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Looking Within and Being on the Brink with WK Interact

Juxtapoz // Friday, 20 Nov 2009

How to Blow Yourself Up By WK Interact
Subliminal Projects Gallery
Exhibition runs November 7 - December 5, 2009
By Trina Calderon

“We exist in a time at the culmination of doomful prophecies from various seers and civilizations. Whether or not these predictions will materialize is not relevant to the suggestion in the title, this concept is more of an empowering alternative to such a situation.
We are all wired with our own internal detonators, with switches, which activate on achieving a boiling point. The artificial devices, provided in the pieces, encourage the individuals who reach that point to reflect on their state of affairs, which might bring them to the point of pressing buttons.
The primary colors used (e.g. authoritative police blue and dynamite red) are relevant warning signals of alarm, like the beacon from a light house before you run aground on the rocks - to jolt reflections or a second thought of consideration before proceeding.  Not only a personal reflection but on civilization as a whole.
Are you ready for the end or to end it all…?” – WK



Just when you thought it was safe to go see an art show.

WK (Juxtapoz #96) hails from France, but has been living in New York for quite some time.  He is primarily a street artist, but over the years (after being stalked by the likes of Nike) he’s done his share of advertising artwork, gallery installations, painting, and mixed media.  On the streets of NYC, his art functions as a part of its surroundings.  As this suggests, there is a strong connection between the environment and WK’s creative process. “The city as a whole is my constant influence, the frustration, the tension, the energy of purpose, comradery of loss and the almost uninhibited freedom to portray your opinions and challenge to install them.”

How to Blow Yourself Up is a dark, urban show.  It is about looking within and being on the brink.  Working with found objects, paint, and wood for the most part (including skateboards), WK created several large pieces that combine a sense of danger, disorder, violence, and shock.


What I love is that if there is a button on the piece, it works.  If there is a switch, it is wired to turn something on.  There is a door in the show that was taken from his old studio.  It is complete in its frame, and has a knob.  Go ahead; turn it, because the door will open.  He makes his gallery work functional, so there is a sense of reality that makes it even more disturbing.

“I like giving found objects a new life, like an object that you find in the street near a pile of garbage or a piece of metal that’s been kicked around and walked over for months.  These pieces contribute to the three dimensional motion in my work.  On the streets, the buildings are the objects, and the scale is reversed.  I try to vary the texture and the geometry in the artwork to reflect a similar environment to the street…and the locks and chains are at the threshold of that interior-exterior point.”

WK and Shepard Fairey collab print


Taking a street attitude and perspective and bringing it indoors is a challenge.  A mural is a mural, but we all know that when a mural is done on the street it becomes part of the landscape and it changes with the culture and movement of the location.  

WK shared the personal obstacles he has in setting up a gallery show.  “Well, it’s a slower process (on my part) indoors, you are not on the run, there is more time for me to have a hand in the evolution of the piece - the pollution, the elements and the people take care of that outdoors.  It’s ironic I get to stop the process of the gallery pieces - that’s it and that’s how its going to stay.  But, when I put a piece on the street, it’s out of my hands and that’s where I think it gets interesting – that’s where the evolution begins.”


Ex Cop, a mixed media assemblage with supplemental panels, features a mug shot, really worn leather belt and holster, gloves, and other cop affects that all feel like they have seen battle.  The large trench coat is wired with explosives - it’s the cop kit ready for the end.  The authenticity of the piece is morbid and great (of all people to lose it on the street, I think cops would go first).


In Please Yourself (something I have been told is one many briefcase-mixed media assemblages WK has put together) he tells a story laced with innuendo.  He explained, “I had envisioned a retiring insurance salesman in his late fifties as the owner of the case.  Probably the top seller of life insurance policies in his small town office, somewhere in the Bible Belt, who routinely attends church on Sundays with his family, leading a simple life.  The gents magazine being his only exposure to the exotic and away from the mundane, but he is to afraid to leave it behind (to be found out) so he carries it around constantly in his very private briefcase…the Bible was packed specifically for the occasion.”



The Blow Yourself Up series of modified skate decks are pretty cool too.  They boards can all ride on the street, because the modifications are all done at the same level of the trucks, so the wheels have enough room to function.  There are pipe bombs attached and switches hardwired for the skater who needs to take himself out.  

One board had a CB radio attached, for that last line of communication.  Hazardous imagery of fire and skulls are stenciled on, in addition to identification symbols like fingerprints, numbers, and barcodes.  Another piece that can really move is the Rocket Bike. That’s right, a bike with a motor engine that comes equipped with a rocket blaster.


WK’s work both in the gallery and on the street feeds off an influence from movement.  A ton of his street art (and these type of images can be seen on several of the large panels in this show) have a stretched movement to them, a fluid pull that gives the image life.  The same kind of life an early Eadweard Muybridge set of photos was trying to give as the motion picture was finding its way.  There are many layers to his artwork and the human emotions it connects with.


“In some it will evoke fears or phobias and in others, recognition, and the two may be side by side.   The mind may not be criminal but there may be criminal elements there.  Some have the honesty to identify that relationship with these concepts; others might find it disturbing to detect that within themselves.  The potential for the criminal exists in us all.” - WK

At the opening, WK personally fingerprinted everyone who entered.  He took their Polaroid and they filled out a complete criminal record.  There is a giant wall of them in the show, installed for the public to see.


WK Interact’s How to Blow Yourself Up will run at Los Angeles’ Subliminal Projects Gallery thru December 5th, 2009.

More on WK Interact at




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