Lek x Sowat x Arnaud Liard “CONTREBANDE” @ David Bloch Gallery – Marrakech from DAVID BLOCH GALLERY on Vimeo.

When i first talked to Sowat about his upcoming exhibition he was excited to be working with long time partner Lek as well as fellow Parisian artist Arnaud Liard. The trio was set to open an residency and exhibition at David Bloch Gallery in Marrakech. As Iong as I have known Lek and Sowat I have always known the artists to do things their way. You might say that all artists do things their way in exhibitions what else were they to do, well when you look at Graffiti art and an exhibition those words lately go together but that hasn’t always been the case. One of the major issues with graffiti has been how and when does it transition to the gallery. We can look back to the earliest days and see it was able to do so rather easily, almost to easily. One of the major issues with graffiti in a gallery in the early New York era was it considered tame in a gallery setting compared to the rising conceptualists, and outside its own environment of the street. Fast forward to 2014 and “Contraband” were the Trio is faced with similar issues as our New York pioneers, yet Lek Sowat and Arnaud have chosen to deal with this problem and build solutions instead of embracing the white cube of a gallery and the rectangular space of a canvas they have chose to build within and around the space. It is well documented in the show statement by Hugo Vitrani who concept of the show I wont rehash most of that just reaffirm the importance of understanding why its important for artists to keep doing things their way even when forced with constraints like this Trio was able to overcome in “Contrabande”.

I think it is also important to recognize how this new era of progressive graffiti artists have learned not only from our graffiti pioneers, but also contemporary artists and art history. Instead of choosing to destroy painting they embrace it with new solutions. One of most important ingredients that has made this current generation of emerging artists so significant is not only their real history in the streets, but also their ability to learn from the past. The ability for artists like Lek, Sowat, and Arnaud to build a conversation in Marrakesh with the city utilizing murals then also take that energy into their aesthetic for a specific set of paintings is what makes our generation of painters stand out from the MFA generation of painters. The added conceptual play with reproduction paintings made in Marrakesh by local tradespeople hung next to authentic hand painted pieces by the trio is further proof that graffiti/urban art has more than enough to add to the conversation in today’s art world. All around an impressive exhibition from the Trio and a true testament of trust from the gallery to create without any added constraints or expectations.


Report of the collective exhibition “CONTREBANDE” by Lek, Sowat and Liard from February 28th, to March 29th, 2014

The David Bloch Gallery is honored to host Lek, Sowat and Arnaud Liard for their “CONTREBANDE” (contraband) exhibition.
The opening took place Friday, February 28th, in the presence of the artists and the exhibition will last until March 29th, 2014.
Following the succes of their “Mausolée” project, Lek and Sowat are in the spotlight since putting together two major group shows at the Palais de Tokyo in 2013, “Dans les entrailles” and “Terrains Vagues”, both of which gaining international recognition.
They have also been invited to discuss their work at Centre Pompidou with Jacques Villeglé and recently created a dark light installation in the Tour Paris 13 basement with Roti and Legz.

Along fellow artist Arnaud Liard, they did completely re-imagine the David Bloch gallery’s space during their three weeks residency in Marrakech, through canvases, wall paintings and installations.

“Pioneers in an experimental and collective form of Graffiti, Lek, Sowat and Arnaud Liard have roamed France’s abandoned territories and buildings for years, turning the XX1st century’s post industrial decaying ruins into their playground.

This urban and out of frame practice led them to develop a radical and minimalists aesthetic that can be found in their recent studio works, in galleries and in art institutions, places they invest like public spaces: meeting areas, crossroads, passages, fringes where they need to break the limits.
Past conjugated in present tense, desecrated symbolic shapes, calligraphic abstractions , reflections and asymmetries , mathematical rigor , interlacing curves and stips against strips : acting as counterfeiters , Lek , Sowat and Arnaud Liard transcribe the grammar of art of Moroccan Islamic craftmanship into the geometrical complexity of their deconstructed work.

Graffiti is seen as an urban pollution, so the trio chose to confront themselves to the prestige of Moroccan ornaments , the treasures of the country’s history and its tourists’ clichés.
Functioning like large scale croped zooms, the paintings of Lek, Sowat and Liard retain the infinite and colorful combinations of these ornaments , focusing on the process of creation, using geometrical grids used as patterns while preserving the canvas’ linens raw material. Painted lines weave and collide, interrupted as fragments of unfinished networks , fractured and sometimes cemented.
In the middle of Marrakech’s Biennale , the artists have chosen to work around the notion of fake and the original copy of an artwork. This is a way for them to question , while not just commenting, the status of an artwork and the merchant value of signatures.
This comes as no surprise from artists who made their classes in an underground culture that is transmitted through groups, between ” kings” ( the maallem ) and beginners ( the matalleems ), in the shadows of the streets, where the repetition ( of the tag, of the gesture ) and the absence of the works’s preservation are at the heart of the practice. An art of contraband. ”

Hugo Vitrani
Journalist at Mediapart, Curator of the Lasco Project (Palais de Tokyo)