In London, you might be walking towards Tottenham Court Road station on your home, and run into the Beatles looking at you from above a bandidos style handkerchief. A black wall, four coloured handkerchiefs, and four pairs of unmistakingly iconic eyes. Above them, the Queen in her best attire, holding a spray can. I could lie and say I knew exactly what that was, but I didn’t… until I got closer and read “Art Shoe Fri – Sun 1 – 7 pm Free Admission Mr Brainwash”. I turned the corner and followed Kate Moss’ portrait calling me like a siren to the entrance. It’s not until I entered the Old Sorting Office that I remembered the central page of a magazine, fluo paint, Chaplin, “Life is beautiful”…
They’re all there, from Darth Vader to Elvis and Madonna, the icons of pop culture stolen from Andy Warhol and painted over, ironically modified, used to convey messages. “Life is beautiful” “Never, never give up” “Follow your dreams” “Love is the answer” “Art is all over”…
We are familiar with Andy Warhol and his iconisation of pop culture, but Mr Brainwash pop is something else. Where Warhol celebrates, Mr Brainwash is thought provoking, he gets the public’s attention through the icon’s allure, and then he instills an idea into the familiar image. And he celebrates too.
Icons are exaggerated, overlapped, in an ironic tangle of powerful and puzzling. The Beatles use the Kiss’ makeup, and Kate Moss face smiles from a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, Chaplin and Einstein share the same painting.
The Englishness of the exhibition is emphasized through national celebs, black cabs (splashed with pink), and Union Jack coated Campbell Soup cans. The UK is under the magnifier in a funny, slightly sardonic way.
My personal favs are the music black&white portraits made with vinyls. Beatles and Stones sharing a wall and facing Elvis, while Dean Martin’s version of Buonasera Signorina caresses colours, visitors and fame.
This is not a report. This is my pleasant surprise while discovering that the past is not sucking up the future, but newness can still be pursued, in art, thought and society. Ideas are not dead, brainwashed, prefab. Mr Brainwash is here to tell us that “If everybody thought the same nothing would ever change”.