Category Archives: exhibitions

Street Art in Paris Pt 7 – Space Invader

i know i’m repeating myself a little here but i can’t resist.

and not just because he’s popular and a little bit well-known,

but because what he does is truly unique, because the work individually and as a collective whole is fun, and because his concept is really coherent.

i’m talking about the street artist formally known as space invader.  he currently has two awesome exhibitions running in Paris (one on either side of town – see here for more details) to celebrate his thousandth invasion on the city.  and that’s not including his hometown of lille or any of the other 40 or so cities he has hit over the span of his career.

the pictures and info that follows is the result of my visit to the exhibition at la general.  upon arrival one enters through what is essentially a large warehouse space through a dimly lit shipping container filled with mosaic tiles.  exploring the space one will find, among numerous other wonders, a perspex box of (used) shoes which have been made with soles featuring a space invader logo, a vending machine of space invader stickers, a two storey high illuminated rubix cube, space invader disco ball and several maps indicating the artists plethora of invasions – all chronologically numbered.

caption: shoes made ​​and worn by invader in his invasions around the world

for sale at the conclusion of the exhibition is beer and waffles – in the shape of the infamous gaming icon.  yes, the man actually manufactured an invader waffle iron.

the more serious work, which is the true focus of the show, is not what i would consider his more traditional or classic work but it’s something he’s been doing since at least 2005. much in the vein of the recent shepherd fairey exhibition i last wrote about here in part 6 of the series, space invader appropriates popular imagery of bands, musicians, actors, films – with a twist.  invader uses only rubix cubes to build the image.  he has even made a rubix cube version of shepherd fairey’s original andre the giant sticker (perhaps in homage to his peer), along with representations of two highly recognised artworks by lichtenstein and hokusai. ‘how postmoderrrrrn! you might say.

what i find remarkable is that he doesn’t deconstruct the cube to use the pieces individually (as with the mosaic tiles featuring in the majority of his street work) rather, he puts the piece together using the entire rubix cube making sure the face holds the correct colours in the correct places to fit the whole image.  i’ve always admired anyone with the patience and skill to solve rubix cube but i think this might have to be one step above!


even with the rubix cube, invader remains within his central theme both visually and conceptually.  the mosaic imagery remains in addition to the reference to gaming and childhood pastimes.  more than anything (and this is becoming a theme for my own work here at tobeilluinated) is the aspect of  fun his work contains.  the colours, the reference to gaming, the score keeping, the act of vandalism/installing the space invaders, the simplicity of his visual style – it lights me up inside.

NB: again, sorry for the poor quality of some of these images

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art student parties

i forgot how much i miss these parties.

one time i went to my cousin john’s grad exhibition and we watched a performance artist throw raw fish and gnawed ham bones around and down his underpants in the middle of a courtyard.  he was next to naked and accompanied by some minimal house music coming from an old school tape deck including the occasional spoken lyrics, “fish to the left, fish to the left” whereby the raw fish was thrust leftward.  to this day anything resembling that phrase amongst those that were there results in fits of rolling giggles.

like my cousins grad exhibition, this little student art party i stumbled on tonight was located on the school grounds and included bottles and bottles and bottles (but never enough) of cheap red wine to be consumed at our leisure.  we were lucky enough to find half a bottle and (in imitation of the others) guarded it jealously under our arm as we perused the work there.

it was no surprise that the show contained some work that was terribly weak and some that was magnificent.  following is some of the more magnificent.  being a poorly organised event, there were no names titles or numbers attached so i cannot give anyone credit.  ALSO i must apologise for the poor picture quality – i only had my phone on me at the time as our attendance this eve was completely unplanned, unannounced and uninvited.  sorry fellas… désolé les gars.


i overheard a funny conversation while two guys looked at one of the pieces.  it went exactly like this:

garson1 – j’ai un question…
boy1           – i have a question…
garson2 – ouais?
boy2           – yeah?
garson1 – pourquoi???
boy1           – why???

this was the one he referred to:

i have to admit, i agree completely.  but what’s one of these shows without some seriously overdone clichéd lame piece of shit???

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basquiat

 

so this is a post about the  jean-michel basquiat exhibition i recently visited at the modern art museum of paris here in the 16th (which is just next to the must visit restaurant, tokyo eat at palais de tokyo).  i studied his work briefly at university and at the time i remember being intrigued.  to be honest my main thoughts were, ‘how could he have become so famous just by painting like a child?’ which i think might be a common thought when viewing his works and others of a similar style.

but famous he certainly was and still is, the evidence in plain sight upon trying to see this exhibition week after week, always with a queue halfway down the block.

i think a lot of the answer to this question may have something to do with his famous friends. some include blondie (whose music video he once starred in), david bowie (who later played the role of andy warhol in ‘basquiat’ the film) and madonna (who he briefly dated).  in the later years of his career he collaborated for some time with andy warhol who became a close friend. it all goes a long way to reinforce the old saying about who you know as compared to what you know!

raw use of colour and ideas on the black/hispanic/african experience in north america, on consumerism and on the constraints of convention on the individual dominate much of his work (click here or here for more background info – it’s far too much for my little blog).  basquiat’s background as a poor, black/hispanic, terribly intelligent child seems to have a lot to do with where he and his art ended up.

i believe that as a teenager and in his early 20s basquiat was a serious rebel but quite an intelligent one. the beginnings of his public art making was the graffiti he scrawled all over lower manhattan with a friend, al diaz.  they called themselves SAMO and although basquiat moved from walls to canvas the style of the work changed little.

text was a common feature of all of his art.  for me a lot of it didn’t make much sense and wasn’t totally coherent with the images presented.  i would have loved the chance to speak with the artist himself!  it is apparent that a great portion of the work was thrown out onto the canvas stream-of-consciousness style, my lovely man asked me towards the end of the exhibition, ‘was he schizophrenic?’

indeed the sheer quantity of work is overwhelming and it’s evident that this guy had a serious and sincere compulsion to express himself, to create.  probably due to his visual style, one interviewer asked basquiat if there was anger in his work, to which he responded, ‘it’s about 80% anger’.

i felt this strongly while at the exhibition with many pieces that looked to me to be two-thirds finished with a plethora of paint drips on the canvasses and scribbled out text and images.  some say this kind of process could be interpreted as a rejection of conventional, institutional or more rigid forms of art – even a casting off of conventional society in general.

it is no secret that the artist indulged in drug use throughout his life-time. perhaps inevitably basquiat developed a serious heroin habit which likely contributes to the “schizophrenic” scribbling evident in most of his work.  a combination perhaps of the pain from his childhood, his struggle with fame and the fortune and certainly the drug use itself, the artist became intentionally more and more reclusive and eventually died of a heroin overdose at 27 years old in 1988.

somehow i find his life slightly more interesting than his work – maybe a nice little quote from the man himself which might best sum up his life:

i had some money, i made the best paintings ever.  i was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs.  i was awful to people.

sounds like, sadly, a life half-lived to me.  i don’t know how illuminated that is, besides the brightness of his spark that never quite reaching its optimum clarity.

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