Graffiti Smart: Open Concept Gallery and Con Artist Crew showcase Detroit artists Malt and Tead
On Saturday, January 19th, Open Concept Gallery sponsored Silent Flight, a fundraising event showcasing the art of Malt and Tead, hosted by Grand Rapids’ Con Artist Crew. The two Detroit-based artists produced a large diptych mural in the CAC space between Friday and the early hours of Saturday. The event functioned both as an exhibition of the artists’ recent works, and an unveiling of the collaborative mural, which will be placed at the Clemente Skate park on Godfrey, a short distance from where the exhibition took place.
Each of the nine paintings on view by Malt (aka Brown Bag Detroit), feature owl heads. Since owls are currently so pervasive in giftware (as were humming birds about ten years ago), one may be tempted to dismiss the whole lot, but it is evident that these Rasputin-like owls evolved from the root or vine iconography seen earlier in Mr. Detroit’s “Acid Forest” series (see image below). The rhizomatic plant forms are a fitting metaphor for the city of Detroit; they represent life, resilience, and the triumph of nature over civilization. They recall some of the most iconic images of Detroit ruin porn, like the grove of ash trees growing inside the Detroit Public School Book Depository.
Tead Nasty’s paintings displayed at CAC, feature layers of silhouetted buildings surrounded by scaffolding. Some resemble corporate buildings, others look like religious structures–pagodas, cathedrals, or temples. It is not clear if scaffolding indicates construction, or renovation. What immediately came to mind was the dystopian Los Angeles featured in Blade Runner (1982), but the sky in Mr. Nasty’s paintings temper dystopian skepticism, with colorful and animated with arcs, rays, and sunspots. Unfortunately, in the collaborative mural, Malt’s large twisting owl dominates the composition, reducing Tead’s contributions to mere backdrop, like the dwarfed Mount Fuji in Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa.
One can appreciate that the duo is not capitalizing on the Detropia bandwagon. If the iconography was more specific to Detroit, they might succumb to the overwrought self-importance that has historically plagued mural art, instead their work continues the tradition of Romantic visionaries like William Blake, or Piranesi.
In anticipation of this event, artist and Open Concept Gallery curator, Katie Moore, presented a lecture on the subject of graffiti art, at the University Club in Grand Rapids. Moore indicated that “The Phenomenon of Street Art”, was one of the best attended of the OCG lecture series.
Silent Flight could have been a party, with art serving only as ambient decoration (indeed I was fairly convinced this would be the case), but it was thoughtfully executed, organized, and attended by the most diverse group people I have seen at an art event in Grand Rapids to date. I look forward to what Open Concept Gallery and Con Artist Crew offer us in the near future.