Sunburn, portable toilets and Eminem.
Lollapalooza has it all.
Specifically, a big, thoughtfully curated art show. And so, this summer, Lollapalooza is getting a group exhibition so enormous that, if street artist/curator Shepard Fairey has his way, its largest murals will stay in Chicago long after the buzzsaw thump of Skrillex dislodges your brain stem. In fact, the show — announced Wednesday and titled “Art Alliance: The Provocateurs” — is so large and serious it will not be in Grant Park.
Instead, it will be held in Block Thirty Seven. “Art Alliance” — part of a marketing partnership between C3 Presents, the Texas-based promoter of Lollapalooza, and Fairey, whose iconic “Hope” portraits of Barack Obama remain as memorable as his Andre the Giant-stamped “Obey” images — will dominate a sizable portion of the 25,000-square-foot building on North State Street. It will run from July 31 to Aug. 4, concurrent with the music festival (but a separate ticketed event).
And judging from the artists Fairey has invited, it promises to be a rangy survey of street, poster and illustrative work — “the only common strand being these artists come out of D.I.Y. movements,” Fairey said. But each, he added, is also provocative, “through the content of their art or the means of its dissemination.”
Details are being finalized, but among those confirmed for “Art Alliance” are a monster sampling of rough-hewn sensibilities that have come to define 21st century aesthetics: pioneering New York graffiti artists Futura and Eric Haze (who also designed album covers for Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys); Mark Mothersbaugh (whose visual arts career extends before his time as the singer of Devo); Gary Panter (the revered painter and underground cartoonist who created the explosive whimsy of “Pee-wee’s Playhouse”); Invader (the French street artist who tags walls with the images of early eight-bit video game graphics); Ryan McGinness, FAILE and RETNA (whose congested, playful canvases are traffic jams of pop hieroglyphics); Stanley Donwood (best known as Radiohead’s go-to album designer and artist); Winston Smith (whose black-and-white collages are synonymous with hard-core punk); and Camille Rose Garcia (whose unsettling, Disney-inspired images of dark fantasy often resemble the missing link between Tim Burton and Hot Topic).
The show’s producers are expecting 5,000 attendees daily.
“We have never done anything like this with the art world,” said Charlie Walker, one of the founders of C3, “but a lot of the creatives we bring in and a lot of the audience who comes in, they’re thirsty for more cultural stuff. They want other things to do while they’re in town, and we’d like to diversify — it’s just a natural fit.”
Asked to explain further why a loud, typically unsubtle blockbuster commercial music festival was a fit with the visual-art world, Fairey said: “Because a great thing about music is how democratic it can be, and my approach to art was always modeled on that basic accessibility, around more do-it-yourself kinds of music like punk and hip-hop. Art is increasingly about straddling worlds. That makes it a natural fit for music, which is doing a lot of those same things. Barriers between so-called high and low art are not so much there now. The time seems right for music audiences — full of creative-minded people — to be in tune with what is happening not only in the fine-art world but with posters, street art, works that are extensions of fashion.”
Lorrie Boula, Fairey’s manager (and a producer of “Art Alliance”), put a finer point on that: “There’s a real need — and I hate to put an age on this — for people under 45 to see art outside of a rigid and constructed setting. A lot of audiences are turned off. They see it as an institutionalized experience — as too exclusive.”
Indeed, among the artists included in the show is Dzine, a.k.a. Humble Park-based artist Carlos Rolon, internationally celebrated for often blingy, baroque installations. He said that for the past several years he’s felt “confined in a white cube (gallery). There’s something refreshing to an art show where you’re not much worried about a curatorial prerogative or serving collectors or administrators.” In the same breath, he said: “But personally, I tend to avoid these kinds of exhibitions. As an artist, you never like being pigeonholed in a DIY box. You get imprinted with that cool-kid hipster label. But I do like that Shepard has remained really conscious of youth culture and retained his connections to it. And I like him, too — he’s an old dear friend.”
Fairey, among the most connected of street artists, began his career in Providence, R.I., studying at the Rhode Island School of Design and quickly becoming a ubiquitous East Coast presence, tagging lampposts, street signs and billboards with cryptic stickers that read: “Andre The Giant Has a Posse.” But even much later, after his “Hope” poster for the 2008 presidential election brought him a higher profile, Fairey continued plastering unauthorized works on public walls; as recently as 2009, while in Boston, on his way to his first solo exhibition, the artist was arrested for tagging private property (he received two years probation).
“You know, the crazy thing is I spent 20 years looking over my shoulder for cops,” he said in a phone interview from his Los Angeles studio, “and now I get private homeowners offering their walls for me to tag.”
Fairey said that he’s already in negotiations with a handful of Chicago homeowners (as well as the city itself) about installing new works from him and other artists in his show around Chicago this summer.
As for the show inside Block Thirty Seven, expect freshly-created works alongside older art, traditional wall paintings and wall-length graphic installations. Also, according to Boula — who said she and Fairey hope to make future variations of “Art Alliance” an annual Lollapalooza-associated event — many of the works will be for sale, from low-cost prints to five-figure pieces. “There’s a price point for everyone,” she said.
Even a drunk 15-year-old from Buffalo Grove?
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter @borrelli