Egon Zippel: The Devandalizer
214 Lafayette Street, New York City, April 13th - April 24th, 2017
Makeshift Museum, Los Angeles, May 13th to June 23rd, 2017
By JILL CONNER, MAY 2017
“Devandalizing” by Egon Zippel is a series of paintings and collages that preserve and reflect the ongoing street dialogue that appears along street lamps, newspaper bins, metal gates, door coverings and brick walls throughout cities around the world including New York. As the communities of Chinatown and the former Tenement District intersect with the looming reality of new urban developments in Manhattan, the conversation between street artists has intensified, moving from graffiti to intricately designed adhesive stickers that overlap, peel and layer with one another. This nearly invisible back-and-forth has flourished within steps of Egon Zippel’s studio in the Lower East Side. “Devandalizing,” is an exhibition of new work that first appeared at 214 Lafayette Street from April 13th to April 24th before appearing again on the West Coast at the Makeshift Museum in Los Angeles from May 13th to June 23rd.
Like an anthropologist of popular culture, Zippel has collected an array of street stickers as found objects and reconfigured them into timeless visual statements. “OBEY,” (2011) is a large canvas that measures 4-feet by 6-feet and features the gloomy, sticker portrait of Andre the Giant drawn by Shepard Fairey and distributed in various scales. Zippel’s collage shows how other street stickers have reconfigured this face into the masked internet identity, known as Anonymous, as well as a portrait of Shepard Fairey himself. While the images on the stickers change, the word “Obey,” appears repeatedly like a mantra that moves from large to small, turning from black and white to white, black and red.
The underlying sense of urgency becomes more fluid and watered down in “INFINITY,” (2012) where stickers of all types and their fragments have been cut and shaped into the form of the Möbius strip that is suggestively suspended in space with the support of red and orange strands of tape. The illusion creates a pivot, the circuitry of movement throughout Hip-Hop and amplifies the colorful bits that swirl in space, with an added sense of weight into the composition. “INFINITY,” gives voice to a previously suspenseful election year while Zippel’s subsequent compositions shift back into floating fragments that sometimes appear together in groups of color, or even in the shape of a running stick figure as seen in “TAG RUNNER II.” (2014)
In 2017 the artist made a modular composition titled, “FOUR HAPPY URBAN SHAPES,” that consist primarily of yellow and orange security tape found at both crime scenes and development sites. While these plastic fragments are collaged together in the shape of circles, squares, and triangles this set of 15 panels presents the viewer with the opportunity to rearrange each element. Egon Zippel’s painting, “ÜBER-TAG I (Badly Battered and Brooding, Coming Home from the Battle Field),” shows eight well-known stickers at a distorted perspective even though together they comprise a new icon created by the artist.
“Devandalizing,” culminates with the 4-foot by 4-foot canvas titled, “I LOVE NY (TO NY),” (2017) and recreates Milton Glaser’s infamous logo from 1977 with black, white and red stickers. Red tape resonates from the heart in the upper right corner that is filled with memorable adhesive fragments, while the artist pays homage to the fast-changing urban landscape. Egon Zippel’s extensive presentation of New York’s street sticker culture sets hand-drawn icons with others printed on shiny laminates. Nostalgia is left broken while reality sets in through the artist’s consistent act of colorful fragmentation. However by removing these images from the environs near the city sidewalks, the artist questions the popular notion of vandalism and suggests it is another vibrant layer of the city’s fabric. In Los Angeles, Egon Zippel will exhibit these and other artworks along with photographic portraits and landscapes by his brother, Edgar Zippel. WM
Jill Conner is an art critic and curator based in New York City. She is currently the New York Editor for Whitehot Magazine and writes for other publications such as Afterimage, ArtUS, Sculpture and Art in America.
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