If you've ever questioned how multinational soft drink, sports goods and car companies have assimilated counter culture art such as grafitti into their advertising, put Thursday 9 February in your diary. That's when the Forman's Smokehouse Gallery in East London is opening the group show Phantasmagoria, which looks at this very topic. It features the work of Jon Burgerman, Boicut and Shin Tanaka - illustrators and custom designers whose very unique work is often mass produced on consumer items yet feels handmade and authentic.
David Marchant and Sara Kwiecinski are curating the event. "The concern with this is that in order for capitalism to work, people have to keep buying new things, so commodities have to be disposable things, but at the same time appeal to a society that demands meaningful objects," points out Marchant. "When consumers discover their items to be void of authenticity they will seek something new. Art that is a counter reaction to consumer culture is too often used by the same culture it is challenging, and usually distorted."
While the show will bring together a melange of different artwork in various media - from the colourful to the grotesque - yet as the name Phantasmagoria suggests there's also a hint of darkness to it. Jon Burgerman's contribution is a series of skulls in his doodled style, while one of Boicut's works is a hideous bunny-skull-monster.
Other artists have also been treading the road of the reaper. "James Unsworth's Most Beautiful Suicide depicts dead 23-year-old Evelyn McHale," says Marchant. "She jumped to her death from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building in 1947. The picture deceives viewers by appearing to be something it is not. Andrew James Jones' Crying is typical of his usual work. It is disturbing, weird and also very funny."
The curators hope that designers and illustrators visiting the show will come away not just inspired, but thinking about some of the contradictions between art and consumerism. Marchant continues: "Creatives working in consumer advertising, in my opinion, should consider what they are referencing more, research the cultures they are drawing from more appropriately, and not distort or abuse meaningful visual information that owes itself to history and social cultures. Hopefully the exhibition concept and the artist's work will inspire some interesting debate amongst creatives."