Artists of the Year

John Grider

By David Hansen

With the stiffening of sentences for crimes of graffiti, our bus stops and brick walls have become visual wastelands, left to scavengers of the stylus who lack the time and the inspiration to do anything more than scribble a hasty autograph with a thin Sharpie. In this post-Wild Style era, getting up has become a decidedly less vibrant affair.

But behold—a gorilla fires a revolver! An aquamarine angel towers pensively some two-and-a-half stories above! A space shuttle thrusts toward cosmic doom amid grazing bison! These are the works of Minneapolis stencilist John Grider. After being featured on the powerful street-art website Wooster Collective, Grider's work gained international exposure. In 2007, he found his way from a solo show at Minneapolis's Art of This Gallery to Reno, Dallas, New Jersey (where he kept company with the legendary Seen), and on to Paris, Sydney, and Jerusalem. With the local "Will Work for Food" show slated for April of '08 and another Paris show looming like a thunderhead, Grider's immediate future is BluBlocker material.

It's easy to see why. One has the eerie sensation that his pieces have been torn from our shared imagination and transposed on the world in all their Technicolor lucidity. In the hands of a less masterful practitioner, Grider's subject matter would be easily mishandled. Sure—a bikini-clad bimbo sporting a ram's head may seem absurd on first viewing, but Grider's craftsmanship and composition ensure that his pieces always get a second look—and a third. Grider's is the kind of discipline that keeps the imaginative from being mistaken for the absurd, and which has kept him from the self-repetition that leads to the graffiti graveyard. Powered by an exhaustive visual vocabulary, his pieces bite down and don't let go.

But let's not get too heady here. Social relevance has a tendency to dissolve when you're gazing into the jaws of a 30-foot-high great white shark, savagely breaching from a brick wall. However hard you want to think about it, this shit looks good. Drive around. Open your eyes. Get stunned.

David Hansen performs as Vicious Lee in local rap duo MC/VL.

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