Exhibition review: Insider Gallery at Curious Duke Gallery

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Originally published on The Upcoming on 2nd June 2013

Graffiti exhibitions are usually a bit of a strange beast – taking street art and trying to make it feel at home in a traditional gallery space is a difficult task. Rather than bringing the vibrancy and urgency of graffiti to the gallery, exhibitions of street art all too often have the opposite effect; bending the art to the will of the space and robbing it of its edge in the name of making it a respectable affair.

Luckily, the folk at Global Street Art and Test Space who have co-curated this pop-up show, simply entitled Insider Gallery, have managed to avoid this and instead the exhibition positively bristles with that unmistakable buzz of authentic street culture. The diminutive space which plays host to this celebration of graffiti is practically bursting at the seams with burgeoning talent. That’s not an exaggeration either, a total of 15 different artists are showcased, with over 50 pieces of work representing a truly eclectic ensemble of style and form.

Perhaps in order to capture the vibrancy and immediacy of proper street art, many of the works were clearly produced within the space. Some of the pieces actually leap from the canvas onto the surrounding walls and seemingly bleed out onto the street itself, as if the boundless energy of the artists couldn’t be contained by the rigid lines of a typical gallery space. The smell of fresh spray-paint pervades the air like a badge of honour.

Outside, a shop shutter, classic canvas of graffiti artists, is covered in swirling intricate layers of spray-paint, resembling a modern day, very urban Jackson Pollock. It’s telling that there are more people at the launch event stood on the street outside than there are in the gallery itself.

Real street art can’t be confined by four walls, and is intrinsically transient, something Global Street Art and Test Space are evidently acutely aware of. This is exactly what an exhibition of graffiti should be like – they have captured its essence perfectly. Be quick though, this kind of raw street art can’t stay captive for long.

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