(DALLAS, February 2016; source: CultureHype) – Dallas-based contemporary art space LEVEL GALLERY is proud to present a special collaboration between legendary artists Jim Evans (TAZ) and Richard Duardo titled “The Art of the Pop Portrait” (circa 1984-1989).

Exploiting a uniquely singular period of creative irrationality from 1984 to 1989, Evans, known for his original concert posters and brilliant album art, embraced the massive canonization of celebrity as an experiment in artistic fetishization. A giant pop culture party, the 1980s made way for movements like Graffiti, Neo-Geo, Neo-Pop, Punk, Nu Wave, No Wave and Memphis. Previous notions of color and design rules were destroyed, opening the way for new modernism. The Duardo/Evans technique was one of forward motion, nothing ever slowed down or was reworked – total engagement was the only rule. Each piece represented a story, and the artistic interaction that created the final image, intersected with the dynamic mythology of the media icon being created, in high-fructose paint. “The Art of the Pop Portrait” was a reflection of a civilization, dense with information and hungry for focus. By reinventing the pop portrait, Evans was able to exploit the raw allure of star quality, by intersecting the culture instead of critiquing it. Alongside Richard Duardo, the ingenious printmaker referred to as “The Warhol of the West,” Evans masterfully created super stylized pop portrait, adorned with collages, scribbles, hand-drawn patterns and sweeping arcs. 

“If Warhol transferred the stark Marlon Brando image into the realm of art, Evans enhances the meaning of the image with other visual information. And, if Warhol ‘portrayed’ the Campbell’s soup can as a straightforward consumer icon, symbolic of nothing but itself, Evans portrays a golden gramophone as the symbol of the industry it spawned, and annotates that symbolism with a backdrop of musical scoring. In Jim Evans’ hands, the Pop portrait has finally entered its second generation.” – Peter Frank, 1989 

With the pop landscape changing, Evans felt that something was missing. The minimalist simplicity of Andy Warhol’s pop approach echoed not the lush visual world of the cinema, but the stark factuality of the early 1960s. With this idea in mind, Evans broke from his sub-culture influences to reinvent himself as a Neo-Pop portrait artist. The artist found inspiration in reifying the grasp of the stars as legends in their roles while working on this series, enhancing them with references to their real lives and ultimately encoding them with a visual mystery. This rare body of work was last exhibited in the 1980s at The Hansen Gallery in Beverly Hills, the legendary Zero One Gallery in Los Angeles and the Merrill Chase Gallery in Chicago. After meeting Evans in Los Angeles while working on special projects with NRG Recording through WAAS Presents, LEVEL GALLERY’s founder Brandy Michele Adams made it her mission to bring the collaboration to Dallas.

"I have been fascinated with prints, serigraphs, album art and rock posters since I was a child,” said Adams. “Bands like TOOL, Beastie Boys and Nine Inch Nails kept me sane. My own personal art collection started with album and poster art and grew into something much greater. Working closely with Evans this past year to make this exhibition come to life is not only a dream come true for me, but a true testament of how hard work can pay off. I can’t wait to share 30 years of history with our growing city of Dallas.”

“The Art of the Pop Portrait” features portraits of star figures as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Madonna, Stallone, Marlon Brando and Lauren Bacall, illuminated with layers of patters and complemented by free hand elaboration. Inspired by New York clubs like Area, Mars, CBGB’s, Limelight and The Palladium, Evans presents rare works of art in large-scale paintings. The result is a collection of one-of-a-kind signed serigraphs and limited editions printed by Duardo, who worked in collaboration with Evans on this body of work in the 1980s. Evans artwork, whether its original concert posters produced for Green Day, The Ramones, the Beastie Boys, a Tibetan Freedom tour or these Neo-Pop portraits of cultural idols, consistently includes audacious colors and overlaid, elaborate illustrations and elements connecting his work throughout the decades. 

“Warhol attempted to empty out imagery,” said Evans. “I wanted to capture and upgrade the image. These images are manifestos for the overstimulated.” 

With an artistic focus on functional sculptures and contemporary furniture, Pratt’s designs have been influenced by the works of Henry Spencer Moore, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. The perfect complement to the bold and punchy prints of this Duardo/Evans collaboration, Pratt’s furniture will be on view at the gallery during the exhibition until Saturday, April 2. Evans work has been exhibited in New York at The Nyehaus Gallery, Metro Pictures and Friedrich Petzel and in Los Angeles at Nye+Brown and Robert Berman galleries, as well as a recent two-man show at ICON L.A. Duardo, who passed away in Nov. 2014, produced works for more than 450 artists including Shepard Fairey, David Hockney, John Van Hamersveld and Keith Haring, is known for producing large, vibrant colored silk-screen prints of pop-cultural icons.

LEVEL GALLERY

2722 Logan Street, Dallas, TX 75215 

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