GAIJIN NO BIJINGA - System
28 May - 4 July
I don't remember the first time I looked upon graffiti as a piece of art, as a museum object or just as a rising value in the art gallery market.
Maybe this is due to the fact that we, late sons of the seventies, babies of punk and the strictly called generation of the nineties, have grown up with graffiti and street art as part of our parks and streets. Perhaps this is why we were not shocked when we found that all that culture had a foot inside the art galleries. Today we find artists painting on the wrong side of the law, making commercial painting jobs or dedicating themselves to pieces of art for interiors most common.
The difference between this new type of artist and the classic artist concept resides without doubt in the "school" that one quotes in the Curriculum. If we bare in mind that the "artist" is an image of his time, a filter through which reality takes shape in esthetical objects, then whether "school" means the streets or a Fine Arts class they are of equal value.
In the end, and according to our criteria, what really matters when judging any artists artwork is not the curriculum vitae, but whether his or her work reflects mental maturity, an evolution, a style and a visual-cultural luggage.
As for the terms graffiti and street art we would have to write an introduction far too extent for these pages. In order to summarise, we can point out that graffiti as such appears in the seventies. It develops in the U.S during the eighties and it is not until mid-end nineties when in Europe a street art concept is being developed under other guidelines. The main difference is that while graffiti continues to be basically an illegal artistic discipline that pursues but scattering and making popular the artists or/and his crews name or pseudonym, street art brings along a message, an idea or concept that generally prevails over the authors name, and in many occasions becomes a representative symbol for the artist himself. This type of artist act on the border of the legal-illegal creating work that often coexists in symbiosis with its environment. Many of those artists who began in the graffiti world have developed in a logical way towards street art, while others continue with their double life, stating a clear difference between what might fit in a gallery or a museum, and what is "bombed" exclusively in the streets at night. At the present time, this difference in style has originated a discussion about the integrity of an art that is free and for free by nature, but that currently is trapped by the terms of Art, through exhibitions at prestigious places such as the Tate Gallery in London, MOMA in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Boston, and through turning into stars former "vandals" like Banksy or Shepard Fairey (Obey), to quote the most popular cases.
Setting aside controversy, artists like System -Jason McFee- and Remi/Rough have won respect in the streets and they have been fighting for years to bring greater value and transcendence to their art, taking the step in to the gallery market. This art tendency is making a deep impression on contemporary art collectors thanks to galleries like Nuble, favouring at the same time the consolidation of a new type of art collector, more up-o-date, young people with spending power, designers, musicians, and so on. A new generation, to put it briefly.
The first time I came across System's and Rough's artwork was in Berlin, during their presence at the Bridge Art Fair 2008. At first glance, their work reflects and recreates urban language elements. The use of symbols such as arrows and exaggerated dripping of paint, traces of markers and spraypaint as working tools is speaking directly to their street origins. Whereas the centre parts of their current work is making a clearer reference to "framable" art.
In Rough's case, these elements are inspired by the abstract movement of the seventies, and by a passion for playing esthetical games with shapes, lines, flat colours that crashes into one another, finding themselves, talking to each other... they could perfectly well be amplifications of a street graffiti detail, or a current version of a Palazuelo piece. On the other hand, System's work is more influenced by Pop, particularly represented by the westernising of Japanese aesthetics, a very common weakness in the current European art world. His work is focused on portraits and the juxtaposition of these with graphic elements foreign to classic Japanese graphics, such as small graffiti pieces, 3D, tags and posters. In the line of well-known and acclaimed artists as the Japanese Tenmyouya Hisashi. Though not the only one, System and Rough are a good example of the lion in its cage, the king of the streets locked in his castle.
Pablo & Javier IA. / Belio Magazine