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Stages: Part 2

Posted by Alex Bec,

Following on from yesterday’s post on Nike’s Stages project, here’s a bit more of an in depth look at some of the work on show. Today we’ll be looking at the contributions from some of the biggest names out there including Shepard Fairey, KAWS, Yoshimoto Nara, and even a little chat with José Parlá.

Shepard Fairey is an someone we’re obviously all familiar with, his Obama poster earlier this year cemented his name in the upper echelons of contemporary culture, if his OBEY series hadn’t already. His piece for Stages is classic Fairey, introducing the depth we’ve come to recognise through stencil and collage. It’s entitled Jessica, in honour of his friend Jessica Ikenberry, who, in her early 20s was diagnosed with breast cancer. There’s also a great video of him making the piece here.

As you pass Fairey’s piece and move into the second room you are welcomed by, among others a piece by Yoshimoto Nara. I remember seeing an extensive show of Yoshimoto’s work at the Baltic in Gateshead last year, and have been hooked ever since. You’ll know the work from the prolificacy of his output – appearing on clothes, toys, clocks as well as on the walls of the most highly regarded galleries in the world. His painting Fire depicts a classic Nara composition – a figure with an accessory, to illustrate a point or feeling, making him a perfect candidate to for inclusion in Stages.

Next we move onto KAWS’ canvas in the following room. With it’s uashamed vibrance and vigour, to describe his piece as simply flat artwork doesn’t do it justice. The End stands up and shouts at you, revealing a glimpse of the classic KAWS signature of X’s for eyes. The yellow paint laced between the other blocks of colour signal a nod to the famous Livestrong hue and for someone as influential as KAWS making work for a cause like this can only be applauded.

Finally for today we come to José Parlá and his canvas Untitled (Dedicated to Dr. Alan Berkman). José was present at the gallery to open up about his piece and it didn’t take long for you to realise how close to home the subject of the exhibition was to him. Usually taking inspiration from urban environments and textures, he shifted this a little to draw his inspiration for those who’ve struggled with the disease. His piece is made up of a layered script of the names of suffers, including some friends and family – all joining to create “one big signature”. When chatting to José while looking around, the sincerity in his piece rings true with the man himself. He believes that “Art is for everyone” and sees each new piece as a chance to challenge and experiment with new materials and ideas, whatever the brief or cause. His final words to me on what makes a good piece of work were also very poignant, and something that I thought summed the show up perfectly – “When there’s relevance, it’s beautiful”.

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Posted by Alex Bec

Alex is one of the directors of It’s Nice That who now oversees our sister creative agency INT Works. For several years he oversaw the Monday Morning Music Video feature until it came to an end in 2014.