Pop Iconography Meets Abstract Graffiti in “Unconventional Forces”

Located in east Santa Monica just south of the I-10, Buckshot Gallery has established itself as a gallery that attracts an array of acclaimed international street artists, including such graffiti luminaries as SEEN and BATES. This is in large part due to the influence of the gallery’s owner, Kelly Graval, himself a longtime bona fide visual artist known as RISK

Risk x TAZ, graffiti, unconventional forcesFor the gallery’s present exhibition, Unconventional Forces, RISK turned the spotlight around on his friendship and artistic connection with fellow artist and graphic poster pioneer TAZ.  While RISK is an L.A.-based artist known for pioneering the painting of freeway overpasses, signs and billboards, TAZ built his reputation in the San Francisco underground and is best known for hundreds of gig posters, rock ephemera and high profile album jackets for The Beastie Boys, Beck, Aerosmith and many others.

Also: Studio Visit: Catching Up With Graffiti Legend RISK

Though the two don’t have obviously complimentary aesthetics, they both share a propensity for creating a visual language that pops in color and attitude, and both share an active interest in all the various manifestations of underground and popular culture. The result of their collaboration is a collection of mostly poster-like works that combines TAZ’s love for graphic iconography with RISK’s penchant for creating amazing, multi-layered color fields using a technique he’s dubbed “beautiful destruction.”

Risk x TAZ, graffiti, unconventional forcesIn the shared world of these two ‘unconventional forces’, where commercial logos and cartoon characters swim in a sea of textures and colors, Hello Kitty smiles through the Rolling Stones’ signature lips in an abstract field of neon, floating shapes and seemingly tactile patterns. In another work, Felix the Cat is affixed in his signature pose, a figure fading into an orchestrated morass of bright paints and perfectly drawn geometries, as if the simple significance of Felix as a silent-film-era symbol is slowly being consumed by the complexity of contemporary visual culture.   

While other works level not-so-subtle criticisms of war and drugs (and perhaps the war on drugs), there is a foundational sense of play and experimentation throughout. There is no doubt that the mastery and mojo of both artists is present here. At their best, the works in Unconventional Forces simultaneously encourage and disrupt our collective nostalgia, taking well-known visual cues from our pop culture past and interpreting them through a unique street-art inspired lens. 

TAZ x Risk’s Unconventional Forces runs until June 4, 2016 at Buckshot Gallery (3129 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90405).