Dan Witz: Prisoners at Lazarides Rathbone
Many will be most aware of Dan Witz as an artist whose work, both evocative and evasive, appears on concrete streets rather than on canvas. The New Yorker’s art has been emerging almost at random since the late 1970s, on anything from telephone boxes to manhole covers, and has brought a sense of beauty and pathos to the graffiti-laden bowels of major cities across the world.
His latest subject is London. Whereas before, he would juxtapose urban decay with his innovative strokes of beauty, his arrival in the capital sees him executing a similar concept in reverse. The convivial atmosphere of the Lazarides Rathbone gallery has been hijacked by Wiltz’s thought-provoking, often disturbing solo debut exhibition – Prisoners.
The American’s latest show (partnered with Amnesty International – the world’s largest human rights organization) depicts multiple doomed subjects confined to dark prison cells, each devoid of space, clothes or hope. Many are reduced to simply a mask disguising the face and shackles locking them into eternal solitude. Each piece has a unique undercurrent of tragedy with the subject knowing their fate, listlessly waiting for the inevitable. The emotions on display range from hopelessly defiant (shoulders back, standing tall) to helplessly insane (straight jacket donned, screaming to the heavens). In one painting all we see are the inmates’ fingers, timidly reaching out of what looks like an air vent – a saddening piece, claustrophobic and even absurd, but all the more powerful for it.
Also included in the exhibition are works from his last series Mosh Pit: multi-figured paintings depicting the frenetic, adrenaline-inducing excitement experienced at the core of a bustling mosh pit. It is an interesting inclusion and it complements the maudlin aspect of the adjacent series accompanying it, displaying, once more, the scope of Witz’s style.
Prisoners is a decent addition to the extensive catalogue of this established artist, possibly opening up a broader audience in the process. For many it may be too near the bone, but for others it’s a beautifully hard-hitting showcase of a subject matter few modern artists are brave enough to touch.
Dan Witz: Prisoners is at Lazarides Rathbone until 23rd February 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.