Editorial: Jeff Vespa @ Traction Gallery LA - Publication: Dart Back to Editorials

Whether its Jennifer Annistonís hair color, Britney Spears bodyfat or Kirsty Allyís eating habits, legions of people are hopelessly addicted to paparazzi culture. This billion dollar industry is the perfect marketing tool for the commercial film and TV sector, a seemingly acceptable form of voyeurism that also serves to indoctrinate the rank and file with a plethora of subliminally placed , fashions, products and hairstyles.

Fine artist an photographer Jeff Vespa marries this world of art and commerce, both pragmatically and creatively. He has catered to the papp market as a photographer, snapping Hollywood icons on various red carpets and earning a few bucks in the process.When he's not snapping celebrities, Jeff Vespa turns his hand to art. His debut solo show at hip downtown LA space, Traction Gallery saw an interesting hybrid of iconic styles, melding celebrity portraiture with finely honed graffitti, unique in that the latter, mounted on hugh canvases, were conjured by brush stroke rather than spraycan.

Almost unnoticeably most of the time, pencil marks outlining the component shapes show through the colors, suggesting that each work has in fact been planned out in advance, that the presiding air of spontaneity is the product of artifice. Visages of famous folk like Paris Hilton, Liz Taylor and Nicole Kidman floated on colored backgrounds with graffiti tags swirled around their faces.

Graffiti has emerged as one of the more popular forms of comtemporary art. It has strayed away from the common mindset that graffiti is about crime and the bad. Like the everyday undertakings of showbiz and the generic template of the celebrity image, is graffitti culture as mundane and cliche? fomerly credible within fine art spheres, graffitti's roots embodied the subversive spirit of guerilla arts collectives, yet after twenty plus years of hipster linkages, graffitti's accent and style has seemingly lost its edge, stale via its inclusion as an everyday commercial graphic, from computer game packaging to skateboard clothing.

Like the disposability of pap photography, graffiti is equally imperminent, an uncommon artform in that the artist creates the work knowing that it will be physically destroyed within days. The work's creative impetace and relivence soon destroyed, with a simple squirt from the spraycan or flash of a camera.With each piece, an artist hopes to do something which will be noticed throughout the community, perhaps even imitated and/or developed by other artists.

With grafitti, like papp photography, no piece ever lasts. Hence it is necessary to repeat new developments again and again in subsequent pieces, to increase the chances of their being seen. It is also necessary to be constantly innovating, in order to stay on the edge of the work which is being done. Graffiti styles evolve very quickly, because of the ephemeral nature of the piece.

Further to this mire or irony was a report of the wholoe event by hi archetypal high camp gossip columnist (E-Online) that read, " "It's...uh...interesting," ventures Samaire Armstrong, formerly of The O.C., as we gaze at a scrawled up wall-size image of Tom Cruise. "But this one kind of freaks me out--it's so strange!" Maybe it's the samurai-like mustache of graffiti sweeping across his upper lip that's causing her to shake in her funky denim culottes.

Not scared off is Mena Suvari, who moments later is smacking her ruby red lips on Tom Cruise's painted puss! Now, that's a seal of approval. But does Suvari love it $15,000 worth? 'Cuz that's the going rate to take Tommy-baby home tonight. Just like the artwork, the crowd is red carpet eclectic. Playboys (billionaire Marvin Davis' grandsons Jason and Brandon) mingle with sundry celebs like Armstrong, Suvari, Rachael Leigh Cook, Danny Masterson, David Arquette and sis Rosanna, Shannon Elizabeth, Bijou Phillips, Alias baddie Melissa George and No Doubt dude Tony Kanal."

Rich celebrities can aid starving artists, so they should be tolerated at 0penings. Besides they and their hangers on usually provide nice eye candy.

Vespa's enterprising marriage of street art and celebrity consumerism is a fun way to dispose of extra time and money, yet the pop immediacy of his work fails to give it an aesthetic eloquence and timelessness that will see it endure the next few months - ah well, that's showbiz.

Written by Craig Stephens

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