In 2012 Roa’s “Dominant Species” opened at the now closed 941 Geary Gallery in San Francisco. The event featured a walk through installation on a massive scale where the artist constructed and interior urban environment to highlight his many painted beasts. Here is a look back at the show through the photographs of Michael Cuffe.
DOMINANT SPECIES (2012 – featured at 941 Geary Gallery)
Belgian-born artist, ROA, is known for his striking, and expressive depictions of animals, often stretching to multistoried heights. Even when not massive in scale, ROA’s animals are massive in impact, created with vivid details and the keen eye of a naturalist. Through a focus on local species, ROA reintroduces species that have been forced to the outskirts of urban areas back to the land they once inhabited freely. With this selection of creatures natural to the area, ROA is able to create a powerful sense of intimacy between the viewer and the animals represented. ROA’s paintings often show multiple anatomical layers of the same representation. The work is interactive and the depicted animals can be manipulated by the viewer.
ROA cemented his reputation as one of the world’s most prolific and recognizable street artists by painting members of the animal kingdom throughout major cities of the world, including Mexico City, New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Sydney and many more. His work has now become a global affair, reaching between the Andes and the coast of Chile, the Australian Outback, the African Savanna, the Asian tropic, the American prairie and back to the abandoned factories in the backyard of his hometown in Belgium.
ROA’s “Dominant Species” is his latest body of work created directly after his road trip from the East to the West of America. Driving through the states he experienced and observed a diversity of habitats and species, including the American eagle, the historic symbol of imperialism. Even the icon of the American country is endangered by nature’s most combative intruder: humans. “Dominant Species” refers to humanity aside the history of the States, from the Spanish conquest that consequentially, and brutally, changed the native life up to the contemporary human invasion of the landscape. Travelling throughout the tragically magical landscape of Northern Arizona, ROA was fascinated by the illustrative examples of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, seen in the paradox of the harmony of the Navajo with Mother Earth alongside the chaos of commercial feed lots, bear hunting, and landfills.
ROA’s site-specific process gives his art the ability to conform to the dimensions of a space and grow from within it, and 941 Geary will be entirely used by the artist to create his installation. “Dominant Species” will be constructed from found objects and salvaged materials, with the large-scale installation guided by a dystopian narrative and ideas of how civilization can run down the land it grew from. Aging wood, rusting metal and skeletal remains come together to remind us of the interrelated workings of our manmade cities and the natural world, with ROA’s mastery of anatomical form and beautiful renderings making these discarded objects something to value anew.
ROA got his start by painting intriguing murals of animals in hidden places – underneath bridges and on walls that strayed from the beaten path. His work has now been painted in cities throughout the world, and has frequently appeared in Juxtapoz, Hi Fructose, Vandalog, Brooklyn Street Art, Wooster Collective, and Unurth. ROA is earnestly repopulating the cityscape with animals, as a way to have them re-enter the contemporary landscape that was once theirs, with a style all his own.