It's the end of an era at StolenSpace. The acclaimed urban pop artist and gallerist, D*Face, alias Dean Stockton, is staging his last exhibition at the place where he first exhibited seven years ago. In a few weeks, the gallery's maze of rooms, corridors and staircases decorated with graffiti and that once housed The Old Truman Brewery, are to be demolished to make way for a new building to accommodate data storage.
In that respect, the exhibition is aptly entitled New World Disorder though the idea reflects his fascination with consumerism, materialism and social dysfunction. In his view, in today's atmosphere of shifting values, people are no longer prepared to believe the old American way of the Superhero's triumph of good over evil. Former constants no longer hold true. The perfect metaphor is the case of Pat Tillman, the famous American football star who signed up to fight in Afghanistan after 9/11. He belonged to sport's tribal culture, achieved great fame, and was seduced by patriotism to fight a dubious war in which he not only died but was killed by his own brothers in arms through accidental friendly fire. What's more, the military hushed this fact up, worried about bad publicity. To D*Face, here lay all the contradictions, dilemmas, and corrupted values that feed much of his work. Arranged on two separate storeys, the ground floor section is laid out in the grid pattern of an American football field. Surrounding it are familiar icons of popular American culture that Stockton has absorbed from his passion for comic books. Oversized baseball bats in various decorations and World War II American helmets. In the centre lies a pile of toys given away by MacDonald's. These and other curiosities convey how quasi-religious zeal and consumerism appear to go hand in hand.
Upstairs, in the main exhibition hall hangs a series of paintings made over the past few years. In the midst of them is a motorcycle on which sits the Grim Reaper. It's a fun piece entitled Death Trap. The bike is real. D*Face modified it himself from a Yamaha SR500. "I'm fascinated by those stereotypical icons and motorbikes still represent rebellion," he tells me. His painting, Going Nowhere Fast (above) is a kind of 2-D version in which the young girl clings on to the deathly tearaway, the kind of person that you wouldn't want your daughter hanging around with. "Is it him polluting her or her polluting him? I was creating something with a certain deviant edge to it."
Death features heavily in this exhibition. It's sometimes metaphorical as with the death of love or romance as depicted in Love Her Hate Him (above). The representation of death may not have the same shock value in a gallery as it has in the street but nevertheless it's important to the meaning of D*Face's work. "People feel uncomfortable with death because it's one of the few unknowns in our life. It questions your relationship to people in a way that makes you appreciate things more. In general, whereas pop art was meant to be questioning consumerism, it turned out to be a celebration of it. My work has a serious undertone to it."
As an added extra, New World Disorder also includes a tour of the artists's workplace where his digs at our conspicuous society have been produced. On the walls hang parodies of Andy Warhol paintings. Another fascination is how the public image of artists and celebrities grows further and further away from the real person behind those images as time goes by. D*Face still produces street art - he has just painted a huge and legal mural in Puerto Rico. His new studio at the new gallery will be located a stone's throw from the present location.
New World Disorder runs from 7 - 23 June at the StolenSpace Gallery, The Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL