The British street artist D*Face, aka Dean Stockton, is organizing a survey of his own work in Los Angeles this September. The event proves to be a clinic for aspiring artists that aim to recreate the art establishment in their own image. Entitled "Scars and Stripes," the pop-up show will survey the artist's quick assent from an unknown designer to an internationally recognized artist.
The promotional process for street artists with a solo show typically includes murals and street works to promote the event. Working in conjunction with local supporters, D*Face will complete two such murals and viewers can anticipate a few surprises. In addition, prints will be available, accurately hitting all the necessary price points for D*Face fans. The calculated approach is similar to his work, which leaves me as a critic somewhat uneasy despite being attracted to the slick imagery.
D*Face's designs are much cleaner than most street art these days and it's refreshing to see consistently strong compositions, dynamic color combinations and some fun nods to art history. Yet the polished exterior also appears too mimic the delivery system. A long way from DIY, it feels more institutional and less like the grassroots movement that street art offers to usurp the traditional art establishment. Yet that seems to be the point, part of his rise includes developing his own system of production, marketing, and delivery.
Born in London, a young D*Face grew up with a penchant for art making, skateboarding, and cartoons. Artists like Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Keith Haring were all influential on the impressionable artist. This is appropriate since the aesthetic and subjects are comparable to the comics and cartoons that fueled his daily life.
D*Face's interest in American culture led to magazines and movies that fed his visual appetite for bold lines and taboo imagery. A passion that continues to augment his image selection and direction in his work, perhaps so much that one might think he's based in the states given the abundance of references to American culture.
D*Face's career initially started as a designer and illustrator. While working as a freelancer, he quickly honed his abilities and applied them to street art projects. His affinity for relatable imagery and static yet controlled line work refers back to this education. He describes his work as "aPopcalyptic" because it's intended to be a satirical look at consumerism, celebrity, and pop culture. A concept he achieves with flying colors while strengthening his own brand appeal.
Opening his own gallery called the Outside Institute in 2005, it was one of London's first urban art galleries and D*face calls it a halfway house for street art. Eventually reopened as Stolen Space Gallery, it has become a premier location for artists in the street art world. Shrewdly controlling and manipulating the delivery and contextualization of his own work, the creation of his own gallery only furthered this strategy.
D*Face's most iconic symbol is a stylized dogface aka D*Dog that is circular in shape, has slits for eyes and wing-like ears. It can be understood as a type of signature and aspects of the design continue to materialize in more complicated works.
Despite the familiarity of D*Dog, it's really D*face's strong lines and character-based works that are most impressive. His compositions burn an outline in your mind so that it's easy to recall and describe. Recent adaptations of Roy Lichtenstein paintings are some of the most successful. In many ways the prototypical Pop artist, Lichtenstein blurred the boundaries of low and high art by bringing this subject matter into the white cube. D*Face overturns this history by taking the recognizable paintings outside where they thrive on a large scale. Inside, they are less impactful and in the best scenario, symbolize his efforts on the streets.
However, it's D*Face's ingenuity that really shines through installations and multi-media based works. In 2011, D*Face devised a method of attaching spray paint cans to the bottom of skateboards that allowed the riders to become moving brushes as they applied pressure to the board. As the five skaters carved through an empty pool in Southern California, they created a multi-colored abstract painting that documented their movements. It's a beautiful performance and product that showcased the artist's knack for understanding site-specific installations and manipulating materials.
The upcoming exhibit will also feature a new body of work of celebrity portraits that died before the age of 30. The artist is using every tool in his repertoire to ensure the upcoming exhibition is a success. The sentimentality held for celebrities and recognizable figures from pop culture is part of D*Face's critique yet it's also the same mentality that drives interest in the work. Using systems already in place within our psyche, D*Face is truly recreating his own art world with himself at the center.
*D*Face's "Scars and Stripes" opens September 26, 2014 in West Hollywood, California.