Image Categories

Sep 10 — Oct 10, 2021

XOOOOX – The name can be interpreted as an arbitrary sequence of letters, but also as a graphic construction: two X’s placed like barriers, enclosing four O’s symmetrically. XOOOOX is a pseudonym precisely tailored to style and intention for an urban artist who has become prominent in the Berlin art scene. 

His true name is unknown, with his birth year estimated somewhere around the emergence of the first urban art stencil (a sprayed image created using a template). XOOOOX’s works, characteristic of urban art, were initially found primarily on exterior walls in European metropolises. Nowadays, they adorn various image carriers in private interiors and public collections. 

At the age of 15, XOOOOX delves into graffiti art. Along this path, he encounters the tags and murals of the first generation of urban artists. XOOOOX is fascinated by this art derived from Dada and Pop Art and their strategies, including changing contexts, liberating content, references to transience, and a sly critique of the consumer world. XOOOOX thoroughly engages with all of this and creates his first paste-ups on the streets of Berlin. He uses enlarged magazine clippings depicting stylized models and brand advertisements. However, the thin paper – merely fixed with paste – deteriorates in the weather faster than intended. A rethink is necessary. In this situation, XOOOOX benefits from his work as a graphic designer and his sister’s fashion magazines. 

Having gained street credibility, he turns to stencil graffiti around 2005. During the same period, Blek le Rat, considered the godfather of urban art, adapts methods from Dada and Pop Art for the streets, achieving great success. Blek le Rat spreads his rat – simultaneously a slogan, signature, image, and message – first across Paris, then worldwide using stencils in black and/or white. With his stencils, he is ever-present in the bustling urban space. Banksy, too, gains widespread public recognition during these years. From 2005 onwards, the self-taught XOOOOX begins creating stencils for his small and large-scale works, primarily executed with black spray paint. The artist name XOOOOX fits seamlessly into the context of urban art. The pseudonym functions like a self-contained graphic work. 

Various versions of the signature can be found in XOOOOX’s artworks: sometimes randomly distributed in the image space, sometimes as a kind of speech bubble or functionally as pass markers, they complement the compositions on porous street facades. Here, the urban artist XOOOOX hints at the transience of the depicted models from fashion magazines, among other things. Often, his protagonists receive additional attributes or aesthetic enrichments that attract attention and prompt passersby in public spaces to engage. The ingenuity is also evident in XOOOOX’s works. 

The Bamberg gallery AOA;87 presents a diverse spectrum of XOOOOX’s art under the title Image Categories. This range includes enlarged, multi-colored excerpts from fashion magazines. They are reminiscent of Marcel Duchamp’s method, in which the artist painted over a postcard with a reproduction of the Mona Lisa. XOOOOX’s influences could also include the German urban art pioneer from Cologne, known as the Banana Sprayer, and the British pop star of the scene, Banksy. The combinations shown in the exhibition are created by over-spraying existing images or images explicitly created for reinterpretation. 

As exemplified by the work “Ejsa (Spin),” the artworks can stir up aesthetic taste. The reversal of top and bottom plays a significant role. The artist removes the colored depictions of magazine models from their context by placing them upside down on a white background. Additionally, he juxtaposes them with black sprayed counterparts, thus dissociating the protagonists from their previously assigned content. The power of the depictions is reminiscent of Georg Baselitz’s violation of (gravity) rules, Nam June Paik’s combinative-ironic reversal, or Bruce Nauman’s reversal technique, which disrupts sensory perception. Furthermore, a contrast between black and white, between warm skin tone and white coldness, can be observed. 

In other works in the exhibition, overcoming the edges is a central theme: for example, in the work with conceptually arranged stretcher frames. Moreover, a fragmentation of the stencils illustrates the creative play with physical laws. Here, echoes of Piet Mondrian’s constructive approach resonate. 

By using additional colors, XOOOOX enhances the aesthetic impact of the usually black-and-white stencils. The motifs on various image carriers also expand the categories of urban art. In the work “Georgia (Werku),” the background has lost its monotony and is tonally and visually energized through the use of differently applied colors. Central motifs are again derived from fashion magazines or photographed and transferred models posing in the studio. The AOA;87 gallery also presents corresponding works from the artist’s creative process.

XOOOOX, Notes (17.11), 2020, spray paint, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 73 x 3 cm
XOOOOX, Ejsa (Spin), 2021, pigment print, spray-paint on paper, 100 × 70 cm, framed
XOOOOX, Firni (Jugonda), 2021, spray-paint, pencil on paper and glass, 32.6 × 28.4 cm, framed
XOOOOX, Liza (Manga), 2021, toner on paper and plastic, 40 × 30 cm, framed
XOOOOX, Scale (Cat Content), 2018, acrylic wax crayon, pigment print on paper on wood, 315 × 51 × 2.8 cm
XOOOOX, Jeffersonia (Braschina), 2021, spray-paint, pencil, pigment print on paper, 60 × 50 cm, framed
XOOOOX, Skimmer (Werku), 2021, spray paint on wood, 100 × 60 × 3.5 cm
XOOOOX, Liza (Side), 2021, c-print, 42 × 29.7 cm, framed
XOOOOX, Transformer (Pank), 2021. Spray-paint on wood 64 x 50 x 2 cm
XOOOOX, Georgia (Werku), 2021, spray paint on wood, 100 × 60 × 3.5 cm, back side signed dated
XOOOOX, Toyboy (Crowd), 2021, spray paint, pencil, label on cardboard, 50 × 70 cm, framed