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Jeanne Gerrity on José León Cerrillo, Ilja Karilampi, and Paul Chan


Ilja Karilampi, The Chief Dean of Gangsta Shape, 2014

In Art-Agenda, Jean Gerrity writes about the group show featuring José León Cerrillo, Ilja Karilampi, and Paul Chan at Kiria Koula in San Francisco:

“By removing logos, symbols, and motifs from their original sources, the artists imply that visual iconography belongs to everyone, everywhere. Deciphering a perceived code becomes less important than acknowledging visual art’s entanglement with other forms of culture, manifested here in the artists’ own unexpected juxtapositions. By giving themselves license to interpret references for their own purposes, they give their viewers the freedom to do the same.”

She seems to be referring explicitly to Ilja Karilampi’s work pictured above. Gerrity writes earlier in the review, “Etched on a nearby plaque, The Chief Dean of Gangsta Shape, are the words “The Chief of Gangsta” interrupted by two cartoonish graphics—a handshake between a black and a white hand and a playful smiling hand with fingers crossed, the logo for the British Commission for Racial Equality and the UK National Lottery respectively, a nod to the issues of race often entwined with rap music, and its favoring of symbols of material wealth.”

This hits on a serious, often unspoken topic in contemporary art: Is it universally good that images and symbols are so untethered to their context and source of origin? What happens when we delve into the terrain of cultural appropriation?