Mass Appeal

    Thursday, August 29, 2002 to Saturday, October 12, 2002

    Opening
    • Thursday, August 29, 2002
    Gallery 101 / Galerie 101 Ottawa August 29 To October 12, 2002 Montréal, Arts Interculturels Montréal March 5 To April 5, 2003 The Khyber Centre For The Arts Halifax May 12 To June 7, 2003 Owens Art Gallery Sackville September 12 To October 26, 2003 The Art Object And Hip Hop Culture More than 20 years ago, a new wave of artists burst on the scene. Their works found inspiration in the sounds and culture of the street. While much of their work was dubbed, to its detriment, as simply "graffiti", artists like Lee Quinones, Rammellzee, Futura 2000, Blade, and Case 2 led "writers" work into galleries and museums around the world. And while they were eagerly embraced in the early 80s, their fall from favor was equally fast in the mid-80s. Art history likes to act as if the pioneers of this movement no longer exist, though they do. The discipline has been kinder to the artists who crossed this terrain from the opposite side — academically trained and aware of their context in contemporary art. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, who always made work for the gallery and the museum, absorbed the codes of the streets to parlay that energy into the paintings that survive them both. Combining the graphic vibrancy of aerosol painting and its attendant expressions of identity (tags) with the neoexpressionist aesthetic of the moment, they made some of the most important art works of the last two decades. Although graffiti can be looked upon as a crucial element of expression in hip hop culture, the conceptual strategies of hip hop — sampling and appropriation, a cannibalist's penchant for mixing and remixing to make the new — have become the hallmark of a new generation of contemporary artists. In work that is often conceptual in nature and that also embraces the neo-Baroque spirit of our times, the artists in Mass Appeal reference hip hop culture to explore a wide range of issues, including style and identity, social and political concerns, and the aesthetics of contemporary culture. Edgar Arceneaux‘s work references the linguistic word play of emcees while questioning the imagery of marketing. Influenced by the transitional space of DJ culture in techno, hip hop and youth culture, Davide Bertocchi uses photography as sculpture. iona brown explores hip hop's “mass appeal” in global transference with images of blackfaced geishas. The audio accompaniment to a recent video by Jonathan Calm is a mix by the artist set to vibrant street imagery. William Cordova questions the gangsta character so prominent in hip hop lyrics. Nicola Di Caprio’s work reinterprets the signs of glossy pop covers into grisaille paintings. Luis Gispert‘s imagery of cheerleaders in sartorial splendor highlights over-the-top fabulous hip hop style. Nikki S. Lee's photographs document her performances as within various ethnic and social groups. Adrian Piper's groundbreaking video Funk Lessons from 1983 provides the historical backdrop and demonstrates the influence of her work on the next generation. Keith Piper uses the conceptual strategies of hip hop with the hypertextual capabilities of new technology. Nadine Robinson's monochromatic paintings literally "let the music play". Kehinde Wiley's figurative paintings reference hip hop's penchant for the portrait and the pose. All of the artists in this exhibition are on the cutting edge of current trends in contemporary art. Brought together here by their shared interests in the cultural movement called hip hop, these mostly emerging artists are here to stay with mass appeal. Franklin Sirmans, Curator