Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Review: Tony Bones @ The Public Trust

The pseudonym Tony Bones (a.k.a. Soler, Soyler, and/or Goya) currently represents the story of a petty criminal emerging from the streets of East Dallas to rub elbows with the Dallas art elite. He has spent a day in jail and donated a ton of money to the Dallas Police Pastry Fund for his crimes against humanity, and he's now attempting to make it good as a gallery artist. For years, Bones has skirted the line between tagging and true graffiti, but can his gallery work cross another line and evoke enough of a response to force open the pocketbooks of Dallas art collectors?

Bones' street trademark is a spindly stick figure with arms creepily reaching out towards the viewer, sometimes subtly depicted with broken handcuff chains dangling from its wrists. His graphic world melds the bland surface value of Keith Haring with the playful chaotic genius of Bill Watterson, both influences Bones has admitted in interviews. He has wielded his artistic skill while ruining people's property from here to Brooklyn, and is currently on probation for his crimes, leaving him technically unable to venture out of Dallas until 2009. The Public Trust is currently hosting a solo exhibition of his work at their gallery space in Deep Ellum, on view through September 6, 2008.

I started off really wanting to hate this show. I have mixed feelings about graffiti art and have no respect for someone who would ruin other people's property in the name of self-promotion. I somehow thought Tony Bones was going to be displaying chunks of concrete and brick forcibly removed from the external wall of a family-run dry cleaners, but it turns out Bones isn't all that bad, and he does generally have some scruples about whose property he'll destroy. And what this particular show turns out to be is the harmless commercialization onto canvas of Bones's trademarked stick figures. It really wouldn't be surprising to find some of these images on a t-shirt at Target some day, and there's a sense of humor pervasive throughout the collection that makes it hard to dislike.

The drill for the whole exhibition is as follows: A brightly colored solid background with an engaging stick figure and other whimsical objects are arranged playfully on the support. There might be some funny or poignant text included. A lot of the canvas foreground is empty and the arrangement of objects is suitably reminiscent of a graffiti wall, mimicking areas that can't be reached with a spray paint can. All of the pieces are immaculately executed with invisible brush strokes -- if they aren't air brushed or otherwise sprayed in the first place, and on several of the canvas backgrounds, you can see hints of initial subject outlines that have been corrected in the final paint layer. These corrections lend an additional dimension to some otherwise very straight-forward paintings. There were also three pieces done in neon tubing that would go great in an artsy downtown loft's romper room, possibly next to an ironically placed glowing Schlitz Beer sign.

It's great that Bones and The Public Trust include some cheaper screen prints in the show to cater to the drove of youngsters that showed up at the Saturday night opening to support him. The more expensive pieces (City Smash Pt. 1 and Take Me Home) were well chosen since they seem to contain some deeper meaning that helps qualify them as the kind of art that the people with money would pay for. A smaller canvas titled Ancient Gods of Blood & Fire fits as well into the latter category, but was priced for us poor folk, making it a possible steal for someone wanting to take an investment risk on an artist that could seriously prove commercially viable in the future.

It sounds like this "Mr. Bones" is a good guy. He doesn't sound like a jackass in his interviews, and he seems to be genuinely fond of Dallas even though The Man around here has put him under city arrest for his previously destructive artwork. One has to award major points to his former street work for its playfulness and humor, but in essense it really doesn't accomplished much artistically beyond self promotion. Really, it is tagging pretty much by definition. And tagging isn't enough to qualify as true art.

Of course, there is inherent social criticism behind tagging & graffiti. Bones himself said perceptively that it makes the haters feel "that they don’t have control over their city." The fact that an art form can evoke that kind of reaction is pretty awesome. But without the inseparable strength provided by his previous media, will his new paintings as a gallery artist have any weight in the real art world? What exactly will his artistic purpose be? Bones's work currently lacks the conceptual complexity of a Barry McGee, or the artistry of an Ed Templeton, and with a few more gallery shows along these lines, he'll probably exhaust his market.

Bones has set himself on the right track and has a lot of potential. He has a baited audience that obviously really loves him as a person and as an artist. This solo show should inject him with some legitimate financial reward for his risky past work, and I hope he'll take advantage of this opportunity and focus on expanding the emotional impact of his pieces.

Galleries: (genius name for a subversive website)
flickr pool of street art
personal site

Photograph courtesy of Erica Felicella.


Anonymous nice review said...

I felt the same way about taggers ,generally they ruin someone else's work or property to promote themselves.

what if this artist wouldn't have been caught , would he on his own decide to refine his art and try to show in galleries.

Should I be interested just because he's been forced to straighten up?

I'm interested in artists that have good concepts and great execution.

When i was younger i would try to reproduce some of my favorite works of art whether it was a pen and ink character from mad magazine or a pablo picasso painting ,i would try really hard to emulate their style. it was a way for me to learn and grow as an artist and it helped me develop my style.

Would i if i was a beginning artist spend time emulating his stick figures? not sure.

I'm happy for Mr.Bones and hope he continues with his art .

not quite a fan yet , but i'm watching closely.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And tagging isn't enough to qualify as true art."


12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think tagging is an interesting social phenomenon, but I agree that it isn't art. There is also a difference between "tagging" and graffiti. The latter can most definitely be art.

1:09 PM  
Anonymous richardson heights said...

12:45 ...meaning that tagging is not anything beside a signature. Nothing but a signature on a canvas as conceptual art has probably already been done. Like 1:09 says, there's a difference between graffiti (legitimate art) and tagging (signing your name).

1:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So - for example - you're saying that this doesn't qualify as art?

Because if that's what you're saying, I disagree completely.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good review, RH. I think you make a really good point- it will be interesting to see where his work goes now that it's removed from it's original context as graffiti. In a gallery it seems so cute and devoid of the politicization or statement it would have on the street.

1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

art is nothing more than paint on a wall

2:04 PM  
Anonymous richardson heights said...

1:34 -- that's graffiti. And it's got Tony Bones' / Soler's tag next to it on the right. So, I agree with you?

2:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In my eyes, his "graffiti" is art. This sounds pretentious, I'm sure, but it's a guy that uses his city as his canvas. You know that art doesn't have to fit preconceived notions of what it can be (or should be) for it to qualify as art.

It's kind of the inverse of Rauschenberg -he scoured his city to fit discarded elements that he saw beauty in, and then took them back to his studio to construct them into something else. This guy, Tony Bones - who I've never heard of before - seems to scour his city looking for neglected canvases - decrepit buildings, utility boxes, etc - but instead of taking them back with him, he brings his art TO those elements. He creates something utilizing those elements in their natural setting - and in a way, he brings his art to the public - and makes it part of his city - in a way that traditional composition rarely ever achieves.

I would say that an overpass like this:

....ultimately becomes more than just an overpass - it becomes an expression, in some small way, of the city and its residents - and in doing so, is art.

- 1:34

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...he scoured his city to FIND discarded elements..."

Dang typos.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous stonedranger said...

Does anyone else see a Joan Miro influence in his canvas stuff?

3:31 PM  
Anonymous George Costanza said...

Again with the art. Scribble some shit on the wall and put a price tag on it. What a racket.

Don't touch my hands.

3:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

spit. dallas graffiti art

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

spit. dallas graffiti artists need to up their game.

3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, this gallery scene needs to up their game and dig a little deeper if they want to show graffiti that's going to impress anyone. Dallas has got it but maybe it has too many colors for white people to buy. I mean come on, this looks like he huffed a bunch of that shit and got real lazy!

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting work nontheless

4:46 PM  
Anonymous ha ha said...

My kids doodle on the walls with crayons and it's alot like the graffiti art this tony bones guy makes , should i scold them for drawing on the walls or encourage them to draw on paper.

Tony Bones seems like a young guy trying to find his place.

as far as making art by painting all over the city without anyones permission and hiding behind some sort of i'm making a statement about our world . i don't buy it . besides there are real public art programs that he could submit art to and possibly get funded
to create.

tagging reminds me of when the cement workers spend all day smoothing out concrete only to have someone come along and scribble their name across it. funny but childish.

how about someone scribbling all over one of his nice finished canvases?

5:28 PM  
Anonymous well said...

that thing about the haters not having control over the city.

what is he talking about?

the taggers are the ones that need to manage their own hate and quit ruining someone else's stuff.

what's more hatefull than scratching your name on someone else's window, or carving your name into someone's furniture.people don't do that unless they are being assholes.

when did Pablo picasso acid etch his name all over barcellona?

sounds like these taggers are just angry and lash out at the city and it's citizens.

If your an artist make art.

i think it's obvious who these street thugs are, quit using art to shield your crimes.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i read wsjr so i can tell you what new things i hate

5:53 PM  
Anonymous richardson heights said...

5:28 - please direct them to paper. There's nothing more kick butt than a kid's art before they start trying to copy Pokémon (or Garbage Pail Kids in my case).

5:45 - it's referring to the haters' thinking that the police have no control over what's going on, and that they can't stop vandalism. Also, the problem with mindless tagging vs. graffiti is that it's often gang-related.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous to 3:26pm said...

if you want to see what an artist does when he wants to use the elements around him to produce art in it's natural setting check out Andy Goldsworthy.

I don't think this artist has any problems convincing others that what he does is indeed art.

5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andy Goldsworthy is great - I like his stuff too.

They're both art. Different, but still art.

6:03 PM  
Anonymous Nevada said...

Wahing the dishes is _____.

get over it.


6:48 PM  
Anonymous Nevada said...

Washing the dishes is ___.

Get over it.


6:49 PM  
Anonymous "_____" said...

Tags are the ONLY graffiti that excites me.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous wow said...

the iq level drops the later it gets.


7:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what i know to be good graffiti is something that looks almost like it is supposed to be there. the piece goes well with its environment. like this...

but today especially in dallas tagging has gotten out of control. it looks like a certain "name" just thrown up all over the object it was tagged on. there isnt just one tag, the name is written over and over. its ugly.

dallas has been the home to many great writers. tony bones was and still is one of them.

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what i know to be good graffiti is something that looks almost like it is supposed to be there. the piece goes well with its environment. like this...

but today especially in dallas tagging has gotten out of control. it looks like a certain "name" just thrown up all over the object it was tagged on. there isnt just one tag, the name is written over and over. its ugly.

dallas has been the home to many great writers. tony bones was and still is one of them.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what i know to be good graffiti is something that looks almost like it is supposed to be there. the piece goes well with its environment. like this...

but today especially in dallas tagging has gotten out of control. it looks like a certain "name" just thrown up all over the object it was tagged on. there isnt just one tag, the name is written over and over. its ugly.

dallas has been the home to many great writers. tony bones was and still is one of them.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous eurononymous said...

Sheesh, more hipster backpacker bullshit. Sup 2004!

9:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Keith Haring could make it......why not this guy?

10:57 PM  
Anonymous yeah said...

I'd rather have a tony bones than a keith haring.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous city of dallas said...

Sekto was here.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the the 1970s? Come on.
It's no D.E.W. system ala Marshall Mcluhan thats for sure.

2:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fuck that dude.

2:34 AM  
Anonymous bicurious bystander said...


9:46 AM  
Anonymous Prison Mike said...

In here, Tony will be "da belle of da ball"...

No, seriously.

He sucks.

2:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shit. i always thought soler would be cuter than this.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous mount teabag said...

don't forget to brush your teeth!

11:19 PM  
Anonymous incase sleeve for macbook pro. said...

ha ha. everyone hates graffiti. get over it. what about crack babies. do you hate that? what about your fucking cars fucking our environment? do you hate that. every major city in THE WORLD has graff. tags or pieces or whatever. .... dallas get with it. your still 15 years behind okc???? ha ha . i have love to the tony bones for his contributions. everyone else can eat a bucket of dicks. excuse me...i have to cut this short i'm listening to hot chip........xoxox

3:28 PM  
Anonymous sallyglass said...

love andy goldsworthy. love tony bones. what better do you have to do? kid is interesting.

10:14 AM  
Blogger Tony said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:41 PM  
Anonymous TonyBones said...

no comment.

3:41 PM  

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