Walls of street art canvases filled the Loakal Art Gallery in Oakland. Event co-curator and Oakland-based street artist Nite Owl had lines of paint cans, cups and paintbrushes to distribute among participants. The opening reception of the “By the Numbers II” interactive art show at Loakal Art Gallery & Boutique occurred Feb. 7, featuring the drawings of Bay Area underground art veterans Nite Owl, Lisa Pisa, Reggie Warlock, Egads, Maska, Chris Micro and Chris Granillo. The audience was responsible for coloring the pieces, and the final result will be sold and featured at the end of the month.
These giant, colorless panels hung like life-sized coloring-book pages. Grabbing paintbrushes and red plastic cups filled with paint, people stood in line like schoolchildren, with Nite Owl being like the hippie art teacher with dreads. Some used delicately impressionistic strokes while others used indiscriminate broad brushes, with streaks of paint running down the canvas to paint the figures. The jarring convergence of these different techniques and colors from various people gave the artworks a chaotic and subversive aesthetic, which was inherent in many forms of street art. There were numbers designating a particular color assigned to each section of the drawing, but people were free to color it however they liked. Visitors were encouraged to be creative and even make some mistakes while painting.
The exhibit, full of sprawling shapes, vibrant colors and cartoonish characters (Adventure Time characters were featured in one piece), presented an entertaining and communal activity for parents and their children. As an interactive event without any concrete rules, the event allowed kids to be a part of the creative process for these artworks while also meeting the artists behind these projects.
The event allowed Nite Owl to collaborate with other Bay Area street artists, which he was also doing with the Chopsticks Urban Art Space. Although some street artists prefer to remain anonymous, with pseudonyms that sound like names of superheroes, this event helped showcase and support the work of many talented local artists. Nite Owl, who has been in the spotlight with his successful solo exhibit “Aesthetic Transience” at Loakal, looked to expand the definition and perception of street art among spectators with his work.
As shown by local art events such as the annual “Life is Living” festival in Oakland, street art often can have a profound connection with youth. As a fairly accessible medium, the creative aesthetics help introduce them to an artistic world of stenciling, painting and designing graphics. In a similar way, the second annual “By the Numbers” was an exhibit designed to be family friendly and integrate the community in reaching a collective goal of painting these ready-made pieces.
Many famous artworks throughout history, from Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Gran Cavallo,” have remained unfinished and left viewers to speculate about the final result. One of the directors of the event, Nastia Voynovskaya, who previously worked for The Daily Californian, commented that this exhibit, with purposely unfinished artworks, tests the role of the artist relinquishing his or her creative role to the audience. This shifting of roles examines the relationship between the artist and audience, creating further questions of what can be considered art and who should have the final say on an artwork.
Based on his experiences from last year’s exhibit, Nite Owl said, the final result was never close to what he originally imagined, which was the fun of it. The multitude of people adding their signature contributions of brushstrokes and layers of color to the piece would probably agree.
Contact Fan Huang at [email protected]