Jumping the curb
Sorry U Missed Us
Through June 5 at Redefine
213 N. Magnolia Ave.
While the poster advertises the artists as "Orlando's most talented best kept secrets," Decoy, Socky Chop and NeoSoe aren't so secret anymore. These street artists have jumped the curb into the gallery; if any of their graffiti has been seen around town, now is the time to view how gallery life is changing their craft and their brands.
Street art is turning the art world inside out, and with Orlando street artists in three local galleries at the present moment — Bryce Hammond at Millenia Fine Art and Dolla Bill at BoldHype as well as this show at Redefine — it is getting a lot of exposure.
NeoSoe's work is classic street artwork: Spray paint cans are transformed into skyscrapers in "Can Phobia" and other pieces that celebrates urban dystopia. His beautiful calligraphic signature on the wall — known as a burner — shimmers and sparkles with color, and his canvases echo this vivid spray display.
Decoy's movie-poster images are powerful, and when seen in the gallery, they retain their grandeur. Having his images photographed and reproduced by other artists wised up Decoy to the power of the press, and he now sells poster-size reproductions of his work. The irony of this pop-art double take would surely make Warhol smile; and the immersive scale of the real thing is still transmitted through this smaller medium.
Socky Chop's work brings it home, in particular with a triptych of canvases that show Orlando's skyscrapers as if seen from within a manhole. This underground view, if studied for a moment, conjures ethereal spheres rising toward an orange-hot sky, and is bordered by his graf in the corner. Elsewhere, Socky Chop's female portraits in classic poses, with full lips and beautiful faces, are so void as to be soulless. These flatly rendered women chill the viewer, as does Chop's wall mural deeper within Redefine, which can be read on many levels. It appears to be an insect with a paintbrush (the artist?) being held among flowers in the mouth of a frog and being offered to a woman, possibly as food.
The scene recalls some of the artwork of the Maya; for example, as shown in the Dresden Codex, where a partially eviscerated earth goddess with crossbones on her skirt destroys the world with rain. Frogs in Maya art represent birth, but note the skull-mask on the woman; is this a birth story or a death story? The death motif betrays a sensibility common among street art, raised to high art by many "legit" artists, who use the skull motif to communicate a sense of death, a sense of ending and imply the process of transformation.
Back in Chop's mural, the bird flying away from the woman's head is also a universal symbol of transcendence and of fleeing, which completes the sense of transformation. Yet the bird also wears a skull death-mask, and the transformation implied here is a bringing down, not a lifting up; the skull-bones are rendered bleached white and clean, as if the death or transformation of the figures has long since happened, and the artist is living on borrowed firstname.lastname@example.org