“Juxtapoz x Superflat takes high culture and low culture and puts them on one plane,” explains Evan Pricco, co-curator of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s new exhibition. Running November 5, 2016 to February 5, 2017 after debuting in Seattle this past August, Juxtapoz x Superflat is a reflection of contemporary culture: “There are no distinctions anymore,” says Pricco.“[We see] art as art, not as high or low.”
For 20 years, Pricco has used his position as editor-in-chief at San Francisco–based magazine, Juxtapoz Art & Culture to celebrate the work of so-called “sub-cultural” artists. Along with Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, Pricco co-curated Juxtapoz x Superflat to emphasize boundary-pushing ceramics, paintings, sketches, and digital art pieces which represent how, he says, “people view and take in art in 2016.” The works from Juxtapoz x Superflat’s 36 artists reflect Juxtapoz’s influence on the development of contemporary art, as well as the fundaments of Murakami’s “superflat” art theory, a process in which popular culture breaks (or flattens) barriers between low and high art.
“The initial idea of this show came about in a conversation that myself, the artist James Jean, and Takashi Murakami were having in Tokyo about how the critical art world wasn’t looking at the movement that had been happening in the Juxtapoz universe over the last 20 years,” says Pricco. Namely, during that time, Picco observed artists emerging from unlikely places and creating work divergent from tradition.
“There are no distinctions anymore; you just see art as art, not as high or low.”
Take, for instance, street graffiti artist, Swoon (born Caledonia Dance Curry). In an era when graffiti culture was heavily male-dominated (often, it still is, Pricco adds) Swoon’s work stood out, garnering attention for its gentle imagery as distinct from the frequently chaotic spray paint murals popularized by urban male artists. Juxtapoz x Superflat features Swoon’s mural, Edline, which depicts vivid geometric patterns surrounding a solemn young girl, exemplifying Swoon’s different, and poignant, approach to street art.
The exhibit also showcases artists whose work has not gathered mainstream traction, such as James Jean, the sketcher and painter with whom Pricco and Murakami conceptualized the exhibit. Although Jean boasts a half million followers on Instagram, and briskly sells prints through his personal website, he has never been formally recognized by professional art communities. With the inclusion of his whimsical and at times eerily elegant work, which incorporates imagery from manga and western pop culture, Jean’s style is now accessible to a new audience of gallery-goers. “This entire exhibit … isn’t a retrospective. It’s an appreciation for the contemporary energy happening in the art world,” says Pricco.
Indeed, the captivatingly eccentric installations of Juxtapoz x Superflat make for an invigorating show—an exploration of contemporary art, free from the reductive designations of “high” and “low.”
Juxtapoz x Superflat, the Vancouver Art Gallery, 750 Hornby Street, from November 5, 2016 to February 5, 2017.