An in-studio visit today on BSA with Street Artists Icy & Sot. We were happy to check in with them and talk about new techniques they are discovering and creating to make art recently. Remembering the astounding sculpture they created during our curation of the opening exhibition at the Urban Nation museum a couple of years ago, where they created an eerie steel immigrant family silhouette; people who were harrowingly trying to pass through a steel wall. Recalling the power of that piece we were interested to see the evolution of this 2-D method of conveying the features of an individual yet representing the aspirations of humanity in a much broader way.
In the seven years since we first met them, having just arrived from Iran in Brooklyn, we have witnessed such a rigorous, considered set of ethical guidelines in their choices of subjects and techniques, even as we could see their personal and professional evolution. Minimalist, even spartan, they hue to a simple line that is personal and yet universal.
These new profiles in steel are an example of new tools they have personally crafted from discarded items.
“We used to walk like every day around here,” says Icy as he motions out of the grimy factory window of their Brooklyn studio to the industrial truck traffic below on the street.
“We found this rusty shovel and we said, ‘What are we going to do with this?’” he says as he twirls the wooden shaft in revolutions, the profile of a man cut out of the shovel’s blade. Once they collected a number of the discarded diggers and developed a way to saw them into shapes and smooth their rough edges, they decided to make a number of them.
“Then we did this series about working-class people,” Sot says. Lined up and leaning forward on the wall, the sculptures seem like they might talk in gruff and frank voices, might tell you about their toil, or speak of the soil.
“We wanted to cut them out like ‘workers’ profiles,” says Icy.
They tell us about a grouping of the shovels shown this spring in Lisbon at Underdogs Gallery, owned and operated by Street Artist Alexandre Farko aka Vhils. The exhibition, named “Faces of Society” expanded the new cutting technique to include other materials like the brush of a hand-broom, the brass plates of the scales of justice, a sawed briefcase full of money, a pair of leather gloves smashed one upon the other. For followers of the artists, these new works all recalled the people-shaped holes in chain link fences that they have been cutting in recent years as well.
Aside from this reductionist approach to art-making, they have also been developing a unique process for applying paint with the inner core of a cutout. By specifically smearing paint directly to the metal shape, pressing it on canvas or parchment, and pulling away, the remaining paint gives the impression of movement and action. One series called “Dreams” features the guys singular focus on color, and on metal to create streaming portraits in red, green, blue, yellow, bronze, copper, gold and silver.
The artists then showed us their technique for creating these new paintings, a simple and possibly profound revelatory form of portraiture that infers stories in its streaks, suggests individual character in each rhythmic pulling back of the painted blade. When on display at Underdogs, they called this series “What is Love?”. A good question, as usual.