Melbourne is about to be blessed with one of the most engrossing street-art exhibitions ever held in Australia. With ON THE WALL, Metro Gallery has pulled off a coup. From French stencil pioneer Blek Le Rat and infamous English iconoclast Banksy to American legend Shepard Fairey (of Obama Hope and Obey Giant fame), Metro has assembled a collection of works by some of the world’s most significant street-artists. However, while Banksy and Fairey will bring the crowds, it’s the likes of Swoon, D*Face, Stormie Mills, Ha-Ha and Vexta that will cement this exhibition’s lasting impression.
Displayed in the clean, calm expanse of Armadale’s Metro Gallery, the exhibited works assume new dimensions. Owing to the gallery’s fine curatorship, the works gain depth through well-considered juxtaposition. New Yorker Swoon’s exquisitely detailed linocuts pulsate against cool white in earthy blacks and browns as if inviting in city-wild spirits—a new form of primitive— while Vexta’s haunted neon portraits sear with ultramodern ferocity. UK artist Hush’s remarkable triptych, Passing Through, dominates with foreboding beauty: three Japanese courtesans emerging from a morbid explosion of cherry blossoms. DFace’s *Clowns, Monster, and Deathtrap are diamond-sharp paroxysms of colour while Stormie Mills’ soft melancholia seeps from the walls in overcast greys and blues, the sad shrug to D*Face’s adrenalized screams. Finally, Ha-Ha’s maddeningly detailed stencil portraits show just how far the form has evolved from Le Rat’s founding simplicity.
ON THE WALL quickly erases any distinction between high art and low, peeling back public perception to reveal technical skill long obscured in the grimy alleys of the world’s new wilderness. While Banksy and Fairey’s seemingly perfunctory contributions may disappoint some, the exhibition’s real success is to use these luminaries to introduce an increasingly receptive public to an ever-evolving and deeply varied genre.
ON THE WALL is showing at Metro Gallery until October 12.