ICONS II

April 07 2018 - May 08 2018
Amsterdam

A SHOW ABOUT THE MOST INFLUENTIAL URBAN ARTISTS

CURATED BY VROOM &VAROSSIEAU

Amsterdam, March 2018 -  Vroom &Varossieau looks back at 50 years or urban art history with their ICONS exhibition. This history and its artist still have a huge impact on the urban artist of now, such as Banksy, Invader, Blek le Rat and many others. For ICONS II, Vroom &Varossieau has selected old and new works from Blade, Dondi, Futura 2000, Rammellzee en Richard Hambleton. The shows runs from the 8th of April until the 8th of May. 

Street art is without a doubt the most important art movement that has been developed in the 21st century, and the ICONS exhibition will show the roots of this movement. The selected artists show with the works they have created their role in the development of the history, as the true graffiti pioneers are considered to be outsiders in the academic art world. They do not carry the weight of artistic past, but rather draw inspiration from street life, popular culture and social interaction. They live like nomads and are travelling around the world in order to create mural pieces and participate in projects. They have succeeded in penetrating the existing art establishment according to their own rules.  Nowadays street artists still regard the old school graffiti artists as their godfathers, their ICONS. They have injected new life into the concept of graffiti by making their own rules outside the current art establishment. 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

Blade (1957) is a true graffiti pioneer, painting over 5,000 pieces on New York’s subway between 1972 and 1984. As one of the original members of The Crazy 5 crew, He painted whole cars featuring bubble letters, 3Ds and angular blockbusters, often with an added cartoon figure and crown symbol. Ignoring mainstream trends, Blade developed his own unique style of lettering.In the early 1980s, Martha Cooper gave Blade a canvas and urged him to embark on a career as an independent artist. Blade held his first solo show in New York in 1984. His early paintings emulate the style of his train graffiti, but over time his visual aesthetic grew progressively more abstract. Blade embodies everything that is classically associated with graffiti: illegally painting trains, whilst avoiding cops, guard dogs, oncoming trains and the third rail. The prize was recognition within a subculture that wider society often hated, long before it became fashionable and graffiti made any transition into galleries. His works are already shown in the Netherlands in Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Groninger Museum.

Dondi (1961-1998) worked on refining his graffiti style, gradually moving from simple tagging to building more elaborate pieces. Starting with graffiti from the 70’s, Dondi pioneered many of the styles and techniques still used by modern graffiti artists. Though he would often do wildstyle pieces for the benefit of other writers, he wanted the public to be able to read and enjoy his work, so he would focus on readable letters with intricate fills and characters. He did this both solo as in crews,  as part of the TOP crew (The Odd Partners) and the CIA (Crazy Inside Artists). During the 80’s, his work were already on display in the Netherlands in Groninger Museum (1982) and Museum Boijmans - Van Beuningen (1983), which made him the first urban artist with his work on display in a Dutch museum. For the next 20-odd years, Dondi became recognized as the stylistic standard, influencing a generation of graffiti writers.

Rammellzee (1960–2010) is a contemporary Graffiti artist, writer, hip-hop musician, performance artist, and art theorist known for his East Village “Wild Style” tag work. This style, created by a group of artists in the 1980s, was distinguished by its illegible writing derived from Gothic script, its dynamic look, and its vibrant colors. During his lifetime, he exhibited alongside artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. Rammellzee first became known in graffiti circles in the late 1970s for hitting the A train and other lines around Queens with his signature spiky lettering. Rammellzee was and still is an elusive, self-mythologizing figure who has rarely been photographed without wearing one of his elaborate science-fiction-inspired masks and costumes, which he has made along with the sculpture and paintings that have become the mainstays of his career in later years.   

Futura 2000 (1955) is like Rammellzee not only a living legend of the graffiti movement, but also an illustrator, photographer, sculptor, fashion and graphic designer from New York City.  Futura helped define the graffiti movement of the early 1970s by moving it away from lettering and towards the more painterly, abstract style. Based on more graphic, his expressions developed into complex geometry, to achieve a more liberated form today, where a freer composition and colors are the base. This highly influential and multi-faceted artist has, to date, remained unique, fresh, and evolving, and his characteristic style has paved the way for a whole new generation of high-profile urban artists. With a career that spans more than 45 years, Futura 2000 is still very active as an artist and continues to create the cutting edge pieces which still seem fresh and influence young creatives throughout the globe. This influence reaches far beyond Futura’s artistic disciplines: he was for example the graphic designer for punk-band The Clash.

Richard Hambleton (1954- 2017) is an artist who has worked and lived in the Lower East Side of New York City. Hambleton is most famous for his "Shadowman" works of the early 1980s. While creating his works on canvas, Hambletons so called "shadow paintings" were splashed and brushed with black paint on hundreds of buildings and other structures across New York City, Paris, London and Rome, and even, in 1984, he painted 17 life-size figures on the East side of the Berlin Wall, returning a year later to paint more figures on the West side of the Berlin Wall. In 1985, Hambleton disappeared out of the spotlights, withdrawing into the shadows like one of his works. As his former street mates‘ legacy grew, Hambleton’s reputation faded. He is therefore also considered to be one of the greatest artist not known by a wide audience. However, his works and way of thinking has got huge influence on urban contemporary artists worldwide. A young Blek le Rat, the stencil artist who in turn inspired Banksy. „Richard Hambleton’s shadowmen that I discovered in Paris were a great inspiration to me,“ says the Parisian. „He was the first to export his work to the urban space of cities all around Europe. He’s the only artist I ever bought a painting off, one of the greatest.“