I wrote a review for the Chronicle a couple of weeks ago.
Although I express my thoughts, I felt like there was a bigger discussion possible. Weeks before there was the hoopla in New York ’bout the Splasher. Then the “Clean City” Law went into effect in Sao Paolo. Both events lingered as I wrote the review.
I view some of graffiti/ street art as a response to the corporate sponsored visual pollution that plagues our lives. Advertisements are all over the place right? Graffiti attempts to counter it with localized visual communication. A lot of times it is on OPP (yeah you know me) without permission, but ’cause of that, it disrupts and then communicates effectively. Kinda like, you yell at me? I’ll yell at you too, ‘cept louder!
The Sao Paolo government has determined that advertising practices were outrageous. Wiping the slate clean is allowing the city as a community to take a step back and figure some things out. Like, if I can’t play football then nobody can! [taking the ball home]. Maybe they’ll find another ball or maybe they’ll play something different.
Both of these solutions are antagonistic, right? They are violent reactions, like those of the Splasher, even if their intent is noble. So are there any other options? I believe Whitney Lee is pointing in that direction. I may sound chauvinistic, but see me through to the end.
At the artist talk, Ms. Lee described her intention behind making Megapus Fantasticat. She was thinking of car races and hot rod shows and the language used to sell, sell, sell! Sunday, Sunday, Sunday! AtTheTexasRaceCarMotorSpeedwayWeHaveTheOneAndOnlyTruckasaurus! So she wanted to make the biggest, softest kitty-cat! At that moment, visions of Katie Pell’s Bitchen show crossed my mind. Fantasticat had missed its mark. There is nothing aggressive about it. Not even its size (and it is large). The use of domestic animals, pets and farm creatures, in crafts led to the Craftiti postering campaign. Again, missed its mark. A limited print run with cute characters and no obvious reference to craft.
I left the show thinking, “That’s not graffiti. Should’ve had more Soft Porn“. In a conversation with a street artist, the lack of preciousness regarding their work was discussed. All the graffiti I’ve seen, even that created by females, was not cute. Definitely not as cute as Craftiti and Monster Hearts. Street art is just that, art from the street or for the street. Meaning, the work will eventually be removed. Either by clean up crews, covered up by rivals, or succumbing to the elements. Lets see how Whitney Lee feels when her posters are torn down.
At the computer I think ’bout what to write. Whitney Lee has expressed her interest/ influence by Feminism and her previous body of work clearly reflects that. Ms. Lee brought a dash of naughtiness and finger-waggin’ to her latch-hook, conflating male chauvinist ideal with domicile utility. Savvy work, but what is she doing now? Male vs. female? Female vs. male? She has an interest in Feminism, but what do I know ’bout being female? The closest thing is that I’m a father. But that’s totally different. I’m more inclined to tell my kids to “shake it off” if they scrape their knees. While their mother will coddle them and make them feel safe. So why is she bringing craft to the street? … In … an … inoffensive manner? Decorating the streets with cute iconography relegated to grandma’s aprons and kitchenware? Attempting to make the streets feel safer, feel like home?
She got me.
Its not as craft-oriented as the efforts of Knitta, but the confrontation is as passive as it can be. Who can get offended by a goose with braids? Can you imagine if neighborhood associations hired an artist to decorate whole neighborhoods? Not regulate appearance and enforce conformity, but actually creating identity through art? Its a different path than what has been suggested by graffiti and urban redevelopment. Its not like putting up a poster of your favorite band and yelling, “This is my room. Stay out!” or hanging a couple of awards in the office to suggest character but staying neutral so as not to offend. Its more like a living room, with a place to sit (even if its not your home) and ornaments important to the family (community of the house). Its like a comfortable and welcoming environment.
Again, I wasn’t impressed with the imagery. The screenprints and decals as art were not convincing. The legitimacy of street art was not present either. Yet I trust Whitney Lee as an artist. If she continues to hone this body of work and arrives at a level similar to her previous work then the show will get an upgrade. I wanna say it’s GOOD for making me think so much, but for now, it was NOT BAD.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.