Hot on the heels of the success of Mapping the City and Futurismo Ancestral, Somerset House is again teaming up with the arts collaboration A(by)P to present a new series of fresh commissions by seventeen of the worlds best graffiti artists.
Graffiti art has received its share of bad press in recent times – the highbrow art world has turned it nose up at it, while counter-culture purists have shunned its recent commercialisation. However this show not only pays homage to the true roots of the art form, but proves there is still life in its adolescent facets to be explored.
The show eschews the idea that graffiti art is either vandalism or dystopian, Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday Utopias of the Street takes work from the most exalted of practitioners, including Shepherd Fairy, REVOK, Swoon, Eltono and Filippo Minelli and places it within the distinctly un-street, yet strangely public Somerset House – top marks for ironic geography to begin with. The show contains installations, workshops and residencies – taking the art back to the people. Works range from video pieces, illustration, fashion, painting and even a series of coloured smokes bombs which were set off in the iconic court yard – the art is typically bright and punk as one would expect. It’s youth culture at its most rebellious, pushing the limits as to what it can get away with, all the while continually tongue in cheek.
Graffiti is celebrated as being the decoration of the urban in this show – it proves it doesn’t have to be confined to a brick wall and doesn’t need to be seen as outsider or lacking the effort or creativity of studio produced art. This is the art that ornaments our environment perhaps the most – and its often the most ripe indicator the social and cultural movements. Graffiti is the alternative voice. Whether or not that still remains when curated and institutionalised is a much wider argument and not the point of the show. The works stand out in their own right for their clever take on how “urban” art is very now, and very of the people.
The exhibition was opened with a dazzling reception hosted by Patrón Tequila which saw some of London’s best known names in graffiti turn out to mingle with curators, influencers and creatives over Patrón cocktails within the walls of the historic Somerset House – the night established the show as being about being young, being proud and being loud.
Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday Utopias of the Street, 3 March – 2 May 2016 at Somerset House Terrace Rooms, WC2R 1LA. Free admission.