Neck Face & Mannerist Graffiti Art in the 21st Century
Mannerism is a period of European painting that is generally accepted as lasting from the later years of the Italian High Renaissance (around 1520) until the arrival of The Baroque period, about eighty years later. This artistic interlude was popularized as an official movement in the early 20th Century by German art historians who couldn’t figure out what the fuck to do with an entire slew of painters & architects. Mannerist painters are mostly identified by their artificial and individualized approach—and for their intellectual pursuits.
The actual word “mannerism” derives from the Italian “maniera” or style. I always considered Michelangelo to be the first Mannerist, as opposed to a Renaissance Artist—most art historians and critics would probably vehemently disagree. (But that’s partly why I write for anewyorkthing.com and not for like Artforum.)
The first time I ever saw a tag by Neck Face back in May of 2003 on 28th Street (which was accompanied by cleverly executed dog excreting squiggly shit from its behind) I thought, ah, what a perfect Mannerist Graffiti image. I immediately scribbled in a brand new notebook “Who is Neck Face?”
About a month later I found out who Neck Face was when I accidently bumped into him at an ICP student art show. He was maybe eighteen then and I believe still attending the School of Visual Arts. As soon as I started reading to him my musings on his work (from that very same notebook), he disappeared into a crowd of parents.
The next time I would actually see Neck Face, he tried to steal a drawing of his that he had abandoned (and I had recovered) which was on exhibition in my mad little traveling art show.
When I realized he had left with the drawing I ran out after him. About a minute later I tackled him in a stairwell and wrestled back the work from his hands. Ownership, at that stage of Neck Face’s career, had yet to become a real issue for him. I guess he just figured that I had stolen one of his private doodles What a slippery slope we construct when first we practice to advertise our art and ourselves.
He probably still wouldn’t understand that particular Shakespearean paraphrase; but since possession is nine tenths of the law, I figured he was now stealing my property—and I was willing to put up a good fight to keep it. Eventually Neck Face acquiesced. I guess he wasn’t so tough—just a Mannerist as I suspected all along.
According to Wikipedia, Neck Face was born in 1984 in Stockton, California.
He apparently attended Bear Creek High School and Tokay High School in Lodi. Beginning with affixed stickers on street signs and in various buildings throughout Stockton and Lodi, Neck Face’s public works eventually spread to San Francisco.
By the time of Neck Face’s early masterpiece graffito in Chelsea, New York City, a pink hand painted “…Loves Neckface” beneath an abandoned storefront sign My Old Lady, the Mexican American young artist was firmly entrenched in Brooklyn and was making his presence felt among the last vestiges of IRAK crew and the newer independent operators in downtown, midtown, Williamsburg, Greenpoint and beyond.
Following Neck Face’s career since his relocation in 2005 back to California is a bit like watching a made-for-cable docudrama on the life and times of Keith Haring (minus the social activism and gay sex). Of course, after a gallery show entitled “Witch Hunt” in August 2004 at New Image in Los Angeles, and the requisite designs for skateboards, T-shirts, hoodies and sneakers with major companies like Vans and Stussy, Neck Face has become a more fully realized version of what he always wanted to be: a famous artist… well, sort of famous.
I consider Keith Haring to be the first Mannerist Graffiti artist of any major significance to emerge in the New York City art world of the 1980s. Jean-Michel Basquiat continues to this day to be wrongly categorized as a Graffiti artist by many so-called historians. Even at the height of his Graffiti inspired activities as one half of the duo SAMO, Basquiat was always a classic American painter (or at least trying to be one). Haring, on the other hand, still proves to be problematic for many who regularly attach quick easy monikers to particular artists .
When clever subway riders first started noticing his genius chalk drawings on black non-advertisement posters the City would paste over expired real advertisement posters, the most far-sighted straphangers just peeled them off, rolled them up and kept them (and sold them later for cold hard cash).
Today, I’m sure Tony Shafrazi is still sitting on a bunch of those subway drawings, just waiting to drag them out for yet another Keith Haring Mini-Retrospective at his now relatively irrelevant Chelsea gallery—maybe he’s waiting for that made-for-cable docudrama to one day magically appear (keep dreaming, Tony).
I bet Keith never once tried to steal one of his own chalk drawings back from some smart entrepreneur who had acquired it. He was far too generous and sophisticated for that. Neck Face could have learned something from Haring’s life story back in 2003, but hey, it’s never too late to teach a young artist old tricks.
In a recent episode of Epicly Later’d on VBS.TV Neck Face was asked what else he did besides write on walls. He responded, semi-sarcastically, with: “I just do whatever makes me happy and makes other people bummed.”
This sort of studied response is in keeping with the ridiculous juvenile posturing and fronting of so many early 21st Century (really second generation) Mannerist Graffiti artists.
Give him time, however, and I’m sure Neck Face will be using his given name and be preparing for a slot in a biennale somewhere. Just ask Sacer, I mean Dash Snow, he knows when it’s time to grow up a little. Hopefully, one day Neck Face may see the value of real public works projects in neighborhoods filled with underprivileged kids, like Keith Haring before him—until then, Neck Face will continue to sell his products large and his talent short.
By David GreenbergPostet av Christian