Polish-born Crochet artist Olek (AKA Agata Oleksiak) is hot stuff on the New York art scene! After a year-long residency at the Christopher Henry Gallery, which featured a full studio apartment whose contents had been covered in a camouflage pattern of crocheted neon yarn, Olek reverts to black & white for her new exhibit at Jonathan Levine, entitled The Bad Artists Imitate, The Great Artists Steal. The title taken from a quote by Pablo Picasso (later appropriated by British street artist Banksy) The Bad Artists Imitate, The Great Artists Steal features an installation tailored to the Levine gallery space with a new series of crochet sculptures and canvases.
A prolific practitioner of performance and public art (both authorized and unauthorized), Olek has covered people and various objects with crochet — from bicycles and cars to Wall Street’s famous Charging Bull sculpture. One series is an homage to Banksy’s stenciled silhouette of a girl suspended in air, holding balloons which he placed on the West Bank barrier of the Israeli-Palestine border in 2005 (seen in context, the figure appears to be floating up in order to cross over to the other side). Covering the balloon girl with her signature camouflage-patterned crochet work in brightly-colored yarn, Olek placed her Banksy tribute series in locations around New York. The artist has created a new black & white version of the piece for her Levine exhibition.
Crocheted Living Room with Model
Following the inspiration/appropriation theme, additional works in the show play off images and words made famous by various celebrity icons, featuring a camouflage crochet pattern in grayscale, rather than the fluorescent palette typical of Olek’s previous work. A 1986 Keith Haring portrait by photographer Annie Leibovitz — in which the artist’s body and entire room surrounding him was painted white with black line work — is re-created in a three-dimensional installation. Other works pay homage to various iconic artists, from the legendary Louise Bourgeois and Marcel Duchamp to Space Invader. Very fun! You can preview items in the exhibit at This Link, but they aren’t nearly as powerful when taken out of context of the gallery space. I encourage you to visit the Jonathan Levine Gallery before the show closes in just over two weeks.
The Bad Artists Imitate, The Great Artists Steal, By Olek runs through August 27, 2011 at the Jonathan Levine Gallery, located at 529 West 20th Street, 9th Floor (West of 10th Avenue) in New York. Gallery Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 AM to 6 PM.