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RISK: A Collector’s Guide

Five things to know about the graffiti legend, RISK, whose distinctive work is impossible to miss.

Works featured on offer in West Chelsea Contemporary.


RISK in front of his trademark wall tag

RISK, less commonly known as Kelly Graval, is a leading fine arts and graffiti artist as well as a fashion designer. His multifaceted work has been made legendary for its constantly unique originality that has rightfully brought graffiti into the mainstream art world. His use of color, polished lettering, and contrast between collaged subject matter and corporate lines are thematic in his works.

Read on below to discover five things every art collector should know about RISK.

  1. The beginning of his career in Southern California is heavily influential to his entire body of work. As a teen, RISK moved to Los Angeles with his family. He made his high-school his own personal canvas, graffitiing his name and returning to the school at night to continue his projects. He majored in fine art at the University of Southern California. Growing up in Southern California is notably translated to his work, which draws inspiration from Southern California’s car, surf, and skate culture for its smooth and colorful palette. In the beginning of his artistic career, RISK was a part of a graffiti crew called the West Coast Artists, which he reminisces upon as “the good ole days,” where he pushed the limits, broke some laws, and almost got shot and killed at one point. He and his crew would use freeways as their canvas, painting on the sides and overpasses to communicate to the passing-by public and force society to recognize them and what they have to offer.
RISK in his studio
  1. He is a leading figure in the development of graffiti and has forever changed its relationship with the fine arts. Throughout his 30 year career, RISK has made a name for himself in history and has prompted many to question what is considered to be fine art. From the start, RISK has been an innovator. Bringing graffiti to Los Angeles with only New York’s popular subway graffiti to go off of, RISK made Los Angeles graffiti its own. He pioneered “painting in the heavens,” where he would paint on highly elevated surfaces such as billboards, freeway overpasses, and rooftops. He was also one of the first to paint on freight trains. Moving into the fine arts environment of gallery and museum exhibitions, RISK maintains the integrity of graffiti and his original style. RISK continuously experiments concepts and designs while utilizing the possibilities indoor artworks have to offer, displaying sculptures such as “Face Your Fears” Medium Shark and wall hangings like Rolling Risky. RISK’s synthesis of graffiti and fine art has created a new perception of street art, leading a new artistic movement into the forefront of the art world.

“RISK is to art what Aerosmith is to rock and roll.” – Aerosmith

RISK, Rolling Risky (2017) on offer at West Chelsea Contemporary
  1. RISK considers graffiti just one aspect of his multifaceted career, where his origins in graffiti have evolved from bright, clean lettering to abstracted murals and paintings. When reflecting on his previous works, RISK admits that he was mostly entranced with the image’s whole appearance, color, and placement rather than the individual details and letters. His “Beautifully Destroyed” series is a prime example of this turnover, where “a wash of color,” lacking letters and images, would engulf a mundane object and transform it into a vibrant medley. The pivotal moment in this transition for RISK was in his account of driving past the blurry essence of his murals on the freeway, saying it was more impactful for him than it ever was to read the words. This transition is ever-evolving as RISK has explained his process as introspective as well as additive.
  1. RISK’s career expands beyond the art world, with other aspects of his incredibly diverse experience being his involvement within the fashion industry and the music industry, which he has contributed to in many ways with his art. He has collaborated with artists like Aerosmith and The Doors, his work can be spotted in music videos of popular bands such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Michael Jackson, and he has also painted stages and sets for large music festivals and events including Coachella, the MTV Music Awards, and Sunset Strip Music Festival. His brand, THIRD RAIL, which took prominence in the 90s, was the first graffiti inspired line of clothing and one of the first street-style apparel brands as well. Continuing the legacy of Andy Warhol’s Factory, RISK also founded The Risk Rock Studios Compound in California, which is a hub for actors, artists, photographers, and musicians.
RISK with Aerosmith and Slash
  1. “Face Your Fears” Medium Shark (or Shark Series) is the latest and one of the most unique endeavors in RISK’s career. Just like the variety in his career, RISK’s oeuvre stretches across numerous genres of art. RISK has painted just about anything, and has even painted an entire building and a boat. As his career developed, so did his medium, which led to the creation of his Shark Series, one of which, “Face Your Fears” Medium Shark, can be found in Austin at West Chelsea Contemporary. After “Face Your Fears” Large Shark, the sister shark to ours, debuted in Los Angeles, this series has the art world’s full attention. Forbes magazine focused on this piece for an article after stealing the show at a Phillip’s auction. The series is inspired by Damien Hurst’s The Physical Impossibility of Death Inside the Mind of Someone Living (1991) and draws from a discussion over Buddhism with late painter Ed Moses. Moses’s philosophy was that fear is a feeling of rejection towards suffering, and as a surfer who dreaded sharks, RISK is symbolically challenging all fears to be faced through these sculptures. “Face Your Fears” Medium Shark is a shark sculpture composed of found objects within a metal cage that is currently on display in our gallery located on 6th street.
RISK, “Face Your Fears” Medium Shark (2018) on offer at West Chelsea Contemporary

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What’s on now at WCC:

West Chelsea Contemporary’s nearly 8,000 square-foot gallery offers the opportunity to highlight work on a monumental scale. From 16-foot originals by RETNA and Cey Adams to colossal sculptural work—including a larger than life mixed media shark and painted aluminum spaceman—the gallery is activated by art world giant’s not only in a metaphorical sense. 

By contemplating ground-breaking movements from the past six decades, Icons & Vandals allows viewers to rediscover and redefine the art world’s most iconic and contentious house-hold names. These artists have left their mark on the development and progression of contemporary art by subverting the norms of their own time.  Through this show it becomes clear that these two labels are not mutually exclusive but in fact ingrained in their interconnectedness. 

Works from ICONS & VANDALS will be on display and for sale at West Chelsea Contemporary in beginning May 15.

Reach out today to inquire or acquire.


FEATURED IN WCC’S SHOW -ICONS & VANDALS

KUSAMA | HAMBLETON | HIRST NARA | BANKSY PETERSON | PHOEBENEWYORK | RETNA | RISK | YOUNG RUSCHA | WARHOL |FAIREY | & more.

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