Beneath the darkened clouds of the London skyline, a sea of crystalline skyscrapers and ancient roads, a young Dean Stockton flipped through the pages of Thrasher Magazine. In those childhood years long before he would become known as the famed street artist “D*Face,” a creative fire had been lit in Stockton’s mind whose flames crept along the English capital’s walls until they grew far beyond the confines of the rainy city, stretching across the world to Downtown Los Angeles.
On Saturday, Aug. 6, Stockton’s new work, “Painting Over the Cracks” will fill DTLA’s Corey Helford Gallery as an observation of life during the pandemic and a glimpse of the altered society it left behind.
“When I started on this show two years ago … there was a lot going on,” Stockton described. “It felt like the world was changing quite rapidly around us while we were observing it very much via the internet or Facetime, and it felt a lot like, ‘This place is falling apart,’ in a good way as much as it was a bad way. People were taking the power back. They were questioning what was going on and how it was going on. It felt both scary and exciting to me. … It felt like we were painting over the cracks for a very long time without addressing the actual issues.”
Stockton grew up in London during the 1980s after the punk subculture had left American shores and spread across the globe. He was enthralled by the emerging skateboarding scene around him along with the work of graphic artists like Jim Phillips.
Stockton set off on a path of graphic design and illustration, then began to screen print his own stickers and paste them throughout the streets blending art, design and graffiti in a manner that pre-dated the emergence of street art as it is known today.
“If I look back at it now, it was always inevitable that I’d end up in some form of art, design, illustration industry because I wasn’t academic nor did the academic system work for me,” Stockton said. “My attention was drawn to the things that I was being influenced and inspired by that seemed exciting and relevant and was speaking to me in a voice that I understood. Those things were graffiti, skateboarding, and punk music. … And so it was those things that I would gravitate towards more and more.
“I thought I’d use those elements and combine them into one, and that worked in the street really because there was no curator. There was nobody telling me what could and couldn’t be done. There was no brief, and I just started using the street as a format, as a vehicle and a blank canvas for work. And that was like late ‘90s and there wasn’t a thing called street art at the time, but it slowly became part of the movement that it is today.”
As his work gained more attention throughout the city, Stockton’s anarchic style continued to develop as his iconic D*Dog logo became an inseparable part of British Urban art.
Under the name D*Face, Stockton would go on to become recognized as one of the U.K.’s most prolific Urban Contemporary artists and work alongside the likes of Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Blink-182.
With his third solo show at the Corey Helford Gallery, which will cover both the Main Gallery and Gallery 2 through Saturday, Sept. 10, Stockton has paired his “aPOPcalpytic” artistic style, subverting images and icons of the everyday with re-appropriate forms of media such as advertisements and comic books, with his observations of society’s reaction to the pandemic.
“I think this is one of my best bodies of work,” Stockton said. “For me, it’s always been about articulating a message as simply and as graphically as possible. And that really comes from that inspiration of skateboard graphics and being inspired by Jim Phillips, and obviously pop art.”
Stockton recalled that his mother used to take him to traditional art galleries as a child, but the work did not speak to him in a language he could understand. When he began to encounter pop art, Stockton found a striking relevance to it.
“I like the idea that people understand pop art. … So, let’s see if I make this relevant to today’s society,” Stockton said. “That body of work is something I continue to explore, that familiarity of the style and aesthetic, but with a darker undertone that is much more relevant.”
As the isolation and conflicts that arose during the last two years brewed in his mind, Stockton took the vibrant hues of his palette and told stories of separation and submission throughout the show, which acts as a wake-up call to an overly conspicuous society.
One section of the show is dedicated to an expansion on Stockton’s previous body of work on relationships, particularly focusing on connections that have fractured during quarantine.
“People were told they couldn’t be together,” Stockton said. “This is a continuation looking into that body of work, which is about people being absent, not just having passed, but just not being present within your life and the inability to be able to connect with those people. Obviously, that was very prevalent during lockdown.”
Another part of the show warns that the right to protest is slowly being taken away from people across the world as governments vie for more control over their citizens.
“The right to have your own voice heard is being slowly taken away from us and it’s something that I feel is intrinsic to the public,” Stockton explained. “As an artist that works within the public domain, it feels fundamentally important that we’re allowed to express ourselves and have our voices heard.”
Throughout “Painting Over the Cracks,” Stockton’s work echoes both a message a warning for the audience to be more aware of the powers that influence their daily lives and a call to action for people to protect their fundamental rights that Stockton feels have been increasingly jeopardized.
“As much as it’s a critique of the times we’ve been through, it’s also a celebration of humanity and that we’ve come out of this fight together,” Stockton said. “I just think we need to be increasingly mindful of what’s happening around us. Like I said, the right to protest to me is so fundamental and it’s something that not many people know about, but it’s just the way the system works today where these things are being very quietly, very carefully negotiated in the background.
“It’s just time for people to be more aware of what’s happening. I feel like we’re all so excited to have some form of release and go out and socialize again. I just think it’s important for people to mind what’s actually happening in the background.”
“Painting Over the Cracks” by D*Face
WHERE: Corey Helford Gallery, 571 Anderson Street, Los Angeles
WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 6, to Saturday, Sept. 10
COST: Free admission