“Twenty-One” at Subliminal Projects
By Evan Senn
Through July 15th
In Los Angeles, the art world is more than not a competitive industry of buying and selling goods. The competition in this city for creative expression and artwork with market value often times removes a large part of why most people are drawn to art in the first place. Shepard Fairey has spent his entire adult life pushing to make art accessible to the masses, and Los Angeles has served as his support to do so for decades. One of his more structured endeavors of this philosophy is Subliminal Projects, his art gallery in Echo Park. “Twenty-One” is the anniversary exhibition at Subliminal Projects and features the biggest names in street art, design, painting, photography, illustration and graphics. With 50 amazing artists represented in this modest gallery space, viewers not only get to see what kind of work Subliminal supports and has supported over the years, but they also get to see outstanding talent without restrictions—varied materials, concepts and styles are on view, and the impeccable curation in the space makes viewers truly grasp the versatile lifestyle that is associated with this brand, this gallery and this entire generation.
Fairey paired up with Blaze Blouin and Alfred Hawkins and started Subliminal as a skateboard and apparel company that focused on collaborations with artists on product-based works, back in 1996. In the early 2000s, Subliminal had expanded and was able to help artists in New York and San Francisco with print collaborations and small exhibitions that focused on the intersection of skateboard culture and fine art. Many of the artists that started doing projects with Subliminal went on to do big things with their careers, and Subliminal stayed strong and continued to find the best art to collab with, to feature, to share and to support.
“The driving principle of Subliminal Projects is that art should be accessible to everyone,” Shepard Fairey said, “and that art, whether it’s done on an album cover, a skateboard, canvas, or found cardboard.”
The long life of Subliminal is not common, but the art is spirited, beautiful, unique, provocative; there are no rules to conform to with this art. The exhibition “Twenty-One” has powerful variety of artworks, installations, colors, styles, messages, vibes; and yet, the aesthetics are of the highest caliber, beckoning each viewer to find their perfect piece—the piece that speaks to them the most, that feels inspiring and comforting all at once, the piece that feels as though it already belongs to them—in the large-scale salon style group show.
The inherent philosophy for Subliminal can be felt in every work on view in the Echo Park space. Promoting diverse forms of art while providing a platform for discourse and debate about contemporary issues—including art—is not something that every art gallery is comfortable doing; and, in a competitive scene like L.A., the wholehearted support of art and artists of this style and caliber is vital to the growth and success of this area and of the ever-evolving canon of contemporary art. The essence of Subliminal is not selfish or money-hungry like most art businesses in L.A. It will not cut and run when shit gets tough like most galleries. It will stay and continue pushing the boundaries of art, communication and design. Twenty-one years and counting.