Banksy filmed him, Berlusconi has collected his work, and Shepard Fairey called him “awesome, infuriating, almost impossible to define.” Mr. Brainwash — aka Thierry Guetta — is the exuberant, French, chain-smoking, paint-splattered chatterbox whose street-meets-Pop art is, like any good hyperbole, larger than life. We visited with MBW in the 15,000 square-foot Meatpacking District warehouse where his first New York solo show will open this weekend; check out the highlights (including a photo set) after the jump.
“Icons: Part One” is a loose collection of portraiture divided into several groups; the series depict fashion designers, artists, models, and most cleverly, “geniuses” — technology gurus like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Biz Stone who Mr. Brainwash asserts will “change the world” and become icons of the future. Another section features variations on the cover art Brainwash designed for Madonna’s greatest hits album Celebration.
Apart from the screenprinted and painted canvases replicated ad nauseum on the walls of the gallery space, MBW has assembled some immensely-scaled installation pieces that are irrepressible, bright ‘n’ shiny emblems of an artist having fun with his work. Spinning off a motoscooter piece from his last LA show Life is Beautiful is a yellow taxicab encased in a giant plastic package like a Matchbox car. (The artist Googled cab vendors and found one in Harlem who customized the vehicle in three days, right down to specific signage and decals.) A gigantic paint can — a common image in Brainwash’s oeuvre — is tipped over, spilling paint through grates in the floor down to the basement level, where a 12-foot-tall boombox is propped across from a giant dangling keychain.
Taking on such colorful, Pop-laced iconography draws inevitable comparisons, not the least of which to Andy Warhol. Though he couldn’t really express much difference in the feeling of his portrait work versus Warhol’s 1960s editions, Brainwash states that by painting with hands, and treating art with child’s playful spirit, he embodies the theory that “art is freedom.”
“Icons” by Mr. Brainwash is open to the public from February 14 to March 30 at 415 West 13th Street on the ground floor. The first 300 people to attend the gallery on opening day starting at 3 p.m. will receive a limited-edition signed print.