On Thursday evening, 500 plus people (a conservative estiamte) made their way to Mr. Brainwash’s massive 80,000 rented building in Hollywood for the official preview of his ‘Artshow 2011’. Whether you love MBW’s work, despise it, or are indifferent, this show probably will strengthen your opinion. It probably goes without saying, but Artshow 2011 is chock full of visual spectacle, perhaps to the point of excess.
After braving a chaotic entry, the first thing I noticed was that a large number of finishing touches had been added since my first visit at Tuesday’s press preview. Workers spent countless long hours prepping the show and were still working as the preview opened. While I think it’s worthwhile to do a quick run down of the show layout, please be aware that there are plenty of side rooms and other set pieces that will go unmentioned for the sake of brevity and my nervous system.
The first room houses a wild, eclectic array of large-scale sculptures from a Greek god style sculpture wielding a paint roller to the show’s centerpiece – a giant metal elephant smashing a spray can to cover a caged Colonel Sanders in blue paint (as well as the ceiling and back wall) while chickens look on. This over-the-top commentary on the natural world exacting revenge against the commercial food industry, the piece is notable both for its scale and in particular, the immersive execution. The sculpture spectacle continues onto the adjacent, outdoor side lot where a paint splattered Mickey, a rubber tire Vader flanked by a phalanx of cardboard Stormtroopers and yes, more await.
As has been widely reported, Brainwash issued an open call to local street artists to furnish work for a large, expansive community-style project room on the first floor. The result is wall to wall graffiti, stickers, and more. If you’re looking to get a concentrated, broad look at street art this room is worth a visit. In fact, I just might have to make a return trip to give this room its own due. While at the show, I noticed many artists personally thanking MBW for including them in the exhibition.
Moving upwards, the second floor features a sprawling installation of giant spray cans and a few vehicles. For the preview night, the third through fifth floors were reserved for VIPs – this may change for the official opening starting on Christmas. While the 3rd floor proved off-limits due to active installation, it appeared to be full of several dramatic set pieces. Arriving on the fourth floor, I was a bit relieved to see a mostly empty, cavernous space with spray painted messages covering almost all the wall space. The fifth floor features a make-shit gallery / art viewing area filled with numerous 2D works – paintings and collages.
One thing that’s often lost in the shuffle, is that Brainwash is eager to please the public and show them that ‘life is beautiful’. So it’s not surprising that he appeared genuinely stressed as he and his staff let fans know that the 300 promised free prints had not yet been signed and were not ready for distribution. Happily, the staff took down the names of fans who had previously secured a red ticket good for a print and will ship them out when they are ready.
It also should be said that while many of his critics accurately point out that MBW’s transition to street artist was abrupt and featured a seemingly immediate jump to the large-scale shows which he’s widely known for, he was by no means a stranger to the world of street art. In fact, he was anything but. Through his efforts at filming nearly any street artist who visited LA, he was right in the middle of the mix.
As for his art itself, it remains polarizing and will no doubt continue to split opinion. Regardless of criticism and apathy from many in the street art world, MBW is determined to continue his efforts to wow the general public with his art. It is presumably this mainstream audience who continues to purchase his work for large sums of money, buy his prints, and revel in his over-the-top shows. They will determine his ultimate path, not those decrying the perceived lack of purity, or originality.