If you've found yourself questioning modern romance after one too many Tinder dates gone wrong, Corey Helford Gallery’s latest show might be exactly what you need to rekindle your passion. A few dozen love-themed canvases and murals from famous British street artist D*Face are on display as part of his current solo show, "Happy Never Ending." While these paintings of kissing skeletons and greenish-skinned corpses embracing their still-living lovers address the death of love both figuratively and literally, D*Face took last weekend's opening as an opportunity to initiate a birth of sorts.
“This body of work particularly is a question of romance and the loss of a loved one — whether it’s physical or metaphorical — and that’s a prominent theme in my work as it stands anyway,” D*Face says. “My thoughts for this one were around the idea of the death of romance and the modern era of Tinder, where people are treated almost instantaneously like objects. I feel like the romance element of our lives has been lost, and I wanted to revisit that. My thinking was, ‘What’s the most exact way of doing that?’ — and the answer was to marry somebody within the space.”
In order to officiate a proper marriage, D*Face — or Dean Stockton, as the government would refer to him — didn’t just get ordained but also constructed an entire upside-down chapel on the ceiling of the gallery to create the atmosphere for the wedding. Of course, given the muralist’s long-standing penchant for featuring death in his artwork, the chapel wouldn’t be complete without some brightly colored tombstones (complete with text such as “Nothing Lasts Forever” or “Wish You Were Here” along with both happy and sad faces) to add an extra touch of the artist’s style. The ceremony was positioned amidst the faux graveyard, which essentially forced (or at least strongly persuaded) guests to consider not only the death of romance but also the literal interpretations of “death” and “romance” at the same time.
D*Face may have thoroughly examined his whole wedding/tombstone/gallery idea from an artistic and metaphorical perspective, but there were some aspects that the rookie minister hadn’t exactly considered until not long before the big day. After all, marrying a couple may seem like a cool extravagant move for an artist’s gallery opening, but it’s still a legitimate wedding for the people involved.
“I liked the whole concept [of marrying a couple at the gallery’s opening], however I had no idea that somebody would actually want to get married,” D*Face says. “Once somebody said they wanted to get married, I was like, ‘Oh shit, I have to figure out what the hell this is going to be and what it’s going to look like,’ because obviously I’ve never married anybody and I didn’t really think the idea through in terms of what the expectations are from the couple — a bride normally has great ideas and expectations of what they want.”
Thankfully, Sarah and Perry Simnowski were more than willing to put up with the trial and error involved in having a first-timer officiate their wedding in exchange for a truly unique nuptial experience. In fact, they may have been less nervous about it than the artist-turned-minister.
“Art was a big part of what brought the two of us together, and it continues to play a huge role in our lives,” the couple said in a joint statement. “We've both been closely connected with the Corey Helford Gallery for some time now, and when we heard D*Face was interested in performing a wedding at the reception for his new exhibition, we felt it would be the perfect way to seal the deal."
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As for the rest of the gallery, it’s every bit as brightly colored, romantically themed and semi-humorously dreary as one would expect. There’s no shortage of D*Face’s sometimes-undead couple now made famous as the cover art of pop-punk superstars Blink-182’s latest record, California, but the expansive nature of the gallery and the artwork means that the exhibition doesn't really have a single centerpiece. A lot of the paintings leave viewers feeling a little sad and romantic at the same time — a complex combination of emotions the artist hopes guests take with them along with their smiling Instagram snapshot in the colorful cemetery.
“With this installation, it’s me pushing myself forward and trying to stretch my portfolio of work while keeping the audience interested as well,” D*Face says. “It’s just a little bit of experimentation because the gallery is so vast that to me it needed an installation in it. The chapel with the tombstones and the actual marriage have kind of taken things to the next level from any gallery I’ve done.
“I think the whole point is to question our idea of romance and make a romantic gesture to someone you love,” D*Face continues. “I hope people come away from the show with the need to reach out to someone they love with a romantic gesture. We’re bringing back romance.”
"Happy Never Ending," Corey Helford Gallery, 571 S. Anderson St., Boyle Heights; through Oct. 21. coreyhelfordgallery.com.