Last night, Pictures on Walls opened their holiday show, Marks & Stencils, starring Banksy and Dran. For those of you who read Vandalog daily, you know that I am a MASSIVE Dran fan. When I first lived in London two years ago, I interned for Pure Evil Gallery and the first show I worked on was Je t’aime, an exhibit featuring members of the DMV crew. When I first saw Dran’s work then, I could see this guy was going to be a big deal, and judging by the likes of last night’s crowd- I was right.
In true, POW style, the pop-up exhibit took out all the stops. The space on the Berwick Street in Soho was completely transformed to exhibit as much work as possible. One of the issues that a lot of people debate now is how to exhibit street art on white walls and whether the meaning of the work changes or if it is even street art anymore, albeit done by “street artists.” POW somehow found a solution, albeit temporary, to this raging debate by making the space look like a messy artist’s studio fused with the outdoor components like traffic cones, gray cracked walls and exposed brick.
The space is broken in two levels, with the top styled more like a thrown together group show and the bottom floor transformed into My Everyday Life, a solo show of Dran’s work. The theme the exhibit is Scribouille (featured above) a character of Dran’s imagination who constantly makes art all of the time. The idea was taken literally with areas created to show a workshop, artist’s table and tools, a shopping cart full of cardboard (a material of choice for Dran) and the creation of one of my favorite works by Dran- a cardboard box opened up with eyes cut out and chalk drawings of child-like flowers. The walls were scattered with unframed canvases of Dran’s witty illustrative social commentary addressing everything from the British obsession with football and shortsighted scientists to men’s fascination with porn and a women’s need to control their partners. I laughed out loud most of the time, and I don’t think the absinthe being served was helping my uncontrollable laughter either.
On the end of the space, Dran uses cardboard boxes from around the world to explore socio-political notions relevant to each country. The series is not only innovative, but displays a tension between the light-hearted nature of the drawings and the heavy themes Dran is actually drawing upon. He just goes to show you that simplicity can pack the same thematic punch as heavy convoluted abstracts that attempt to comment on similar ideas.
Upstairs, the art work includes more pieces from Dran, as well as Zevs, Sickboy and of course, Banksy. All grouped together, it was difficult at times to guess which work was by which artist which was annoying at times, but the free show catalog was pretty good about explaining what was what. Sorry guys, I’m not RJ. I don’t know everything that was there. Actually though, if someone know who the Scrabble “Snuff Film” piece was by, drop me a line. It was underneath a ZEVS but I have no idea if it was his. I would assume though.
Anyways, POW put on a great display of graffiti/art that they cited as the work of “drunks and idiots.” All pictures in ornate frames, the photographs are were a clever way to show off work that have not really been seen, but are definitely a crowd favorite.
And of course, to talk about Banksy’s work in the show… Well for starters, there was not that much of it. I was a bit disappointed in the fact that what was displayed were an array of pieces that have similar brethren in an outdoor capacity (like the door, 3D rat or the “Boring” works). What I found more interesting, however, is the close artistic relationship that has seemed to form between Dran and Bansky. I couldn’t peel my eyes off of Dran’s “Mona Lisa” because of how much it resembles Bansky’s painting attack works from a few years ago. I am not saying they are similar styles, their aesthetics are as different as can be, but their mainstream simplistic way of conveying their own social commentary are extremely similar. They both use ideas of art history, children, apes, war and starvation in their pieces as symbols of current situations. It makes me wonder if Dran is just incredibly inspired by Bansky, or if Banksy is actually mentoring the young French artist. One day, hopefully there will be an outdoor collaboration of their work, but seeing two of my favorite artists of today showing side by side is enough for me right now.
Also, for all you Banksy fans who cannot get enough of the show’s curator, the artist’s new print is shown below. Taken from his recent outdoor homage to Keith haring, the print will be on sale in December through Pictures on Walls. “Choose Your Weapon” is a five colour screen print priced at 450 pounds.
All photos by Steph Keller. See the full set on flickr