The show was both overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time.
It was overwhelming because of the enormity of the show - there was a tremendous amount of work there. A lot of effort, time, and money went into this. There had to be 75+ pieces there easily, not counting all of the display elements (vehicles, television robot, outdoor installations, studio mockup, etc.)
However, I was underwhelmed by the lack of original ideas and any sort of theme or unity between all of the pieces. It seemed like MBW took various pop art and street art ideas and images and simply recreated them with his own hands. He didn't add any new ideas or explore anything from a different perspective. Campbell's cans - Warhol? Banksy? The studio mockup - Didn't I see the same setup at Shep's Merry Karknowsky show?
Despite the issues I had with his work, I would highly recommend that you check out the show if you have the opportunity to. It's definitely something that should be experienced.
I wish I could tell you that this was some sort of tongue in cheek gag, but it's not. MBW is the moniker of a rich French filmmaker, with a lot of industry contacts - Banksy, Shepard Fairey, J. Liner, and many more.
Here's a good writeup about this whole shindig by Juan Rodriguez:
Like John D. Rockefeller Claiming to be Diego Rivera
Most people familiar with art know the story of Rockefeller commissioning Rivera to do a mural for Rockefeller Center and then, unhappy with the anti-capitalist themes, having the mural painted over. Rockefeller paid Rivera, bought the work and labor and design from him, thus, he could do whatever he wanted with the product. Maybe, if Mr. Rockefeller were alive today, instead of having workmen destroy Rivera’s art with whitewash, he would grab a spray can, splat some paint onto the workers’ faces, and claim the “finished” work to be his own.
This week, hanging out every day at Mr. Brainwash’s mega McGallery, it took me a few days to notice a crew of workmen (yes, all male) hanging out, building, painting, hanging “art,” and filming. By my fourth day at the gallery, I had picked out who seemed permanent… and when I witnessed a young guy come outside to the courtyard and spray paint, I got a hunch that something was rotten in France. I hung back in the corner as this young guy with a faux hawk expertly tagged a table and then tagged the two guests books handed him. My days of hanging around and my ability to be unnoticeable (I am short bald guy that has the uncanny ability of disappearing into the background) paid off. I cornered several of the workers and found out who was who, who did what, and what was the real shuck and jive.
PUNK = FAKE
The “saddest” artist in the world
According to some of the actual people involved, “conceptualizing” is far too strong for what Mr. Brainwash does. It is more along the lines of: here is a pile of cast off material, do something with this – and thus his hired artist does. For further “illustration,” more along the lines of a patron asking a portrait painter to paint her portrait – no one would ever confuse the subject of the portrait with the painter of the portrait. No one would proclaim the brilliance of the subject for suggesting she be portrayed. In short, this is Mr. Brainwash’s schtick – he gives a loose direction (no design, no overarching theme, no attempt at coherence or style or comment) to an artist or craftsperson he has hired to create a work of art. How the artist interprets and renders this loose direction gets left entirely up to the artist. In some instances, Mr. Brainwash has splatted some spray paint on top of what his hired artists rendered. In others, not. And, if, like me, you viewed the show and grasped for what the thread among the works would be and could find none, you were right because the work was all done by different people largely left on their own to do the work. You know, like commissioned, rather than overseen. Yesterday, I even witnessed a fake studio be built upstairs ostensibly as a re-creation of his own. How sad is this? What prompted him to display, see, I have the toys to do this if I wanted to!
Now, in earlier eras, like in Mr. Rockefeller’s and Diego Rivera’s day, this was known as patronage and usually done to support up and coming artists. Certainly, sometimes patrons suggested to artists what and whom they might render. No one, though, confused the patron and the artist. But fast forward a century, and Mr. Brainwash is asserting himself as an artist, just because he had the kernel of an idea. Usually, in other fields such as screenwriting or movie-making, laying claim to an idea is laughed out of court. “But your honor, the hot chick and the gun in that movie were my ideas!”
Basically, Mr. Brainwash is a very wealthy guy who wants to buy his way into the art world as an artist, not as a patron. He does not need the money this art show is bringing in as evidenced by the lack of a price list and a printed catalog, the extreme disorganization of the selling such as amateurs handling the art and how no prices are listed next to the menagerie in his main gallery. The first two days, no price list existed, and still, as of Saturday, none had been printed. In short, this whole exercise is one Napoleonic sized vanity project.
So why do this? Why does a guy go to all this trouble to pose as an artist, or rather, assert he is an artist, when he is not? I am reminded of Breakfast at Tiffany’s line about Holly Golightly — Q: Is she real? A: She is a real phony. That is, I asked people involved in this for months if this is a Marcel Duchamp hoax and they insist, no, Mr. Brainwash really believes. As a man, I can only wonder what sadness lurks in this fellow’s heart at not living up to someone else’s expectations. Is this a “Daddy thinks I’m a hapless boob so I’ll show him” kind of trip? Is success more important in the end in this guy’s heart than achievement? Does he really believe he can co-opt other people’s talent and one day he’ll magically awaken with some of his own?
The most shocking thing I heard all week was from a man that said Mr. Brainwash said of all this art that he’d been doing it for ten years and just hoarding it. One simple test would prove whether this is true – invite in journalists to his studio to watch him work for a week and create another “masterpiece.” Come on, Mr. Brainwash, it’s worth it. Like any man worth his street cred, you’ll step up to defend your rep – you’ll take a punch and come back swinging. Give us your best shot. Let’s see you, by yourself, at work for a week.
Sadly, the truth is Mr. Brainwash really wants to be an artist; the fact is, he is not. In fact. these people created most of the work you saw (and imagine if this show were to support these real artists, like a true patron would, rather than to promote Mr. Brainwash):
The Campbell’s spray cans, the gargantuan paper bag (apparently already slotted for a museum display), the Rubik’s Cube, the piles of books, the TV robot, the hanging shoes (ostensibly, Mr. Brainwash is so unversed in actual street culture that when he decided to hang the shoes he did not know of their drug dealing reference), and lots of other cool built stuff: www.newcaliforniacraftsmen.com
The cool paint splotches on the wall and the superior layout for the art was done by Mr. Brainwash’s brother Patric
The super cool person made of film cans, the octopus hanging from the ceiling, and an assortment of other great sculptures. You can clearly see the line between the sculptures on display and this guy’s personal aesthetic and style. Take a cruise under sculpture: www.derekwalborn.com
An assortment of local Los Angeles tag teams and graffiti artists (you know who you are)
and, as far as I could find out, a lot of the Warhols, the prints, the record shard collages, etc. were done by the faux hawked kid I mentioned earlier in the article, one Roman Lefeburte about whom I could find nothing on the web. Apparently, he is Mr. Brainwash’s right hand (and also in this case, his left hand) dude, who does most of the art not done by the folks already listed above. He also reportedly is slated to get a cut of the profits on the work he did, or should we instead call it pay-off money?
I asked several of the American artists if doing their work and having it sold as Mr. Brainwash’s was what they thought they were getting into when they signed on. No – they had expected an art factory of sorts, where someone actually gave them designs…
And this list here is probably not comprehensive, but it is what I could find out by talking to folks and watching the goings and comings in the gallery.
Yet, you may ask, at least he discovered great artists and gave them a chance, right? And where might Mr. Brainwash have found most of these talented people?
Where does everyone else in this town find someone to pay to screw?
Yes, he recruited most of these folks through ads on Craigslist. Yep. For real.
Okay, okay, you say, so what? So what if the guy is a real phony? “His” “work” makes people happy. My take, after seeing this work again and again, not “his” “work” BUT the famous folks in “his” “work” or the ones he stole from make people happy. More than once I heard people say, “How much does the Bowie cost?” or “Look, there’s a baby Michael Jackson.” The happiness they were getting, I assert, was not from Mr. Brainwash’s “art,” but from seeing the faces and things most (well, most male ones anyway) Americans already know and love: Larry King, Marilyn Manson and Monroe, The Beatles, Britney, Madonna, Scarface, Jimi, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Mohammed Ali, Elvis, guns, stuffed animals, lesbian kisses, Billie Holliday, the Rubik’s Cube, Bowie, Jagger, Andy Warhol’s art, Keith Haring, police cars, books, Alfred Hitchcock, W. C. Fields, Run DMC, beer, etc. The whole experience has about the artistic merit and appeal of a trip to Madame Toussaud’s, except that the replicas here are cast with vinyl and paint instead of wax. Modus operandi: entertain with that which is already entertaining.
As for any more sophisticated commentary, the beer cans packed with “crude” oil (Petrol Light) were the only things vaguely political in the whole show. The rest was like watching a “Remember the 30s, uh, the 40s, uh, the 80s, uh, last year” episode on VH-1, many, “damn, do you remember that?” moments, and the associations into one’s own experience with the pop person or object, rather than with Mr. Brainwash’s “art.” And, no, from watching Mr. Brainwash at work, I do not think internal fantasy escape on the part of the viewer was his intent. Frankly, his intent was to become a famous artist by using other people’s fame, artwork, and new work to do it. And his ploy to become famous is working: MTV wants him to be in a video and from the information I gleaned on my last trip through, LACMA met with him about a show.
Not to say that over the course of this pageant I didn’t see a lot of people smiling. People commented positively to me that they felt welcome here – it didn’t feel stuffy or like what they expected from an art show – uptight people drinking wine. They felt that what they saw was accessible (again, the show is in Hollywood – around the corner from other tourist attractions designed to be crowd pleasers). For sure, many people attended this art show that normally would not go see art…. or make it Downtown to the Thursday Art Walk or over to Culver City to the galleries. Of course, I am happy to see people happy — but for the most part this really is the kind of happy one gets from finding a really great fake Gucci bag and passing it off as real, or, frankly, to folks who wouldn’t ever know the difference (or care). They like the name, the flash, and the bling regardless of how it gets dished up.
For the record, Mr. Brainwash has decided to extend this self-aggrandizing hoopla one more week, so if you didn’t catch his lack of cache last week, you can see the works of the artists mentioned above this week, June 26 – 29.
Hm... interesting theory. So you are saying that all these artists are making the art for this guy and selling it as a big joke "brainwash." basically saying people will pay all this money for something that isn't even real.
i was kinda wondering myself how this "photographer" suddenly figured out how to paint.
This show had to have been a big tongue in cheek gag.
First, who in the world is this "Borat' looking character, and what's up with the ridiculous quotes from Banksy and Shepard Fairey on his website?
Who financed this project? It had to have taken serious bucks to put this together.
I find it questionable that this guy's style isn't just all over the place, but - it also looks like the styles of the folks who're already famous for making works real similar to these.
I think there's more to the story than we know already.
I think that "Mr. Brainwash" may not be a moniker of one person, per say.
Is this parody? I think so. Parody of parody, even.
Is this not very good art? Yes.
Is the art world really this screwed? I'm afraid so!
A thread came up on the Banksy board that got me thinking about the questions you posed. Some of the more interesting comments/theories posted below.
Yeah, everyone is right, but quite honestly the last laugh is his...
The dude walked with over 500K profit from that show. Not even too many legit "artist's" can and have done that on a first solo show. Sure the work was derivative at best and was a slap in the face, but it's hollywood; didn't you expect someone to do this by now?
Just think, it was an awesome final scene for his "movie"... The perfect ending to a story about a camera-man who tags along for years with the best; dreaming to becoming an artist... ...and it's all "true". HAHAHA.
We'll see what everyone thinks when the movie comes out, and Banksy and Shepard are right alongside him for the entire world to see... (for better or worse; whether they want to to be associated anymore or not.) It will surely be hard to stop him at that point.
Believe me, the damage is yet to be done to our little corner of the art world. The guy is out of control.
Only person I heard say that this guy is a Legit Artist is Shep Fairey & Banksy on the flyer for the gig.
I truthfully believe it's a gimmick and it's obey trying to punk the art world, like when one enters a questionable piece of art into an exhibition under another name.
They want to see what will happen and if it goes well will take the credit. If it goes badly they'll twiddle their fingers and walk off.
Considering the profit I believe they feel quite proud of themselves.
And I agree that adding a Pretty Lady/ or pop icon + a gun or traditional drips/splatters is a weak attempt to add drama/power/ & emotional content to a piece.
Proves the artists couldn't create meaning in the painting without adding obvious provoking imagery.
Faile? Micalef? (try to move me without a gun or knife or money or hot ladies) all obvious.
I left this show very confused and pissed off.
His name alone: Mr. Brainwash? I'm trying to do some math here.
This was an elaborate and very expensive exhibition to put on. I highly doubt MBW had the funds to pull this off by himself.
There must be somebody with some deep pockets behind it.
Could it possibly be Banksy? Who just happens to be directing a documentary on street art.
Sad thing is all the folks who see this stuff and think this is what "street art" is all about, especially with all the publicity his show got. His contacts worked miracles for him. I have NEVER seen a show line that was that long, not for anyone. Sad.
It seems like he's releasing new prints everyday now. This is definitely the last one I'm posting, and only because it made me laugh.