I had a chance to stop by 941 Geary for the opening of “Young and Free”. This highly anticipated show is the first major exhibition of Australian street art in the States and I personally wasn’t disappointed by the hype. First of all, 941 Geary is a massive warehouse space which I believe is a converted auto body shop. The artists featured in the show completely took over the space, including several floor-to-ceiling installations to accompany the canvas and print work. The show, which was curated by Aussie collectors Sandra Powell and Andrew King, included 13 artists from all over the continent. I thought this was a great survey which included talent ranging from popularly recognized artists like Anthony Lister, Kid Zoom and Dabs & Myla, laureates of the OZ graffiti scene like New2, DMOTE and Sofles and several members of Melbourne’s famous Everfresh Studios. Even though I was impressed with most of the work in this show, I’d like to elaborate on few pieces that really stood out to me.

Some of my favorite pieces in the show were the small scale and relatively tucked away works by New2. New2 has been a graffiti writer in Melbourne since the 80’s, writing with the DMA crew. His aesthetic reflects that background; his work generally focuses on writing his name like a lot of graffiti writers. Where his work stood out to me was in his choice of medium. Looking close you can see that the pieces are layered collages of bright colored paper. Each layer is meticulously hand cut and assembled to mirror the visual style he has perfected in spray paint. I appreciate the innovative way New2 has approached his aesthetic, the artworks were intricate and subtle, and I found myself coming back to them several times over the course of the opening night.

I was also really happy to see contributions from members of Everfresh studio. I recently made a trip to Sydney and was hoping to make it to Melbourne, mainly for its reputation as the street art center of the continent. I didn’t make it this trip, but while in Sydney I heard about Everfresh studio’s and I’ve been trying to learn more about them ever since. For this show, the artists Meggs, Rone and Reka were here to represent the Everfresh collective. Each artist has a distinct visual style and they each contributed several large pieces on canvas (one of Meggs’ pieces was a monumental 55×94″). Meggs’ aesthetic is extremely dynamic and borders abstraction at some points. Somehow a loose clash of black, red, white and gold strokes come together to form menacing samurai masks and painted geisha faces. In contrast, Rone’s visual style is crisp and precise. His distinct posters of stylized women’s faces can be seen all over Melbourne. Reka’s aesthetic concentrates on line work that seems to suggest flowing, circular movement. His slightly abstracted, imaginary characters seem light and ephemeral especially in contrast to Meggs’ canvases.

Finally, I want to mention Vexta’s contributions. I was not familiar with her work before I started researching this article, but she is definitely one to watch. She did several large stencils and a few assemblage pieces. Many of her figures look like graceful, mythical characters; female versions of Icarus. Her color choices particularly stood out in this show, with stark contrasting black and white and accents of fluorescent blues and neon pinks. I enjoyed her canvas pieces but prefer the stenciled figures outside of the gallery. Hopefully she’ll do a few around San Francisco before she leaves.

Now, what street art show would be complete without art in the streets? Several murals have gone up since the group landed in San Francisco. I’ll be photographing pieces as I find them and posting links to them, on my site Gone Tomorrow SF: http://gonetomorrowsf.com/2011/09/12/young-and-free/

Overall, I thought “Young and Free” was a great introduction, hopefully we’ll see a lot more coverage of the Aussie street art scene. The show included 13 really talented artists; Anthony Lister, Dabs & Myla, Kid Zoom, Ha-ha, Ben Frost, Meggs, Rone, Reka, Vexta, New2, Dmote and Sofles. This runs at 941 Geary until October 22nd, for more information about the show and the artists check out the website: http://www.youngandfreeart.com

By Maggie Pike for Warholian.com

For more on the work at 941 Geary Gallery visit: http://www.941Geary.com

(In addition to writing for Warholian, Maggie Pike also runs the website Gone Tomorrow SF which covers Street Art in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Check it out here: http://GoneTomorrowSF.com )