"Hippies are drifters, bikers are drifters, migratory birds are drifters, jellyfish are drifters, rain clouds are drifters and even words are drifters. Can art drift? Is drifting a style? Yes. Drifters live in the moment, they create from pure instinct without hidden agendas or pretension and if they have a message it's simply 'let go'." This particular philosophy is tied to an exhibit at Grass Hut Gallery in Portland and, though completely unrelated, appropriately fits this month's urban/street/outsider/drifter art exhibit at Space Gallery.
The opening reception was a raucous art party featuring live music and live painters. Rather than hovering near their allocated wall space schmoozing, the exhibiting artists were busy creating live art on canvases set up along the gallery's windowed wall, making for an enthralling experience for those inside the gallery, as well as people smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk outside.
Aligning with the drifter philosophy, all artists involved in this particular Collabo had to remain unpretentious enough to release their work immediately after it was completed for a live "wet paint" auction. You have to respect their creative guts -- painting tends to be a personal, solitary practice that can be hard to realize with another person in the room, let alone a hundred kids getting their drink on while shaking the floor to super sweet reggae beats.
I heard about the exhibit through an artist I met on the Interweb called Mythos (Jeff Meadows), who traded spray cans for brushes and refined his practice, finding success in the world of fine art. His sad sack character drawings often suffer from severed limbs and broken hearts and are endearing, especially when laminated on chunks of dirty old wood marred by rusted hinges and nails. Even the blood squirting from the characters' dismembered stumps is cute and, beyond its charm, the content of the work also appears to be acutely allegorical.
At the opening, Meadows collaborated live with artist Aaron Winters to create an intriguing pink, turquoise, and grey painting that included Meadows' signature characters and made-up words. In this case, variations on the word "footant" were painted in varying styles on the canvas -- a reference to sophomoric surfers in Hawaii who set foot where they don't necessarily belong, akin to how a street artist might feel in the white-walled world of galleries. Also a fan of incorporating text, Winters' side of the canvas had Dr. Seuss-like line work and held a flowing, organic tree-like image that morphed into the words "Friggin' Sweet" written in cursive.
For this fifth Collabo event, curator and Pacific Art Collective (PAC) founder, Wil Rowan moved the collaborative art movement beyond the West Coast by recruiting a global set through PAC's first international call for artists. The downstairs gallery was dedicated to Austrian photographer, Simon Froelich's work, which included candid photos of party scenes and a particularly awesome print of a giant hamburger chasing a lady.
Upstairs, Portland-based Charlie Alan Kraft's amorphous figures were painted in layered ice cream colors over little pencil tests. Similar to Meadows and a few of the other artists in the second floor gallery, Kraft's work had a symbolic sense of internal struggle and autobiography.
Like a well-oiled artistic machine, Pacific Art Collective caters to the wavering attention spans inherent in youth culture and offers support to artists who need it most. Researcher Maribel Alvarez of Cultural Initiatives Silicon Valley wrote, "As a collective performance, a PAC session touches all the raw buttons of being artistic, and at the same time self-consciously disenfranchised."
Like the emerging art scene in Oakland, the South Bay's Pacific Art Collective makes art raw, approachable, and all-inclusive. The show at Space Gallery showcased more than 20 artists from six different countries. Though the work was definitely hit or miss, each artist was boosted by their fellow collaborators, like several interesting parts cooperating to make a prolific whole. PAC artists seem like the type that don't even necessarily know they're artists; they are the kids that have an inexplicable creative drive and are in that phase before fame hits -- when they are genuinely honored to be showing work in a gallery.
In PAC's online listings, artists' names attached to singular paintings read like the title of a break-dancing battle -- "Sirron Norris vs. Meph One vs. David Choong Lee" -- the push toward collaboration yields a certain experimental, action-packed excitement. Pacific Art Collective proves that collaboration can be disarming and that art includes more than just painting or sculpture. Chances are, if you like art, you like music. And even more likely, if you like art and music, you like booze. PAC is like a good date who pays attention to your needs, gives you a little bit of everything you like and calls you the next day.
Pacific Art Collective: Collabo is at Space Gallery in San Francisco through May 28, 2007. Check out their upcoming events.