Painter Erik den Breejen is back at Freight + Volume for There’s a Riot Goin’ On, his fourth solo exhibition at the gallery. Den Breejen’s paintings play with a mosaic of text, color, and pattern, and the embodiment of music, film, comedy and literature. He uses lyrics, quotes, jokes, and poems of iconic figures from the early 1970s to express the collective – and sometimes tragic – unconscious of the time.
The title of the exhibition, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, comes from the 1971 Sly & The Family Stone album of the same, which itself was named in response to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On album (also 1971). In a one-two punch, the paintings use text to create both mosaic-like portraits as well as project the voice of these cultural icons.
There’s a Riot Goin’ On takes a commanding look back at the early 70’s and specifically explores the lives and work of creative revolutionaries such as Richard Pryor, Harry Nilsson, Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez and Allen Ginsberg, among others. Den Breejen investigates the role of the artist as messenger from another state of consciousness.
These artists, comedians, musicians, poets, and rock stars channeled their inspiration to confront the rules and norms of their time. Den Breejen chooses as his subject radicals who engaged and challenged their generation. His portraits revisit and transform their observations. His recent paintings tell a history that has been recorded, portrayed, lived and felt by these people. In this sense, his technique can be seen as a kind of time travel.
One cool thing about this exhibit is that the further away from the image you are, the clearer and less pixelated the image appears to the naked eye. I also enjoyed searching for certain lyrics in the paintimgs, and trying to recognize images I didn’t immediately know from what was written on the canvas. You can make a fun game out of it when you go to see this exhibit!
Erik den Breejen’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On will be on Exhibit Through June 7th, 2014 at Freight and Volume, Located at 530 W. 24th Street, in the Chelsea Gallery District.