MYTH & MURDER: The New Mystics, April 12 – May 26, 2012

| April 1, 2012

_MG_6195Art Direction & Concept: No Touching Ground & NKO

Photography: Dan Hawkins

Membership: No Touching Ground, NKO, Dan Hawkins, DK Pan, EGO, Sign Savant, Specs Wizard, Hope, Suck, Smurf, Adot, Aubrey Birdwell, Baso Fibonacci, Anna Telcs, Judson Felder, Kyle Johnson, Juicer.

MYTH&MURDER is the first official aesthetic declaration by the New Mystics, a collaborative group of degenerates of diverse disciplines – sign painting, graffiti, street art, photography, fashion design, sculpture, screen printing, poetry, performance, art direction, and design. The show accesses the narrative of the Northwest School of Mystical Painters, the only visual artists to emerge from Seattle as a recognized art movement.

In MYTH&MURDER, New Mystics addresses both the potential for mystical experience in creating and viewing art, and the creation of a personal mythology. This ties the group to, and transcends, previous art movements and methodologies.

The show frames the membership, and their relationships and individual personalities, through the lens of Caravaggio, a painter of religious scenes, notable for his use of derelicts and degenerates as models. The membership are cast as a murder of crows, wearing masks which reduce and guard the identity of individuals, while personifying the birth of a body politic based in shared experience.  In tying ourselves to these outmoded ideologies – religion, modernism, post – modernism, Fine Art – we are also consciously trying to murder, and rewrite, history.

This attempt at simultaneously representing and inviting unmediated experience is manifest through graphics, objects, and painting.


The large scale printed, hand colored graphics (which are based around Caravaggio images such as “The Entombment of the Christ”) casts the members in a classical context. The monumental size of the prints implies the scope and seriousness of the myth, recontextualizing the gallery as [1] sacristy. Painted by No Touching Ground, these monumental images presented in the gallery are tied to a series of larger than life full-body portraits of NM membership draped in dropcloth vestments and installed under the freeway. The vestments, with their reference to classical fabric drapery (which rendering classically measures a painter’s skill), establish a visual identity for the New Mystics separate from other than their banal daily existences as bike messengers, tattooists, sign makers – the Mystics become mystics through this act of transformation. The publicly presented portraits allow the membership to be elevated – to invite a different reading of the myth outside the mediated space of the gallery.


The 250 posters wallpapered in the gallery publish the word of the New Mystics. The text of these manifestoes, lifted from sacred sources include: a 15th century Hindu mystic, a sufi precept, a few words from Morris Graves, and a sentence from Bataille. In the gallery, these prints provide the subtext for the framed works and sign painting. In the street, the prints create a public context for the myth – reinforcing the text and images of the show. These prints represent a sacrifice and a gift. The edition of 400 individually tinted, 3-color silkscreen monograph prints were destroyed by applying them to the walls of the gallery and wheatpasted throughout the city. The inclusion of 5 framed monograph prints (hand soiled with spraypaint and powdered graphite) again reframe these images in an ‘art’ context.


There are 3 separate sets of objects included in the show: blackened books, bottles, and collections of sacred objects. The blackened books are our attempt to erase the history of knowledge – to encapsulate the dead language and ideas and overwrite them. [2] The discarded encyclopedias, dictionaries, technical manuals and holy books (sourced from thrift stores), are treated with ink, powdered graphite, wine, cigarette ash, and then sealed with acrylic, rendering them unusable. This transforms them from[3]  obsolete literary objects into art objects. The bottles reference the phrase “the shape of the vessel and what it holds”. They once held spirits, and now hold clear air – NKO drank from and shared each bottle, each one an experience encapsulated in the opacity of memory. As NM member DK Pan would say; time is memory.

The final objects are personal effects collected by the New Mystics membership, objects representing individual sacred experience: a garter belt given to Specs by his first girlfriend, a broadhead arrow used by the Golden Archer to hunt for his family’s food in rural southern Oregon, a wooden tank carved by Thomas Vincent Chapel’s brother, Ego’s drum key (he plays drums for Olde Ghost, an all vegan hardcore straight-edge band). These objects, encased in vitrines, are used to illustrated the many individual paths a relationship with the sacred can take.


Paintings are manifest in two forms; large stretched canvases and sign-painting.

The large paintings are used to frame the collections of sacred objects from the members – the canvasses are the physical remains manifest through the process of making the books and bottles. These works represent process – destroying the traditional importance of the artist and the preciosity of images – emphasizing the accidental act of making art and its relationship to transcendental experience. The canvasses are drop cloths – the cheapest materials – which have been destroyed through the process of making something else. These are the same drop cloths which serve as vestments for the membership in the graphics and portraits – each element of the show is interdependent, feeding into itself like a snake biting its own tail.

Japhy Witte (Sign Savant) contributed sign-painting, including the New Mystics logo, the show title, and an excerpt of writing he composed in conjunction with the exhibition:

the light was said to predate the darkness

and time itself…

but immortal elements stand in defiance to this rule..

the presence of these undeterminable fixtures rankles the foundation of time and rule.

thus all creation crumbles to be reborn –

consumed by hazard and shroud

Signpainting, like screenprinting or tattooing, references our reverence for handmade object. The act of creating through a craftsman process is holy.. [4]


Throughout the month of May photographs will be taken of street portraits and posters – these will be presented for a closing event in May both as framed prints and in a show catalogue, creating a specific link between the gallery and street components of the show. The membership will also participate in weekly meetings in the gallery space, working together to develop installatory objects – etched glasses, a blackened table, a collection of bottles – physically manifest memories of our shared practice.


We are desperate, we are hungry. We are scumbags and saints with empty bellies and hearts on fire. We are in this together – bound by the same words, the same blood. We are on the verge of tears, seeing the incandescent beauty of every moment, blinded by the sadness of the world. We are losing our minds, we have lost everything; we wander the wilderness with bleeding fingers and dirty feet. Our hands are shaking but our hearts are pure, overflowing, endless. We are the New Mystics.



Category: Art

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