Thinking now about the global street-art craze, it’s worth remembering a time not so long ago when even its most beloved practitioners were, at best, marginalized by the art world and, at worst, criminalized by society. When Corey Helford Gallery opened in Culver City in April 2006, the manifestation of its owners’ personal love for the progressive urban and pop surrealists they had been collecting and supporting for years, it seemed to be an anomaly. In retrospect, it was actually a pioneer.
That space was beautiful in a high-end modern art gallery way, which set up a new context for appreciating these edgier genres, on equal footing with the insiders of less populist gallery programs, and in the heart of their neighborhood. Now they’re in an epic warehouse space downtown, an expansion in keeping with the explosive growth in popularity and, somewhat ironically, increasingly bluer-chip value, within the genres they continue to champion. This weekend, they celebrate their “Lucky 13th” anniversary, with the first of two back-to-back group shows curated to reflect the heart of the program, and a pair of solo exhibitions giving two eclectic painters their turn in the spotlight.
On April 6, expect crowds (like, even more than usual) for the opening night of “The Fine Art of Street and Graffiti,” which is co-curated by graffiti legend RISK. As wide-ranging exhibitions go, it’s a muralism supergroup, featuring works by, among many others, D*Face, Ron English, RISK, EINE, Herakut, Beau Stanton, Buff Monster, Cryptik, Defer, HUSH, Lauren YS, Logan Hicks, Miss Van, Okusa San Miguel and Vyal, created for the occasion.
The same night, a solo show from Ben Frost opens in Gallery 2. “Pure Sugar” offers a stylistic hybrid of lettering, stylized painting, collage and graffiti that critiques our sugar high–chasing culture and our gluttony for empty calories literally and metaphorically. An installation of some 70 new works, from mixed media on canvas to embellished fast-food wrappers and knockoff fashion, contributes to the manic confection.
For something a little more strange and poetic, in Gallery 3, CHG shows new oil and enamel paintings on wood panel by Josie Morway. With a luminous, Renaissance-style shimmer and the confidence of magic realism, Morway’s rich, lavish paintings convey a sense of a possible future in which plants and animals merge their species to survive. Though deeply concerned about environmental threats to terrestrial flora and fauna, in these works Morway imparts bio-transcending powers to the denizens of nature.
Corey Helford Gallery, 571 S. Anderson St., downtown. Exhibitions open Saturday, April 6, 7-11 p.m., and continue Tue.-Sat., noon-6 p.m., through May 11; free.