Thursday, June 30, 2011

Margaret Kilgallen: images that are flat and graphic

Margaret Kilgallen (1967-2001), San Francisco
Main Drag, 2001
Kilgallen’s “Main Drag” is an interesting combination of contemporary art and text— typography, folk art, and street art.
(installation views) photographs by versluis

This piece is one of the works in the exhibition “Art in the Streets” that ran at the Geffen Contemporary of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles in 2011. This highly energetic and powerful exhibition highlights the unique visual language of graffiti and street art from the 1970s to becoming a global phenomenon.

The late Margaret Kilgallen was trained in printmaking and had a strong interest in letterpress, nineteenth century wood type, and hand-painted commercial signs. “Main Drag” is an exceptional example from her oeuvre as she translates, painting by hand, antique (old-west) display wood type styles into large-scale mural installations. She felt there was beauty in the imperfect hand drawn line and shape, and in the appearance of lettering to effect meaning and thought. Her obelisk/tower (totem/kiosk) of stacked boxes seems to suggest over-grown letterpress type chase furniture. Old hand-painted commercial signs drawn from display type and folk-art traditions, in particular, inspired her typography. And her illustrations of human figures seem strong and independent within the urban (skid row) landscape. Often her compositions significantly feature characters of men and women in actions such as walking, biking, surfing, and fighting.

MOCA’s online website for the show states:

“Art in the Streets” will showcase installations by 50 of the most dynamic artists from the graffiti and street art community, including Fab 5 Freddy (New York), Lee Quiñones (New York), Futura (New York), Margaret Kilgallen (San Francisco), Swoon (New York), Shepard Fairey (Los Angeles), Os Gemeos (São Paulo), and JR (Paris). MOCA’s exhibition will emphasize Los Angeles’s role in the evolution of graffiti and street art, with special sections dedicated to cholo graffiti and Dogtown skateboard culture. The exhibition will feature projects by influential local artists such as Craig R. Stecyk III, Chaz Bojórquez, Mister Cartoon, RETNA, SABER, REVOK, and RISK. [1]
  1. The Curve., 9 Mar. 2011. Web. 20 June 2011.

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