No Name features big names at DAX Gallery
When I first visited DAX gallery for its opening in 2013 owner Alex Amador had big plans for the Costa Mesa space that would bring fine urban art to Orange County. Over the past few years, in part due to how hard it can be to maintain a gallery, DAX has shuffled around some of its original aspirations. I was curious to see what the gallery was up to when I met with curator Alec Van Sealund for the August 13th opening of No Name.
Van Sealund joined DAX in 2015 and explained the gallery still plans to occupy a unique and meaningful place in the OC Art Scene by concentrating on ‘fine’ urban and street art but the execution of that vision is changing. “I want to bring in a higher caliber of artists into Orange County. I feel a place like Orange County deserves that”. DAX also plans to differentiate itself by bringing in artists globally, from Europe, South and Central America and hopefully Asia.
No Name delivers on caliber. The show secured a sold-out Keith Haring lithograph, as well as two paintings from renowned UK-based street artist Ben Eine. Eine first made his name in the London underground graffiti scene and this background carries through in his commercial work. “RIOT” and “REVOLUTION” emphasize vibrant, detailed lettering against a black background. “His goal is to make his letters look better than anyone else’s” says Van Sealund.
The most influential piece in the show is “Nobody Likes Me” an original by Canadian-based I Heart. The painting deftly and bluntly portrays the consequence of growing up in today’s social-media based society, having one’s persona or sense of belonging validated, even measured, by ‘likes’.
No Name is remarkably accessible for someone who wouldn’t usually connect with urban art. Instead of an emphasis on ‘edgy’ or ‘tough’ the show makes room for sweet, whimsical works, such as the children, balloons or rubber ducky in works by Bumblebeelovesyou.
The pieces still maintain their urban feel, by using stencil or spray-paint as a medium or a composition similar to public-space art on the side of a building (i.e. Drew Merritt’s blurry suspended figures on a monochromatic background).
The diversity of styles in No Name demonstrate the range of work encompassed by the urban/street genre. The show includes ‘calligraffiti’ an emerging movement which focuses more on design elements than the language of words by Mexico City-based artist Said Dokins, as well as large tapestries made in collaboration between Soho Design House artists and Tibetan weavers.
Of course artist caliber can mean many things and Van Sealund described it as having a unique and authentic voice. When walking through the show he emphasized artists that maintained their own voice, style, stayed true to their art, were not influenced by social attitudes or fame, and simply “wanted to do their work”. In summary, “artists that would be put in the history books”. When we got into a discussion on Keith Haring’s heavily political and sexual work Van Sealund commented “[Haring] is already in – and will remain in – the history books. His type of mindset, that is what I look for in artists, whether they are young or old”.
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