Thank you to all those who came to the opening reception of Brian Viveros’s “Tougher Than Leather” and Ken Flewellyn’s “SHINE” last weekend. The gallery was packed to the brim with art lovers, and Viveros had a never-ending line of fans waiting to share their love of his work with him. He was signing books, posters, and taking pictures – overjoyed by the response to the work. Flewellyn’s second solo with the gallery, “SHINE” was a great pairing to Viversos’s “Tougher Than Leather” with a collaborative piece by the artists acting as the cherry on an already great show.
On view concurrently in the Thinkspace project
room is Shine, featuring new works
by Los Angeles based artist, and Thinkspace family veteran, Ken Flewellyn. A
realist painter fascinated by the intersection of diverse cultures, personal
histories, and Hip Hop, Flewellyn creates portraits of women that challenge our
assumptions about identity and cultural homogeneity.
Inspired by his lifelong love of Hip Hop and
his coming of age as a boy during its golden age in the 80s, Flewellyn’s work
has always been about music and its impact on his personal vantage point and
outlook on the world. As a cultural form, Hip Hop emerged from a localized
cultural moment only to evolve into a variegated and international form that
would systemically embrace the freedom of appropriation, and the complexity of
multiple voices. This idea of cultural heterogeneity has influenced recurring
themes in his imagery and has shaped his belief in the positive power of
Borrowing motifs and inspiration from Japanese
culture and aesthetics, a visual influence in his home since childhood,
Flewellyn often depicts women in traditional Japanese garb, silks, and kimonos.
The subjects, however, remain anonymous, visible only by hands, body, and
gestures, seldom, if ever, are faces or individuals revealed in their entirety.
The subject’s identity, as a result, is relayed by the presence of revelatory
objects, tattoos, and accessories – external clues that point to something
beyond the seen and allow for the aesthetic to prevail over individuation or
the distraction of specificity. That being said, however, Flewellyn depicts
real women based on actual people – friends, and strangers – anchoring his
imagery in reality rather than unrealistic idealizations.
The juxtaposition of formal cultural garb and pop-cultural accouterments keeps the work fascinating. These tightly cropped compositions are always informed by the presence of Hip Hop imagery, whether in the form of boom boxes, tapes, gold chains or typography. Playful and energized with tactility and detail, they’re both sensual and contemporary – solemn and light. Each painting featured in Shine is adorned with the sumptuousness of gold and includes hidden Hip Hop references to its golden age throughout, all as an ode to the genre that has never lost its shine.