While not necessarily a household name, Mr. Brainwash is arguably one of the most commercially successful street artists alive, and certainly one whose art panders to the lowest common denominator, Hallmark-Greeting-Card-sensibilities of the general public. What his heavily appropriated artworks lack in originality, Brainwash makes up in Chutzpah and being backed by a team of geniuses at marketing and selling his brand. Right now — for how long, who the fuck knows — you can explore a warehouse-sized exhibit of Brainwash’s Greatest Hits at a pop-up space on West 14th Street, directly under the High Line Park. Entitled Life is Beautiful, the exhibit is the French-born, LA-based artist’s follow-up to 2010’s all-encompassing exhibit/happening, Icons; which was up for most of that year, it seems. Was it worth the wait? You betcha.
It is easy to criticize Brainwash’s Instagram-Nation-mentality visual puns and platitudes, but it is hard not to fall in love with pieces as hilariously snarky as this depiction of Tiger Woods playing through on Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. Talk about taking the piss out of beloved cultural icons.
Norman Rockwell’s classic Americana portraiture also gets a liberal dose of the Brainwash Treatment, hybridizing these well-loved images with modern memes and technological gadgets.
If you are my age or older, you probably grew up with Rockwell’s art in your house. In a way, this generational mash-up gives Brainwash’s art an ideal cross-over accessibility, making it a fun exhibit to bring your parents to. In fact, I daresay there is something here for everybody.
Do you like Star Wars? There are Star Wars characters in this exhibit.
Look at all this stuff! It’s like Bansky’s attic blew up in your face.
Some of the art is disguised as stuff that you can sit on. Can you sit on this? Try it and find out.
This cabinet stuffed with vintage toys appealed to my collector/hoarder mentality.
If you look long enough, you’ll probably see something you used to own, before it was purchased for a nickel from the Goodwill, or scavenged from a landfill.
Maybe you remember the celebrity portraits created from meticulously pieced-together broken vinyl LPs that made up about 50% of the Icons exhibit. Well, they’re back for an encore appearance in Life is Beautiful. Some, like this ubiquitous image of Jimi Hendrix, now have psychedelic paint thrown onto the hair, for an updated effect.
Yeah, you remember these guys.
Is it artsy recreation of a Midcentury Living Room, or is it a comfy place to rest? Again, why not see what you can get away with?
Here, Brainwash offers a few redesign ideas for your kitchen.
Renaissance Caitlyn Jenner manages to be both topical and mind blowing simultaneously.
And of course the art is nothing if not hyper-self-referential.
Another rehash from Icons but, like an old friend, always fun to see again.
I wonder if Damien Hirst gets a cut of this one?
These stylized portraits of the cast of Seinfeld are probably my favorite pieces in the show.
This one made me nostalgic for the Cow Parade. If you don’t know what that was, you should Google it.
I finally made in it to see the Life is Beautiful exhibit at 2:30 PM on a Friday, after three unsuccessful attempts; meeting a closed and locked door each of the previous times. So, if you feel lucky or have time to kill, why not see if your timing is right and you arrive on a day and time that someone with keys decides to open the door. Hours are not posted on Brainwash’s official website, nor can they be found anywhere on the storefront itself. So it is really a crap-shoot that can get old fast, depending on your tolerance for being jerked around.
Don’t forget to hashtag the shit out of your photos.
The exhibit has moved to much smaller space just a few storefronts east of its previous home, and is now a Pop Up “Store” with hours clearly posted on the doors, as seen in the photo below: