Hypemaster and the destruction of art

Watch out for the new P.T. Barnum of Philadelphia’s art world, Rah Crawford, who last summer was selling his work out on Second Street with not much more than a notebook of copies to show, is having his second solo show at Qbix Gallery opening Friday, and just in case you snored through his last show–paintings that mix up hiphop culture, politics and design with the Al Hirshfeld-words-embedded-as-lines technique all over the place–he has decided to wake you up and make you pay attention by promising to sledgehammer some of his pieces. And he’s not talking copies, here. These are originals (right, “Mr. and Mrs. Bear,” one of the four paintings scheduled for destruction).

Three of the four paintings scheduled for destruction on Sept. 23rd at the gallery can be rescued if collectors buy them that night.

But showman that Crawford is, he understands there’s a need not to disappoint the mob’s blood lust (paint lust). So no matter who tries to come to its rescue, one of the paintings will get the axe.

Crawford is a guy who knows how to sell, and I’d have to say, since he does it with such flamboyance, it’s a part of his art. He’s talking about collectors who rescue his paintings from destruction as deus ex machinas. I’m reminded a little of the guys who approach me on the street, telling me a yarn that makes no sense in hopes I’ll buy the sad story and donate some dough to them (left, “Modern Mona,” with words embedded in the shadows and in her hair).

He’s a performer (a DJ) and a writer who has published a little zine about the local club scene called FILL.

And he’s thinking of his show as part of a larger, multi-act performance, “Welcome to Earth.” An exhibit last year was Act I. This exhibit at Qbix with the sledgehammer event is Act II. Another show at a place yet to be determined, with sexy paintings and therefore not open to minors, is his Act III, “Loovorfook.” And a live show of some sort, “Abracadabra,” will be Act IV. Meanwhile videographer Craig Hanna has been documenting Crawford’s art career with plans to release a DVD by mid-2008, also entitled “Welcome to Earth.”

Back on this planet, he really does have shows lined up in Amsterdam on Nov. 5, 2005 with Paris, Barcelona and Antwerp to follow.

For all that, I still take Crawford seriously with his mix of energy and productivity. I just hope with all the hype that the paintings aren’t a come-down.


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