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Détournement: Signs of the Times

A group show breaks down the iconography of signage

by James Thorne in Culture on 10 August 2012

Carlo McCormick, senior editor of PAPER Magazine and co-author of "Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art," recently unveiled his curated show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery in New York. "Détournement: Signs of the Times" is an exhibition of work composed of familiar signs that have been modified by iconoclastic artists. A term first used by Letterist International in the 1950s, McCormick describes détournement in his curator's statement as "a detour of sorts, but not so much along the scenic route as over the tougher road that goes more directly to the truth."

"We live in a forest of signs that are meant to confuse, distract and numb us to the more dire consequences of the human condition as it is," writes McCormick. "We do not need to follow these signs, we need to make our own so as to find a way out of the mess we are in." A shortlist of the 20 artists involved includes Zevs, Shepard Fairey, Posterboy, Steve Powers AKA "Espo" and Aiko. Collectively, the group attempts to reverse the persuasive nature of advertorial and cultural signs by jostling the viewer.

In hosting the exhibition, Jonathan LeVine Gallery continues its dedication to subversive street and pop art. A few standout pieces from the show include "Am I Dead Yet?" by Jack Napier and Billboard Liberation Front, Martin Wong's "Traffic Sign for the Hearing Impaired" and "Incredible Edible Cathy Cowgirl" by Ron English.

"Détournement: Signs of the Times" is on view now through 25 August 2012.

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