French street art has infiltrated Jonathan Levine Gallery in New York City with simultaneous solo exhibitions by WK Interact and Invader. The dual exhibitions offer a diverse range of style and content, from playful, retro mosaics to confronting mixed media chaos.
WK Interact, a French born artist who resides in New York City, began producing his signature murals and wheat pastes after working for several years in the film industry. His work on storyboards and set layout led him to investigate representations of figures in motion. By manipulating images while they were being photocopied, he created a unique visual product. The black and white images, which are chaotic, violent, and sexually charged, possess an energy which brings to life the walls they inhabit. The work depicts figures that are fixed in a moment in time and suspended in mid-movement. Space and locale are thought through very carefully to ensure interaction with the work, hence the artist’s pseudonym.
The exhibition, titled Motion Portrait, displays an aesthetic that emphasizes WK Interact’s affinity for film. The show offers four mixed media works consisting of wheat pastes, found objects, magazine cutouts, and paint, affixed to found doors that are named for various streets of New York’s SoHo and Lower East Side neighborhoods. The suggestion is that the works were created at these addresses and then removed for the exhibition. 99 Crosby Street depicts a masked soldier firing off rounds from a handgun. The image draws your eye towards the other side of the gallery, creating an expectation of being able to see a suspended bullet. There is a cinematic quality that oozes from the materials. A leather jacket hanging off of one side appears to be a prop left behind from filming, while the picture of the soldier could have been ripped from the screen inside a movie theater.
Additionally, WK presents a series of 12 portraits entitled 12 Angry Men, named for the classic Sidney Lumet film. These portraits are a departure for WK, who usually works exclusively with the image of the entire figure. For these works he has manipulated the faces of his subject to create a surreal and creepy effect. The faces of the men are twisted and splattered with paint with their features exaggerated. The faces are magnified to bring the viewer closer as the men laugh maniacally or scream terrifically. The artist chose to use unprimed canvas and did not retouch anything once it had been painted, thus allowing the painting to act as a piece of raw, unedited film. These paintings introduce an entirely different side of motion. While the street work and door pieces usually depict a figure running or moving rapidly, the 12 Angry Men series focuses on the deranged motion of the human face. This close encounter is at times unsettling but the work is effective at drawing the viewer inside a dysfunctional headspace.
Invader is a Paris based artist know widely for his pixilated tile works that seem to appear when you least expect them. Scattered throughout New York, and 39 other cities, his Space Invaders, Pac-Man ghosts, and other characters from 8-bit video games, pop up on sides of buildings and sidewalks throughout most of the inhabitable world. For Top 10, Invader exhibits a style called Rubikcubism, the art of creating a piece of work through the manipulation of the classic toy, the Rubik’s Cube. The popular 80’s toy is used in abundance to create 10 of what Invader believes to be the greatest albums of his generation. Standing up close to the artwork it is not always obvious, however as you begin to distance yourself you begin to see The Clash’s London Calling, The Velvet Underground and Nico, and Daft Punk’s Homework. The use of the Rubik’s Cube adds to the retro subject matter of Invaders entire body of work.
Be it the pixilated nature and subject matter so common in old video games or the album covers, Invader reminds of a not so distant past when media possessed a more intimate quality. The show also features some smaller tile works akin to those found beyond the gallery, in addition to a video which shows the process of creating the album cover works.
These exhibitions offer great examples two prolific artists, displaying both signature styles and new methods of expressing their ideas. Both shows act as a tribute to the artists’ influences and they create a remarkable juxtaposition of various art forms both past and present. The exhibitions run through July 25.