Saturday, March 29, 2008

(03.29.08) Recommends:

The LA64.
#58: Merry Karnowski Gallery.
170 S. La Brea Ave.

#57: Shepard Fairey.

(explanation of series here.)

It feels like Shepard Fairey is an artist whose work we've always known. Obviously this can't be right; at some point we came across an Andre the Giant sticker and through due diligence discovered Shep as the mastermind. Growing up, we were huge fans of both the WWF and the absurd (query whether there is actually a difference between mid-80s WWF and absurdity) so our affinity for Shep comes pretty naturally.

We've taken advantage of seeing his work in a formal setting; we've attended opening receptions at Exhibit A Gallery:

and at Merry Karnowski Gallery:

We've stopped into Merry Karnowski Gallery a few other times. There's always something interesting being shown there. From what we can tell, it's widely regarded as one of the most important galleries in LA for cutting edge and underground art. And Shep, of course, is known primarily as being an underground artist, a street artist. So the thing that we've really come to
appreciate about him is that he makes us question our assumptions about what should be considered Serious Art and what should be considered Underground Art.

See, we grew up in a family that demanded respect for Serious Art. When our family would go on vacation, part of the drill would be to visit the local art museums. And we have very fond memories of these excursions. But here's the thing. Going to a Serious Art museum always felt -- still feels -- like a Big Event. You have to Dress Presentably. You have to speak in Hushed Tones. You have to Behave Yourself. These are all manners of behavior that no doubt have there required place in a civilized world. But.

But. It feels so stiff, you know? Isn't art supposed to inspire, to make the days more bearable, to create the unexpectancies that make life so exciting?

On the other hand, the other day we were just walking to the Beachwood Market, the local market that serves our neighborhood, Beachwood Canyon, and we happened to stumble upon this awesome Shep guerrilla job:

You may recall another Obama-inspired Shep piece that we stumbled upon during a Silverlake blogging adventure from earlier this month:

And seeing this kind of stuff makes us really, really giddy. That's what art is supposed to do, right? So here's the thing. Maybe Serious Art should actually be considered Underground Art. Because Underground -- at least to us -- suggests something that isn't experienced every day. And the Good Lord (along with our co-workers) knows that Dressing Presentably, speaking in Hushed Tones, and Behaving Ourselves just doesn't regularly occur. And, between working and carrying out the bare minimum necessary to get by -- eating and showering, we're thinking -- it's increasingly difficult to actually get to a museum during official museum hours, yaknow?

The flip side to this, of course, is that Shep should actually be considered Serious Art. And this makes sense. Shep takes it to the street; he adds unexpectancy and vibrancy and vitality to our daily view. He adds the color to our every day aesthetic that is both surprising and completely necessary.

Finally, we understand that there's a fine line between street art and vandalism. But we think Shep has demonstrated knowledge in navigating that line. And that makes his vision very necessary to our culture. It's a vision that demands respect from us all.

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