Multi-faceted muralist Kid Acne returns to C.A.V.E. Gallery in Venice with his latest works
By Michael Aushenker
As devastating as this month’s attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was for creatives worldwide, imagine being an artist right in the heart of Europe.
“It’s a real tragedy and very sad to think that so many people have lost their lives over such a thing. Regardless of the content, drawing comics should never be punishable by execution,” said U.K.-based muralist Kid Acne.
Kid Acne returns to C.A.V.E. Gallery on Abbot Kinney Boulevard with new works, including the playful painting “Stabby Woman.” The purposely primitively delineated damsel — in domino mask and matching black gloves, fishnets and bird-feather cape — is plastered against a wallpaper of comic book pages that makes this shadowy, Tolkien-ish, sword-wielding figure resemble a refugee from a manga digest … or perhaps a Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Somewhat ironically, Acne titled his C.A.V.E. show “Destined for Greatness.”
“The title of the show is intended as a tongue-in-cheek comment on the mindset of most artists, myself included,” Acne said. “As delusional as it might be, we all think we’re special and destined for greatness.”
Content-wise, Acne attempts to represent each aspect of his studio practice, “incorporating the more narrative, character-based work with typographic slogans and architectural line drawings.”
What he considers his show’s signature piece, an L.A cityscape, was largely inspired by Ice Cube’s YouTube video in which the former gangsta rapper visits the Ray and Charles Eames house in Pacific Palisades, Acne explained. When Acne was in town for his last C.A.V.E. solo show in 2012, friends took Acne on a sightseeing tour around Los Angeles that included such landmarks as the Watts Towers, the Bradbury Building, the La Brea Tar Pits, the Capitol Records building and numerous Googie-style diners.
“I’ve illustrated around 30 exteriors into a giant hand-pulled screen print, which I made myself over the winter holidays,” he said of his vector graphic-like cityscape.
With murals such as the jocular “Birth of Hip Hop” (recasting Jesus’ nativity scene as a B-Boy narrative) in his home base of Sheffield, England, Acne continues to derive pleasure from graffiti art.
“I enjoy painting in the street very much,” he said. “The scale, spontaneity and immediacy is what got me interested in the first place and it’s the same feeling 20 years on. I do paint commissions from time to time, but I prefer not to be compromised with my work, so most walls I paint are generally spontaneous and self-financed.”
Whether he’s busting out a mural or creating art for a gallery show, Acne does not differentiate, seeing all of it as “ultimately contributing to the same ongoing body of work.”
Acne has also been making fanzines since the early 1990s. After a lengthy hiatus, he recently returned to them.
“With everything being so digital these days, I felt it was nice to document my work in a tangible format again and not only at 72dpi for social media,” he said.
The industrious Acne also has “Zebra Face,” a series of animation shorts based on a comic book he created years ago, running on BBC Channel 4.
“I provide the voice of the main character and we asked [Pulp frontman] Jarvis Cocker to be the narrator, taking on the role of the omnipotent Sun,” Acne said. “It felt like an appropriate role for such a Sheffield celebrity.”
U.K. rappers Roots Manuva and Chester P. voice other characters. Five episodes have already aired, and Acne promises a longer-form “Zebra Face” cartoon soon.
And there’s more to Acne than just the visual arts. A long-running rap producer, he and buddies Benjamin and Sebastian Laws of New Kingdom are readying a slew of 2015 releases under the name Mongrels.
The world is apparently Acne’s oyster … that is, if Stabby Woman doesn’t poach it first!
“Destined for Greatness” runs through Feb. 2 at C.A.V.E. Gallery, 1108 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice. Call (310) 450-6960 or visit cavegallery.net.