New Show at West Chelsea Contemporary
Concrete to Canvas
November 7 – December 31, 2020
West Chelsea Contemporary is proud to present Concrete to Canvas, a celebration of graffiti, street art, and the artists born of these movements. Epic in scope and visceral in feel, this show articulates a movement that is and will continue to be hugely important to the history of art. Graffiti began to appear, almost overnight, in the 1970s, with cryptic signatures–tags–scrawled across New York City on subway cars and buildings. Often political and deeply personal, this form of self expression established itself apart from the typical white cube. Much of its philosophy stemmed from a belief that art can function outside systems of law and property, that art should be democratic and accessible to all people regardless of race, age, gender, and economic status.
Graffiti quickly evolved from branding walls into design-focused and intricate pieces, and by the end of the eighties its influence and reach could be felt across marketing, fine art, politics, hip-hop, and more. As the subversive culture of graffiti boomed, spreading across the United States and beyond, the term street art began to encompass all visual art created in public locations. While originally rooted in illegality, the popularity and shifting conversation over the medium led to an increase in commissioned murals across the world.
As a city known for its street art–from graffiti mecca HOPE Outdoor Gallery to Daniel Johnston’s ‘hi, how are you?’ and the city’s largest, newest mural by Shepard Fairey–Austin is an ideal setting to showcase the progression of graffiti.
The evolution from street to studio has seen artists embrace everything from traditional media such as painting and print to new mediums like vinyl toys and fashion collaborations. Exploring these works in the gallery setting helps to further shift the coded perceptions of street art and aids in solidifying its place in the history of art. Graffiti’s integral impact on contemporary art has led graffiti historian Roger Gastman to describe it as “the biggest cultural art movement of the last 50-plus years.”
With works by over two dozen artists, Concrete to Canvas features the stylistic range, immense influence, and immersive experience of street art. From graffiti pioneers, such as Rammellzee, Seen, Kool Koor, Futura, and Blek le Rat, to auction house darlings, like Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Banksy, KAWS, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Concrete to Canvas captures the movement in a way never seen before in Austin. Graffiti and street art at their core provide a diverse platform for creativity and social commentary, add vitality to urban landscapes, and encourage engagement with one’s surroundings.