We’re not sure if you noticed, but in the first few weeks of September San Francisco became completely overrun by Australians. The mass exodus was for Young & Free: Australian Contemporary Street Artists, the largest Aussie street exhibition shown in America, ever. Over the course of a fortnight not only did the inside walls at 941 Geary become more and more decorated with the 13 artists’ work, but also the outside public walls throughout the Tenderloin. Giant moustachioed heads shooting rainbow lasers out of their eyes were painted by Lister, Dabs Myla collaborated with members of the Seventh Letter crew which they have just been admitted entrance to, old-school 80s Australian graffiti artists like New2 and Dmote teamed up with Sofles (generation Y’s solution to train writing) to do massive walls together, and members of Melbourne’s Everfresh crew (Meggs, Reka and Rone) were seen sprayed, stencilled and postered up all around town.
The inside of the gallery space was not necessarily much different. The entrance hall was annihilated with throwies, tags, small pieces, stencils and everything in between until it resembled the urban laneways that Melbourne has become so famous for. Walking into the space you were immediately drawn to a giant entirely aerosol skull by Kid Zoom, painted directly onto the white walls. Lister made a giant cubed head with peep hole eyes, some artists such as Vexta had painted wall heights that not even the tallest gallery ladders could reach properly, and others like Australia’s stencil revolutionary Ha-Ha created imagery of indigenous folk the world over, from Australia’s Aboriginals to his native Maori tribe from New Zealand and the local American Indian population.
Nearly a thousand people passed through the doors in the first few hours, and the Australians were streaming through in numbers. Not only were they given the visual spectacular of the art, but also a show – a fight broke out between Sydney’s infamous Ben Frost and a punter who didn’t like the tone of his provocative art, creating a scuffle that saw some canvases flung off walls and Frost’s opponent walking away with a split lip. Now that’s a show.
This exhibition certainly showed that Australia has stepped up to the international playing field and is willing and able to fight with the big boys. Young & Free: Australian Contemporary Street Artists is showing until October 22nd at Geary 941 in San Francisco.