We passed a Pez on the way to the show, pretty hard not to pass a Pez on the streets of London, there’s been a lot of smiling out there, they’ve been documented often enough of these fractured pages over the years. “StolenSpace is excited to present the new summer group exhibition” so trumpets the East London gallery that you still find at the very top of Brick Lane and just around the corner from the stale smells of the tired old Whitechapel Gallery. “22 Years Smiling with Friends” – the show is billed as a group show and features the work of street art stars such as D*face, Buff Monster, Okuda , FlyingFortress, Cranio, Jauneart , Martin Whatson, PichiAvo, Chanoir, Chicadania, Annahita Hessami, Fark, Fanakapan, Mr Cenz, Mau Mau, Mighty Mo, Otto Schade, Ponk, Eject, Ronzo, Cheeba, Jaykaes, Discreet, Malarky, BRK18 – familiar names, instantly recognisable but really this is a Pez solo show – Pez and friends, smiling together but this is very much a solo show. And it is about smiling – “Pez is now celebrating his 22 years of painting on the streets, sharing it with his street artist friends. This show will feature collaborations on canvas, prints and sculptures”. A new Pez piece encountered on the street does demand a smile, that distinctive smile-style does demand you do indeed grin back, yeah, okay, so you could point at the one trick pony street artist thing once again, – get yourself one strong graphic idea, repeated it again and again (and again) on every street corner, have a show in a slick urban art gallery, bring out the coffee table book, but that would be a very cynical way of smiling, and anyway, isn’t the art of repetition a rather fine one? High end brightly coloured pop art? Repeat after me, what’s wrong with that?
“In 1999 I started to paint on the Barcelona streets, during all my career I was travelling and making friends with the same passion around the world. During this period I discovered that the most positive experiences of street art is to share and enjoy with friends, sometimes leaving the ego behind to create a unique piece, only possible when two artists fuse their styles.” – El Pez, 2019.
An art gallery show then, a slick one, a collection of collaborations, familiar motives, a mash up of familiar street art trademarks, characters, and surely everyone loves pop art? It feels good in here, slick can be occasionally be a good thing, StolenSpace never dress it up as anything more than the reality of it all, if nothing else they’re a very honest gallery and this ain’t no cynical smile on my part. I like Pez, I’ll admit I secretly like what they do in this space and as there often is, there’s everything to like in here and really very very little to be cynical about. A piece of Pez is a cool thing, you don’t need us to tell you that, this is a happy show, an uplifting show, a positive show, some great collaborations in the back room, not going to pick out a favourite, make your own mind up, I like them all, there’s some I personally like more than others but you don’t need to know. This is pop art brightness, street art slickness, lots of smiling with friends, some of it maybe just a tiny bit too slick for my personal tastes, some of it maybe just a little too cartoony and maybe taking the safe option when it might have dared to be a little more dangerous, but hey, when it comes down to it, really what is there not to like about a Pez smile or a Pez show? It feels good in Srolen Sapce, it makes you smile. (sw)
Stolen Space is at 17 Osborn Street, Whitechapel, London, E1 6TD. The Pez show runs until August 29th 2021
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Pingback: ORGAN: Our pick of 2021’s Art Things – Deborah Roberts, The Factory Project, Rebel Dykes, New Art Projects, the KLF on Kingsland Road, Kate Bickmore, Sam Nicholson, Gavin Turk taking the piss, Eloise Govier, Pez, Nicola Hicks, Christopher Myer