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February 10, 2010
Having wrapped up a retrospective of native artist Hugo Kaagman, a thirty year veteran of street stenciling known for his intricate murals, the ArtKitchen Gallery in Amsterdam recently kicked off another new solo exhibition, "Sometimes It Helps To Dream." A tangential collection showcasing the more conventionally framed works of Laser 3.14, the show spotlights the ceaseless evolution an artist that until recently was more known for his lyrical street tags in Krylon on concrete than his paintings of acrylic on canvas.

Of course LAS readers are familiar with Laser's work by now--graffiti poetics like "Kenny Loggins drove me to drink" and "How can peace be so violent?" scrawled throughout Amsterdam and London--from our recent write up of his show "The Gospel According to Brian O'Blivion" and an interview we did four years ago, not to mention our frequent news blurbs.

Works in a portable format, like "The Last of the No Mouth Men," will be on display.

"The captive imageries are filled with expressiveness and poetry just like his streetwork," says the gallery of Laser's collection for the "Sometimes It Helps To Dream" show. Having opened on January 24th, the exhibition is the latest in an ongoing program at the ArtKitchen, a gallery space for contemporary national and international art that happens to be housed in a former military ammunition depot now recognized as a national monument.

The setting is an interesting but fitting one for Laser 3.14's work, and this collection--consisting of "fine drawings, triptychs, paintings and collages, which do not have the transience of his poetry on the streets, but at least the same impact on the viewer"--in particular. One doesn't have to stretch the imagination too far to draw a connection between the ideas of man and monument both changing and staying the same. Reinvention is a tool of both the artist and the venue, each appropriating new forms in new ways: as Laser's body of work grows from graffiti scribe to a recognized gallery artist, his craft consumes new material with a reliable message; the building itself is reliable material delivering those new messages.

"Hand On Your Ears and Go" shows the versatility of Laser 3.14's art.

All indications are that the exhibition has been a smash thus far. Last week Laser's work was profiled briefly by the Dutch program Avro's Opium TV, in a spot that also included Hugo Kaagman and the infamous Banksy. (Clicking on the link that doesn't say "Installeer Microsoft Silverlight" will open the clip with your desktop media player.) It's a bit difficult to decode the Dutchspeak, but it sounds like Kaagman compares Laser to Norman Mailer in the segment.

Kaagman, crowned "Stencil King" for his complex template works, and Laser, who the Amsterdam Weekly hailed as a linguist cutting "phrases [that] leap out, sometimes with angular humour, sometimes with whimsical insight, sometimes almost with something of a prophetic tolling," know each other well. That their shows at the ArtKitchen abut is no coincidence; the two collaborated on pieces for their city's annual Affordable Artfare last fall. The collusion was interesting, Kaagman's detailed and multi-coloured images of skulls and horses, Dick Tracy types and samurai orgies, more like traditional comic book panels than urban-inspired art, given the kick of Laser's snappy words. The project was interesting, perhaps more to promote their exhibitions and Kaagman's Stencil King book, but Laser 3.14's work is best consumed on its own terms, without the chatter of external images. Thankfully "Sometimes It Helps To Dream," which runs through March 13th, will have his art front and center.

Works like "Up Here I'm Not Alone" merge canvas and graffiti.


VIDEO: Hugo Kaagman and Laser 3.14 collaboration.

Laser 3.14 photographed by Catherina Gerritsen.

SEE ALSO: www.laser314.com
SEE ALSO: www.artkitchen.nl
SEE ALSO: www.affordableartfair.nl

--
Clifton Gates
Currently sleeping on beaches in Costa Rica, Clifton Gates is an occasional contributor, editor, idea springboard and moral crutch to LAS magazine.

See other articles by Clifton Gates.

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