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Todd James – vandals, pirates and world domination

— March 2013

Associated media

Painting by Todd James

Todd James: 'World Domination'
8 March 2013 – 11 April 2013
Lazarides Gallery, 11 Rathbone Place, London

From 8 March, Lazarides Gallery presents 'World Domination', a solo exhibition by celebrated New York artist Todd James, who will present a selection of work in different media for his first solo show in London since 2008.

In a new collection of acrylic paintings, James continues his iconic Somali Pirate series.   Often in headgear and masks, and brandishing second-hand AK-47s and RPGs, these pirates perform a range of ordinary activities: smoking cigarettes, drinking tea at sunset, preparing weapons, standing guard.  Rendered in a vivid tropical palette, these works vibrate with good-natured menace, and pointedly address David and Goliath themes of survival, justice, ingenuity, and ownership. 

A selection of gouache on paper works will also be on display, many featuring James’ singular brand of All-American girl as cheerleader of the Apocalypse, bearing arms and baring her bottom.  These absurdist compositions compel the viewer to a fresh perspective on just what constitutes obscenity, and what constitutes humour.

In addition to this series of new works, the exhibition will feature a recreation of Vandal’s Bedroom, the sprawling, graffiti-filled structure that was a highlight of the ‘Art in the Streets’ exhibition at the LA MOCA.  Part object, part installation, this bedroom-turned-graffiti-battle-station gives glimpses of plans for an imaginary artistic takeover. Bleeding marker drawings form letter styles from the rough and tumble 1980s New York subway era, combined with repurposed cartoon characters performing decidedly off-model activity. A clutter of colour, slogans, fantasies, and affiliations is all barely contained, ready to spill out of this eat-sleep-and-breathe environment. The piece is a celebration of early influences and an exercise of artistic traditions that remain relevant.

The Vandal’s Bedroomtravels to London after being previously exhibited in Los Angeles at theLA MOCA, in New York at the Sandra Gering Gallery, and in Copenhagen at V1. It is fitting that James’ dense paean to obsessive graffiti should be included here, as his title for this show pays homage to London’s own WD crew, a/k/a World Domination, who were active in the mid-80s.

The vandals and pirates that people the works of World Domination share acommon thread; both parties sidestep invisible boundaries erected by controlling factions. A familiar theme in the artist’s work is to challenge dictated notions of right and wrong. It’s James’ ability to do so successfully that makes him unique.
Lazarides Rathbone, 11 Rathbone Place, W1T 1HR + 44 (0) 207 636 5443
Tuesday - Saturday 11a.m. – 7p.m., admission free

Todd James
Todd James (a.k.a. REAS) has had numerous one-person exhibitions internationally, including New York, Tokyo, Madrid, Brussels, Melbourne, London and Copenhagen. He is a co-creator of the seminal Street Market exhibition which originated at Deitch Projects in New York, and which was selected for the Venice Biennale in 2001. James' work has also been shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Tate Museum in Liverpoor, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, amongst other venues.
His recent subject matter – grinning aircraft carriers, lounging blondes, sneaky missiles, beleaguered tanks, and skulls wearing sailor suits – evokes a comic-book sense of horror at the modern world and pity for those that live in it. Protest images marked out in cartoon outrage, filled with recycled advertising cast-offs and corrupted child scrawls, these large-scale works of gouache and graphite smash the distance between death and jokes and between the viewer and what he or she probably goes around trying not to know about the present state of things. James' 'death-ink' warplanes and battleships have a chunky authority that embed themselves permanently in the mind of the viewer, while his stealth bombers and cheering bikini models jostle for space with partying warships, creating a feverish mix of complex mayhem. These paintings are psychologically and literally unstoppable: The situations they depict are in full swing and degenerating by the moment, and are deeply connected to the reality of our world today.
Todd James lives and works in New York City.


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