Illegal Art is Sometimes the Most Beautiful: Come See Street Artists Gaia and Sten & Lex at Brooklynite Gallery This Saturday

Here’s the thing about street art — whether or not you realize it, you’re already intimately familiar with the artist’s work.

Such is the case with NYC-homegrown artist Gaia‘s rugged linoleum prints. This weekend, instead of hitting the streets, he’ll joining the legendary Italian artists Sten & Lex for a show at Brooklynite gallery.

We talked briefly with Gaia about why he puts his art on the street, what he thinks of Baltimore, and why art that’s illegal can sometimes be the most beautiful.

Interview after the jump, and make sure you check out the show’s opening party this Saturday, featuring music by the formidable Wham City artist collective member DJ Mark Brown (check out the video he just did for Beach House).

“Portraits” opens 7pm October 16 at Brooklynite gallery on 334 Malcom X Blvd, off the Utica Ave stop on the A/C.

Free Williamsburg: Although you’re from New York, you’ve recently moved to Baltimore. What’s your favorite thing about Baltimore? Miss anything about New York?

Gaia: My favorite aspect of Baltimore is very simply my community of friends and peers. There is a feeling that Baltimore is small enough that one can actually make an impact and be a member of a healthy diy music and art scene. In Baltimore people are just downright nice, which, frankly, is something that I have never felt about New York. I come back home to New York in the summers to work, to really grind; I live in Baltimore in order to relax and feel appreciated, to have connections with people beyond business.

FW: Why put art on the street?

Gaia: A good street practice has many benefits, the first being a tool of communication between the artist and the outside world, whether it be for promotion or interaction. Besides street art’s formal qualities, especially work that is concerned with beauty, illegal street work gives all of the agency to the proactive artist and away from any bureaucratic hierarchy. There are no institutions, curators or community boards steering the content or application of each piece, the only censorial power in street art is the law and the buff. Art on the street that circumvents these measures can either serve as advertisement, subversion or beautification. My work straddles all three of these methods.

FW: How did you get started?

Gaia: In high school I serendipitously connected with a writer named Cheekz on myspace and he essentially introduced me to the likes of swoon and elbowtoe. After dabbling in stickers and terrible can control I just put down all that and went straight to linoleum block prints.

FW: Does your work lose anything when you have a gallery show?

Gaia: Producing gallery work is not an issue of loss, but is the chance to establish a thesis with a cohesive body of work. Otherwise disparate pieces across a cities landscape can be collected and considered mutually. It is also an opportunity to work with materials that would not otherwise survive outside. I still feel like I personally have a lot more work to do to develop my exhibited gallery work.
Of course, the street work changes when placed within the gallery perspective. Employing torn posters and weathered surface treatment in the gallery work is an obvious reference back to a street practice. The circumstances on the street become aestheticized, celebrated for their formal qualities.

Tell us about the portraits you’ve done. What should we look forward to in the show?

The featured images in the upcoming show have three directions: self-portrait, specific architects, and animal metaphor. The specific architects have simply been chosen as an extension of my research into the modernist architectural history of Baltimore. My investigations into the individuals who have shaped our cities, have led me to develop a series sunset self-portraits that capture the street artist as the superficial shaper of our cities surfaces. It is a comparison between those who have determined the landscape and those who work with the material of their legacy.

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