Tucked away on Second Street in Oakland, near Jack London Square, is Loakal Art Gallery and Boutique, founded as a collaboration between the clothing brand fiftyseven-thirtythree and the East Bay Express. The creative space is split into two sections, with one side of the space home to a new art exhibition every month, where work produced by radical emerging artists can be showcased. The other section serves as a boutique that features attire and dorm room essentials made by indie designers.
This month’s featured art exhibition is the debut solo show by Chris Blackstock entitled “The Lone Stranger,” on view between July 4 and July 30. After moving to San Francisco in 2005, the now Oakland-based Blackstock has been involved in various commercial projects, including graphic work for Skrillex and the record label OWSLA. He is both a digital illustrator and traditional artist who creates his laser-etched designs in Photoshop and draws by hand — for art featured in this exhibit — his backdrops using various paints and inks.
“The Lone Stranger” consists of 18 pieces, some of which have been laser-etched, painted and molded. Original to this exhibit is Blackstock’s arrangement of 2-D painting and 3-D laser sketching. Blackstock has combined these distinct artistic styles into multilayered, pop-out, wall-standing canvases. Using different brush textures and dyes, including spray paint, acrylic and laser printing, Blackstock mounts the numerous layers together. They contrast against one another in an elegant fashion, working to complement each other while not outshining neighboring textures. Seven of the pieces in his gallery utilize this strategy.
At the opening reception for the exhibit, Blackstock said he was inspired to test the laser-etching concept after creating other laser-printed work — also featured — while working in a frame shop. His original concept is not restricted to urban artistry and can have many applications to modern art. But he has not seen or heard of anyone else creating this type of art. Here is an Oakland original so beautifully crafted that it would not be surprising if even the most conservative artists soon emulate it.
Many pieces on exhibition feature one main character — a humanoid figure, with a curved, extended neck and levitating hands. They are anatomically correct, as if the man’s wrists have simply disappeared. It is the first of many analytical abstractions in Blackstock’s work. The separation, which he described as “shake on it,” represents how the relationship between physical and mental bodies is discredited in a sort of intangible separation.
In “Don’t Let the Sun Set,” the character seems to be pulling a large rock while stranded on the surface of another planet, which is a dull orange and resembles Mars. He is alone. Other than few cacti, he is the only form of life featured. Blackstock commented that his project was intended to mimic the loneliness he felt when moving to the East Bay from San Francisco. The lone stranger is an urban figure seeking something more, yet stranded because of the possibility that there may not be anything else to see. The orange landscape is the California desert, and the emptiness represents a lack of food, water and life even in a place that is agriculturally sustainable, according to Blackstock. It is an exaggeration of the environmental destruction that has manifested in urban areas.
“Chris has always had a different imaginative mindset from the rest of his family,” a family member noted at the exhibit. Since Blackstock was young, he has created art figures with complex symbolism. Until this day, Blackstock continues to improve his unique artistic personality, which has developed into his current exhibit. “The Lone Stranger” radiates with creativity and artistic ingenuity, ready to be recognized by great company.