Art attacks downtown
'Underground Gallery' on Jasper Avenue
By Fish Griwkowsky
"The 'illegal' aspect turns me off completely. I would not check it out just because of this and the guerrilla tactics. I support all arts but in a legitimate way, do not 'force' your art on me, otherwise you will get resistance."
- djgirl on "the Arts Scene" forum on connecttoedmonton.ca
"Had Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn played by the rules, we would not have One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which brought the communist system of prison labour to the attention of the West. I don't mean to elevate the 104 St. posters to that level of importance, but am merely pointing out that art serves a role in society and it is not always legal."
- Dusty Bear, same forum
And just what are these two debating with such lava in their blood? One of the coolest ideas - quite literally - to hit our streets in ages.
Last weekend, a completely underground art gallery sprung up on Jasper Avenue on the construction barricade walls between 104th and 105th streets. Seventeen unique and intricately thought-out works of visual art rolled up onto walls till then sporting only lame Sharpie tags and crude offerings to couple with the view-holes.
Organized by DJ Sheri B, the participants included touring musicians whose faces have graced magazines all over the continent, professional artists with degrees to prove it and even members of the, uh, local media. One artist even brought her delightful children, who grinned constantly and added a pleasant family feel to the morning.
No permission was asked, no grants solicited - all the supplies came out of pocket in an attempt to, as the "show" is called, Make it Not Suck on Jasper.
The name itself is confrontational yet vague, which allowed each of the artists their own interpretation. Most chose beauty over any subversive political substance, ranging from a shrine to rock 'n' roll with a Gene Simmons doll nailed to the head of an Elvis blanket to a wonderful collage of Hey Diddle Diddle, full of cats, dogs and cutlery.
Rasterbation was used widely - a technique where small "tiles" are shot out of home printers and assembled into a larger mural. Each artist had potential to fill a 10-by-10-foot square, overcoming scaffolds and mingling with those wandering the streets at 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
"Who's that guy again?" one charming local dude in a ballcap asked, pointing out Jean-Luc Picard. Patrick Stewart was just one of a couple dozen different celebrities in the show's finest work on the corner, a pink collage which included a giant Bill Cosby saying "Post no bills." A nice old lady laughed at that.
Yet by the next day, this work was scraped off by construction workers, so the curator gave the site developers a call to investigate.
"I also called Clark Builders to find out why they tore down the first one. The guy couldn't tell me, he just said he was ordered to by the superintendent but that they would leave the rest alone unless any local businesses complained about it. Then he urgently asked me if I knew who put it up and I said no and hung up."
The scuttling life of the daring.
But as one of the hairier artists there puts it: "For the record, the pretty photo of the Lege, the intricate yellow wallpaper, the fabric flag of the newly discovered planet Gliese 581 c, even the guitarist rocking out for Dirt City - they're all up there to make something nice to look at on the way to work. Please don't destroy it. Nothing's being sold or pushed or promoted. We just hope you like it!"