Whereas evolution in the art world often moves at snail's pace, graffiti and street art transforms in dog years. By its very nature, graff art is ephemeral; scrawled on the wall, just to be painted over as new techniques cannibalize the old, recording graffiti's history in layers of paint like rings in a tree. For artist Man One, “Graffiti Spirits,” his solo exhibition and retrospective at the Crewest Gallery reveals the multimedia evolution that shaped his street art-styled works from the last 22 years. He first started hitting the streets as a kid in East L.A., and eventually shifted to creating works for galleries in the early '90s. The many works shown in Saturday's opening at Crewest Gallery (which Man One co-owns) trace the breadth of his multifaceted artistic style: silkscreens, acrylics, and large-scale, spray painted images.
His spray can portraits of people of power — ranging from presidents to rappers — become documents of pop culture's constantly shifting focus, each a snapshot of a distinct time and place. His work “Special Interests: Bushwack” from 2000, pairs a technicolor George W. Bush with a serpentine creature whispering in his ear. Created in the pre-9/11 world — before Iraq, Katrina, and the financial meltdown — the piece adopts new meaning with each passing year, like a twisted portrait of Dorian Grey ever-changing as the world changes around it.
Many of the pieces heavily rely on the angular zigs and zags of graff writing, juxtaposed with illustrated creatures that crawled straight from Man One's head to the canvass. As a curator, Man One has helped to make Crewest, Los Angeles' premier street art gallery that cross-pollinates urban flavor with fine art flair.