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OFF THE WALL – From Vandalism to Urban Art

11-10-2008 07:26 PM CET | Arts & Culture

Press release from: WILDE GALLERY

Richard Hambleton, ?Bar on Left?, Acrylic on canvas, 1983, 254x133cm © Woodward Gallery

Richard Hambleton, ?Bar on Left?, Acrylic on canvas, 1983, 254x133cm © Woodward Gallery

Since its early beginnings as an art form in the 1970’s, Street art, Graffiti – or Urban Art has been considered a transgression. Graffiti writers, who usually were not schooled in classical arts and didn’t adhere to the confines of the classical picture plane and its white cube dwellings became visible through the cracks of a society
then desperately trying to re-define itself from the burden of modernity.

Graffiti imagery owes close proximity to “tribal art” and early academic readings tended to bundle it with rebellious communities that operated outside of organized society. Some even considered the works and life styles of graffiti writers to embody urban criticism in its most democratic form. It was an art form dressed in anonymity, created without care for posterity, made without applying classic value systems and for the most part presented in such a way that it became a constant reminder of the decay of Western ideals and philosophies.

On a conceptual plane, graffiti was the perfect form of vandalism and visually it was so different and misbehaving that it completely defined the era of civil disobedience of the 1980’s. From the early movement of graffiti writing grew Hip Hop culture in music, anarchist styles in fashion and a renewed interest in tribal dance, now in the form of Electric Boogie and Break Dance.

Colonization and incorporation of any rebellious activity is the inevitable response of popular culture – soaking up every transgression to feed it back to the public as mainstream culture.
Early communities of graffiti writers of the 1970’s and 80’s were soon added to the general language of the art world. The initial euphoria of this new art form however, soon wore off and “graffiti art” was deemed a passing fad, for lack of better academic support and art-world agendas. There was simply no platform to expand for any scholarship to evoke further meaning.

The individuals within this group were considered unruly and uncontrollable, rendering them obsolete by any art market sense at the time and “graffiti art” was regurgitated by the art world as “unsophisticated and ill-fitting”. With “graffiti art” and the indifference it later endured from the art establishment, a rift between subject and object had been exposed, which created more problems than it could solve by its mere existence – hence graffiti’s initial decline as a marketable art form by the Mid-1980’s.

Toward the end of the 1990’s, a different form of urban visual expression began to be noticed on the streets of major cities. This time it was inward looking, highly individualistic and performing within a language much different to the initial “tribal” works from some decades before. It emerged from a number of artists who had been seasoned by different means of communication, mainly the growing influence of the Internet and its default openness to exchange of information. But also the artists’ need to redefine visual space in the urban environment, now consolidating threats such as invasion of the personal sphere, objection to surveillance of commonly shared space and the threat to the private being in the public domain.

The show, “Off the Wall”, at WILDE Gallery aims to examine the bridge between the earlier generations of street artists and the ongoing practice of current artists dealing with urban discourse.

WILDE Gallery was founded September 2007 in Berlin and deals with contemporary art as well as art advisory services. The gallery shows 8 to 10 exhibition per year with international contemporary artists.

WILDE Gallery
Chaussee Straße 7
10115 Berlin
+49(0) 30 258 16 258

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