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JOHNNY ROMEO
Deadwood

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Deadwood, the latest series from internationally acclaimed artist Johnny Romeo, is one of the most anticipated shows of 2013. A glorious romp through celebrity nostalgia and the seamy underbelly of pop culture, the series a truly incendiary paean to Hollywood in all its neon-drenched, trashy glory.

Johnny Romeo is leading the global charge of Neo-Expressionist Pop art. Described by GQ Magazine Australia as 'part punk, part pop', Romeo's colourful collision of rock'n'roll swagger, comic book aesthetics, Neo-Expressionism and street art has been turning heads worldwide. Following a collaboration with globally renowned punk band Blink 182 earlier this year, Romeo has received rave reviews from major shows in New York and Los Angeles and a sold out show in Pennsylvania. Romeo's collectors include major Hollywood stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Gossett and many others.

 

With his laconic drawl and captivatingly sordid lyrics, Lou Reed once invited us to 'take a walk on the wild side.' Deadwood, the latest show from internationally acclaimed Australian artist Johnny Romeo is a visual tour de force of bombastic neo-Expressionist Pop. Much like Reed, the series doesn't simply walk, but swaggers through the dark, seamy wild side of our celebrity-obsessed cul­ture.

Deadwood sees Johnny Romeo craft his most glorious series of Pop paintings yet. Evoking the spirit of Andy Warhol's iconic celebrity screen prints, Romeo's portraits of bygone Hollywood stars are potent in their simplicity. The frenetic line-work that we have come to expect from Romeo is here tempered with rich silhouettes and a controlled linear aesthetic that recalls stencil graffiti art at its most confident and immediate. Renowned for his vivacious and vibrant colour arrangements, the works in Deadwood juxtapose exhilarating fields of background hues with the bright, Technicolour arrangements of the portraits.

 

The works of Deadwood has Johnny Romeo playfully painting with tongue firmly in cheek. Works such as 'Honky Tonk' and 'Holly Polly' ingeniously contrasts the visual punchiness of his celebrity portraiture with cute animals. While it may seem jarringly incongruous at first, the pairing serves to heighten the Pop-culture references that course throughout Romeo's work, and suggest the inherent absurdity of celebrity worship. Johnny Romeo's signature use of stencilled text also continues his mastery of pithy cultural subversions.

Nostalgia plays a major role in these works. For Romeo, the series sees the artist coming full circle and returning to the classic movie stars that characterised his earliest work. The depiction of popular tattoo symbols - skulls, roses, birds' wings - also imbues the portraits with a righteously old-school rock'n'roll feel; not unlike the boisterous love-child of Warhol and Wheels and Doll Baby.

 

Johnny Romeo explores the intersection between celebrity fetish and kitsch culture, between the glamour of fame and the trashiness of Hollywood tours. By adopting the aesthetics of mass-production mediums like screen-printing and urban graffiti art, Romeo cleverly alludes to Hollywood as a Pop culture machine churning through disposable idols. As such, Romeo's can be seen as more broadly commenting on cultural detritus - 'deadwood'.

At the same time, Romeo's appropriation of iconic celebrity images emphasises the enduring nature of these figures in the Pop culture lexicon. The series examines our fascination with celebrity culture and the juncture between extinguished youth and immortality. While many of these celebrities passed in their prime, they continue to live on, not just through their work, but more interestingly in unexpected ways – as tattoos imbrued on the skin of avid fans, as stencil graffiti scrawled along dilapidated walls of industrial warehouses.

 

In Deadwood, Johnny Romeo has unleashed his most thrilling and Pop-inspired work yet. A glorious romp through celebrity nostalgia and the seamy underbelly of pop culture, Romeo masterfully combines the humour of kitsch, the energy of rock'n'roll and the urgency of urban street art into a truly incendiary paean to Hollywood in all its neon-drenched, trashy glory.

Deadwood will be opened on Tuesday 13 August at NG Art Gallery, from 6 - 8pm.

PREVIOUS EXHIBITIONS

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For further information, please email ng@ngart.com.au

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