Inspired by Frank Stella, L.A. Artist Revok Takes Graffiti in a New Direction

Nov 10, 2016 7:18PM

Image courtesy of Library Street Collective.

For some, graffiti evokes the 1980s and images of spray can–wielding teenagers emblazoning their colorful bubble letters on the dirty walls of the Lower East Side. For Jason Revok, graffiti is something else.

Born in Riverside, California, in 1977, the L.A.-based artist (who goes by Revok) was certainly inspired by the skateboarding and graffiti scenes that flourished in his youth, and also by the colorful imagery he spied on album covers in his father’s record collection. But Revok, who is completely self-taught, pushes the boundaries of street art, both in form and technique.

Instrument Exercise 2, 2016
Library Street Collective
Anti-Painting (In Memory Of/Afterlife 1), 2014
Library Street Collective

To produce his latest body of work, “Systems,” currently on view at Library Street Collective in Los Angeles, Revok built a special apparatus that allows him to spray eight cans of paint at once. His “canvas” isn’t the standard city wall, either. For these works, Revok sprays paint onto metal surfaces—but not just any metal. It’s metal he purchased from a sign-making company, the same one that makes the signs he’s been defacing on corners and city streets for years. And one of his ingredients? Graffiti remover.

Untitled X (Ascension/Descention), 2016
Library Street Collective
Self Portrait 1 (July-October), 2013-2016
Library Street Collective

There’s no disputing that these metanarratives and technical innovations play big roles in Revok’s recent creations, yet the artist is also quick to acknowledge his outward inspirations. Visually, the most obvious influence is Frank Stella, whose emphasis on geometry and symmetry eventually slipped away into explosive bursts of color.

The work of avant-garde composer William Basinski is another influence. His “The Disintegration Loops” (2002–03) series, with its droning music dissolving into interference and silence, inspired one of Revok’s unusual techniques involving a paint roller wrapped in tape. As the roller spins on the canvas, the tape moves, tears, and eventually falls off. The striking results are Revok’s series of “Tape Loop Paintings.”

In the end, it seems, Revok is an artist who finds creative opportunity in his lack of formal education in the arts. Like Stella, he refuses to be limited by artistic conventions. And like the New York street artists of the ’80s, he’s free to innovate and continue expanding the definition of urban art. “I’ve never been so committed to an idea,” Revok has said of his recent works, “and I feel like there are infinite possibilities.”

—Bridget Gleeson

Revok: Systems” is on view at Library Street Collective, Los Angeles, Oct. 22–Nov. 12, 2016.

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