'We Exist' showcases graffiti and street art at Intermedia Arts

'We Exist' showcases graffiti and street art at Intermedia Arts

City Pages

"We Exist," an exhibition curated by Juxtaposition Arts founder Peyton Scott Russell at Intermedia Arts, is an intense, tightly packed explosion of color, thought, and emotion. The 84-piece exhibit features 30 different artists in the graffiti/street-art tradition, and is so packed with stimuli that it's almost overwhelming. The sheer volume of work displayed within a small space adds to a sense of urgency and Dionysian frenzy. 
The totality of the work shown together, with an artful Tetris-like curation by Russell, makes the exhibition really unique. Certain individual pieces do stand out, however. For instance, there's some insanely cool work by CAW, including a weird, living-room scene featuring a colorfully painted soft chair with a TV and DVD player resting on a painted drawer stand. There's also his sculpture made of a large metal container with creepy toys coming out of it. Perhaps less noticeable -- but even more interesting -- is CAW's intricately drawn piece made of acrylic and marker on canvas. The drawing asks the viewer to search for hidden monsters, skulls, animals, televisions, butterflies, and symbols amidst dizzying patterns. His work seems to fit more under an outsider-art label than a street label. Yet what are such labels except ways to commodify alternative art making practices? As soon as you can label something you can sell it, after all.

There's also a riveting collection of work by ADMAN King of the Hobos, including photographs of graffiti tags on freight trains, portraits of different hobos, and graffiti images on found objects. In one photograph, a bearded man wears a bandana and a "Midnight Ride On" t-shirt while another holds up a joint. The photographed graffiti includes an image of what looks like a woman's anatomical parts transformed to look like a frowny face, and a message that says "I was searching for truth and I found it here." 
Another interesting piece is Shoo Fly by Jonas Criscoe. It consists of hexagons and other shapes, fly cut outs, larva images, clouds, a smiling couple, and black rain all assembled in a collage on wood. The piece seems to prompt a commentary on consumerist culture and the effect it has on nature. Like CAW's work, it draws you in and asks the viewer to get lost in its densely packed world. 
Other great pieces in the show are the Shepard Fairey Obey screen-print featuring an image of a spray-paint canister; some ironic embroidery by Jenny Jenkins that spell out words like "Crooks," "Crime," "Smiley," and "Puppet"; an Alex Cole stencil on canvas titled Lil Weezy, depicting the musician blowing smoke toward the viewer while wearing a large cross that hangs down to his stomach; and a wonderful collection of graffiti-style paintings by STUN ONE.

There's also Ben Janssens's piece Arrow, with a neon arrow light pointing toward another neon light that says "Art," a commentary on the fact that when graffiti art isn't shown in a gallery, it isn't viewed art at all, but instead considered a nuisance. 
Interspersed throughout the individual pieces hanging are more graffiti that are painted directly on the walls, almost as if the gallery itself has been subverted. The exhibit then becomes an exploration of the nature of street-art graffiti, asking questions such as "When is it legitimate?", "Is showing graffiti art in a gallery 'selling out?'", "What is art and what isn't, and how can you tell the difference?"

There's no doubt that Russell's curation will encourage you to find out more about the art form. 

"We Exist"
Through August 30
Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis

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