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Art that has so much vitality on the street often loses it when it moves indoors. It withers; its vibrant fur thins, depressed by the artificial environment. Some street artists rely so heavily on the street’s contribution to their work that the gallery setting seems to totally confound them (for a recent example, see Aakash Nihalani’s drab show “Tape and Mirrors” at Eastern District in Bushwick). Sometimes street artists move into the gallery and completely abandon the rich visual styles that made their work so intriguing in the first place. Peru Ana Ana Peru’s show at Brooklynite Gallery avoids these pitfalls and instructs us in new ways of understanding the relation between street and gallery art.
Depending on how a street artist uses the street they may have something to lose by moving into a gallery space. Peru Ana Ana Peru, which is composed of two artists, use the street primarily as a way of making their striking and fantastical images even more so. We are struck by a colorful image or by a traditional picture frame on a signpost. We wonder what they’re doing there, so we investigate. But a closer inspection is unhelpful: An old portrait with the face scratched out? What does “Peru Ana Ana Peru” even mean? The content of the art is as perplexing as its context. By moving into the gallery, Peru Ana Ana Peru lose that special stage, and so their work risks losing the sense of not belonging that contributes to their work’s characteristic sense of aesthetic oddity.
Many of the images in their first solo show are very similar to images familiar to those who know their street work. We have seen the howling wolf, the smoking babies, the vandalized antique portraits, the parachutes, and the fuzzy heads. But at Brooklynite these images — absurd, whimsical, and psychedelic, with a touch of horror — are presented in full visual glory and, in some cases, integrated into complex installations, sculptures, and collage. Peru Ana Ana Peru are accomplished and devoted filmmakers, and some of the paintings and installations incorporate their work in film. The multi-media paintings left me wondering if I had ever seen anything like them.
The duo takes what the gallery setting has to offer — more time to create, more resources, a more focused audience — and master their work’s sense of absurd visual delight. Their work is more absurd, more dazzling, more horrific, fantastical, confusing, and more skilled. The gallery is yet another stage for their aesthetic provocations. In using the gallery essentially as they use the street, they avoid the whole question of whether they can “make the transition” into the gallery. They use both contexts to turn up the volume of their aesthetic screams, and we hear those screams loud and clear. The show, then, nicely demonstrates one way to use the street and the gallery in essentially the same way to great effect. Whether one likes that effect is another issue. And it is worth discussing whether and how other street artists have done this.
One might worry that a show involving such an astonishing array of skill – collage, appropriation, filmmaking, graffiti, drawing, craft, and more – would be all over the place. But these works are aesthetically focused and unified, which reinforces the already strong impression that these artists are seriously talented. Lurking behind all of this is the sense that we have yet to experience the full force of what Peru Ana Ana Peru have to offer.
Peru Ana Ana Peru’s exhibit, “…And Then We Jumpted Into the Abyss of Numbers: Memories in Absurdity from the Bowels of…PERU ANA ANA PERU” continues until November 14 at Brooklynite Gallery, 334 Malcolm X Blvd., Brooklyn, NY
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