Tracking down the initial influences of graffiti, is an overwhelmingly impossible task, as music, lifestyle and various forms of visual art, have all played a withstanding influence on the ever expanding culture. While graffiti’s core ethos is directly aligned with the world of hip hop, it’s artistic genesis reaches from a myriad of sources. Originally conceived away from the gallery space, writers were influenced by their surroundings, from the many block parties surrounding New York City to underground culture sinking below them. Graffiti was never taught, rather created, taken and shared by a efficient group of dedicated writers wanting to make it their own. A key influence was found in the work of comic book writer and illustrator, Vaughn Bodē, an incredibly important artist across a number of fields. Through his colourfully mature work, Bodē’s presence has stretched as far as films, tattooing, animation, street art and (if you haven’t caught on yet) graffiti. Distinctly alternative and original, it’s easy to see why the adventures of Cheech Wizard and Cobalt 60 were shared throughout many sprayed painted tunnels around the world. Since passing in 1975, his son Mark has since carried and contributed to The Bodē Legacy ever since, finishing incomplete, along with creating new works of his own, while sharing it around the world, well into this millennium. Melbourne was lucky enough to share his most recent addition to this legacy this month, via Backwoods Gallery in Collingwood. Sharing a number of new works, Wizards, Lizards & Broads also showcases a collection of rare pieces from the original patriarch himself, presenting onlookers this unique opportunity to see a singular compilation featuring the past and the present of an incredibly talented family bond.
Split between the dual compact rooms of Backwoods Gallery, Wizards, Lizards & Broads is a superb collection of over 20 pieces divided between Mark and Vaughn’s four decade long graphic history. Primitive sketches are displayed alongside recent incarnations of classic designs, bringing the evolution to it’s peak. Bursting with colour and the unmistakable charm of these iconic characters, the collection evokes a number of emotions throughout its display: Humour, lust, nostalgia, envy and happiness, just to new a few. Keeping all of this in mind, it’s easy to see why these artworks have extended outside of their traditional pages, seamlessly transitioning to other formats with ease. While their stories compromise with war, philosophy and spiritual angst, the many characters of The Bodē universe have always sustained an inviting presence throughout their hardship. Presented as creatures, blended with human attributes, these full figured female warriors, faceless wizards and unassuming lizards are familiar due to their personalities alone. Sharing the desolated rubble of New York City and the baron landscapes reminiscent of Thunderdome, it’s not hard to find the connections between these works and its use in graffiti, as each piece contains a heightened sense of reality. Whether it be through the mystery of magic or the unabashed attitude of its inhabitants, the Bodē lineage has stood the test of time, thanks to an iconic visual stand-point, but even more so, due to the personalities displayed between the lines. Mark and Vaughn Bodē’s work doesn’t simply sit on the canvas, they live in them, moving from one destination to the next – leaving a impression that has been cemented for decades.
Wizards, Lizards & Broads is open now until the weekend, closing on the 3rd of June. Fans of art, comics, animation, graffiti, street art, pretty much anything, should make it down for this incredible show, you will not regret it.
- Click here for previous shows from BACKWOODS GALLERY via The Fourth Walls
- Click here for more from MARK BODE via The Fourth Walls