Internationally acclaimed Australian Pop painter Johnny Romeo makes his triumphant return to Sydney with his thrilling new exhibition, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. Following a standout year that saw Romeo sell out shows across Australia, New Zealand and the US, and release his 10 year retrospective book Plastic Fantastic, the series showcases Australia’s King of Pop at his most playful and electrifying. Brimming with an undeniable sense of fun and rhythmic vibrancy, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is a larger-than-life celebration of the pioneering spirit of early hip hop culture that pushes Romeo’s inimitable Neo-Expressionist Pop style to glorious new heights.
Named after the 1982 sequel to ‘Breakdance’, the series pays homage to the intrepid spirit of early hip-hop pioneers, who reconfigured elements of their own Pop reality to create art that was wholly new and original. ELECTRIC BOOGALOO sees Romeo add exciting new flavours to his distinct Neo-Expressionist Pop repertoire, gleefully mashing together eclectic icons ripped from the annals of the Pop canon to playfully subvert our understandings of Pop imagery. Like early DJs grafting disco samples onto hard-hitting drum machine beats, Romeo’s mastery of juxtaposition sees him combine seemingly disparate Pop iconography into some of his most thrillingly absurd and unique takes on Pop culture yet.
Romeo achieves this with hilariously surreal results in the work Dark Cent, in which he depicts a stoic Vincent van Gogh donning a Batman mask. The initially jarring nature of the mash-up gives way to a more nuanced exploration of the tortured anti-hero, a recurring archetype in both art history and comic books. That such deep cultural conversations could be gleaned from such a cheeky rendition of Van Gogh is testament to Romeo’s adeptness at navigating and harnessing the fluidity of Pop icons.
ELECTRIC BOOGALOO features some of Johnny Romeo’s most unapologetically Pop works to date, and bursts at the seams with an irrepressible sense of rambunctious fun. Inspired by the works of Pop Art provocateur Mel Ramos, the series is a hyper-saturated neon celebration of the glorious kitschiness of Pop. Romeo’s chic usage of advertising tropes references Ramos’ tongue in cheek blend of iconic brand names and pin-up imagery, transforming figures such as the Mona Lisa and Popeye the Sailor Man into street-hardened symbols of luxury rap.
In keeping with the frenetic movement and dazzling braggadocio of early breakdancing and hip-hop culture, Romeo imbues his colour arrangements with an insatiable exuberance and energy. High-intensity Technicolour hues and saccharine-sweet tones virtually explode from the canvas, recalling the graffiti streaked subways and vibrant edginess of the Bronx in the early 1980’s. In many ways, Romeo’s vivacious colour arrangements embody the limitless potential and restlessness of young hip-hop artists cutting their teeth on the mean streets of Harlem, hungry to forge new sounds and bust new moves.
Amidst the spirited bubblegum hues and sleek, Pop imagery, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO also reveals Johnny Romeo at his politically brazen and confrontational. The artist delivers rapid fire observations on controversial issues ranging from the Marriage Equality vote to America’s obsession with guns and sexual harassment in Hollywood, all served with Romeo’s signature blend of razor sharp wit and Absurdist gallows humour. The heavily loaded paintings work like Pop culture seismographs, charting shifts and changes in contemporary society with a heavy satirical bent.
Living up to its namesake, there is a serious groove that courses through ELECTRIC BOOGALOO. The slick, bold line-work of Romeo’s icons and the eye-catching punchiness of his textual arrangements perfectly captures the pulsating delivery of break-dancers getting down to the kick-snare thud of bone-rattling hip hop beats. Romeo’s approach to witty stencilled wordplay in particular lends the series a rhythmic heft that imbues each work with catchy visual hooks laden with boisterous double entendres.
Bold, audacious, and delectably irreverent, ELECTRIC BOOGALOO pays tribute to the energy and excitement of the hip-hop underground in the early 1980s. The series is a kaleidoscopic, colour-drenched feast for the senses that gleefully mashes the invigorating, bone-rattling rhythms of rap with the candy-coated sheen of Pop to create Johnny Romeo’s most intoxicating and stridently in-your face works yet.
Opening reception with Artist: Friday 8th December 2017 @ 6:30-8:00pm
Harvey Galleries, 842 Military Road, Mosman, NSW 2088, Australia.
Ph: +61 2 9968 2153
RSVP to attend the opening of ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is essential.
RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Any enquires regarding Johnny Romeo’s ELECTRIC BOOGALOO can be made directly through Harvey Galleries (email@example.com) or by calling the gallery on +61 2 9968 2153
Exhibition Dates: 7th December – 17th December 2017.
November 27, 2017