Read More’s work often appears dry and aggressive. It is calculated and crisp, loudly shouting at you from even the smallest of pieces; it does not seem to leave much room for subtlety. Often seemingly unfinished, it pulls at you with its details, the layers of paper and color creating a jumbled conversation of disjointed thoughts. It is a record of daily events, a visual diary of confusion.
Read is a graffiti artist: graffiti as a visual aesthetic, graffiti as an attitude, graffiti as a crime, graffiti as a lifestyle. He is at his best when no one is watching, hiding in a tunnel with no deadlines, no money on the line, painting a wall only the adventurous will see. Graffiti, at its roots, is a scratch, and for a scratch to exist, it must have a surface, a surface it is working against. To put graffiti into a gallery, into a white space designed to visually disappear, designed to allow for any number of objects to be in the space without being affected, removes its relevance as graffiti. It is approved, it is sanctioned; in fact, it is for sale. It is no longer graffiti, now its just art. And what is left behind in this art?
Handwritten notes, burnt and torn, creating under layers of information, offer an incomplete back-story. You will be confused by this work, it will tell many parts of many stories, and will complete none. You will be asked to dig deep into your knowledge of materials.
He offers us a study. He tells us a story of paper and lettering, a space he resides in quietly. His most referenced materials are cheap layouts advertising get-rich-quick schemes in the backs of off-brand magazines from the 70s. The references are obscure and non-linear, but somehow totally recognizable. It is as if he is laying out our future from our past, completely ignoring the present.
Almost all of the work is built from found objects. Foil from cigarette packs, yellow and pink carbon paper, found notes and letters, USPS stickers and packaging, all detritus collected in his wanderings. But this isn’t found object art, where the objects reside in the foreground. These are painted over collages, the found material finding its place only as a medium, a cheap replacement for the real thing, only noticeable when you dig deep beneath the surface. And this is where the work opens up, when we realize the whole beautiful thing is built from grotesque little parts, cobbled together tinfoil that shines like gold.
Read is a painter, but he spends the majority of his time scouring the streets for materials, then trying to put together these items in the studio, building canvases from pallets and cardboard boxes, meticulously cutting and pasting to create a surface you may never recognize as found. In this way, he paints with this junk, using his precise eye to create a surface from many that looks as if it has always been one. It is in these secrets that Read’s work really shines. It may not be graffiti, it may just be art, or it may just be junk, but you’ll never know until you look.