New Yorkers and the cyber culture

In all its free-spirited and uninhibited vivacity, street culture has long been strangely intriguing to artists. From it emerged two of the most celebrated artists of the late 1970s, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, who turned graffiti into art and went around tagging the walls of downtown New York in the defiant, raw spirit so typical of street youth culture. Something of this mood of street culture can be detected in the work of two young New York-based artists, the Lithuanian-born Aidas Bareikis and Bill Saylor, two of the three artists whose works are currently on view at the Eleni Koronaiou Gallery. The use of discarded objects or imagery taken from comics is somehow reminiscent of street art and so is the way that the visuals are put together to resonate with a sense of disorder and intentional mess. But there is also a strong element derived from technology and mass culture paraphernalia, mostly influenced by science-fiction comics and movies, both of which form a vital part of a cyber culture, one of the many sides of contemporary youth culture of the street. The technology connection is what ties the works of Saylor and Bareikis to that of German-born Torben Giehler, the third participating artist in the group show. Giehler’s works are the sleekest of all, their hard-edged style of abstraction is made to look all the more high-tech through a process of digital manipulation. Giehler makes abstract, geometrically structured drawings of cityscapes which he then modifies through computer and digital photography to finally lay them on the canvas. Brightly colored and covered by sweeping diagonals, his images are highly evocative of movement and electrical speed, almost pushing the visual effect to the vertiginous. There is something futuristic about Giehler’s work which, although expressed differently, can also be found in the exhibit of Bareikis. His is the most physical work in the exhibit, a mass of discarded objects of everyday use congealed in a mixture of wax, silicone spray and painted over with a lobster red color. Strangely reminiscent of the insides of the human body, this wax-drenched sculptural installation has an eeriness about it but also reeks the right dosage of dark humor. Objects that appear almost zombie-like; figures drawn from some science-fiction movie echo the effects of technology and its alienating but also friendly effects on our lives. Bill Saylor’s paintings also blend the bizarre and the humorous. Saylor makes scores of drawings which he either presents as a large mural or in small groups. Having studied marine biology as well as fine art, he is fascinated with science – particularly the way it permeates mass culture – and reproduces characters that seem to be taken out of science-fiction or children’s comics. This blend of eco-terrorist and graffiti art then becomes fused with an abstract-expressionist style in the artist’s large, beautifully colored paintings. Indeed, if a concern with some aspect of technology is what brings these works together, another common point is the choice of conventional media. Contrary to the recent surge of video and electronic media art, all of the works in the exhibit employ either painting or sculpture, but transform them into a contemporary, science and technology-like aesthetic.

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