The new Tate Modern celebrated its inaugural weekend with an open call for young artists to submit work based on the theme of the future of art and creativity. Among the submissions selected for the exhibition was a piece by Dani Labrosse. The 19-year old French-Hungarian illustrator and digital artist is based in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Labrosse creates multi-media work through a process involving hand-drawn illustrations which are then rendered, colored and elaborated digitally. In this composite manner, he evokes the past and future of art with compositions overflowing with figures reminiscent of Hieronymous Bosch and the linear patterning of Keith Haring.
Dani Labrosse: Ghosts at the Junkyard
October 17 – 28, 2016
9 Constitution Street, Leith | Edinburgh, Scotland, EH67BS
Labrosse describes himself as a “lowbrow neo-expressionist.” His current work often involves bright blocks of solid color and monstrous imagery. The earlier work had a simpler illustrative style with a figure as the focal point – as in his series Bubblegum and Ritalin. Steven Blyth of the Urban Kultur Blog aptly compared Labrosse’s series “Gloom Beasts” to the work of David Shrigley.
Labrosse claims Hieronymous Bosch as an influence. This can be seen in God Has Tattoos/Weekend In Hell (2016). Here, rather than focusing on a single figure, Labrosse unleashes intricate little figures whose interactions tell a story. Color horizontally divides the work across the middle of the composition. There are angelic figures on clouds floating in the pink sky. Demonic creatures wreak havoc in the hellish lower half of the picture. The image is reminiscent of Bosch’s triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1495-1505) wherein a placid Garden of Eden is countered with a dark Judgement Day.
The piece that secured Dani Labrosse a spot in the Tate Modern open call exhibition is entitled The Future of Art (2016). Here he shows us a Hitchcock’s Rear Window view into the lives of tenants in an apartment complex in the distant future. Through the windows anthropomorphized monsters paint, sculpt, and play music, among other things. Is every tenant in the building an artist? Is this an isolated community of specialists? Or does The Future of Art imagine a world where everyone participates in the artistic process? More towering buildings recede into the background, inviting viewers to imagine the other beings of Labrosse’s futuristic city. Where and who are the civilians?
Ghosts at the Junkyard, Dani’s most recent series currently on display at Creative Exchange in Edinburgh quite literally broadens his horizons by shifting his focus from individual figures to vast landscapes. These vistas spark the wonder of a Dali painting but with a cartoonish style that makes “Ghosts at the Junkyard” widely accessible. The series is titled after a piece that features a black night sky and a terrain filled with mountains of brightly colored trash. A handful of glowing, white ghosts populate the foreground. Several more are hidden in the heaps of trash bags in the background. The ghosts wander the landscape looking but seemingly uninterested in finding anything in particular. They simply enjoy the junk. The dark sky inspires humility, if not dread. It reminds us of how small we are relative to the universe. Conversely, the curious little ghosts make the vastness of space feel less daunting.
There is only one piece in the ‘Ghosts at the Junkyard’ series that has no color. In The Great White Mess (2015), Labrosse eliminates his signature bold colors in favor of finely detailed line work. The piece demands attention even without eye-grabbing color. From afar, we recognize faces, other body parts and objects. Up close we see that a whole universe exists within the frame of the drawing. There are mountains, buildings, rivers and people. The piece is buzzing with life. It is like looking at a drop of water and then viewing it under a microscope revealing a menagerie of microscopic life.
With his new series Ghosts at the Junkyard, the young artist, Dani Labrosse comes to us as the ghost of art world past, present, and future. He manages to evoke the work of old masters like Bosch and propel them forward in time. Our existence is tenuous. We live on the very brink of the unknown – the future. For all our propensity for analysis, memory, and longing we do not know what might happen a moment from now. We don’t know what will happen in the immense time required for biological, cosmic, geologic and gaseous evolution. And we cannot agree on what already happened and why. Labrosse is working this edge.