On August 24, 2011, Australia welcomed back Anthony Lister, one of the island’s hottest urban artists who has returned from a five-year stint living and working in New York City. Although Lister is returning home primarily for the birth and celebration of his third child, an ongoing exhibition of the artist’s work at the Metro Gallery, located in Melbourne, Australia, will also be reason to celebrate. The show, ‘Street Faces,’ which opened on August 24, 2011 and runs through September 17, 2011, features 35 new works that in the artist’s words “tells the story of my street portrait work around the world over the last decade.”
Lister, who has recently been named one of the “100 leading figures in urban art” and to Australia’s “Top 50 Most Collectable” list, is both a fine artist, sculptor, and street artist. However, it is in his street art that the artist has found the most fame. Of his experience as a street artist, Lister says that he has “been painting in public places for 10 years now under the cover of darkness at night in Berlin, New York, London and L.A.” However, with his most recent show at the Metro Gallery, the Lister and his street art has moved indoors and into the conventional realm of the traditional art world. Of the transition the artist explains, “I don’t usually show works I’ve done on the street,” and that “this [‘Street Faces’ at the Metro Gallery] is the closest thing I’ve done to that.”
The show features three bodies of work, which express three distinct themes. The first, Masks, are the faces of people that the artist passes on the streets each day. These faces serve as Lister’s inspirations for his street portraits and express the first step in the “conversations between random people who don’t know one another, but connect with one another through the art works.” The second theme, The Street Puppets, presents viewers with an interesting perspective that forces audiences to take a step back and look at work as a whole. This part of the series depicts more detailed street portraits than those featured in Masks, in addition to silhouetted figures of people looking at the portraits from the street. The additional layer creates a three-part visual experience for the viewer, a stage-like reference that the artist has named “portraiture landscapes.” The third theme, The Cap Me series, show how the works transform over time and specifically how a piece might look “two or three years later down the track, after other people have made additions to [my] original works.”
The visual layers of Lister’s three-part show draws audiences in and makes them question not only the artistic and aesthetic value of street art (one of today’s hottest topics), but also the viewer’s role in transforming a work of art.
Although conventionally and traditionally speaking, viewers consider themselves separate from the artist and the work, Lister challenges this notion and suggests that audiences do and can take part in the evolution of a work. ‘Street Faces’ emphasizes the beauty behind the layers and evolutionary process of street art as well as the medium’s ability to create an unspoken relationship between the artist, the work, the landscape, and the viewer.