A huge black arc runs across one of the walls, with figures merging into the floor below it. Elsewhere brightly coloured safety jackets are hanging in rows, inviting visitors to wear them as they set off to explore the finely-proportioned eighteenth century rooms with their crystal chandeliers, elegant mantelpieces and patterned timber floors which have been taken over by seventeen street artists from around the world.
Daylight floods in to reveal the work of Shepard Fairey, Swoon, REVOK, Eltono and Filippo Minelli, Nano4814. Russell Maurice, and others, while from 13th to 20th April, Antwan Horfée and Russell Maurice will set up studios in adjacent rooms and allow visitors to experience street artist in action, after which the rooms will remain open as part as the main exhibition. Part of the theme Utopia 2016: A Year of Imagination and Possibility at Somerset House, and organised in collaboration with A(by)P, “Venturing Beyond” explores unsanctioned public art – or graffiti – as a utopian practice set in the historic terrace rooms at Somerset House.
The artists invite the viewer to engage with their work and explore the meanings behind them as they seek to create something new and, disruptive; perhaps leading to a utopian new world. Nano4818’s black arc “Underpass, Underpassed, Underpast” is the opposite of a rainbow, with no pot of gold at its bottom, and could bridge over an opening that leads to a new world, but is this new world good, or is it bad while, in the centre of the room, Russell Maurice’s installations raise questions about whether the characters embedded on the floor are sinking into another world or are they about to rise up and burst out into this?
Petro’s “Utopia Security Co” provides fluorescent high-visibility vests and boiler suit, having new and disruptive titles, not only hanging on the wall but for visitors to wear in their adventure to explore new worlds, some of which may be potentially dangerous such as the strange natural environments of Antwan Horfée with large spiders and fungi (Are they poisonous or are they safe to eat?) Messages are combined with humour by Lucas Dillon in his charcoal drawings in a cartoon style as in “The Blind Leading the Blind” and Huskmitnavn’s “Escapism” showing how easy it might be to fool the police, with policies and procedures preventing them seeing the obvious.
Shepard Fairey twists traditional propaganda posters into instructions to dissent and destroy and Swoon’s portrait of his father after his death “Milton II (Diogones)”, invoking the image of “Old Father Time”, exhorts viewers to a life of action while they can. Revok’s geometric assemblies reinforce the role of the artist in the world of computers and celebrate imperfections in a society looking for perfection and Saeio’s graffiti is here framed within the gallery spaces, making commentary on the blurring of boundaries in the art world.
Graffiti and street art has invaded Somerset House to provide an alternative view of society and invite the viewers to engage and question pre-conceived ideas of society in the 21st century.
[…] the ground floor rooms, art from the street has come into Somerset House; downstairs is an exhibition of art from the homeless who live on the […]