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Brooklyn Street Art

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Mystery Revealed : Hellbent’s Jaw belonged to Sigmund Freud

Posted on August 27, 2011

The streets are covered with symbols and markings that have meaning to the maker, their peers, and to passersby. Depending on socio-political-geo-historical factors, you may or may not know what certain tags or images are meant to indicate and aside from gang indicia, no one seems particularly alarmed by this fact that street art and graffiti is often a nest of hidden meanings.

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Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

One such symbol that has often appeared on the street is the bottom jaw from Hellbent, rough and jagged, hovering above a bed of psychedelic or pastel floral patterns. If it happened once, you might think “Oh, it’s part of a series and I’ll figure it out when I see the other pieces”. In fact, no. It’s the one symbol that Hellbent repeats most often, and it is perplexing.

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Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

We finally got an answer from the artist regarding the genesis of the jaw when he was describing his current piece in the LA show “Street Art Saved My Life” and, while it sheds light on the background, somehow it raises more questions. In the story about this Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis, we postulate that the jaw represents our base animal qualities and our similarities to the ruthless animal kingdom, all the while acknowledging the ultimate fragility of a simple bone structure, and be extraction, us. Anyway, before we psychoanalyze it further and bore everybody in the room, here’s what Hellbent says:

“Sigmund Freud at age of 67 appeared in a clinic in Vienna because he had discovered some hard, smooth spots on his jaw. After the doctor examined him it was discovered that they were cancerous and the lesions had to be removed immediately. Since the hospital population at that time was at capacity, Freud was put in a makeshift room that he shared with dwarf. After his operation while his family was out, Freud began to hemorrhage and was unable to call out, while laying bleeding on the floor. If not for the dwarf roommate Freud would have surely died and with this I began thinking of the jawbone.

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Hellbent currently on view at C.A.V.E. Gallery in the show “Street Art Saved My Life : 39 New York Stories” (Photo © Carlos Gonzalez)

The earliest images I was influenced by as a kid were the graphics on skateboards and punk albums. The image of the human skull was a constant in a lot of these images. It was a sign of rebellion and it seemed the embrace death, where society was much more concentrated on living. But as I grew up I noticed that a lot of people who where similarly influenced by these images began to bring the skull into the mainstream. Now you see cute skulls on Paul Frank baby clothes and such.
So to get away from this trend I began to concentrate on just the jaw bone as an image. The jawbone is what is used to communicate and form words with and the way we consume food to sustain life, an important part of the human experience. I have come back to the skull and separated it from the jaw; making it two unique images that are connected through this separation. I also use a lot of animal imagery on the streets, so the jaw bone represents the human element of this world…
Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

Hellbent (Photo © Jaime Rojo)

I have been calling the new use of multiple floral stencils “Quilting”. I like the idea of taking all these used “scraps” to form something more tangible, something other than its self. Sometimes it makes up the border around the image and other times it is used inside of the image, giving it a cubist like quality. The colors in each of the patterns also play off one another, giving them a natural 3D quality (which is actually intensified with 3D glasses, as was discovered at my last gallery show at Mighty Tanaka) that further emphasizes this cubist element. The shapes seem to pull and push of the surface, but the image is still readily available to the viewer.”
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