Zevs / Christopher Aguirre Schwarz

Urban Art, Graffiti

December 12, 2013

Since his early days working on the streets of Paris during the 1990s, Zevs has risen to become one of the most prominent figures on the contemporary street art scene. He is best known today for his trademark “liquidation” technique, in which he transforms seemingly solid images into evocatively dripping ones that are perhaps more unstable than they seem. He has experimented with a number of methods in his graffiti, canvases, and performances that help him to subvert the unmistakably ubiquitous commercial and Hollywood driven culture of the twenty-first century.

In the past, this has included a high profile “kidnapping” of a figure from a billboard, an infamous arrest following his creation of a large-scale mural of a liquidated Chanel logo in Hong Kong, and his Visual Violations series, in which he blurs out the faces of figures like Jim Morrison and Marilyn Monroe. With his work, Zevs offers a commentary on the lasting widespread influence of these figures, as well as corporate logos ranging from Louis Vuitton to Coca-Cola to Apple, on contemporary culture. No matter what he does to them, these images are instantly recognizable to nearly everyone. Yet, at the same time, his denial of these images via liquidation or otherwise confirms that, despite their apparent strength in our culture, these icons are not invincible: quite simply, nothing lasts forever. In combining a street art mentality with a Pop Art usage of popular culture in a way reminiscent of Warhol, his work manages to both highlight and subvert what is, in many ways, the very essence of contemporary culture.

Zevs was born in France in 1977, and first gained renown as a street artist in Paris during the 1990s. Since then, he has extensively participated in exhibitions and performances worldwide, including at the 2010 Moscow Biennial, New York Carlsberg Glyptothek (Copenhagen), the Mechelen Cultural Center and the historic Cabaret Voltaire. Zevs is not only one of the most political artists within MSAGallery’ already partisan roster, he is becoming seen as one of the more inspired practitioners of mischievous street work. His Liquidated Logos series, first displayed at the Soho gallery in November 2007, are arguably the most direct and recognizable examples of the oeuvre. His activity on the street has drawn much controversy and attention from the ‘high art’ world, blurring as it does the line between ‘street pieces’, conceptual art, and plain old-fashioned angry vandalism. Most notorious were his examples of ‘visual kidnapping’ where Zevs removed entire figures from over-sized adverts. At Berlin Alexanderplatz a vast, garish, hanging billboard for Lavazza coffee found itself without its female lead. Zevs ‘demanded’ a 500,000 Euro donation to the Palais de Tokyo art gallery in Paris for her return. Other techniques have included simply ‘cleaning’ a picture onto a dirty wall using high pressure steam cleaners, obviously toying with the notion of whether graffiti is a blight upon the landscape or a complement to it.