17 Osborn St, London E1 6TD
10 Sep – 3 October 2021
Massive queues, a packed opening night at a gallery – is this 2008 all over again? Actually no, it’s D*Face collaborating with two of StolenSpace’s long term friends Kai and Sunny, a double act counting as one friend, and Shepard Fairey.
Many may recall that D*Face’s gallery StolenSpace has hosted three major Shep Fairey solo shows in the past (Nineteeneightyfouria 2007; Sound and Vision 2012 and Facing The Giant, 2019). What may be less well known is that Kai and Sunny, described by the gallery as having a “shared college experience” with D*Face, have been exhibiting at StolenSpace since New Year 2009, pursuing a style which back then was way too “design” for my tastes, not “street” enough. See also 2011, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020!
Kai and Sunny have also exhibited at Subliminal Projects in LA, founder….Shepard Fairey, so connections are tight.
Now that the free beer and artist in-person appearances of the opening night have passed there is time to peruse the art at leisure. To appreciate who contributes what where, who combines with whom, it may be handy to really overgeneralise three massive careers in just three pairs of images. D*Face does D*Dog characters with wings and corrupted pop art; Shepard Fairey does Andre The Giant and striking political illustrations, Kai and Sunny come from a gorgeous geometric op art and flower painting direction.
With artistic collaborations there is usually one artist whose contribution dominates, who drives the idea and the collaborators “fill in”. Great collaborators appreciate that sometimes they are the chief, other times they are the Indian. I am indebted to City Kitty, or possibly Lunge Box (can’t tell them apart on their podcast) for this stolen and bastardised insight. The online catalogue ducks the whole who collaborated on what intrigue by simply attributing one “lead artist” to each image. Often what makes the art interesting, the “arty” or clever part of the art, is actually what’s added by the others. With Unity Star No 3 below, the foreground is occupied by a D*Face winged Obey Giant but the piece is electrified by Kai and Sunny in the background
A stand out feature is how Kai and Sunny absolutely illuminate a piece when their contribution appears to perhaps be the less significant. I confessed earlier that a decade ago I really didn’t get their work, I am so pleased that recent shows and most notably this current one have opened my eyes to the flow in their art.
The whole notion of the catalogue of a show of collaborations, as in “not a group show”, attributing artworks on the basis of lead artist only does rather confound the concept of collaboration. The collaborator redux appears to have challenged the compiler of the online catalogue as “Apply Unity” appears in both the D*Face section and the Shepard Fairey section.
More show images:
The catalogue compiler has a curious concept of “lead artist”, “Magnified Unity” attributed to Shephard Fairey features his Andre The Giant image but the main artistic device is the Lichtensein-esque benday dots and magnifying glass and which is a D*Faceification previously seen in his “Magnified Dog” painting in 2013.
To summarize, dudes all get on, artistic friendships have been put to the creative test and the artworks are genuinely harmonious interactions between the styles of the collaborators regardless of the lead artist nonsense. Back to the City Kitty/Lunge Box aphorism, justifiably large egos have been set aside to produce coherent beautiful art which is certainly worth popping in to enjoy.
StolenSpace Gallery website
Shepard Fairey website
Kai and Sunny website
All photos: Dave Stuart