A year or so ago the AWOL crew were just another notable crew and then their pieces moved up to a whole new level of art and beauty. That is the AWOL crew in Melbourne, Australia, not the one in Boston, Massachusetts, nor the one in Lebanon. I first notice the work of the AWOL crew back in 2008. I’d appreciate the work of the AWOL crew around Brunswick but I don’t think that it was anything special. They were always over shadowed, even in the NGV studio space in early 2011 by the earlier and more popular Everfresh crew. But even then they were showing elements that would soon burst onto Melbourne’s walls. I admire the growth and resilience of the AWOL crew; growth is something that I expect from all artists but resilience is a special quality and this is a crew that keeps on coming back stronger than ever. In 2010 I wrote about how they came back after a piece of theirs was vandalized at Brunswick Station.
I appreciate the cooperative and collaborative work of graffiti crews often more for the politics than the results. Sometimes it is just amazing that the aesthetic mish-mash of styles and images holds together at all; often only an agreed colour scheme is all that holds them together.
The AWOL crew are: Adnate, Slicer, Deams, Lucy Lucy, Itch and Li-Hill. Taken individually the members of the AWOL crew are not fantastic artists. They are competent, good, and occasionally brilliant certainly but nothing special; there are lots of people who do that sort of stuff. But working in combination lately the AWOL crew have been fantastic. Each member of the crew is pursuing their own style, following their own creative path, and yet it all beautifully comes together. Slicer does his best work in the crew, his dynamic sharp lines, very thin, controlled freestyle that ties the compositions together, like an electric guitar solo frozen in synesthesic paint.
It is an almost impossible combination of styles like a mix of free jazz, classical, and trance techno. But then mixing and aerosol graffiti are two of the four elements of hip-hop. The compositions are like film posters featuring a dynamic montage of image, typography and a large face, except that instead of the face of a star it is an unfamiliar face.
Is it the combination of Adnate and Slicer? Or is that Adnate moved away from letterform graffiti to painting faces. Is it a new approach to composition of whole walls? Is it exhibiting at Rist and other galleries? I don’t know, attempts to discuss this with the crew came to nothing, maybe they don’t know themselves; what ever it is the AWOL has evolved and taken Melbourne street art to a new level of beauty, style and composition.