by Laura Hutson
Shinique Smith is a Brooklyn-based artist who seems to transform textiles into an extension of graffiti. After seeing Thornton Dial's "Birmingham News," as well as some of the lawn art sculptures in the exhibit, I wondered whether Smith had been inspired by Dial's use of clothing and ephemera as a tool to create a new kind of painting.
Jose Parla layers scraps with spray paint with trash to create these intricate, beautifully organized messes that are like the urban version of work in the Dial exhibit.
Artist Laylah Ali makes these cartoonish figures that borrow from both comics and folk art, and I feel like they'd be right at home having a conversation in some of Bill Traylor's darker drawings.
Neckface got a lot of fame in the early Aughts for his defiant junior high doodle-style of graffiti, which always seemed more Beavis and Butthead than Grandma Moses, but there are also a lot of similarities with the scratchy chaos of Traylor's drawings.
If you had to trace the history of graffiti like a schoolroom evolution chart, Keith Haring would be the guy a few steps before Neckface, but a comparison to Traylor might be just as apt. Both artists can make simple stick figures dance.
Kara Walker is arguably the most successful artist of her generation, and her paper silhouettes address the complicated history of sex, violence and race in a visually simple way. While the theme of racial tension seems like an easy connection to draw to the work of a black artist who was born into slavery, the real similarity is the artists' shared style of simplifying forms into almost hieroglyphic storytelling forms.
Benjamin Edmiston is a Brooklyn-based artist who walks the line between cartoonish and tribal. His shapes remind me of Traylor's — simple but not fluffy enough to be mistaken for anything drawn by Walt Disney. Other artists in a similar vein: Matt Leines, Chris Lindig and Taylor McKimens.