virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works

Virgil Abloh: Echosystems at galerie kreo in paris

 

Galerie Kreo presents the extensive Virgil Abloh: Echosystems exhibition in Paris. On view between September 21st and November 1st, 2023, the show — curated by Hugo Vitrani — compiles Virgil Abloh‘s (1980-2021) most recent creations alongside works by designers and artists who have contributed to shaping his style and language over the years: Erwan Bouroullec to Sophie Bramly, Martha Cooper, Bruce Davidson, Tom Dixon, Marcel Duchamp, Futura 2000, Konstantin Grcic, Keith Haring, Gordon Matta-Clark, A. R. Penck, Jerszy Seymour, Pablo Tomek, and lastly, Dondi White. From graffiti strokes to black art culture, delve into the buzzing, colorful, and defying realm of the late Virgil Abloh at Galerie Kreo. 

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
Graffiti by Pablo Tomek / Acid Tracks Ladder and Suicide Air Stool by Jerszy Seymour

all images © Alexandra de Cossette, courtesy Galerie kreo

 

 

from skateboarding to graffiti and black art: Virgil’s world

 

Virgil Abloh’s intricate, edgeless world depicted at Galerie Kreo (more here) originates in a series of distinct experiences. One of a black American child with Ghanaian heritage, raised on the outskirts of Chicago in a predominantly white neighborhood. One of a child brought up the rhythms and lyrics of Fela Kuti, James Brown, and Miles Davis. One of an adolescent infatuated by skateboarding, traversing the city on wheels while subverting its utilitarian structures and challenging its serenity. Expanding this corrosive and libertarian relationship with the urban landscape, the teenage Virgil became entranced by graffiti—its illegality, cryptic languages, invisible communities, styles, arrows, colors, codes, appearances, legends, myths, and mythos. It traces its origins to the youthful energies of Chicano, Puerto Rican, and African American adolescents who seized spray cans, walls, and the interior and exterior surfaces of silver subway cars to inscribe their identities as extensions of their bodies and depict their stories. 

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
Graffiti by Pablo Tomek / Acid Tracks Ladder by Jerszy Seymour

 

 

Graffiti also influenced the many logos that captivated the young skateboarder through iconic brands such as Alien Workshop, Santa Cruz, and Droors. Graffiti stands as one of the foundational pillars of hip-hop culture, which came to shake, disrupt, scratch, and reshape the history of music to breathe new life into it. Virgil Abloh liked to say that the greatest contribution to black art was connecting two turntables and a mixer. Much like a DJ, his creative process involved sampling from the realms of art, architecture, design, and fashion, interweaving them into a staccato, syncopated language.

 

Through a deviation process, Virgil Abloh aimed to provoke disruptions that would modernize languages, similar to updating software. He introduced his theory of the ‘3%’ in 2021, stating that ‘a series of 3% brings the classics to modernity. The 3% ideology has its advantages. It recalls an eye-to-emotion connection in the brain and adds an alternate voice. 2% expands our world view, without pushing our comfort zones to the brink. We’re exposed to the ‘new,’ but not eccentric or disconcerting. What the larger ecosystem doesn’t understand is sampling the ready-made to make anew.’ 

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
Hiroshima project by Keith Haring / World Leaders Ladders and Midway Village by Virgil Abloh

 

 

the creatives who have inspired the designer’s language

 

A certain irony finds its way into his works, the same irony that characterized the work of a man he regarded as his greatest advocate, Marcel Duchamp. There’s also a beat and a scratch reminiscent of Grand Mixer DXT, captured by Sophie Bramly in the vibrant chaos of 1980s New York. There’s that verbal ambiance, the subway script that has been evangelizing the public space since the 1970s, thanks to Futura 2000 and his contemporaries—an era immortalized through the lenses of Martha Cooper and Bruce Davidson. There are those bold, fluid lines, a visceral impact that resonates in one’s retinas, as witnessed in the works of Penck and Keith Haring. There’s a taste of Pop Shop and the essence of logos (in the Greek sense, λόγος – meaning speech, discourse, reason, as well as in the graphic sense).

 

There’s the volatile impulse of Pablo Tomek, the precision of Dondi White’s black lettering, and the playful writings of SAMO, which stands for ‘same old shit,’ created by Basquiat. There’s also the architectural perspective of Gordon Matta Clark—an inclination to dissect reality to observe and reveal its shadowy facets—along with the radical lines and logo-inspired colors by Konstantin Grcic, the codes of Erwan Bouroullec, and the subversive strategies of Jerszy Seymour and Tom Dixon. These are just a few artists, among others, who contributed to shaping Virgil Abloh’s language, and they have come together here in friendly collaboration, supported by Jerôme de Noirmont and Noirmontartproduction, Clémence, Didier, Clara Krzentowski, and the entire team at Galerie Kreo. 

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
Midway Village by Virgil Abloh / Screen by A.R. Penck

 

 

WORLD LEADERS ladders & midway village bench

 

Displayed at the Virgil Abloh: Echosystems show are his WORLD LEADERS ladders, a special commission in which the late designer was exploring what he called ‘past actual occurrences’ — part of history that goes unrecorded. The names on the ladder, welded, gesturally record those histories, placing impactful black figures within the rungs as a means of documentation — from Pop Smoke to Phase 2, including Aaliyah, Michael Jordan, Malcolm X, Grand Mixer DXT, and Ella Fitzgerald. It’s a Hall of Fame comprising visual artists, musicians, activists, thinkers, civil rights advocates, jazz and hip-hop pioneers. With their anchoring to the floor and the ceiling and their verticality, their industrial vocabulary metaphorically speaks to engineering – how histories are constructed.

 

Another highlight is the Midway Village Bench, which reexamines the history of benches, whether situated indoors or outdoors, in living rooms or public spaces. Depending on various contexts, conditions, and eras, benches serve as meeting spots, places to lie down, collapse, and observe the world—or nothing. Graffiti, meanwhile, can grow like unruly weeds, taking root and spreading through the gaps of the urbanized world. Manifesting that image, Virgil outlined the bench with a fluorescent trail that calls to mind the marks left by workers on sidewalks, akin to technical and mystical termite symbols. Reduced here to its most minimalist and raw form, Virgil Abloh’s gesture also highlights the sharp edges of these restful structures, often darkened by the wax that skaters apply to surfaces to ensure smoother gliding.

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
Paintings by FUTURA 2000 / Jetdog Table by Konstantin Grcic / Photography by Sophie Bramly / Hiroshima project by Keith Haring / World Leaders Ladder and Midway Village by Virgil Abloh

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
Screen by A.R. Penck / Tower Hills by Virgil Abloh / Photography by Martha Cooper and Sophie Bramly

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Collaboration by Jean-Michel Basquiat and others / EFFLORESCENCE BENCH 2 and EFFLORESCENCE CHAIR 4 by Virgil Abloh / Paintings by Dondi White and Gordon Matta-Clark

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
King Chair and Queen Chair by Tom Dixon / Painting and Screen by A.R. Penck

virgil abloh: echosystems at galerie kreo spotlights the late designer's most recent works
WORLD LEADERS ladder, neon orange, by Virgil Abloh

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WORLD LEADERS ladder, neon orange, by Virgil Abloh

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