REVOK's "Systems" in Los Angeles

Oct 22, 2016 - Nov 12, 2016Castelli Arts Complex, Los Angeles

In a simultaneous divergence from and nod to his prolific, decades-long career in the ephemeral medium of public-space graffiti writing, Jason REVOK debuts his first-ever works on canvas—many of which he has created by repurposing tools and materials traditionally used by authorities to eradicate graffiti, like paint rollers and industrial grade airless paint sprayers. Six additional compositions are painted on blank aluminum street signs sourced directly from the same industrial supplier as those REVOK spent much of his foundational career illicitly defacing.

Systems, which marks the second show of Library Street Collective’s L.A. pop-up space, comprises four compositionally distinct components:

Loop paintings aesthetically evoke REVOK’s core influence of Frank Stella’s geometric abstraction works. Each is made using a custom roller tool that REVOK uses to manually apply paint in a precise repetitive motion. Conceptually, the loop paintings draw influence from musician William Basinski, a contemporary avant-garde composer whose ‘Disintegration Loops’ came about when he was attempting to convert 20-yearold tape loops into digital format and the preservation process caused the magnetic film to flake, progressively altering the fundamental character of the resulting sound with every loop. Likewise, REVOK manually drags a homemade roller tool (unique to each painting) across the canvas with a repetitive predetermined mechanical motion that alters the wet paint with every gesture. Unlike Stella’s Black Paintings, REVOK’s lines reveal glitches of wavering precision, reminding us that there is a human being behind the work.

• For instrument exercises, REVOK enlisted a mechanical engineer to create a custom apparatus that would allow him to concurrently deploy eight bottles of spray paint in a musical staff-like orientation. With the device, he creates on a canvas or aluminum sign a single improvisational stroke. The sensory process itself offers a satisfaction that he likens to the feeling one gets when taking spray paint to a wall for the first time ever.

Anti-paintings, subtitled In Memory Of, aptly employ a reductive process for which REVOK writes the names of his recently deceased friends and loved ones, then strips away the paint with the same method as city workers do when attempting to rub off rather than paint over graffiti. The end result is neither legible writing nor a cleanly erased slate; the two forces of creation and erasure are chemically at odds with one another by nature of the medium, and the aesthetic result yields an entirely different presence than either action intended.

Self portraits, an interpretive time lapse of REVOK’s studio practice, are literally industrial drop cloths that have been laid on his studio floor for a duration ranging from five months to two years, mounted on monochrome canvas and titled after the duration over which the drop cloth was on the floor accumulating the byproduct of his natural creative flow. The artist explains that because he has no conscious authorship nor ownership over each one’s artistic direction, his ‘self portrait’ series maintains a unique authenticity antithetical to the subjectivity of the traditional self portrait.

The exhibition’s title, Systems, references the intended ambiguity of the blended mechanical and manual elements of the artist’s production process for the Loop paintings in particular, as well as to his actual method – a persistent and meditative process that is done by hand but with mechanical precision made possible by the use of a specific rote gesture to operate each of his handmade painting tools.

Additionally on view will be a tall X-shaped work, Ascension/Dissention, made of synthetic polymer on carved birch and medium density fiberboard. With a stark aesthetic parallel to Frank Stella’s subtler Black Series works, the piece marks a stylistic divergence from the more complex geometries found in REVOK’s wood assemblages of the past seven years.

An artist reception will be held on Saturday, October 22 from 7 – 9 pm at Library Street Collective’s Los Angeles pop-up (Castelli Arts Complex, 5428 W. Washington Blvd. in Mid-City)