The Contemporary Art & Studio Space (CASS) in Tampa, Florida just opened a new exhibition called Pound & A Bear Hug featuring the work of Bask and Tes One, two graffiti artists and friends who often work in parallel methods with divergent results.
The work of both artists transcended the often predictable paradigms of graffiti art in both stylistic elements and thematic targets. Largely graphic in its execution, the work of Tes One harkened back to a strange kind of 1970’s t-shirt nostalgia of faded space rock sci fi fantasy chromatic elements. The subdued hand and hint of chaos approached abstraction while staying within the borderlands of design. The paintings, such as Transfer, hover along many boundaries without every seeming too strained or pastiche-like. The work as fine art and yet the roguish tendencies of street art, populism and graphic design provide a hint of structure and stability.
Viewers will come away with a refreshed take on how artists from a more urban and street-art lineage may apply their techniques and interests in a more fine art setting. I make the distinction in spite of the neo-democratic ideology of equating each art type and form as a neutral, equally-valid creative expression. The truth is, street art, graffiti art, comic art and other forms of more populist and graphic expression are simply not concerned with the same stylistic elements and audience found among contemporary artists whose principal venue is the clean white cube we call an art gallery.
The show at CASS heightens sensitivities as it punctures assumptions. It is also a success because the work is solid and is made with a profound sense of earnestness and belief in paint as craft.