Young & Free – San Francisco

Some call Australia the ‘lucky country’, but we’ve always made our own fate. From a rebellious past we’ve forged an identity steeped in cunning ingenuity, creative discontent and unorthodox flair.  We’ve staged rebellions over rum, gained notoriety and won Nobels. We invented cask wine and Wi-Fi and we’ve won countless world titles. There may not be a lot of us, but we’ve always packed a punch.

So it is no surprise that with nothing more than a can of paint and a glint in their eye Australians are taking the street art scene by storm. It’s time for the rest of the world to sit up and take notice.  Young & Free will be the most significant exhibition by Australian street artists ever seen in the United States. The show will feature fresh work by thirteen of Australia’s finest urban art guerrillas – from the already internationally acclaimed to the burgeoning up-and-comers. This tribe of artists comes from a variety of backgrounds: brilliant new work by notorious 80’s train painters through to the sublime subtlety of a modern day Rembrandt armed with a spray can. Young & Free is a reflection of Australia’s thriving street culture with a strong grounding in the past and a firm focus on the future.

These artists are modern day bushrangers, patrolling the lanes from Melbourne to Manhattan. This show features a mix of direct sprays, stencils and paste-ups, representing the rich and varied groundings from which these artists have grown. No matter their age, medium or style, the Young & Free artists all share one thing in common: they want to give the urban landscape a fresh coat of paint. There are many similarities between Australia and San Francisco. Both have famous bridges, internationally established street art cultures and, of course, trams. What is different is our beginnings. Australia’s criminal foundations have seeped into our national persona – Aussies are born with a spirit of rebellion. As the opening lines from our national anthem proclaim, ‘Australians all let us rejoice, for we are Young & Free.’ The cans have been capped, the wheat paste stirred, and the stencils packed: this is the most important Australian street art exhibition ever, mate.

ARTIST PROFILE – Part 1 of 2 

Anthony Lister –
A trendsetter with an international following and a general disregard for borders, prolific street artist and painter Anthony Lister has managed to marry the empathy and abjection of 20th Century figuration with the irreverence of the street. His work shows a genuine affection for the human body, and also a tender understanding of the ways in which the demented, destructive, playful and powerful collide and coalesce. From Brisbane, Lister moved to New York in 2003 and it was there that he found a visual language of his own. He shifted his focus to painting superheroes and this shift gave his work newfound forcefulness. He retained his distinctive approach to mark-making, but began appropriating and re-imaging comic muses, relatable characters that act as classical mythology’s pop equivalents. These characters have become proxies for Lister, allowing him to react to the world as he sees it and pursue tongue-in-cheek philosophical explorations – explorations that raise more questions than they answer. Lister exhibits extensively worldwide and appeared in the publication ‘Beyond the Street: The 100 Leading Figures in Urban Art’, cementing his place in the history of the movement.

Ben Frost –

Ben Frost is known for his kaleidoscopic Pop Art: mash-up paintings that take inspiration from areas as diverse as graffiti, collage, photorealism and sign writing. Over the last ten years he has been exhibiting throughout Australia and internationally, including solo shows in London, New York and San Francisco, as well as group shows in Beijing, Mongolia, Amsterdam, Berlin and Singapore. By subverting mainstream iconography from the worlds of advertising, entertainment and politics, he creates a visual framework that is bold, confronting and often controversial. In print, his work has appeared in countless magazines and newspapers including Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Oyster, WeAr, Monster Children, Ok!, HQ, Eyeline, Australian Art Collector, Broadsheet, and Art Monthly. When not designing and painting, he co-founded the online art portal and also began, and still runs, the international paste-up event ‘Paste Modernism’. He resides and creates in Sydney.

Dabs & Myla –

Melbourne natives Dabs and Myla are a dynamic duo who relocated to Los Angeles in 2009 .They are both members of the infamous SDM CREW from Melbourne Australia, and recently joined the World Famous SEVENTH LETTER collective. Dabs started painting graffiti in 1995, and began teaching Myla the ropes of graffiti writing about ten years later after meeting in art school where they became friends and eventually fell in love. Soon afterward, they decided they liked their collaborative pieces better than their individual work, and from that point on, they worked together exclusively, as Dabs Myla. Inspired by graffiti, travel and their wonderful chaotic life together as a couple, their paintings play Dabs’ mischievous and sometimes ribald characters off Myla’s photorealistic cityscapes. Since their move to California, they have never spent more than a few hours apart. They say, “I guess we are pretty lucky… two peas in a pod! Two crazy, workaholic, mad dorks in a pod! After years of living, painting walls and working together, we have only become closer, stronger and even more in sync. Every day we wake up, paint all day, and keep each other entertained with constant chatter and stupid jokes. Who could ask for more out of life?”

Sydney born Shannon Peel is not only known as legendary Australian graffiti writer Dmote but also as an internationally acclaimed designer, illustrator and painter. In 1985, at the age of 15, he started painting the Sydney streets and he has played a substantial role in the underground Australian graffiti scene. His talent has taken him to subways, streets and galleries the world over, including the United States, Japan, Italy, Spain, Canada, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Croatia and Bosnia. He currently lives and works in New York. He has curated exhibitions and festivals around the world as well as being published in countless publications and videos (i-d, Dazed and Confused, The Face, Refill, Warp and Rolling Stone just to name a few). Dmote continues to stay true to the fundamentals of the art form and remains active as a street writer and artist.

HA-HA is a master stencil technician graduating from the streets of Melbourne. Without the aid of Photoshop, his cutting technique produces almost lifelike imagery easily recognisable as his signature work. His choice of figures and characters reflects his opinions on society and culture – bushrangers, the effects of consumerism, signs of our obsession with the media and the portrayal of society, all lightly dusted in an air of sarcasm. He has been exhibiting for over nine years he has held sixteen solo shows in Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart and Sydney, and is represented by galleries across Australia. His work can be found in the collection of the National Gallery of Australia, State Library of Victoria, City of Melbourne, and private collections across Australia, NZ, UK and USA. Hailing originally from New Zealand, HA-HA now calls Australia home, working and living out of his studio above one of Melbourne’s most notorious graffiti-strewn laneways.

Kid Zoom –
Kid Zoom has been anointed with the title, ‘Rembrandt with a spray can’ by none other than the master painter, Ron English. Kid Zoom’s incredible talent, and his paramount technical proficiency in using solely free-hand aerosol to create his work is changing the brash connotations of the medium. Last year saw him go from relative obscurity to being one of the most exciting new talents in the street art movement, exhibiting alongside Shepard Fairey, Banksy, Jean Michael Basquait and Keith Haring. Starting his career in Perth, he now resides in New York where in December 2010, he had his successful solo exhibition ‘This City Will Eat Me Alive’. His art combines precise photo realism, expressive distorted pop imagery and aggressive street and gallery installation work. Combining astonishing spray can ability with classical painting technique, Kid Zoom is tipped to a be a star of his generation.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the artist profiles, coming soon. 

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