AO On Site – New York: Skullphone and Curtis Kulig at Mallick Williams & Co. Through November 8, 2011
Original Post 10/29/2011
photo: Tanley Wong
Over and over again, the two words, “Love Me,” are repeatedly scrawled on the canvasses of Curtis Kulig, the street artist best known for emblazoning this simple cursive ‘throw-up’ all over New York City. Viewed next to the faux-LED crosses and blatant consumerist imagery of his long-time friend and supporter Skullphone, they begin to take on a hint of desperation, a plaintive plea in a world inundated with brand-names and electronic simulacra. While the two artists have supported each other for over 7 years, Scripture, now showing at the Mallick Williams and Co. Gallery in Chelsea, is the first documented collaboration between the two artists. Regardless of the precedent, however, the installation sees Kulig and Skullphone pursuing techniques that the artists have explored in past work.
In the first room of the show, Skullphone pointillistically mimics the red, blue and green lighting arrays of LED screens is shown through a number of black aluminum crucifixes and circular discs, using the colors to create a mix of biblical and consumerist imagery (Prada, Mobil Oil, Smiley Faces, the Crucifiction, etc.) that devolve into a grid of dots as the viewer gets closer. Running in parallel, the images also interact with each other, with some pieces ominously reflecting the stark outline of crosses behind the viewer while foregrounding the skeletons and brand-names portrayed. A large end-piece reflects the viewers in the gallery, effectively reflecting the gallery on a large screen.
Similarly, Kulig continues his on-going use of the ‘Love Me’ tag, using his loopy handwriting and stylized, heart-shaped ‘M’s to create enormous, textured patterns on his canvases. This approach is repeated in a number of color combinations, with Kulig taking his commentary on mass-producible art to the next level, keeping the enormous canvases shrink-wrapped and piled in one corner of the room. The casual visitor is left to wonder if the works had arrived late, or if they perhaps were not supposed to be in the second room to begin with.
Taken as a whole, the dark, pleading nature of Kulig’s pieces, almost hidden away in the backroom, creates a dialogue between the clean, efficient advertising imagery Skullphone presents up front, exploring the nature of symbolism and identity in American consumerist culture.