Who are Soner and Patricia Rodriguez? What does their work entail? Is it just graffiti or is it something more? With Urban Nature, Kirk Hopper Fine Art is opening up its walls for these two artists to redefine and contextualize how we view graffiti, a form of expression and language that generally happens outside in the urban sprawl of the city. We never really pay attention to what happens when nature takes over, or why the work is being created in the first place. With this show - which opens Saturday, July 12 - the pair is putting those effects front and center within the pristine white walls of the gallery.
Why? Because, for these artists, it's their nature: they are both dedicated to not only making art, but also exposing the seams of the environment that surrounds and inspires them through their individual approaches.
Soner found his way into graffiti 25 years ago when he first picked up a spray can and fell in love with hip-hop culture. "I was fascinated by local gang graffiti and its different styles, I wanted to create my own," says Soner.
So he began to study drawing, painting, and graphic design, and began to create his own typography. His work is composed of letters, curves, and smooth lines that illustrate the juxtaposition between the passionate nature of graffiti and the classical form of line drawings and large-scale mural work. His style, which he has self-named, "caligrafitizm," is a combination of calligraphy, typography, graffiti, and graphic design. A mixture that has been very lucrative for him: he is a renowned graphic designer for some major international brands that you've probably heard of and purchased: Bic, Dexia, Sony, Passionata, ArcelorMittal, and Ford.
His work also shows how, if you practice graffiti legally, you can portray the beauty and power behind the fluid lines, neon colors, and trend-setting imagery. It doesn't have to be inappropriate tagging illegally committed or a destruction of property.
"Graffiti is usually considered vandalism because 99 percent of it being done is vandalism," Soner says. "However, graffiti has always been around and the only thing that has changed is its audience. The general public has become aware of its appeal through various recent marketing campaigns."
Soner's work, and that of his contemporaries, including that of his current collaborator Patricia Rodriguez, creates opportunities for conversations that support the continued fight to legitimize the art form, and raise questions on what effects it has and could have on the contemporary art world.
Rodriguez found her way into art at an early age, and is continually inspired by Dallas, the city that raised her. Her work falls in line with the newish trend of contemporary surrealism--an informal category for contemporary art that references surrealist work from the 20th century while acknowledging the effect of pop culture--that illustrates an interest in the irrational, the unconscious, the grotesque, and a fantastical depiction of reality.
"I reached out to Patricia over a year ago to create some pop art pieces thinking our styles would compliment each other. It was a fun and different experience so we decided to work together again," says Soner. The match seems kismet.
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"He appreciates my incorporation of spray paint into my work," adds Rodriguez. "And the look of my tight flat graphic style with a brush next to his bold spray painted graffiti work. We had done one previous work together for my show at WAAS Gallery in 2013, and it was such a hit we knew a joint show was the natural next step."
Thus, we now have Urban Nature. They will be taking over Kirk Hopper Fine Art, hanging work inside the white walls of gallery, and taking over the outdoor courtyard with a very special creation that will really drive home the idea of urban nature.
"Graffiti is the nature you find in an urban setting, it colors the landscape as much as a flower garden colors the suburbs. It's the wild natural progression of things that you expect to see in the city," says Rodriguez. "The life forms we take for granted are resilient enough to alter the constructs of humanity. Nature inevitably conquers all."
Opening reception from 6:30 - 8:30 p.m. Saturday, July 12 at Kirk Hopper Fine Art, 3008 Commerce Street, Dallas. The exhibition runs July 12 - August 9.