Skullphone @ Subliminal Projects

The line to get into Subliminal Projects latest exhibition for one of the hottest street artists working today, Skullphone was pretty intense.

The Los Angeles based street artist, Skullphone became a sensation in 2008, when he supposedly ‘hacked’ into Los Angeles’s first digital billboards, saturating the cityscape with his sardonic image of a human skull talking on a cellphone. The pranksters use of in-your-face advertising billboards, I imagine, was an attempt to make local Angeleno’s contemplate issues of current and future  connectivity through cellphones, personal privacy in the public domain, targeted advertising and consumer society-at-large.

The art displayed at Subliminal Projects was sleek and polished, marking a radical departure from his gritty street art of wheat-pasted photocopies and stencils I see plastered around Los Angeles. Here, Skullphone’s painting style deploys a deliberate dot grid system (similar to analogue computer images) and his colors are limited to a palette of RGB: red, green and blue.

The painting process is reminiscent of the Ben-Day Dot printing style that grew out of the late 19th Century French painting style, Pointillism. Ben-Day dots became a hallmark of Pop Art, when Roy Lichtenstein started to use them his art making practice, enlarging and exaggerating them in many of his artworks. Using the Ben-Day process, Skullphone applies small colored dots either closely-spaced, widely spaced or overlapping to create the optical illusion needed to suggest the image of the skull holding the mobile phone.

A majority of the artwork exhibited is a reproduction of the iconic Skullphone. It is a method similar  to Andy Warhol’s repetition of  imagery in his art that he borrowed from popular culture, such as, Campbell’s Tomato Soup, Coca-Cola or Marilyn Monroe. It’s serial art, a media-reflexive gesture appearing in the endless reproduction of a single image. Perpetual reproduction and self-referentiality of the Skullphone gives it, its power and larger importance. Serial art such as  the skullphone, attempt to destroy any notion of the ‘original’ through endless repetition of the same image, over again. As with most serial art, the overarching subjects are repetition, levels of simulacra, and the image’s potential for infinite representation into oblivion, it is Iconophilia.

all photographs © Juan Madrigal

P.S. Both times that I have attended an art opening at Subliminal Projects, I was astounded to see so many people buying artwork.  In fact, I am surprised that I didn’t see people having bidding wars over artworks they wanted to add to their personal collection. At most art openings, art sales are very discreet, or none at all, leading one to believe that no one purchases art, ever! Perhaps this is the proof I need to believe that street art is currently one of the hottest art genres to collect.

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