Pacific Standard Time USA

Street art gallery goes mainstream

Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects to show minimalist artists including Sol LeWitt and Larry Bell

From graffiti to minimalism: Shepard Fairey’s Subliminal Projects shows established artists

los angeles. The gallery owned by street artist Shepard Fairey is stepping away from its punkish roots and embracing the canon of art history. Established in 1995 by Fairey and professional skateboarder Blaize Blouin, Subliminal Projects started life as an artist collective showing skateboarding and graffiti culture. However, a group exhibition opening on 15 October, “Less is More”, takes minimalism as its subject, focusing on works by post-war artists including Larry Bell and Sol LeWitt (until 5 November).

“I was brought on to make [Subliminal] more of a fine art gallery and less of a hobby gallery,” says Katherine Cone, who has been its director for the past year. “I am very art history-orientated and hope that people will walk out of the show having learned something, as well as having seen something fantastic,” she says, adding that Pacific Standard Time “is that explosion I needed to be able to put this kind of show together”.

Works in the exhibition date from the 1970s to the present day, and include a 1972 wall drawing that LeWitt created in a class taught by John Baldessari at the California Institute of the Arts. It is the only piece not for sale in the show, where prices range from $2,000 to $45,000.

The exhibition also features three emerging artists, Samuel Stabler, Anthony Sneed and Jow, alongside the more recognisable names. “Artists always feed off each other's energy. It is a new perspective for the established artists, and the younger ones definitely look to that generation as mentors,” says Cone.

Participating artist Sneed agrees: “To me, those artists are where it is at.” Much like the gallery, Sneed initially focused on street art but has since shifted his style. “Street art is dead; those people’s tastes are growing up. All the artists who were in that movement are trying to get serious—it’s a natural progression. Minimalism is almost like a medicine; you’ve got to get back to basics sometimes.”

Fairey himself, once an upstart skateboarder with DIY tendencies, increasingly works with the system rather than against it. He has just finished work on his largest ever mural, West Hollywood Peace Elephant; 70 ft high and 106 ft wide, it extends across an exterior wall of the new West Hollywood Library, which is due to open on 1 October.

On his website, Fairey writes: “Thanks to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the City of West Hollywood for facilitating. Calm down, taxpayers… I was not paid to do the mural and paid for my own supplies and labour. Thanks for the wall space, though.” His work is joined by exterior murals by Kenny Scharf and Retna (aka Marquis Lewis) as part of the West Hollywood Library Murals project, which is sponsored by Cadillac.

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