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"Rise and Shine"
"Penny for Your Thoughts"

By Tim Hill | Posted 11/6/2002


Mission Space through Nov. 30

There is something sad about the life span of pop art. What starts as playful revolution ends up stale and academic. A couple of rooms at the Baltimore Museum of Art proves this.

Fortunately, pop eats itself, and yesterday's Andy Warhols and Jasper Johns are digested by new popsters such as Bask, a self-taught artist whose skill at writing graffiti complements his eye for clever plays on commercial signs and logos. But don't call it graffiti: The 25-year-old Czech artist (now based in Florida), also known by his given name, Ales Hostomsky, eschews the term, preferring the phrase "urban influenced."

Once it leaves the underground illegal graffiti frame the atmosphere changes," he says in his artist's statement. "It's still very rough edged though. Being a multi media artist allows you room to grow."

Yet street art styles play a role in his art, if only in method. He works on less illegal and more portable panels now, layering, painting over, and stressing acrylic paint and found objects until the stew of pop junk looks like a wall on some neglected city street. Think Robert Rauschenberg making punk rock show flyers, before punk rockers bought Macs.

In "Rise and Shine" (pictured), a baby in the form of a bomb--or is it the other way around?--drops on the unsuspecting. It's a powerful image that hovers in that space between street art, comics, and commercial art, rendered in a splattered, machine-gun style. Here pop gets a fresh coat of paint: Though there's the requisite statement about the absurdity of commercial iconography and an underlying "fuck you, corporate death culture" message, there's no obsessing over high and low, and like other colorful and energetic work emerging from Bask's pop contemporaries, the pleasure of staring at it outlasts the blast.

But who can say how the stuff hanging in the Mission Space this month will look hanging in the postmodern art wing of some museum in 30 years? The bomb is now.

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