Shepard Fairey, one of the most influential street artists of his generation, is turning the spotlight over to a group of up-and-coming talents. For Thursday’s Showcase X event at Seventh Letter Gallery, he has given his curatorial imprimatur to eight emerging artists from Los Angeles.
“The most important thing is to make work that stands out in a unique way,” Fairey says of the artists he selected for the show. “There’s not one single approach that guarantees success, but I think that every success is driven by art that has both visceral and intellectual appeal, possibly enhanced by the unique scene in which it dwells or is presented.”
Since Showcase X is a production of adidas Skateboarding, the scene that ties the night together is skateboard culture.
“I worked with adidas Skateboarding to hand-select relevant artists from the L.A. skate scene, focusing on diversity in medium, age, and gender, to create a show that speaks to a broad audience,” Fairey says. “Though skateboarding has a lot of different flavors, there is an underlying essence of style and attitude that all of these artists exemplify.”
Representing that essence will be artists including pro-skater-turned-painter Sebo Walker; muralist Evan Mendel; artist, dancer, Slut Island drummer, and Witchsy marketplace co-founder Penelope Gazin; and scene-documenting photographer Zorah Olivia. The youngest participant is Stella Reynolds who, at age 12, is already deep into the competitive skateboarding world.
“We’re particularly excited to have Stella Reynolds and Zorah Olivia in Showcase X,” says Cullen Poythress, the senior communications manager for adidas Action Sports who helped create the Showcase series, which has held events with local artists and curators in New York, Tokyo, and São Paulo, before finally arriving in the birthplace of skateboarding itself, Los Angeles. “Stella is the daughter of famous pro skateboarder Andrew Reynolds, but she has organically made a name for herself, not only as a sponsored skateboarder, but as a talented artist, painting with watercolor and ink. Zorah often shoots with Stella, and other pros here in the city. She’ll have some stunning work on display.”
Several of the artists Fairey tapped for the show have never seen their work hung in a gallery before, but have amassed large followings on social media. That speaks to a trend he’s noticed in the art world in recent years.
“From the group of people who are capable of making unique work, the ones who succeed usually have innovative ways of sharing their work with an audience,” he says. “I chose the street as a way to put my work in front of a lot of people, but now there are a lot of digital and social tools people can use.”
But even though the tools to share your work with an audience may have changed since Fairey wheatpasted his first poster, some things are still the same.
“Art is a crowded field so something memorable and unique in the picture itself is essential but it actually takes more than that,” he says. “We are all assaulted with so much imagery and media on a daily basis.”
Showcase X, Thu., April 12, 7-11 p.m. at Seventh Letter Gallery, 346 N. Fairfax Ave., Fairfax; the event is free and open to the public, no advance registration required. The event is part of a ten-day series of adidas Skateboarding events in L.A., Das Days.