24-26 July 2009
The Rag Factory
Graffiti writers have been appearing in galleries for 25 years, though in the context of the hot ticket that was street art moving into galleries to prostitute itself as Urban Art, proper graffiti writers have trailed behind in the gutter. A welcome trend surfacing in chisel fringed, skinny-jeans wearing Shoreditch is the profusion of shows from real graffiti writers (however – see footnote), Vibes, Insa, and Panik being a few mentioned here recently, not to forget Andy Seize.
Petro is a writer whose recent graffiti productions in the wild (well, HOFs perhaps) have a very distinctive style, strongly characterised by diagonal themes and lots of arrows.
Petro was one of the first un-invited writers to piece over a launch piece from Cans II.
Petro is old skool and thanks to Skire for this pic of a piece from 1994 which indicates a wilder scratchier and harder to read style
Petro has seized the initiative by hosting his own brief show in The Rag Factory, a corridor like space set back from a side street off Brick Lane. Pop up gallery would be less accurate than “out of sight, hidden, knock on the door, speak through the slot and give the password” off-piste space. The show is housed in a couple of long out-houses which surfaces the hidden, reminding me of well light cowsheds. The distribution of work in the main show room falls into four distinct groupings.
The key phase which is characteristic Petro, the trademark outdoor lettering delivered within, consists of some 30 or so varied landscape PETRO words on plywood and natural coloured canvas. The word Petro is explored in a variety of letterforms and a profusion of squirming arrows which almost stretch the letters like a medieval torturer’s rack.
The outlines explore a range of styles with clouds, crimped bubbles and 3D geometries.
Fills range from random bubbles to non-existent negative space forms
While the majority of the PETRO words are comparatively easy to read, several pieces are based around geometric patterns confound your senses, challenging your belief that the word PETRO probably can be made out in the spaces, lines, divisions and links.
Petro’s colour selection suggests an inclination towards drama, in a good way, the pink and black Galactic Scaffold can be forgiven its name for its stunning lurid colour and pattern.
Leaning more towards conceptual art is the “Life of a Pencil” installation, a table with a pair of yellow pencils embossed with the title of the show, another pair of pencils shaved down to the rubber stub and a jar holding the entire body of pencil sharpening. Coupled with this piece are two sheets dense with furious free-hand horizontal pencil lines which look like the artist has eked out a pencil’s entire lifetime ability to draw lines and then discovered he got 2.316miles out of it. Contemplating the miles per pencil and carbon expenditure correlation starts to make your head hurt.
Other Petro creations include some Petro wallpaper with dirty black Petro characters complete with fat oily drips, a collection of dinosaur monsters roaming the eaves of the gallery, one of which in a moment surreal intervention chose it’s moment to drop onto Pure Evil’s head.
A less satisfactory element of the show is a collection of rough paper jottings, black book records and naive felt tip illustrations. The black book extracts have evidently been passed around peers, friends and critics for annotation (“when are ya gonna grow up you imbecile?”) and so have the usual curiosity value.
Four years ago the explosion of street art into the yuppie walls of middle ranking financial services employees (raises hand, guilty) allowed people to buy credibility through the perceived links to illegal, albeit safe and sanitised, street art and poseur-ish anti-establishment sentiment. Next stop may be putting “real” graffiti art on your walls and based on his work in this show Petro would be as good a starting point as any.
More pictures from the show here
Rarekind Gallery: New favourite gallery Rarekind which relocated this year from Brighton to London will sadly be closing its doors after the London Handstyles show in a couple of weeks. Rarekind has been a breath of fresh air through the London graff art scene and, in conjunction with the opening of Chrome and Black paint shop on the same site, has been hugely influential in giving the Shoreditch graff scene a kick up the arse this year. To sugar the pill, the owners told us that Rarekind will continue to stage graff art show using pop up spaces, we look forward to a forthcoming show on 3 decades of London graffiti.