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All art, you might say, is the crystallisation of an artist’s experience in one way or another. For Sesper, aka Alexandre Cruz, who has a solo show at Galeria Logo this month, a long history of skate, punk and street art inform his intriguing panels: a chaotic mix of collage, acrylic paint, pencil and silk screening.
The Santos-born street artist first made a name for himself as a designer of T-shirts, fanzines and record covers back in the early 1990s, and as the vocalist for the hardcore band Garage Fuzz, with whom he still performs.
There’s an underground skater aesthetic and a punk political bent to his work that borrows heavily from the black humour of the early flyer art made famous in Gee Voucher’s provocative monochromatic collages for the band Crass in the 1980s. And although Sesper’s works are generally less explicit and much more colourful than Vaucher’s, they're no less thought-provoking.
The exhibition, titled ‘Reprovado’ (‘Failure’, or ‘Rejection’), isn’t nearly as negative or insular as the name might suggest: Sesper’s works are bright, engaging and instantly accessible, while still offering viewers the challenge of deciphering the artist’s intent.
Building on the design ideas present in his previous mixed media creations, Sesper’s large, vibrant panels incorporate personal artefacts with found objects, and unexpected meanings emerge from overlapping layers of materials that would otherwise be thrown away. And within these disparate elements – magazine clippings, educational posters, fragments of cassette tape: the debris of mid-to-late-20th-century society – remains an attention to the human figure.
Reels of tape become a pair of eyes in Belong to Us; book jackets form the bodies of twins in Siames Dream; and a photo of a typewriter is a strangely toothsome mouth, in Dois ou 3 Passos.
The overall effect of the cut-and-paste style might easily become clichéd in the wrong hands, with some elements bordering on an adolescent use of crude sexual references, and heavy use of the punk standard of the mismatched-magazine-headline ransom note. But Sesper manages to avoid these pitfalls by continually surprising, turning his vivid, colour-popping palette with their scraps of text and cross-cut scientific diagrams into an intriguing and cathartic example of personal expression that’s enriched by, rather than derivative of, the work of those who have come before him.