By Areum Kim
Hot Art Wet City (HAWC) is a gallery/shop to keep an eye on. Rubbing against the grain of the institutional art framework, HAWC keeps its focus on the “low-brow” cultural scene of Vancouver. The project has persisted for about a decade as pop-up events, and now HAWC has found a permanent location on Main Street where it is possible to put on exhibitions regularly. Owned and operated by Christ Bentzen, a freelance graphic designer, HAWC focuses on graphic art, illustration, and pop culture, and aims for “fun and accessible art” that won’t entail lengthy artist statements.
The current show is called LUXSTAR ‘Innergalaktik’ and hosts two graphic designer-cum-illustrators: “Dacosta!” and Frazer Adams. These artists create paintings of cosmic landscapes, geological formations, and robotic characters; images with roots in popular culture and that are treated with the streamlined qualities of vector art as also show unmistakable links to graffiti and its subculture. Definitely, the subject matter and the visual language reside outside the art-world’s central spotlight.
For instance, the bright crisp colour planes and whimsical lines of “Dacosta!”’s images suit his robotic characters well, characters reminiscent of Takashi Murakami, the Japanese pop-art guru creator of Superflat imagery. Indeed, “Dacosta!” acknowledges the influence of Japanese pop art and even incorporates Japanese language as visual elements in his paintings .
For his part, Frazer Adams’s galaxy-scapes amaze the viewer. Although similar to the clichéd designs printed on shirts, Adams embraces the imagery of galaxy-scapes fully and reproduces it on canvas. Graffiti texts turn into organic forms that swim through the space or the crystalline geological mass floating in a cosmic background, Adams transforms galaxy-scapes into rich and attractive compositions. When isolated, the galaxy-scape is alluring and dazzling. For people who relate back to the space-frenzy of the 90’s, they are quite nostalgic as well.
Nonetheless, these works don’t pretend to be laden with layers of meaning, attitudes, nor passive sarcasm of institutional pop art. While Takashi Murakami directs his work towards the Western art institution, playing with the notion of the essence of Japanese culture (his robotic characters supposedly embody traumatized mutations); these Vancouver artists simply formalize “low-brow” popular culture visually by drawing from its well of imagery. They create a fantastical vision of robotic frenzy and galactic lore. Ultimately, they stand outside any conceptual framework; they simply work as they are. Sometimes art does not need to lean on a theoretical ledge.
LUXSTAR ‘Innergalaktik’ will exhibit until September 28th.
HOT ART WET CITY Gallery & Shop
2206 Main Street (@ 6th Ave)
Vancouver BC Canada V5T 3C7