Off the streets and into the gallery 

Beyond Spray Paint

El Kamino's "Heron and the Rainbow Serpent"

El Kamino's "Heron and the Rainbow Serpent"

If graffiti is an explosive artform where its practitioners spray-paint their creations on the sides of buildings and trains in the dark hours of the night, how can a gallery rightfully exhibit a collection of graffiti art?

The answer is Fused: A Showcase of Graffiti in Fine Art, the latest exhibit at Eye Level Art. Graffiti artists El Kamino, Chip7, and Scott Parsons decorated the walls of the Spring Street warehouse with their explosions of color, intricate detail, and abstract shapes.

Opening night brought a steady crowd of young and old to Eye Level Art. With doors open to the street, a cool breeze and mellow music provided a nice balance to the velocity of the art. Inside, Scott Parsons' large image of lime green bugs climbing toward the sun greets visitors. On Parsons' largest scale canvases, trees bend out of the way for circular magenta "orbs." In another piece, lemon drops and tangerine orbs look like planets spinning off into the distance. His vibrant and dynamic style is celestial. Parsons likes the immediacy of spray paint and works to "find a place" for his orbs inside the canvas.

El Kamino's images of birds, snakes, and fish are rendered with abstract colors in a more naturalistic style. Some of his works are done with brushes and acrylics, though he prefers the instant gratification of spray paint. A snake wraps around the legs of an antlered bird as yellow bolts of lighting stream from his open mouth. In another, an owl with a blue nose peers out from a background of circular shapes.

Introduced to graffiti as a 12-year-old skateboarder, El Kamino later dropped out of art school because he thought he could learn more on the streets. For years he traveled the country, sleeping on friends' couches and covering the sides of buildings with his graffiti. El Kamino has transitioned from traveling street artist to someone whose work is hung on gallery walls.

"I'm getting older now," he laughed. El Kamino wants to make a living with his art, and the result is a fascinating blend of graffiti and fine art.

A collection of smaller drawings, sketches, and 4x6 photographs of large-scale graffiti works from Chip7 and El Kamino cover two tables in the center of the room. The sketches on notebook paper and mailing labels from Chip7 seem like an afterthought and give a yard sale vibe. As revelations of his process, the pieces of paper are interesting, but some editing would create a stronger presentation.

Chip7's tightly crafted, detailed, mixed media pieces, on the other hand, are a fascinating blend of patterns, shapes, and color. Created with pen and ink, gauche, spray paint, watercolor, and acrylic on wood, canvas, and watercolor paper, the end result begs for a closer look.

"I want to create a weathered effect," he explained. Influenced by his travels to Thailand, where street art is growing in popularity, Chip7's works depict Buddhist worshipers in a layering of swirls, triangles, and circular shapes. Intricate patterns of tiny eyelids, lashes, and teeth emerge from the image, representing the artist's stream of consciousness.

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