With his love of skateboarding and the DIY ethos, Chad Kessler fits the profile of a street artist. But as he explained during a visit to his home studio in Clintonville, “It involves a lot of time and a lot of risk.”
Because the self-taught artist would rather push himself creatively than push his luck, he’s stuck mostly to working on unconventional surfaces in a variety of media. The recent results of his efforts will be on view in a solo exhibition opening this Saturday at Hayley Gallery.
Kessler started out as a photographer, using vintage cameras to take pictures of fellow skateboarders and of his travels after finishing high school, “but I didn’t want to do multiple prints,” he said.
The desire to make each work a one-off led him to explore a mix of photography, paint, pastels and found objects, and to develop an unusual process for transferring images onto the new and recycled building materials he uses in lieu of canvas.
Instead of screen-printing, Kessler employs a laser jet printer to reproduce his own photos and images he’s found on Google and altered to his liking. He applies the printout directly onto a spray-painted surface, lets the ink seep in overnight, and then wets the paper and rubs away until only the image remains.
To the fields of sprayed color and photos, the artist builds up additional layers of imagery and passages of cryptic text rooted in observation, personal interests and a keen sense of humor. Though his style is his own, the work has a palette and a compositional approach that betrays one of Kessler’s influences, former Black Flag member and album cover artist Raymond Pettibon.
The Hayley Gallery show is his first solo exposure, but Kessler has displayed pieces there for about a year and shown at other local art venues as well as in a group show in New York in August 2011. According to the artist, his favorite part of that experience was having another viewer verbally trash his work without realizing he was talking to the artist.
“Like it or don’t,” Kessler said. “I like it, and I’m just glad for people to be honest.”