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features /  feature
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d*face, seen and the outside institute
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Graffiti legend SEEN at Londonís first street-art gallery.

Itís surprising that itís taken this long. The Outside Institute is a new contemporary gallery space that specialises in the variety, chaos and brilliance of contemporary street art. Curator D*Face, an artist in his own right, refers to the space as a halfway house for street art. Somewhere that aims to change peopleís opinions of art as vandalism and give artists the opportunity to develop.

D*Face and SEEN.

Itís a change from the anarchistic projects D*Face has helped create in the past, like Finders Keepers. These on-street exhibitions involved artists creating work out of found objects over the tight deadline of week. The work would be put up for an impromptu party, and when the whistle blew at the end of the night viewers could tear the work off the walls and keep it. The tear-down was pure anarchy.

Although the presence of the street is obviously integral to graffiti and street art, perhaps in a gallery space it will morph into something new and just as inspiring. SEEN is an ideal choice for the inaugural show of the gallery as he crosses these boundaries.

Work by SEEN.

The New York artist has been painting since the 70s and he visually plays with the art formís history. His first British show is an abstract chart of the history of contemporary graffiti. Long sets of panels imitate old train cars in their changing incarnations in the late 70s. Single panels give a nod to brilliantly layered walls covered in tags, paint and disintegration. Abstract close-ups of letters are dated to show the changing progressions of styles and techniques. Itís this abstraction that makes SEENís work so involving and surprisingly fresh. The show, and the gallery itself, settles the argument once and for all that graffiti is a kids-centric fad. Hereís to the next 30 years.

Francesca Gavin 01 April 05
SEEN: The Godfather Of Graffiti is at the Outside Institute, London, until 08 May 05.
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