac.

For the past ten to thirty years, artists such as these had been forced to skirt the edges of graffiti culture and only been acknowledged in the peripheral vision of fine art critics as well. Due to the esoteric nature and hybrid aesthetics of their graffiti-based paintings, and limited by their disparate locations around the globe, they had no way to band together and find an audience to support them because of the lack of enough interest within local communities. On the other side of the tracks, they were also ignored by the fine arts establishment because of their association with graffiti culture and for unabashedly continuing their gallery-related practices under the term Graffiti. They simply refused to entirely leave behind the subculture they loved just to fit in. But, as the world population grows and becomes more connected through the internet, this geographically dislocated community has found it easier to connect with each other, collaborate together, and share global opportunities, rather than being confined just to their local communities.

Now, as this historical thread comes of age and recognizes itself in the mirror of history and on the faces of its youth, as the pioneers of the culture are canonized and the younger artists are united, there are many more opportunities afforded to them. No longer is the influence of Graffiti and Street Art only respected within popular culture as art, design and fashion, but it is also being recognized and accepted by the intelligentsia and academia, as well as the fine art establishment and the auction houses. These interlocked systems of value recognition, definition and dissemination thereby establish a scale that the upper economic and intellectual strata of society can measure by. Once that scale of measure has been established, the elite classes of society can no longer deny the populist cultural impact, refined intellectual value, and large economic rewards created by the influence of Graffiti and Street Art, which finally can be classified as the two most prevalent styles and art movements of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.

Although, to the dismay of many members of these two cultures, with this acceptance and recognition comes gentrification in the form of the development of the umbrella term, “Urban Art,” which was created by the mechanizations of economics. It began as the term “Urban Market” used by the advertising industry to define members of the Hip Hop buying public, and now has been retrofit by the auction houses for use in their large generalized auctions that began to appear during the Street Art boom of the last decade. These auctions not only lump two distinct cultures together, but they also sneak in artists who have nothing to do with art that was created on the streets. This can be especially irritating and embarrassing to anyone who identifies strongly with one culture or the other, sometimes even in opposition to each other, and who proudly risks arrest to make their art on the streets. So, being called an Urban Artist, when you’ve been a Graffiti Writer or Street Artist your whole aesthetic life, can be infuriating because it seems like an insult from outsiders who don’t understand the difference, subtracts the illegality from the art form thereby sanitizing it, and seems like a sell-out move if any artist chooses to use it themselves.

Despite the loss of separation and individuality of the two different subcultures during the machinations of the commodification of Culture, this particular Graffuturist group exhibition, as well as the previous two, are significant steps in acknowledging the sub-subculture of Progressive Graffiti, and then defining and maintaining an understanding of it within Graffiti culture and mass Culture. These three exhibitions have been created by artists and supporters from within the culture who have lived the history and are recording and translating it for others. The exhibitions revel in the intellectual and esoteric manifestations within the subculture of Graffiti, and are creating records that hopefully will continue to clarify and cement a true-to-the-roots definition in the ledger of Cultural Value at large.

Across the board, 2012 has been an explosive year for Progressive Graffiti. The synchronicity of all these group exhibitions and solo shows can only emphasize that there is increased activity by the artists and an amplified interest within the audience. Futura had his first solo show in ten years, which attracted a massive turn out of the wealthy and the fashionable, as well as the highly-respected hardcore members of the graffiti community. It was a testament to his growing importance outside the culture, as well as cementing his stature within it. Following on the heels of the success of his solo show, Futura exhibited with two other crucial esoteric Old School Masters, Rammellzee and Phase2, in conjunction with the Modernist Master Matta in the exhibition “Deep Space” in NYC. This group show was particular significant because it canonized these three graffiti artists within the fine art pantheon by successfully illustrating their aesthetic accomplishments to be on par with Matta’s masterworks, not only in the exhibition itself but also in the accompanying essay by Nemo Librizzi. Rammellzee also had a banner year. He was included in the “Vocabularies Revitalized” exhibition at the MoMA and had a retrospective at the Children’s Museum called “The Rammellzee Galxseum,” not even to mention his solo show at the Suzanne Geiss gallery in 2011 called “The Equation.”

In London, “Futurism 2.0” was significant for its curatorial aim to historicize and canonize by comparing and contrasting the Futurists and the Graffturists, as well as it’s grand scope, which included an exhibition, book and documentary. Another group show of significance was BrooklynStreetArt.com’s exhibition “Geometricks” which held high the torch of Abstract Graffiti in it’s title and Progressive Graffiti in its roster, which included Augustine Kofie, SeeOne, Drew Tyndell, Hellbent, Momo, and OverUnder. One of the most significant of the many murals and “in situ” collaborations painted this year by Graffuturist-related artists was the abstract mural painted on the Megaro Hotel by Agents of Change members Remi Rough, Augustine Kofie, Lx.One, and Steve More, which is currently the largest mural ever painted in London. Also, a slew of solo and duo exhibitions opened throughout the year around the world, which included many of the artists associated with Graffuturism and Progressive Graffiti: Poesia, Dale Marshal, Part2ism, Remi Rough, Augustine Kofie, Jaybo Monk, Mark Lyken, Moneyless, Doze Green, Carlos Mare, She One, Matt W. Moore, Jurne, Greg Lamarche, Delta, Hense, Rae Martini, Marco Pho Grassi, and Graphic Surgery.

Above and beyond the growing interest in Progressive Graffiti is the expanding interest in the over-all culture as well during the first two decades of the new millennium. Massive museum exhibitions encompassing the full spectrum of subcultures and historical threads within the Graffiti and Street Art cultures have also opened to wide acclaim. The success of ticket sales for “Street Art” in 2008 at the Tate Modern in London and “Art in the Streets” in 2011 at the MOCA in Los Angeles revealed the mass cultural interest of these art movements and all the art forms that are connected to them. The fact that these two exhibitions happened at all signifies the growing acceptance by the fine art community as well.

These museum exhibitions, as well as the trend towards many other smaller historical exhibitions, such as “Deep Space” and “Futurism 2.0” at the end of 2012, and “Pantheon: A history of Art from the Streets of NYC” in 2011, indicate a new interest in the study of the history and cultural significance of these movements. Other indicators are the release of high quality scholarly books, articles and movies, such as “Abstract Graffiti” by Cedar Lewisohn in 2011; “Beyond Graffiti” published in ArtNews in 2011 by Carolina Miranda; the 2005 documentary “Next: A Primer on Urban Painting” by Pablo Aravena; and “The Feral Diagram 2.0: Graffiti and Street Art” published in 2012 by Daniel Feral. Also, the dedication of certain writers and photographers, such as Crist Espiritu and everyone at DozeCollective.com, as well as the freelance photographer Todd Mazer, exemplify the excitement and passion elicited by Progressive Graffiti at this time. These are all testaments to the growing enthusiasm of scholars, historians, theoreticians and documentarians to examine, define and record the fifty year history of graffiti and street art, and, in particular, the Progressive Graffiti thread. Like any misunderstood movement before these, such as rock’n'roll, comic books, and cinema, eventually the art forms, the audiences and the scholars unite to recognize the movement’s undeniable cultural value, relevance and resonance in all their forms from the simple and visceral to the esoteric and intellectual.

 


text by Daniel Feral

On Friday, Dec 14, 2012, the eponymously-titled “Graffuturism” exhibition curated by Poesia, the founder of Graffuturism.com, opens in the Soze Gallery location at 801 East 4th Place Los Angeles, CA 90013 in the LA Artshare Building.

The complete artist list in alphabetical order by first name is as follows: 2501, Aaron De La Cruz, Augustine Kofie, Boris “Delta” Tellegen, Carl Raushenbach, Carlos Mare, Clemens Behr, Derek Bruno, Doze Green, Duncan Jago, DVS 1, El Mac, Eric Haze, Erosie, Franco “Jaz” Fasoli, Futura, Gilbert 1, Greg “Sp One” Lamarche, Graphic Surgery, Hense, Hendrik “ECB” Beikirch, Jaybo Monk, Joker, Jurne, Kema, Kenor, Lek, Marco “Pho” Grassi, Matt W. Moore, Moneyless, O.Two, Part2ism, Poesia, Rae Martini, Remi Rough, Samuel Rodriguez, Sat One, Sever, Shok-1, Sowat, Steve More, West, Will Barras.

Special thanks to Martini Marlini for flyer design