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As the underground contemporary art world continues to grow, along with the number of artists contributing to that field, it can become easier and easier to find outlets to showcase one’s talents and vision. At the same time, there can be a lack of editing by curators, sites, and publications, while every artist that dips a toe into anything remotely resembling anything low brow, street art, “underground,” outside, pop art, etc. is provided with a slot to showcase their work in some public forum and touted as relevant and vital, regardless of if they’re really just blatantly stealing their aesthetic from someone like Mark Ryden or creating just more forgettable pieces that are indiscernible from 12 other artists in the exact same group exhibit. What I’ve always appreciated about Hi Fructose magazine is their devotion to features and to really zeroing in on specific artists that they want to showcase in depth, who deserve that attention. What I’ve always appreciated about the Seattle gallery Roq La Rue–owned/run/curated by Hi Fructose editor-at-large, Kirsten Anderson–is the dedication to only showcasing the finest talent in the pop-surrealism/underground contemporary movements and doing so on a regular basis. Josh Keyes is one figure that’s really managed to find his own unique voice through all of the noise, creating the type of striking work that is not only instantly recognizable, but consistently engaging and powerful. The Portland-based painter is one artist who has been featured prominently on the cover of Hi-Fructose, along with other popular publications like Juxtapoz, but if you want to see the highly sought after visual artist in person tonight, you’ll have to come down to Seattle‘s Belltown district and find him at the Roq La Rue gallery. He’ll be showcasing a modest new collection of 6 new works under the collective title of “Circus and the Sea” and he will be in attendance.
Originally hailing from Tacoma, Washington, the highly detailed painter has become an incredibly prominent figure in the new contemporary art world over the years. Not only do his original works fetch a pretty penny, but his prints have become coveted pieces as well. Releasing them in limited runs, he seems to approach the manufacturing of the prints very deliberately. Rather than simply pushing them out and printing up everything that he’s ever created, he’s more calculated about what he wants to release, how, and when. Last year, Keyes contributed a piece called “Scorch 1” to the Spoke Art x Pangaea Seed exhibit Sink or Swim, which featured the San Francisco gallery hosting a shark-themed group show to benefit the Tokyo-based non-profit organization with a mission “to bring to light, and eventually an end, to the cruel practice of global shark finning.“ Tonight’s show will feature the release of another Josh Keyes print, titled “Exodus 1” (featured above) and this time 100% of the proceeds are going to benefit wildlife through through donations to Big Life Foundation, an “organization that is actively combating wildlife poaching in east Africa.”
Animals regularly take center stage in Josh Keyes’ paintings. Playing with the relationship between nature and industrialization, his imagery tends to explore issues like the reduction of natural habitats and the displacement of the creatures that would otherwise rely on them for survival. When people discuss “saving” the planet, it’s always framed within the context of, and relation to, us sustaining our own ability to survive as a race of humans. The planet is a seriously screwy and complex rock, but, in reality, it will be completely fine if we die out; it’s only that we will be personally fucked and that the specific ecosystems and the life that is supported by them will inevitably be mutated. Backdrops for Keyes paintings often elude to such post-apocalyptic landscapes and feature fallen elements from our current everyday civilization. Flooding, mayhem, natural disasters, and/or destruction are generally implied through sections of dilapidated cityscapes, as otherwise “wild” animals reclaiming these environments by climbing around and/or settling within the wreckage. The feelings and ideas evoked are similar to that of the broken down Statue of Liberty from Planet of the Apes, as the artist hints at ideas of impermanence, ecology, and the struggles between civilization and nature. The type of the animals which appear in “Circus and the Sea” is fairly self-explanatory, but the fact that they are creatures who have been restrained and trained to perform for our amusement and/or dwell in an ecosystem that’s strikingly different than our own, really does provide an added twist to these paintings, which involve them rummaging through the ruins of our disposable society and, in some cases, the skeletal remains of our very corpses.
Circus and the Sea will run until the first of next month, but there are definite benefits to attending the opening, if you are able to make it out tonight. These paintings are large and will look remarkable in person. Not only will Keyes be in attendance, but it’s also the only opportunity for you to get your hands on a copy of the new “Exodus 1” print, which will only be available to walk-ins, beginning at 5pm. Not enough of a reason? Also on display will be another entirely new and amazing collection of work by fellow painter John Brophy. [see Brophy preview here.]
Check out preview images for Circus and the Sea below the following event details…
Roq La Rue Presents – “CIRCUS and the Sea”
A collection of new paintings by Josh Keyes
Friday, November 9th
Roq La Rue Gallery
2312 2nd Ave
Seattle, Wa 98121
Opening is ALL AGES w/NO COVER
Exhibit will be on view until December 1st.
The gallery is open from 1-6pm from Wednesday – Saturday.
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