Tré Reising #Beliebs
Let's start with Gucci Mane's face tattoo. Dude has an ice cream cone on his face. And artist Tré Reising knows what to do when a favorite hip hop artist makes a statement: he makes a bigger statement--literally. Oversized and rather blatant, Reising's work connects pop culture, the innate temporality of social media, and the pomp and hype of hip-hop to fine art, using material and form in unexpected, playful, and ironic ways.
One doesn't usually associate stitched, hand-dyed fabrics with, well, any facet of pop culture, and generally not fine art either. Embroidery is usually relegated to 'craft' status, even an outmoded one, and perhaps where one might least expect to find it is in the middle of a hip-hop performance. Reising takes objects and concepts associated with pop culture, from MTV to objects associated with hip-hop, like guns or wads of cash, and to Twitter hashtags (#Belieb). The objects aren't shallow representations of hip-hop or pop, and their place isn't generally even in a gallery (in fact, Reising would prefer to avoid competing in the gallery scene--he prefers to share everything himself via social media); Reising's work has, in a sense, been absorbed into the performance of hip-hop on various occasions, such as at Gucci Mane's 2012 performance at the Fillmore, or Project Pat's performance where the Tennessy gun became something like a representative hip-hip prop.
The size of the sculptures, in addition to the bright colors and the hand-dyed fabrics and stitching, and especially when seen out in the world--backstage at a show (or on stage at a show)--they are fun, almost silly, good for laugh while at the same time calling attention to the occasionally unbelievable and enigmatic pop culture universe. The artist straddles the boundary between pop culture and fine art -- not necessarily in an overtly Koonsian fashion but by actually sort of ingratiating himself into the music scene he admires and takes his inspiration from.
Of course, as with hip hop and pop culture, controversy has been no stranger to Reising either, whose commissioned public art piece, #Belieb, at Indianapolis International Airport was censored. Although he is in the process of constructing a new piece, the timing of the installation of the original work coincided with the real Justin Bieber's highly publicized shenanigans and the airport faced a dilemma of public image. Such is the difficulty of public art, but that said, it was to be displayed for about three months as part of a temporary art program. It further demarcates the divide between pop culture and art, and especially in the public sphere, how far institutions are willing to push the envelope with an extremely varied viewer demographic--which is to say, usually, not very far.
And what about #Belieb? The hashtag places it firmly in the realm of social media, but it sums up a presence--Justin Bieber himself but also his incredible fan base. And more than just his fan base--anyone with a connection online, through social media or entertainment news outlets will hear what Bieber's been up to, exemplifying the media darling he is. It's a generational thing, a statement that, in just a few letters with a '#' in front of it, comprises a basically nonsensical word and at the same time refers to an entire generation of Tweeters, Instagrammers, Snapchatters and, yes, in some cases, Beliebers.
Reising thrives on the fringes of both fine art and pop culture, culling bits and pieces from each to come up with work that is energetic and actually entertaining. Where a rather elitist art establishment might scoff at the term 'entertainment,' it's the button Reising purposely keeps pressing. Combining fine arts craftsmanship with self-promotion through social media and entertainment, he threads a unique method and practice. I look forward to following his future work.
Check out the artist's website for many more images including some great in-progress work at trereising.com. He can also be found on Twitter and Instagram. Originally from Indiana, Tré Reising studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art and lives and works in Brooklyn.