The versatile Oakland-based artist known only under the pseudonym Nite Owl, whose iconic large, colorful murals, stickers, and wheat pastes that are proliferated throughout the streets of the Bay Area and beyond, returns to Loakal for his second solo show with the gallery, “The Pursuit of Slappiness,” on view the month of August. Through his iconic wily, multicolored owl character, both singular and within a group, among various situations and illustrated in a plethora of different artistic styles often paired with intriguing phrases or text, artist Nite Owl will often aesthetically reflect upon and respond to a wide gamut of contemporary ideas and concepts, whether it be personal or pertinent to wider local political, economic, or social issues.
Titling his solo show a play on words from the infamous line from the United States’ Declaration of Independence, “The Pursuit of Slappiness” draws parallels between the loaded political meaning of that simple phrase and the artist’s own interpretation of that freedom — according to Nite Owl, “the attainment of an enlightened state of aesthetic transience achieved through artistic pursuits.” In the graffiti world, “slaps” are digitally printed or hand-drawn stickers of the artist’s signature character or design. Stickers are one of Nite Owl’s creative obsessions. His latest body of work is a multifaceted exploration of what “slappiness” truly means. He pursues that passion through his artwork, sharing his work with others freely by simply displaying it in the public on street corners, newspaper boxes, and upon walls. And with a dash of humor, Nite Owl adds the phrase is also meant to convey “[m]y works are highly caffeinated and will slap you upside the head with color!”
The concept of “slapping” or putting his unique mark over an existing surface drives much of his creative process, not just with literally placing his stickers over the many surfaces out on the streets of the San Francisco Bay Area. Much of Nite Owl’s artworks are created by painting his iconic character in a combination of spray paint, acrylic, watercolors and ink freehand or with stencils over found objects, acquired through nightly journeys through his West Oakland neighborhood: from obsolete construction signs, broken skate decks, and surveillance notices to kitchen cabinet doors, old maps and simply discarded bits of wood. Like many other artworks implementing found art, Nite Owl’s work aims to retain and reinterpret the object’s original intended use; but unlike many others Nite Owl points out another significant part of the process of using found objects headed for the dump: “I truly like the fact that my work will help keep another item out of a landfill,” he says.
Nite Owl, “The Pursuit of Slappiness” will be at Loakal Gallery & Boutique, 560 2nd Street through the month of August, 2014.