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.

Malt Brown Bag Detroit,

Malt Brown Bag Detroit, “Hibernation”

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.

Paintings by Tead Nasty at Con Artist Crew, photo by Michael D. Willis

Paintings by Tead Nasty at Con Artist Crew, photo by Michael D. Willis

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.

-Tamara Fox

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4 Responses to “Graffiti Smart: Open Concept Gallery and Con Artist Crew showcase Detroit artists Malt and Tead”
  1. Hello from the Con Artist Crew, on behalf of Reuben Garcia and Magdalene Law, we would like to thank all those who attended the show “Silent Flight” Saturday, January 19, 2013. This show was definitely one not to be missed and if so, please look for the Detroit duo and their great work. We would like to thank Katie Moore and Open Concept Gallery for bringing the duo, Malt and Tead, to our creative community here in Grand Rapids. This show has again displayed our intentions to work with the local creative community but has even furthered our efforts to work with our neighboring city, Detroit. All the while striving to show the work of artists from all backgrounds and aesthetics to our gallery walls. Looking foreword to seeing Malt and Tead’s work in our gallery again and furthering our relationship with the local community and beyond.

  2. T. Fox is a great critic who makes the rounds. I am glad she executed an insightful, short review of the Con-Artist Crew action at Open Concept Gallery. It’s a whole new take on grafitti art to compare works to Oriental masters, and the comparison opens eyes to new possibilities. After all, the skateboarding, spray painting set were raised on manga and anime. At first, I think it is the critic’s sense of humor when Malt is identified Malt (aka Brown Bag Detroit), which only adds mystery to the identity of the street level artist. However, that’s how Malt rolls on his web page, so to speak. We have a nice picture of him starting a wall in the acid forest, his back, his?, to the camera. http://www.brownbagdetroit.com/index.html

    Brown Bagging it might be carrying a quart in the plain brown wrapper that is as iconic as the Red Solo Cup. It is also the name of a “lifestyle clothing and toy store” that has since closed in Clawson, Michigan, Brown Bag It. There’s no need for a brown bag anymore, especially when Victoria Secret shopping bags are flaunted.

    I would ask our critic to take another look at those trees growing in the Detroit Book Depository. Maybe, they are the iconic Ghetto Palm, or the Tree of Heaven, a diaster tree known for its rapid growth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ailanthus_altissima. Detroit artists have embraced the ghetto palm, especially Center for Creative Studies faculty member, Clinton Snider. http://motownreviewofart.blogspot.com/2012/06/clinton-snider-painter-among-ruins-of.html. Also see the Detroit Tree of Heaven Woodshop: http://www.treeofheavenwoodshop.com/exhibitions2/smart-museum-of-art/. We know our critic is putting in the time around Detroit, and that’s one of the reasons her readers grant her street cred. Stephen Goodfellow curates a web site called the Cooridor Tribes, and he might be appealed to add a tribe for all those Grand Rapids people who pop up on buses to cruise up and down Cass, usually under the touring guidance of Tommy Allen. Our critic gains credit for being her own wheel man.
    http://corridortribe.com/index.html

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