Prisoners 2012-2013, a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Dan Witz (USA, b. 1957) displaying paintings from both his Prisoner and Mosh Pit series, will open at Lazarides Rathbone at the end of January 2013.
Dan Witz has been at the forefront of artists working on the street since the late 1970s. Combining the latest in digital reproduction with the old master’s technique of illusionism, the artist’s lifelike figures appear as if from nowhere on sign-posts, walls, windows and manhole grates across the world. Painting and layering over digital photographs, each image is designed to surprise the viewer, taking them aback from the expected into an alarming state of disbelief. This ‘shock factor’ became integral to Witz after reading the work of French philosopher Guy Debord who maintained: “The artist generates moments that jar the spectator out of passivity, making him the co-creator of a more creative-less passive life.”
The breadth of Witz’s style and subject matter can be seen in the Mosh Pit series. These crowded multi-figure paintings depict the height of mosh pits at music concerts. Figures intertwine and climb over one another at different parts of the painting reflecting the energy of the Mosh Pit.
For the adjacent Prisoners series Witz partnered with Amnesty International, the world’s largest human rights organisation, and travelled to Frankfurt to participate in their awareness campaign Wailing Walls, Witz states:
“I’d already been painting prisoners, but the hook was--and here’s the intervention from beyond--now these would literally be prisoners. With names and case histories. More than symbols, or simulations, these were real people. They even had names. And case histories. Inspiring case histories.”
As a symbolic reference to their real-life struggles, each of these imprisoned individuals is portrayed with few clothes, masked or with their hands tied. Working with Amnesty Witz has highlighted their cause across the urban cityscape of Frankfurt as part of the Wailing Walls project. For his first solo exhibition in London since 2008, the artist will be dispersing his unique stamp on the British streets by installing his prisoner images onto London phone boxes.