Saturday, 16 August 2008

CORKED - Not a cheap whine

28 Cork St, London
15 Aug – 25 Aug 2008

pics: nolionsinengland except where noted

A battered white transit van sits on Cork Street, “Vandals” it proclaims and sure enough it seems to have suffered a graffiti attack, cops and wardens eye it suspiciously anticipating a ram raid and in many respects they are right.

Bloody vandals

Urban art has bemused the “serious” crowd but hitherto they haven’t had to worry too much with it staying in its place in grubby East End galleries and transitory pop-up ghetto bazaars. Until now. Corked, the Urban Angel debut gallery show has brought a strange whiff to snooty Mayfair gallery land and that smell is the odour of street art, the chemical whiff of spray paint.

No regal gilded windows for this show, rather a wildstyle Zeus sculpted arrow bursts through the window threatening to penetrate one of (count ‘em) 2 Ferrari’s parked outside, Eine promises HELL within. Its not difficult to predict the rapid disappearance of Eine shutters off the Hackney streets when the price tag on this sprayed window becomes common knowledge among the sub-nation of shop owners.

Israeli Know Hope has chronicled on streets around the world the despairing interaction with a puzzling society of a gangly, insecure tee shirt covered character, distinguished by his long skinny arms, lost heart and melancholy expression.

Know Hope - London street p;ieces, Aug 2008

In the major installation, the un-named character sits entranced by a collection of old photos, kindling rose tinted memories of a by gone age which he hopes existed. Powered by the glow of this hope, confused scrawled noise on the TV screen intermittently resolves itself into a heart, only to distort again as he oscillates through doubt and hope.

Know Hope: "Generated by anything/Reminisce About Anything

This endearing bemused and slightly forlorn figure sits in several stunning framed collage pieces (one a partial light box), sometimes in lonely solitude, in others finding the solidarity of communication with kindred spirits. One fabulous piece shows our stringy anti-hero discovering the strength of bonding through linked arms, reflecting the power transmitted through the linked cables behind.

Know Hope: These Arms Are For Linking

After rocking the concrete skimmed canvasses at his London solo show last autumn, Eine has re-discovered the dayglo colours of his older bear images, which I never really cared for. Perspex is this year’s “found metal” (see D*Face, Pure Evil). The street playtime innocence of groups of Blyton-esque happy smiley children morphs into threatening and sinister subversion seen through the lenses of the ubiquitous CCTVs, the poor children are then overwhelmed by simple negative labels such as Vandals, Activist, Guilty done in that Hell font. Of course you can tell it’s street play, because of the paint spray background and drips everywhere.

Eine: “Activist”. Photo: Wallkandy

In addition to his window busting 3D sculpture, Zeus has three large compressed perspective skyscraper plans painstaking assembled in hand-cut card, one natural daylight coloured, one night time and one a blanched out magnolia – which interestingly is possibly the most striking of the trio. There are no winos, car wrecks or graffiti down at street level, c’mon, what kind of rose-tinted diluted reality is that! Anyone who was at the Open Studio last year and saw Zeus working on his RUN stencil won’t fail to appreciate the incredible work that has gone into creating these pieces and don’t worry if this time you can’t read the word spelled out by the building plan, it’s not that wild style has moved beyond your comprehension, this time there actually isn’t a word in there. Or is there? Blow your brains out searching!

Zeus: Untitled. Photo: Wallkandy

Labrona’s Rumours of War, an acrylic on canvas group of fleeing mothers clutching children heading in the opposite direction to goose stepping half-sized men with moustaches. This piece with its colourful cross between Picasso and a kind of tribal art feel is another show highlight, simply lush and gorgeous.

Labrona: “Rumours Of War”

Charming Baker takes a pop at a deserving target: molly coddled never-fail kids. Two young brats fail to fail with their dads as ghillies helping them shoot a strung up rabbit.

Charming Baker: “The Overachievers”

Hush continues a run of form with the manga and geisha girls, or we boys know it – wife-friendly wall porn. Manga tits are present and correct as expected whilst the Graff Geisha triptych is just stunning.

Hush “Graf Geisha Tryptich”

Chillin with Hush - Corked aftershow
Romanywg gets a special mention for the oddest piece, the double bass that looks like a magician used it for sawing the box in half practise, in collaboration with French artist C215 and inspired by French artist Arman. It is worth having a look at the artists’ pictures of the piece under construction to see all the C215 pieces within the cuts between each section, link at the bottom.

Romanywg/C215 “Double Bass”

New name Michael Alacoque has produced a lurid set of skull faced dogs with ice creams on their heads and medallions. This is an allegory on the military establishment’s use of war memorials to both commemorate and promote war, I’m surprised you needed to ask. It is said many artists subconsciously paint themselves when doing an anonymous figurative work, Alacoque brilliantly contrived to actually look a bit like his sculptures with his bouffant hair and mascara.

Mikael Alacoque

This kind of show has no greater thrill when you confront in the flesh work by an overseas artist you hadn’t even heard of before and new but highly commended is young Brazilian artist Andre Firmiano. Three gorgeous canvas portraits echo a bastard offspring of Titifreak and Word To Mother styles, more please!

Andre Firmiani “Love”. Photo: Romanywg

Among familiar images of Mona and Toughen The Fuck Up, Dotmasters brings indoors the Burlesque Girl and his CANS “What A Load Of Rubbish”. Dotmasters have wisely, since these pieces are destined for the living room, decided not to overload with the authentic piss, vomit and dog-shit normally associated with a pile of bin bags.

Dotmasters "Load Of Rubbish"

Having experienced vicariously through the lenses of NY based flickr-ocrats the exquisite street works of Gaia and Imminent Disaster, the two are shown in different rooms here. Gaia’s Ourobus combines a nest of tail devouring snakes with a man devouring his own fist. Imminent Disaster’s wistful, seated, buttoned-up and extravagantly coiffured Ophelia looks like she can sit on chairs with the front right chair-leg sawn off. The viewer may ponder if the weight is meant to fall on the model’s own ankles on the box, in which case what does it mean?

Gaia “Ourobus”

Imminent Disaster “Ophelia”

Grafter’s work has somewhat polarised opinions but there is no doubt the quality of the stencils have come on leaps and bounds and he benefits hugely from moving away from photo-shopping nearly iconic images. The best piece, a Chris Stain like pair of smiling kids was displayed at the after-show venue .


Inkie does what Inkie always does so well, beauties with labyrinthine tresses of hair.


SHOK-1 contributes a set of two-tone takes on camera bodied flies, referencing the media’s obsession with celeb culture drawing paps like flies to shit. Several pieces are identified as “part of diptych, other half not shown” which leaves a mystery to be resolved.

Shok-1. Photo: Romanywg

Herakut – sad bat-masked squatting figures sharing a single tail. Hera’s loose brush work and Kut’s microscopically applied photorealistic eyes present and correct, watery-eyed pup missing.

Herakut “Right Before You Leave”

Two artists whose sweet work I would be remiss not to mention are Phillp March Jones:

“Beast 2”. Photo: Wallkandy
and Oliver Vernon:

“Red Swirl”

Urbanangel has unleashed not just strong works from old hands and great promise from new names, it has also launched its move to expand from the computer screen to global domination on the gallery streets. It has set a new benchmark for throwing a party and created a niche for itself by turning up in posh art twat land and preceding to blank the fine surroundings and do things its own way. The AfterShow party was memorable for …errrrrrrrrr…ummmm, actually I’d be surprised if many remember much at all, a gallery-shaped hole appeared in the London scene recently and Urbanangel are going to more than fill the space.

Several names haven’t been mentioned here, you can only read so much, so check out the excellent pics by Romanywg and Wallkandy to see more of the above as well as work by BEEJOIR, DANNY ALBECK, IAN STRAWN, PERIPHAL MEDIA PROJECTS, SNUG and VITCHE.

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