The Speedy Graphito Imaginary Museum
#TOULON Street artist recognized, whose workmanship reveals explosive colors, Speedy Graphito invests the spaces of the Departmental Hotel of Arts – Art Center in Toulon and offers us a dive into his imaginary museum. Through 40 years of creation, the artist shows us how popular imagery blends with the masters’ masterpieces in a comical and amusing visual diversion. A monographic exhibition containing many recent works – including one created in situ – that will delight many audiences.
The history of art revisited
Painting, sculpture, photography and video: since its beginnings in the 1980s, Speedy Graphito has used several forms of expression to create a unique work, nourished by the societal codes of its time and by its artistic culture. The exhibition, whose name is taken from André Malraux’s eponymous work, is divided into 10 sections named by trends that have crossed the history of art: naturalism, surrealism, abstraction and digital, to name but a few.
From the ground floor, the canvases presented refer to the themes dear to the Barbizon School. Then Magritte, De Chirico, Manet or Picasso form the starting point of a new creation.Speedy Graphito does not hesitate to introduce characters from popular culture, such as the bird from the social network Twitter, Olive, the wife of the comic book character Popeye, her signature character with her pointed hair or the fetish rabbit Lapinture. Very colourful works, saturated with red tones in the “History 80″ section but also in more essential research such as his two-colour works, which reveal only the creative gestures and marks of his artistic tools.
Before the brush and spray paint, there was pencil and charcoal: “When I was a kid, I spent my free time drawing all the knick-knacks in the house with charcoal and gum breadcrumbs,” says Speedy Graphito. This passion for drawing and the birth of these forms from his teeming imagination is visible in the production carried out in situ on the stairs of the art centre.
The first floor of the exhibition shows many works from the 2000s, the vast majority of which have been produced over the past 10 years. Artist of his time, Speedy Graphito invited the Internet revolution into his creation. Our world is a flow of permanent images with a sometimes very ephemeral lifespan, a flow of images of people we think are close to us but always as distant. The reality TV star Nabilla turns into a Mona Lisa in a large pixelized format from painted covers. The image becomes clear if we look at it with our smartphone, an obsessive object of our daily lives. This questioning about new technologies confronts computer text and computer images in techniques as different as acrylic on wood or sublimation on plates. The works produced are answers to our daily questions.
At the heart of these figurative works, abstract style finds an essential place, Speedy Graphito declares working abstraction and figuration in the same way and that separating them is a challenge. The formal radicalisation that opens the way to abstract art is reflected in the street artist‘s wide flat areas of intense colours, developing a symbolism that plays on the optical illusion, allowing each visitor to personally decode these representations. These pictorial explorations are constructions in several dimensions and the crossings of lines, shapes and fragments are as many pictorial structural solutions.
These are fairly recent paintings, created between 2016 and 2018, that pay tribute to the painters of modern art. The works refer to many references such as Warhol, Van Gogh, Matisse, Liechtenstein, Cézanne, Courbet, Picasso, Basquiat… and more unusual references such as SpongeBob, Donald Duck, Titi and emoticons… Canvases conceived as printed circuits where multiple connections are made between past and present. “I see art as one big family. Although the approaches and styles are as diverse and varied as the number of artists present on the artistic scene, I feel an almost genetic affiliation in this continuum of art evolution. I am subliminally formatted, because of the interest I have in my predecessors. It is what has allowed me to build myself and become who I am today,” says the artist.
Finally, the last section is dedicated to street art. A major artist in this scene, Speedy Graphito composes his works both in the studio and in the street. The energy infused by this dynamic and popular movement has found in Speedy Graphito a synthesis of figurative symbols and textual graphics. The street world feeds him: crushed cigarette pack, giant spray can of paint and always colourful compositions of juvenile references transposed to the contradictions of the current era. And in the center of the room, a wooden palisade where Speedy Graphito represented himself. His works are scenes from the theatre of life, a total immersion in a teeming universe where multiple references are like so many links to think about. Speedy Graphito does what he likes in a clear curiosity. At the heart of this walk, which will lead the spectator into the different aesthetic periods that have shaped the practice of street artists, it is above all numerous windows that the visitor will open and through which he will discover a world charged with a very personal mythology.
A book was published on this occasion: Le Musée Imaginaire de Speedy Graphito, In Fine éditions d’art, 2019, 104 p.
Until June 2
The Imaginary Museum of Speedy Graphito
Hôtel Départemental des Arts
236 boulevard Maréchal Leclerc
Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 6pm
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