(Photo Gallery at bottom of article)
If you happen to find yourself anywhere near the town of La Louvière in Belgium, you should definitely make the detour to see the brilliant Urban Art exhibition being held at “Centre de la Gravure et de l’image imprimée” (The Center for Engraving and the Printed Image). Showing through September 2, 2012, “Vues sur Murs” (Wallscapes: Prints in Street Art) is the show’s title and it features an impressive list of international artists, many of whom travelled to the small gallery and produced work specifically for this exhibit. Additionally, several of the artists have posted work out on the town, and the exhibition has drawn a few other street artists from around the world to come and hit the city as well.
Invader, C215, Jef Aérosol, EVOL, LUDO, Denis Meyers, Obêtre, Muga, Doctor-H, Sten & Lex, SWOON and OBEY (Shepard Fairey) are all featured in this show which spans three floors of the gallery. The show’s curator, Marie Van Bosterhaut, had the seed of the idea in 2009 after seeing an OBEY print at the home of a collector. She contacted Fairey’s people for what was initially planned to be an OBEY retrospective. “But then it appeared it might be more interesting to invite more artists using printing techniques in street art,” said Bosterhaut of the project’s evolution.
“It was really great to have all these artists working inside the museum, and also outside,” said Bosterhaut. “There was like a great energy.”
While some of the artists knew each other, others met for the first time. “This created some small surprises,” said Bosterhaut. Evidence of this is seen in one of the exhibition’s highlights located on the top floor. There, Berlin-based EVOL has transformed several structural columns, architectural leftovers from the building’s origin as a swimming pool in the 1920s. These squared columns, which protrude at various levels into the exhibition space, now appear as EVOL’s signature-style buildings. Like scaled-down skyscraper tenement towers with dozens of little windows and their accompanying satellite dishes. “Artists like Denis & LUDO made some tiny stencils or billboards, creating a kind of interaction between the artists,” Bosterhaut said.
Another highlight of the show is the extensive display by Brussels-based artist Denis Meyers. Mostly known for the large faces he paints, he also prints unique stickers and uses hand-made woodcuts and rubber stamps to produce a wide variety of work which all screams out with his signature style. Meyers even constructed an interactive box for the exhibit where visitors can experiment with the stamps he has made. Many of his sketchbooks are also on display as well as other elements which offer a peek into the artist’s process. A graphic artist at heart, Meyers also did most of the typography for the exhibit’s promotional material. His obsession with all things graphic is evident even in his photography, which is offered up in a series of free postcards in his section of the show.
Long-time French favorite Jef Aérosol is also well-represented here. His iconic work greets you at the entrance of the exhibit. A documentary video (mostly in French) plays on a loop at the top of what appears to be a pile of discarded television sets. His life-size portraits of celebrities such as Twiggy, Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol are nice to see in person on the cardboard-covered walls, but some of his smaller, printed images are framed on the sides and offer a more intimate experience with the artist. Jef also hit the town, painting a three-story-tall face of rocker Jimi Hendrix on a building which is unmissable when walking to the museum from the nearest public parking lot.
Jef Aérosol in the gallery and on the street.
Fellow French artist LUDO is another standout. In addition to his brilliant mini-billboard, the Paris-based paste-up master and his unmistakable green paint occupy a notable section of the top floor. One large mural and several of his signature “ad disruptions,” including a full-scale bus shelter (crappy tags included), show the viewer how his work would look “in situ.” For the real experience though, pick up the map supplied at the front desk and follow it to the various “treasures” left by artists around the city. LUDO has posted three large pieces out on the town.
A favorite of mine is “C215” (Christian Guémy.) The Parisian stencil artist has really evolved over the years, adding lots of vibrant colors to his more recent work. C215 now travels the world and most of his strongest work comes from his interaction with people in the poorest neighborhoods on earth. In addition to a large mural and many photographs of his stencil works , C215 exhibits several other painted “objects,” including three mailboxes (one generously supplied by the Belgian Postal Service), a shoeshine box, and a metal sign among other things.
Around the corner from the room devoted to C215, the pioneering Italian artistic duo of Sten & Lex display some of their strong, black & white portrait posters, but the real treat from them requires a 10 minute walk to the Carrefour supermarket parking lot down the road a bit. There, a dramatic and elaborate composition of black & white zig-zagging lines reveal a face that fills the wall and towers over the cars and shopping carts.
Sten & Lex work seen from different angles.
Of course the anchor of the exhibition is an extensive collection of OBEY works by American artist Shepard Fairey. In addition to a short documentary video, the display spans his career from his quirky beginnings making “Andre the Giant has a posse” stickers, to the slick, celebrity and political-themed posters pumped out by the Obey Giant Worldwide Propaganda factory today. There are dozens of his limited-edition prints with their graphically-pleasing imagery, and even a trio of OBEY skateboard decks. A definite treat for any Fairey fan.
The exhibition has received good feedback from visitors, other artists and curators alike, including one interesting surprise. The artist JAUNE from tiny Reunion Island off the coast of Madagascar, contacted Bosterhaut about visiting La Louvière to see the show. The two arranged a collaboration with a local primary school where he produced some of his unique stencils.
The show concentrates on the printing aspects of urban art but there’s a ton of other multi-media work to see there as well. Too much art, in-fact, to mention even in this lengthy article. (Have you actually read this far?) Please see the photo gallery below for more great work from the artists mentioned, as well as Invader, Obêtre, Muga, Doctor-H & SWOON.
IF YOU GO: Smack-dab in-between Paris & Cologne, La Louviere is about a two and-a-half hour drive from each, and just 45 minutes south of Brussels. Definitely worth the trip. But remember, it’s only showing through September 2, 2012 – so get going!
ALL TEXT AND IMAGES BY LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN – 2012
no reproduction without permission.
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