International street artist Lush opened his show in downtown Los Angeles with as much fanfare and contempt imaginable. Making bold, often savage commentaries on the commodity of street art culture, Lush uses text and stark images on barren canvas for maximum disaffected impact. The exhibit Lush Sells Out in LA was an assault on the mythology surrounding Banksy, as well as those who would feign his work. Through painted pieces and installation sets, Lush set the stage for his world of 'real street' as opposed to 'celebrated street-ified art.' On the real street, as we know, people get harmed, anger can be in your face. This context, combined with brutal humor and knowing self-satire, was the vision assembled for the crowd who waited over an hour for a personalized Lush T-shirt as the exhibit's first guests.
The shirts they got were flippant, funny, and at times vulgar. Indeed, even without the spread-eagle stripper, this was an NSFW show that was checking IDs at the door. (Further coverage of certain unprintable details can be found at venerable street art blog Melrose & Fairfax.) Lush had one canvas of Mr. Brainwash's original cameraman self-portrait with his head being blown away. Lush went so far as to kill Banksy, metaphorically of course, through a hood-ied corpse face down with a knife in him. Upstaging this was Lush himself, featuring his own murdered likeliness in the storefront window of the Hold Up Art Gallery in Little Tokyo.
The aggressive pronouncements are sharper than cynicism, somehow even exceeding sarcasm. Lush's voice is defined by far more specificity and personalized put-downs, with full admission that he is doing exactly what he teases others for doing.
Lush levels nearly as much mockery at graffiti aspirants, whom he refers to as "Toys." One painting even provided a helpful diagram as to all the tell-tale signs of these street art naïfs. Lush's hand-scrawled witticisms in the gallery are similar to his sardonic sticker tags, though using the platform to out-do himself by painting aphorisms appended by his own ridicule. There was a corridor built out to feel like a ramshackle back alley adorned with tagging, more realistic and gritty than the MOCA "Art in the Streets" panoramas. Even at an art opening inside an attractive gallery, I felt uneasy looking down this pseudo-alley.
Yet, you knew what Lush was referring to, and the layout of his gags portend effective comic timing for the viewer. It's an obscene joke Lush is telling about the art world, but at least you're in on it.