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A Criminal Mind

February 25, 2011

FRENCH STREET ARTIST ZEVS LANDS HIS FIRST NEW YORK SOLO SHOW AT DE BUCK GALLERY.

BY CARLO MCCORMICK
PHOTOGRAPHED BY KEVIN TACHMAN

Influenced by the global export of graffiti and hip-hop in the early ’80s, French youth have made Paris one of the hotbeds of contemporary street art. Invader and other gratuitously hyped figures like Mr. Brainwash have even become famous, but this month the smartest and most subversive of the lot, ZEVS, will be hitting New York with a solo show at De Buck Gallery.

Though he began like the others as a teenage hoodlum painting his name on the walls of Paris, it was in the late ’90s that the now 33-year-old ZEVS (born Aghirre Schwarz) started to develop a visual language unlike any other, starting with a form of erasure he called “Proper Graffiti,” which he made by spraying his tag with high-pressure water. Next came his “Electric Shadows,” wherein ZEVS used white paint to trace Paris’s streetlamps, gates, statues and bridges, creating shadows at night and leaving vestiges of visible invisibility by day.

Following his series “Visual Attacks” (advertisement assassinations of glossy fashion models, executed with splashes of red paint between the eyes), “Visual Violations” (desecrating images appropriated from the Internet) and “Visual Kidnappings” (a three-year project that began when the artist cut out a massive model from a building-sized billboard in Berlin and demanded a half-million Euro ransom from the brand to return her, which set off an international police hunt for the culprit), ZEVS has found it more effective to at- tack corporate logos than their spokespeople. In the mid-aughts he began transforming the signs of our most popular brands (Google, McDonald’s, Chanel) into “Liquidated Logos,” dripping spectacles that invoke action painting abstractions.

The incipient savagery of his splatter takes on a darker capitalist patina in his latest show, as his subjects will include financial giants like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch. It’s not easy to get ZEVS to come in out of the cold, but for him “the gallery is like an office space, it reminds me of Psycho — a place of unspeakable horror, so I will make my show about that.”

ZEVS’ exhibit opens at De Buck Gallery, 511 W. 25th St., New York, On February 24th.