D*Face has transformed Jonathan Levine Gallery into a schizoid fantasy for his debut solo exhibition in the United States. Immediately upon entering the gallery the viewer’s retinas are pierced by an onslaught of deformed and decayed pop imagery. The London based street artist has brought his humorously disturbing style across the sea and loaded the gallery with a substantial body of work ranging from canvases and sculptures, to an Orwellian installation that ends in a prismatic whirlpool of brightly colored paint.
The artist’s use of the exquisite corpse, the Surrealist exercise of having multiple participants create different parts of a portrait to form a strange creature, is present in several of the panels hanging in the main gallery. Unamerican Graffiti extracts its body from The Simpsons, the dollar bill, and a nuclear explosion, among other sources. Along with the seven other panels in Ludovico Aversion Therapy, the pieces are a take on the traumatic rehabilitation process Alex is forced to undergo in A Clockwork Orange. The overwhelming imagery jumps back and forth from comic book and advertising slogans that suggest there is no hope, to familiar faces cut out so you are left just with their familiar gaze that somehow seems much creepier when the rest of their face is removed, such as the beady eyes of Col. Sanders in Evil’s Pawn. All of the painted panels are bleeding pigment from the bottom side that gathers in a brightly colored formation of paint in te center of the room. Additionally there is a set of spectacle clad eyes staring out into the gallery that screams “Big Brother Is Watching”. The theme continues in a series of etchings printed on school desk tops that have been collecting graffiti and chewing gum since 1950.
Several canvases and prints hang throughout the gallery showcasing some of the artist’s signature iconography like the Queen of England, who seems to be the butt of many of D*Faces jokes. A series of three paintings depict the Queen emulating the likes of Johnny Rotten. She sports a Mohawk, razor blade earring, and the D*Face wings from the side of her head. The pieces, entitled More Punk Than You Punk, are the head of the Queen set against a bright, vivid backgrounds.
In a play on the famous renderings by Andy Warhol, D*Face also takes a jab at one of the biggest icons of them all. A tic-tac-toe of decaying Marilyn Monroe multiples have sprouted wings from the sides of their severed heads and hauntingly gaze back at the viewer. It’s as if the Warhol’s masterworks were locked in a sarcophagus for a couple of decades and released just in time to be hung on the gallery walls. Homage to Warhol is plentiful, from the four canvases to the inflated silver winged creatures that cling to the ceiling. One leaves thinking that Pop Art has become a zombie and it wants to eat your brain.
D*Face creates bold responses to media saturated and capitalist driven societies. The essence of his work speaks to the over consumption of vivid imagery put into the world with the sole intention of generating revenue for corporate interests. The rebellious nature of his works can be likened to Punk Rock, though the aesthetic is more polished. The work is very tight and calculated, much like that of advertising. The fusion of these two mediums creates a sensory cluster fuck. The show at Levine provides a well rounded introduction to the artists work to the unfamiliar and satisfies a hunger for the veteran fan. Check it out!
Also, check out Shuttered Storefronts, a mural by D*Face located at 200 Clinton Street (at the corner of East Broadway).
Check out more images from the Toy Baroness’s trip to the gallery.
Ludovico Aversion Therapy/All Your Dreams Belong To Us
Jonathan Levine Gallery
529 West 20th St., 9th Fl., New York, NY
Through October 10