Post-War & Contemporary Art / INVADER (B. 1969) Rubik Travis Bickle Mohican 2007
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Lazarides Gallery, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2007
London, Lazarides Gallery, London Invasion / Bad Men Part II, 2007, p. 34-35, illustrated in colour
Invader is one of the world's most prolific and esteemed street artists. He has been one of the leading pioneers of the Street Art movement to have emerged in the last thirty years, standing alongside Banksy, STIK, and Shepard Fairey as a creator of some of the most iconic and beloved public works of art in the world. His style is utterly unique, and the present work, Rubik Travis Bickle Mohican, captures the punkish, analogue methods that typify his career.
Growing up in the 1970's and 80's, Invader's work has drawn inspiration from the popular culture of this period. After graduating from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, he began the street art project that would launch him into the public eye in 1998, installing mosaic pieces that resembled the pixelated, '8-bit' style of Space Invader villains across his home city. He almost instantly became beloved by a global public for whom his works were an essential part of the urban landscape, 'invading' city spaces with iconic characters and emblems that were craftily installed often without notice. To this day, he has thousands of mosaics on view in the public spaces of world cities, beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean, and even aboard the International Space Station. The impact of his career for Street Art and contemporary art at large is immeasurable, and such works as Rubik Travis Bickle Mohican represent the pinnacle of his artistic output.
Using his original technique dubbed 'Rubikcubism', Invader takes this fascination with nostalgia and mainstream culture further by using the Rubik's Cube as a medium. The present work combines Invader's instantly recognisable pixelated, pointillist style with one of the most iconic antiheroes from 1970's American cinema - Travis Bickle from Martin Scorsese's 1976 drama Taxi Driver. Through the careful and masterfully obsessive manipulation of the 330 Rubik's Cubes, Invader forms the image of Bickle at the apex of his character arc.
Invader's street art is composed of tile mosaics, and depict characters from wildly popular retro arcade games such as Space Invaders and Pac-Man. However, for Invader's studio works he expands the possibilities of pixelation by appropriating a popular image and converting small areas of the image from its native colours into exacting configurations of white, yellow, red, blue, orange, and green tiles on each corresponding Rubik's Cube. The finished artwork simultaneously alludes to the Pointillist principles of Georges Seurat, as well as Picasso and Braques' preoccupation with Cubism which occurred a century before this present work was created. Viewed up close, the present work appears as an abstract cacophony of colours; viewed from afar, however, the image of Bickle with his anarchic mohawk hairstyle materialises. The somewhat grainy and fragmented nature the individual tiles imbue the portrait with nostalgic memories of the filmmaking process. The speckles of white on the top left evoke flecks of overexposed 35mm film.
The subject matter reveals not only Invader's interest in mainstream pop culture and nostalgia, but also hints at Invader's humorous, satirical, even philosophical perspectives. The innocence of an iconic game is juxtaposed with the complex and internally tormented nature of Travis Bickle. The nigh infinite number of algorithmic configurations of the Rubik's Cube mirrors the plurality of pop culture and its ubiquitous nature. In the late 2000's, Invader reflected on spirituality as a theme; amongst the same series as the present work, one finds Rubikcubist portraits of the 14th Dalai Lama and Jesus. Travis Bickle, and by extension Robert De Niro who portrays Bickle, are iconified via Invader's laborious yet reverent technique.
Rubik Travis Bickle Mohican was exhibited at Invader's first London exhibition London Invasion / Bad Men Part II at Lazarides Gallery in 2007 and has remained in the same private collection ever since. In direct contrast to the serene portraits of religious leaders and famous musicians, or reimagining of iconic masterpieces from the Western canon, the works from the Bad Men Part II series showcase the brazen attitude, grit, and omnipotent hold over the public's attention of these antithetical characters. They point to Invader's quick-witted and humorous qualities as the artist himself has remained anonymous, evading the authorities and the public life throughout his career. Through this choice of subject matter, methods of abstraction and the integration of a cult classic game as a material, Invader's works are revolutionary and iconoclastic. Rubik Travis Bickle Mohican is an exceptional example of the street artist's seamless foray into a unique and technically sophisticated series of studio works which rarely come to market.