photo of Andrew Jankowski
Visual artist and menswear designer Brett Westfall’s strawberries in “Fresh” design are inspired by ten days spent in 2007 with a colleague in Patterson, Calif., A farming town known for its apricots. Westfall, a friend and collaborator of Comme des Garçons founder Rei Kawakubo, studied weathered advertisements for hand-painted fruits and vegetables on wood planks in a style designed for rapid replication, given the added character of the years of exposure to the elements. Westfall’s attraction to commercials led him to reflect on people and work related to the food supply chain, an issue now taken on a new political angle in Oregon after farm worker Sebastian Perez was among the hundreds of people killed in the record-breaking Pacific Northwest heat dome last June. . Westfall also says strawberries can mean anything viewers think of: youth, sweetness, fertility, blood, life, and anything else they have ever represented throughout world art history.
The One Grand Gallery in Portland is currently hosting the global conclusion of Westfall’s traveling art exhibition, The signs of life, with strawberries painted on Nike shoes as a love note from LA to Portland.
“With [my daughter] Moon, I try to uphold the idea of the concepts behind your work, the ideas of the work, because it has to be more than visually stimulating, it has to be smart and well thought out, ”Westfall said. Mercury of his 12-year-old collaborator at an opening night on Saturday, December 11 at the One Grand Gallery in Portland. “What’s the reason you’re doing it, what’s the purpose, what’s the meaning, what’s your message and all?” “
Underwater garden (2019), Tree house (2019) and Moonlight visitor (2019). photo by andrew jankowski
The Westfalls traveling art exhibition and market, Signs of life, is a collaboration with electronic musician Baseck who arose at the start of the pandemic, from an informal residence at These Days, an LA gallery and boutique space. After watching the Westfalls paint and organize installations, Baseck composed an ambient soundscape of almost 15 minutes. Its soundtrack covers a full range of emotions, starting off bubbly and hopeful before becoming moody and lonely, becoming adventurous and mysterious, then building energy for a cryptic ending. It ticks the boxes of a rave, a video game, a high-end parade and an unwritten Tron continuation on the NFT.
Signs of life features paintings, conceptual installations with reused objects, a score listeners can scan to hear on their phones, and a pop-up shop that on opening night centered pairs of Comme des Garçons x Air Jordan Carnivore shoes and Nike Cortez adorned with the Westfall miniature of strawberries and a canvas day bag with strawberries and Snoppy, Moon’s version of Charles M. Schulz’s iconic black and white beagle. Strawberry painted CDG portfolios were displayed on a merchandising table along with posters, prints and art notebooks by leading artists like Ai Wei-Wei and the late Virgil Abloh and Basquait.
photo by andrew jankowski
“I love that it looks like the moment, like what those fruit signs were at first when I saw them,” Westfall said. “They were done as fast as you can, just do them and get the point across, and I love that feeling, so I try to keep that in there whether it takes me a minute or not.”
Westfall strawberries are spoonfuls of cohesive color in a familiar but irregular pattern, suggesting a balance between individuality and the common, uniformity without conformity. Westfall clarified that his painted shoes are not official, commercially available collaborations, but works of art using privately purchased fashion as the material, interpreting his and the Franco-Japanese luxury line’s take on the Oregon’s original sportswear giant as a language of love without borders. When asked, Westfall said there are similarities and differences between his work and the most controversial overhaul in shoe art to date: the hundreds of modified Air Max 97s from MSCHF. in Lil Nas X’s “Satan Shoes” tinted with human blood.
One Grand Gallery founder Jordan Chan-Mendez, Brett Westfall, Baseck and producer / DJ K-Wash, who performed live with Baseck at the opening. photo by andrew jankowski
“It’s weird, because once you buy something, it’s yours, you own it, so it doesn’t matter if you want to work on it and sell it or not, in a sense, that’s not there. ‘nobody’s business, “Westfall said. “But at the same time, if you do it with thousands of pairs and turn it into a business, then I could see the brand asking, ‘What’s going on? But if it does, then it’s like, why don’t we work together? It’s strange.
Through its layers of color, texture and symbology, Signs of life invites viewers to honor their differences while celebrating shared connections, traits and experiences. Westfall and Baseck use Signs of life in part to honor their friend Ignacio Nava Jr., better known as the legendary queer nightlife producer Nacho Nava, who died in 2019. The dark colors of the series recognize heartbreak as natural, as do the cheerful and vibrant colors of the foreground are also natural.
Growth retardation (2020) photo by andrew jankowski
Installation parts include items held back from garbage heaps for years, sometimes decades. Heal through loss with self-medication (2020), an altar of white painted beer bottles on a stump found surrounded by dirt and houseplants, represented death and rebirth. Experimentus Organicus # 3C & # 1A (2004) are the preserved remains of plain white Westfall T-shirts buried and unearthed from his garden to connect with the planet and the life force of the soil. Growth retardation (2020), A Broken Cello Hanging from a Tied String, is a meditation on post-traumatic stress disorder. Baptized millennial rose as a sign of acceptance of the cello’s new state of being, Growth retardation sounds like a provocative response to early calls for people to capitalize on quarantine shutdowns. You are the best ruler in the universe (2020) was Moon’s toddler-era toy kitchen painted white and studded with strawberries, set against a canvas wall decorated with strawberries, mutant Snoppies, stone-colored textures, and stylized words on a Westfall poem dedicated to Moon and his mother.
And to quote spiritual leader-turned-reality star Mary M. Cosby, One Grand Gallery “smelled like hospital” on Signs of life opening night, and the following afternoon. The freshly dabbed antiseptic cleanser scent, while artistically intentional, was an unexpected twist on Westfall’s motif, perhaps a nod to CDG’s weird concrete, tar and garage colognes. Or, more likely, it was the result of securing sterility for a crowd that sees the beauty in grain, at a time that demands sterility.
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Experimentus Organicus # 1A (2004) photo by andrew jankowski
Signs of life The opening reception was the start of the end of an exhibition that has toured for over a year, visiting New York, LA and Tokyo in the process, and will remain at One Grand Gallery until January 22. If Moon, who Westfall said was ten years old when the pandemic and the project began – had attended her first vernissage in Portland, she would have seen more pieces on display than CDG x Converse, but in honor of her work . Moon’s contributions include experimental brush-stroke techniques, adding 3D found objects to 2D paintings, and stacking acrylic paint like viral nail polish videos, giving his work a delightful quality of candy.
“Moon said she wanted to be a professional performer when she grew up, so I said ‘Okay, just like if you want to work out you have to work out, you can’t do it when you want, it’s discipline, and sometimes it sucks, but you have to keep working or you won’t develop your own style, “Westfall said.” It’s easier when you develop your own style, you don’t. ‘you just have to find concepts. “
Signs of life runs through January 22 at One Grand Gallery, 1000 E Burnside. The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.