Anna Caione’s exhibition Ingresso at Gallery 101 looks good at a distance and survives a quick glance. On closer inspection the surfaces of digital print, oil paint, mixed media and beeswax appeared over worked for no other reason than to look arty. The choice to enlarge and replicate European entry tickets to the Guggenheim Venezia or Italian Lire is also arty. And there is not much else to Caione’s exhibition apart from this arty quality and a reference Rauschenberg’s Pop Art paintings.
Is this the end result of Pop Art? Making the ephemera of capitalist culture arty? This is not the progeny of Pop Art that I was hoping for when, as a youth, I saw the cool images of Warhol and Lichtenstein.
Meanwhile, the bastard children of pop art (or are they the legitimate heirs?) the stencil artists have found many new uses for old pop art techniques. These are on exhibition at Famous When Dead’s current exhibition Stencil Festival Unplugged. Artists like Homewrecker or Sloth, from Tasmania, are clearly influenced by Pop Art but they are also clearly contemporary stencil artists. Perhaps street art needs a new name – ‘the new graphic style’ or ‘the second wave of Pop Art’.
The Stencil Festival Unplugged has stencil artists/street artists from around Australia and the around the world: Norway, Brazil, USA and New Zealand. The exhibition is kind of divided between two types of street art. On one wall there are realists like, Kenji Nakayama from the USA, who produces beautiful duotone urban landscapes. Or Joey from Mooroolbark, Victoria is also producing fine urban realism and even history painting with “War is Over” using the famous dancing man celebrating the end of WWI in Melbourne. And on the other wall works by images from the imagination of artists like Shida’s dynamic cartoon style or Cultural Urge’s powerful black and white tattoo-style designs. But this is not a complete division and there were many works that fell in between. I particularly enjoyed Celso Gitahy stylish work. Miz Cery and ZKLR, from Brisbane, had intense images on skate decks and wooden crates but most of the other artists preferred canvas or board for their surfaces.
Pop art can be a kind of realism. Pop art can be an artistic celebration of the ‘non-artistic’: the advertising illustration, tattoos and comics. Pop art can be a critical and humorous response to popular consumer culture. And stencil art can be all of these and more.