The Day JPGS Became Canvases



I'll take a second to introduce myself. My name is Erin Piñon and I'm the summer intern here at W.A.A.S. Gallery. I'm a rising senior at Tufts University studying Art History and Latin American Studies, with a strong interest in contemporary art. So I find myself here, thrilled at the prospect of "studying" art and artists that live and breathe beyond the confines of an overpriced textbook or wiki page.

Until now, my excitement for the upcoming show has been limited to 140 characters and Facebook updates at an appropriate length. If for some reason you haven't heard (you might be living under a rock or just awoke from a coma), Drew Merritt will be showing his work at W.A.A.S. Gallery August 4th through August 31st. So far, my relationship with Drew (first name basis!) has been comprised of posting his work on every social media outlet I can, writing his press release, searching through emails and the like. Without hesitation I could tell you his hometown, his current muse, a fair description of what his voice sounds like on the phone, and probably his clothing size based on the amount of Drew-searching that goes on in this office.

To say the least, this past Friday, when I finally met the infamous underground/graffiti artist, I was floored. Not only was I excited to meet the artist I had been talking about for two weeks straight, I was about to see his work, work which in my mind was a series of files in a folder. For those of you who have heard of the opening, I have one piece of advice for you: it really doesn't matter how large of a viewing platform you use to experience the work of Drew Merritt, it will not compare to 8ft canvases towering above you.

As an Art History student I often see the work that I study in person by visiting museums. There is an instantaneous realization that the art which I have studied and what I have read in books is real, it’s hung right in front of me, insured for millions of dollars, and very accessible to the public. The feeling I had upon first seeing Merritt's work was quite different, though not in a negative way. Before joining the gallery, I had not heard of Merritt, and probably would not have for a while. Merritt's work as a graffiti artist means his work is refreshingly accessible and public, just like the pieces hanging in a museum, the difference is that the production process is somewhat clandestine and there is no provenance. Drew is from New Mexico, where he has a studio, but also works in Los Angeles, two places I do not frequent, another limiting factor in my knowledge of him. However, seeing him physically remove his work from a trailer, unwrap it, and speak to him, made this experience real. It made him real. I had read his bio, I had written about him, but none of that compared to sharing the heat of a 104° Texas afternoon and getting to know the man behind the work.

I'm relieved to have finally met Drew Merritt. He's no longer an imaginary being that we correspond with and promote. He's a real person. His art is real, and it's here.