Concrete to Canvas, the newest show at West Chelsea Contemporary, bringing together works from the biggest names in street art – artists whose work bridges the intellectual divide between fine art and graffiti. This exhibition is unlike anything that has been seen in Austin (and unlike anything attempted outside of NYC or LA). With almost 8,000 sq ft of exhibition space, Concrete 2 Canvas is a celebration of graffiti, street art and the artists born out of these movements. The show is epic in scope, visceral in feel, and articulates a movement that is (and will continue to be) hugely important to art history.
Graffiti, once considered an inferior (and still illegal) art form, has run seemingly counter to today’s international art market and blue-chip art world. However the biggest art stars in the contemporary market started their career on the street. Artists like Keith Haring, Banksy, KAWS and Jean-Michel Basquiat, all current auction house darlings, are household names whose practice has transitioned from sides of buildings to studios. They, like many street artists, work across a range of techniques – embracing traditional media such as painting and print to a totally new medium like vinyl toys. Diverse art-making allows these artists to dive deeper into their own world, commenting on and subverting popular, commercial and contemporary culture.
At the beginnings of the movement in the 1970’s, graffiti and street art were art forms purposefully separate from commerce. Often political, and deeply personal, this form of self-expression established itself apart from the typical white cube. Other artists who have successfully made the transition from walls and subways to studio work include: Kenny Scharf, Shepard Fairey, Richard Hambleton, RETNA, Stik, Invader, JR, JonOne, Jose Parla, Blek le Rat, CRASH, Seen, Futura, Swoon, RISK, Kool Kor, Ramellzee, Bill Barminski, Cey Adams, Cleon Patterson, VHILS, and Mr. Brainwash.
Admirably, the newly named gallery, West Chelsea Contemporary has curated Concrete to Canvas with works by each of these artists – including an original Banksy from the owner’s private collection. The show applauds thes vandals who tagged the streets of major international cities and looks to bring their work to Austin, a city known for its murals with the largest mural created in March 2020 by Sandra Chevrier x Shepard Fairey (find it at Ceasar Chavez and South 1st).
No longer rebuffed by the art world, many of these artists have collaborated with top fashion houses (from Louis Vuitton to Dior), inspired numerous museum shows including the traveling exhibition “Beyond the Streets”, and prompted the opening of Miami’s hottest new institution, the Museum of Graffiti. With works by over two dozen artists, Concrete 2 Canvas captures the immense influence of street art.
Inspired by the title of Banksy’s 2010 documentary, “Exit Through the Gift Shop”, West Chelsea Contemporary has opened its own shop, aptly named the Gift Shop. Complete with KAWS companions, a Keith Haring 1000% Bearbrick, and Kusama Pumpkins, the store makes art accessible to all. Art books covering Alex Katz to Takashi Murakami line the shelves, art plates for your wall (or table) by Kehinde Wiley, and smaller items like magnets, toys and tea towels from David Shrigley to the Guerrilla Girls are available and on display.
Concrete to Canvas is an exhibition of graffiti and street artists who have made the transition to selling studio work in galleries around the world. C2C is celebrating the incredible heights in which the world’s most recognizable art movement has risen. Art history is determined in the future. Perspective affords critics, historians, dealers, and enthusiasts the context needed to situate artists within a movement and articulate pivotal moments. Unparalleled in its medium, placement, and diverse in its subject matter, street art has already cemented its influence and reach, securing its place in galleries, museums, and the broader art history tradition.
Free to attend, open to all, and plenty of space for social distancing, West Chelsea Contemporary is excited to welcome everyone – the experienced collector to the KAWS obsessed. Located downtown at 1009 W 6th Street, the show runs from November 7 – December 31.