He’s waiting for us in front of the François Mitterrand National Library, his long hair under a hat, a black polka-dot shirt, a burgundy waistcoat, Chelsea boots and a hand with ringed fingers… Jef Aérosol’s dandy rock spirit seems eternal. It has been going on for 40 years and releasing its sprays on city walls and gallery paintings.
At 147 avenue de France, two large raw concrete spaces exhibit under the aegis of the Mathgoth gallery both his studio works and the creations that made him known in the street, stencils (for sale from 1,500 to €10,000) worked on cardboard supports. We discover self-portraits, including the famous “Shhhhh!!! » showing the face of the street artist with hiss protruding eyes, a monumental stencil which in Paris faced the Stravinsky fountain by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely. But also anonymous people, kids, rock stars, or “cityscapes”, these landscapes of fantasized metropolises…
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So many paintings “multi-layered”that’s to say “multi-layered” allowing to obtain an ultra-realistic result close to photography, with on each of them, this small red arrow which has become its seal, its trademark. As if to give the direction where to point the gaze.
A little less known than other stars of the genre (Banksy in the lead), less politically engaged too, the man is nevertheless one of the essential figures of urban art. Jean-François Perroy, alias Jef Aérosol, was born in Nantes in 1957. Today based in Lille, he belongs to this first wave of urban art imps who developed the stencil hand in the 80s, worn by punk and hip-hop.
The artist strums the guitar in various folk rock groups (Windcatchers, Distant Shoes) without ever ceasing to draw. He is of course inspired by posters and rock iconography, drawing from the figures of the genre, from Bowie to Dylan, but is also imbued with the spirit of comics and vinyl covers.
An English teacher by day, Jef Aérosol “bombs” his black silhouettes on all the walls of France in the evening. Before skipping school to devote himself exclusively to his two great passions, drawing and music.
To understand his interest in street art, a key date, 1981:
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“In 1981, I attended the Clash concert in Paris, and there I discovered on stage the New Yorker Futura 2000 painting live with an aerosol on a large canvas, a completely new process at the time” he said.
The craze for the urban stencil explodes. In 1982, when Jef Aérosol started out, he was 25 years old. His very first intervention in a street in old Tours is a punkoid self-portrait stencil. Until the end of 2010, hundreds of faces (screaming, grimacing, angry, deformed) he disseminated in the streets, joining the band of Blek le Rat, the late Nemo and Miss. Tic, Epsylon Point, Speedy Graphito, so many famous artists who started at the same time as him. He tells us:
“I drew a lot of inspiration from the movement of the new realists and from narrative figuration with figureheads like Gérard Fromanger or Jacques Monory”.
Very quickly, his works were noticed, and from the street, auction rooms and galleries opened their doors to him. More poetic than political, his artistic message remains popular. Initially, the subjects of his stencils were none other than himself, sorts of selfies by Jef Aeéosol. He then exploits the vein of stars and leftovers, everyone becoming VIP (Very Important Stencil), like the “Sitting Kid”a young child alone and withdrawn into himself, a motif that has toured the world, from New York to the Chinese wall.
In addition to the exhibition, the highlight of the show resides in a second space separated from the first, with a monumental installation imagined by the artist. An instant immersion in a totally chaotic urban jungle taking up the codes of the mind street with 200 life-size characters on cardboard painted in a mesmerizing black and white gradient.
Jef Aérosol, 40 years of stencils, until November 5, 2022147, Avenue de France 75013 Paris. www.jefaerosol-40ansdepochoirs.fr