Pilgrim Baby! is an exhibition showing the playful exploration of a street artist. XOOOOX is a Berlin based street artist who is best known for his stencils of glamour models. This dedication to commenting on advertising, fashion culture and the media has been sacrificed. Pilgrim Baby! focuses much more on the bringing together of the artist’s interest in the mediums of photography, painting, video, sculpture and ‘found objects’.
Entering the first exhibition room, hung on opposing sides of the space are two large, monochrome abstract paintings. The raw canvas is exposed between the rough, textured markings and words written mirror image painted on the surface. Through the accumulation of these marks one can visualise an aggressive and sporadic mark making process. As a child approaches a blank sheet of paper with no hesitation or pre-considered plan, XOOOOX seems to be working from a pre-cognitive mindset, allowing music or other external influences to drive the movements of his hand. They feel like a direct response of the time and place of where they were created.
In the window, expanding our understanding of how XOOOOX uses and interacts with his materials, is a video piece. A small sheet of paper is repeatedly attacked by a hand armed with a pencil. The dashes of the pencil on paper tap along with the bass of the music playing. Keeping up with the Oh-So-Berlin techno beat causes the paper to be torn and marked by dark, bold graphite lines. Once the hand feels that the paper is covered sufficiently, the sheet is discarded and replaced by a fresh piece. And so the process continues. The constant repetition feels as though there is a question or theory trying to be answered through some sort of experiment. Its simplicity is direct and reveals something about the entire show as an investigation into different mediums using the context of our surroundings as inspiration.
One other element of the exhibition that furthers the pilgrimage into different mediums of art, and the matter of our surroundings, are the found pieces of materials and objects. Three shoes covered in moss, mud and decay sit side by side on a shelf under an aged photograph of a young, stylish woman striding through her city life. These shoes represent something of the innate street artist. Once beautiful and desired, these shoes have faded with time and neglect. As a street artist, XOOOOX concerns himself with this aspect of transience and the inevitable process of decay. The collected, decomposing objects bring the outside, urban world where he stencils his beautiful women, into the gallery space.
Beauty is temporary and, as much as we try to preserve it, or save it, nature will always reclaim it. Pilgrim Baby! is a body of work that demonstrates the ephemeral quality of our urban environment. Inspired and dependent on his immediate surroundings, XOOOOX experiments with different mediums, and here we can see this process of exploration. It is a snapshot of a personal process of discovery and investigation into the physical world we live in, and that in itself is something that we can all relate to.
By Leen Horsford