Van Der Plas presents the exhibition Strange Brew at the gallery’s location on the Lower East Side, 156 Orchard Street, New York, NY. This show offers E. F. Higgins, Juan Carlos Pinto, Clown Soldier, Kevin Wendall (FA-Q), Ron Burman, Konstantin Bokov, and Sonni for viewing. These seven artists’ works collectively span over forty years and bring together an amalgamation of style and ways of seeing that create a mosaic of life and vision from the depths of New York City in the 1980s through the 90s to where the twenty first century begins to bring new evolutions of structure and form passed along the creative tapestry from one artist to the next.
Found objects transformed into windows of New York City share the air with faces painted from the stretch of what defines a portrait in this showing that reaches back to touch The Rivington School of the Lower East Side and many other ways of beauty that have wound their way through the years to find where they now come together with elements of Pop, minimalism, collage and figure. Konstantin Bokov begins with wall mounted sculptures that alter the way we understand how materials can work together and be painted as they break ground for Kevin Wendall (FA-Q) and his portraits that show more of the interior of the artist than the exterior of the subject, a theme Ron Burman has picked up on and explored with in ways that bring the viewer to new comprehensions of where figurative art can go. The themes, then, of how the figure can be changed, evolved, sketched and represented arrive at Sonni who has stripped away much of the canvas and limited his colors to create scenes of magnificent wonder, and child-like innocence, that show what one can do when honing down to a feeling, like Juan Carlos Pinto whose metrocard collages strike startling images of light and depth, portraying birds and celebrities to give a grounding as well as a rise to the Pop that takes the subject matter to Clown Soldier and his painting of Donald Duck, splashed with a mixed media abstract background to bring the exhibition around to E. F. Higgins III and the illustrative 'Dooda' world he created through their invented post office and stamps, a triumph of the further reaches of the imagination.
E.F. Higgins III grew up in a small town outside Chicago. As a boy, he collected stamps, even creating his own by carving rubber erasers. In 1974-75, he worked extensively with found objects; play money, stock certificates, stamps, mining claims, postcards, posters, letter-heads, labels, maps, blue-prints…all sorts of “non-Art,” commercially produced 2-D visuals. He moved to NYC in 1976 and began producing mail art. Higgins’ country represented on the stamps is known as “Doo Da,” and his logo is a “wingnut” – a hardware nut (i.e. a nut and a bolt) with wings on it. The word “wingnut” in English is slang for someone who is wacky, or slightly crazy. Many of Higgins’ paintings and stamps have this sense of humor about them with subjects such as fishing lures and the ubiquitous wingnut logo.
Kevin Wendall, aka FA-Q, was a New York graffiti artist in the 70’s and 80’s considered to be a neo-expressionist of the streets. As a member of the Rivington School, a group of metal sculptors, blacksmiths, painters, performance artists, and other outsiders of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, he created artwork across the abandoned buildings of and modified billboards and advertisements by scraping out letters to give them new meanings. In his studio work, he developed his raw and expressive tagging style directly to the surface of the canvas, paper, or painted panel. Heavily anti-establishment, FA-Q said, “We were against commercial art, and against capitalism, championing art for people.” The artist became very familiar with the prison system during his life, producing much of his work behind bars. He was a notorious legend in the art world during his short and stormy but prolific lifetime.
Self-taught artist Ron Burman makes bright, figurative paintings and drawings executed on canvas and found materials such as architect’s renderings, cardboard, and wood. His inspirations range from his aunt Joan—who made Pop art in her basement during the 1960s—to Jean Dubuffet, Joan Miró, and Pablo Picasso, to the Brazilian artist Héctor Julio Páride Bernabó (better known as Carybé), to Jean-Michel Basquiat. His work sits between raw and cooked: the style is exuberant and unmediated, while the colors and compositions have an unexpected elegance and graphic punch. Informal but not self-consciously primitive, Burman’s art is bold, unpretentious, and honest. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two children.
Born in 1940 in Shostka, Ukraine, Konstantin Bokov immigrated to New York City in 1974. Bokov shares his whimsical style and endless imagination with New Yorkers in DIY public installations. Bokov’s passion to create transcends genre—“I live from my imagination”, is his common refrain. Unthreatened by societal conventions, he revels in moments of vulnerability, subverts the relationship between the artist and muse and uses raw and provoking content, resulting in a piece filled with multiple dimensions. Additionally, his precise use of hues, forms and lines also culminates into layers of depth and oftentimes a satirical tone.
Juan Carlos Pinto is an artist and art historian working in Brooklyn, New York. A native Guatemalan, his art is as expressive as the colorful and lush Central American region. Pinto’s artwork is poignantly aggressive and projects a revolutionary declaration. Primarily sourcing media from salvaged material and found objects, he works with abstract painting, tile, wood, stencil spray, and repurposing non-biodegradable plastic and glass. Pinto’s use of plastic is unique and pulsates with hidden significance. Pinto frequently incorporates issues such as human and animal rights, environmental preservation, and the empowerment of minorities into his work. Pinto’s art exudes confidence, energy and challenge, drawing one into a dual world of playfulness and social responsibility. His legacy, as he sees it, is to be known as an artist who demands change to a Green Revolution.
Doug Groupp, aka Clown Soldier, was born in Queens, NY, and has been an artist all his life. Groupp has worked in many mediums, including Oil, Acrylic, Gouache, Watercolor Painting, Frottage, Collage, Screen Printing, Sculpture, and Street Art in the forms of wheat paste, murals and Ad Takeovers. Doug Groupp has been working as a street artist in New York City for the past 12 years. In 2009, he adopted the name Clown Soldier and pasted the first wheat paste of his image of a clown in a revolutionary war-era soldier's uniform, playing on the incongruity of the two identities. The Clown Soldier image also refers to the absurd and playful nature of creating art, "clowning around" with color, line, image and form. The fun and excitement of working in public spaces and creating chance encounters for the viewer, not only with his images but with the spaces themselves, has inspired Groupp to focus on street art over studio work.
Sonni is an Argentinian artist who blends graphic design with street art, painting murals that reflect upon the human experience. Drawing on his background in animation, the artist composes cartoon characters through the use of primary colors and geometric shapes. Sonni employs a mix of absurd and surreal themes with visual puns to produce playful, but poignant works. With a resume of solo and group exhibitions in New York, San Francisco, Miami, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, and Seul, Sonni’s works are sought after by collectors and art enthusiasts worldwide.