Art Gallerythis month alexis babayan: signs
We got a tip on Alexis' work from a flyer spotted at the local art supply store and knew right then and there we had to have it on the site. The rich color, graceful lines and graphically compelling subjects come together as gorgeous prints of some of Oakland's most classic commercial signs and their surroundings. The signs themselves are a slice of history--of Oakland's economic landscape, and of handmade/pre-digital sign design. How many do you recognize?
"For the last three years or so I have been working on a series of woodblock prints documenting the urban landscapes of the East Bay, especially the well-worn signs of liquor stores, barber shops, and other small businesses. This series focuses on an aspect of urban life that can be both beautiful and ugly, something which was devised to attract attention, and which is paradoxically often ignored. I am most interested in signs that are handlettered, weathered, and imperfect. They have a personality and a history. They are worn down by the rain and faded by the sun. The rust-red of an old metal sign becomes like the red of blood or desert sand, improbably beautiful against the blue sky. The sign is painted over and repainted. Over time, the traces of former signs show through and form a kind of palimpsest. An urban archeologist could discover fragments of many stories by looking at the different strata of chipped paint. All are transitory... the vanitas scenes of the city street.
About my process:
These prints are based upon photographs that I took while wandering around the streets of Oakland and Berkeley. Once I have an image that I like, I draw it out using pencil, brush, and ink, and decide how best to translate the image to the woodblock medium. I carve the image into a block of wood or linoleum. There is a separate block for each layer of color used in the design. Each block is inked up with an oil-based ink, the paper is laid over it, and I burnish by hand with a flat wooden spoon to transfer the image."
See more of Alexis' work at www.flickr.com/photos/babayan/